|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?
|We had planned last week to take a trip to Gooseberry Neck Beach on that Wednesday, since the day was supposed to be relatively warm (40s). We didn’t plan on a fog that could make Londoners get lost. Undaunted, we started out, first heading for Shastea in Providence for lunch. Our hopes rose, as the fog seemed to dissipate into just a cloudy day once we got there. So, would Gooseberry Beach be equally clear? Nope!
The closer we drove to the ocean, the deeper the grey nothingness became. We couldn’t even see the ocean! Nevertheless, when we pulled up at the beginning of the causeway to park, I had hopes that we might be able to see some critters swimming close to shore. Bingo!
I got so excited, seeing this guy swimming around, taking a dive or two. It was almost a year to the day that I’d seen my first Longtail last year at Silver Sands Beach in Ct. Now, here was my second sighting. Then, as my eyes adjusted to the fog, I realized that Mr. Longtail wasn’t alone. Mrs. Longtail was also on hand in the rough and crashing seas, and she was definitely no slouch when it came to hunting. Yang took this cool picture of her arching up to dive deep for some seafood take out – which she’d be taking out herself. You’ll have to forgive the fogginess of some of these pictures. As I said, it was a pea souper! I don’t know how the ducks were able to see each other!
I apologize for the fogginess of the photos – it was foggy. If you click on the photos to enlarge them, they are clearer.
I wonder what she said to provoke THIS reaction?
Could anything be more exciting? Yes! as Yang and I walked along the causeway, we came across more and more Longtails! These guys were riding the roughest of seas. It was fascinating to watch them crest some of those rough swells. All told, we finally saw about three flocks of Longtailed ducks, males and females. There must have been thirty ducks riding the rough waves, diving for food, chilling in the fog! Again, I apologize for the, literal, fogginess of the photos. However, if you click on the picture, the enlarged version is reasonably clear.
I thought these two little ladies looked rather sweet.
I think this guy is starring in the duck version of I Had Two Wives.
Speaking of the moving image, how about Yang’s film clip of a diving Longtail?
And that’s the end of my duck tail!
Yang and I went to the beach last week when we had some warm weather– in New England, in winter, you can call 40 degrees warm. It started out as a trip to Tea with Tracey in Connecticut for tea (obviously), but since the day was so sunny and “warm,” Yang suggested that after tea, we head to nearby Silver Sands Beach to see what birds might be visiting. I think he felt bad for me because we were the only people at Plum Island the week before who didn’t see a Snow Owl. Anyway, once we got there, we were NOT disappointed, with a special guest star appearing that neither of us had ever seen before!
As we approached where the waves broke on the shore, we were delighted to see Herring Gulls mixing and mingling with Brant Geese. The gulls I’d seen many times before. However, I’d only seen Brants twice previously. They were not afraid of us and let Yang take lots of photographs. Here are some neat ones we saw of them along the shore.
When the Brants took to the water, they proceeded in well-ordered convoy fashion. You’d almost think they were heading to Britain with Lend-Lease weaponry, on the watch for Nazi U-Boats.
Maybe they had air support from the Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls. I think some gulls might even have been acting as the Armed Guard.
We also saw some old favorites, American Black Ducks. Here are two in conference.
Over here is another guy just chillin’ on a rock. Maybe he felt he’d be chillin’ too much, literally, if he joined his pals in the ocean. What do you think?
Then, there was this lonesome stranger. Yang and I spotted a white dot in the ocean. We almost dismissed it as yet another Hooded Merganser, but Yang had second thoughts and trained his binoculars on this guy. Well, what do you know? A duck that neither of us had ever seen before. He was a study in art decco black and white, with a whitish Presley pompadour swept and puffed up off his forehead. His yellow eyes contrasted with a black pupil. Even his pink beak had symmetric black patches on either side! Then, when he dived, there was that long, slim tail flipping up.
What could he be? A Harlequin Duck? A funky Woodduck? A pintail of some kind? My guess was an Oldsquaw – and darned if a peek in my Peterson’s and a look on-line didn’t prove me right. Now, some people don’t like the term “squaw” in his name, feeling it’s offensive. So, considering that yellowish white pompadour, could we rename him an OldElvis? Too soon?
Anyway, like our new friend, I’m going to take a dive and say, “so long!”