|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?