|Yang and I returned to Gooseberry island on a sunny day for a change last Saturday – celebrating my birthday over the weekend. This time, no fog and plenty of sunshine. Also, plenty of water fowl!
One of the first sightings I want to discuss are the shore birds. since we could actually get to the shore this time, we walked along the beach and saw a flock of shore birds whip around in tight and angular formation. When we came around some rocks, we got a good look at these cuties. I was surprised to find that we had a mix of Dunlins and Sanderlings together. This time, I didn’t mistake their tummies for seaside rocks, so perfectly had they blended in with sand and sea-smoothed stones, when I saw them in December. The Dunlins are brownish on top, with buff tummies and long, slightly curved beaks. The Sanderlings are grey on top with white tummies and shorter and straight beaks. They were fun to watch scurrying about in search of dinner, all while seeming quite at home with one another. These images might look tiny here, but if you click on the pictures to enlarge them, you can see the birds much more clearly.
Apparently, the pickings were getting kind of slim, for Yang managed to snap a shot of some of these guys taking it on the wing for better dining.
We also saw plenty of birds in the water that day. With perfect visibility and trusty binoculars, we could sight dozens of Long-tailed ducks near the shore and way out in the bay. Yang got some neat pictures of a few near us. This male is a handsome specimen. You can even see a little of his long tail in these photos. Apparently, these ducks can dive as deep as 95 feet and can stay under water longer than any of the diving ducks. Wouldn’t Lloyd Bridges be impressed? Yang took these pictures as we we heading toward the island along the causeway.
Coming back along the causeway, we found this Long-tail extremely close to shore. I think it’s a nonbreeding female, but sometimes they are difficult to distinguish from an immature male. I didn’t see a long tail on this duck, so I’m going to take a flyer and say this is a female. She was quite unimpressed by the humans walking by. She also didn’t seem to be much worried about the rocks towards which the surrounding waves were shoving her. Still, she did just fine for herself, bold duckess!
Another aquatic bird of which we saw tons were Scoters. We saw Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters, and Surf Scoters. Again dozens and dozens throughout the bay. Yang was only able to photograph some of the Surf Scoters, but he got some good shots. As we were coming back along the causeway, there was a trio: a male, a female, and an immature male (I believe). the female is brown with a white spot on either side of her head. The males all have that unique pink beak with a white spot on the forehead, white on either side of the beak, and one on the back of the head. You can see that one of the males doesn’t have the white spots on his face. We wondered if he were a Black or White-winged Scoter; however, neither type has a white patch on the back of the head like this fellow. So maybe the younger males take time to get all their patches in?
You can see from this shot that the Scoters weren’t alone. Here’s a Loon photo bombing the Scoters. We noticed him hanging out with this group from another species. We also have a nice picture of the Loon by him= or herself. I believe this is a Common Loon in winter plumage, but if I’m wrong, feel free to set me straight.
Another, smaller, diving water bird joined the show. A horned grebe! We saw one or two popping up (and back down again) amongst the various flocks of Scoters and Long-tails. Again, let me know if I misidentified the type of Grebe.
Last but not least, here comes the Bufflehead! Usually there are big flocks of these guys around in the winter, but today, this chap seems to be swimming solo. Well, it’s a big ocean and there’s room for everybody. So where are the Harlequins?
January and February have become a tradition for us to go bird watching for ducks, geese, and other aquatic birds. This year has been an exceptionally good one for such adventures. We always head to the Cape and the Shining Sea Trail around my birthday for one of our biggest forays. This year we were not disappointed. Once more, we saw a large flock of Eider Ducks rafting on the rough January seas. The weather was so cold one of my knees started to seize up! Nevertheless, we saw a large flock that included the brown females, mature males startling in their contrast of black and white feathers, and the juvenile males that tended to a gradual graying into white in a less striking contrast. Did you ever notice that Eiders have a beak reminiscent of Bob Hope’s ski-slope schnozz – no disrespect to Eiders.
Swimming separately in the same bay were other interesting aquatic birds. Here are a pair of Common Golden Eyes. I thought they were Ring-Necked Ducks at first; but, no, they are Golden Eyes. Anyway, they were fun to watch surfing the waves, diving for lunch, and popping up goodness knows where. We also had the good fortune to catch sight of a Horned Grebe. I can’t remember the last time I saw one. He also was a little charmer with his unexpected dives and equally surprising reappearances. I hope these guys caught some snacks – pace to the Atlantic fish.
We scooted over to a pond in Falmouth and got a gander (sorry, couldn’t resist) at some Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers, and a Swan. Here’s a group shot.
Here’s a flotilla of Hooded Mergansers. Just click on the photo to get a clearer view.
Our next adventure was at the Charles River in Needham Heights, where we saw not only Mallards but the Common Merganser. This guy was so beautiful, with his green/black head and contrasting pure white chest and underside. Also on display were more Hooded Mergansers. I love to watch these guys. Where the other ducks and geese serenely loiter across the waters, these guys surge along like mini speed boats, white crests proclaiming their presence!
Third stop: Rocky Neck, Ct. Here we saw quite a few interesting water birds. Once again, the proud and speedy little Hooded Mergansers powered their way across the marsh water. We also saw several other types of birds as well. There were Gadwall Ducks, Blue Herons, gulls and even a Common Loon. The Loon was not in this same marsh, but in the ocean, in a cove by the jetty. Many of these critters were pointed out to us by two lovely people who were also birding fans. Thanks to their kind advice! Check out some of the images below.
A closeup of the Hooded Merganser.
The Gadwall Ducks.
Who you lookin’ at?
A different type of Loon. The Sharon Bird on her migratory peregrinations in search of feathered friends at the beach. Note the winter plumage.