New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Riding on the Tail of Ari- Saturday BBC Pelagic"

     Friday, November 09, 2012- Heading up to the Cape for Saturday's November Pelagic- Nor'easter Ari was taking its time leaving New England. The winds were still strong, but were forcasted to slowly diminish by Saturday morning. For two years in a row, the November gales chugged into New England prompting the cancellation of the Brookline Bird Club's November pelagic trip. In fact it was postponed last year, and then cancelled again on Nov. 24, the rescheduled date after the Rhode Island pelagic on Nov. 23:

     The winds on Friday morning were forecasted to be strong northwest, after a shift from the northeast, a classic finish to a Nor'easter. These wind conditions would be monumental for a Cape Cod Bay seawatch, most notably First Encounter Beach in Eastham. Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to leave CT until later in the morning; we would miss dawn at First Encounter. I am sure the parking lot would be full that morning!

     We left from home with the idea we would be in Provincetown around noon so we could bird the area. We always cut through Jamestown and Newport, Rhode Island to get to 195 in Fall River. Jen and I like to go birding at all of our favorite spots: Beavertail, Fort Getty, Fort Wetherill in Jamestown, and many locations in Newport one of them being Easton Beach. Easton Beach is always a good spot to check because you never know what will be walking on the beach. Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Royal Terns, and Little Gulls have been seen here with some regularity. Last year five American Avocets settled in for a few weeks and were a delight for many birders and photographers:

     There weren't many Gulls on the beach, but there was a large mass of Gulls feeding along the shore to the extreme western side of the Bay along Cliff Walk. They were too far down the shore to look through them for any uncommon species. On the eastern shore, a small raft of ducks were tucked in tight along the shore. Jen and I drove over to Esplandale Drive to get a better look. The large flock of Bufflehead were joined by a a dozen or so Ruddy Ducks-

     But a nice surprise were the Gannets. They were flying far into the head of the Bay (nearly to the beach) along the shoal  and started plunging right out in front of us-

     Jen and I never grow tired of watching this was a nice way to start our trip!-

         After twenty minutes of watching the Gannets, we decided it was time to leave these magnificent seabirds behind. When we were stopped at the traffic light by the Atlantic Beach Club, a flock of nineteen White-winged Crossbills landed in the top of  the only Red Pine tree in the area by the road. I reached for my camera, but the birds took off and flew north across Easton Pond until they were out of sight. That would have made a nice picture!

      We were soon on the Cape and stopped by First Encounter Beach at 11:00 am. The tide was almost low, and only one birder was parked scoping the Bay. I read a report later that over forty birds were there at dawn and the birding was epic with large numbers of Dovekie and Pomarine Jaegers reported.....I would have loved being there that morning!

     But even at 11:00 am, there were still good numbers of birds flying across the Bay; many off in the distance, and many were trading just outside the grass sixty-five yards off the beach. Common Eiders were plentiful-

      And so were the Gannets-

     A small flock of Razorbill skims the waves-

     Jen and I watched for about a half an hour. In that time we spotted three Cory's Shearwaters flying along the sandbars very close to the beach-

      We also spotted three Leach's Storm-Petrels-

     The close-"encounter" Gannet show was excellent!-

     Kittiwakes stayed farther out from shore-

      After we left First Encounter Beach we made a brief stop at Welfleet Harbor. The tide was very low, and all the tidal flats were covered with clammers just about in every direction you looked. The Bay however was  empty of birds including around the Commercial Pier. Jen spotted a bird which she thought was an alcid in the main channel out from the Pier. It was a Black Guillemot; the first one we had ever seen in Welfleet Harbor-

     We made it to Provincetown after lunch, stopping first at Herring Cove Beach. We looked through all the Gulls on the beach, but didn't spot any uncommon species. As we were leaving the IFAW Rescue van pulled up and parked along the beach. We asked one of the members (they were all dressed in survival suits) if they were there to rescue a stranded Whale or Dolphin? She told us "No, they were there to release two Dolphins"!

    The crew remove one of the Dolphins from the trailer and carry it on a carrier/stretcher.....

     .....and placed on the beach carrier/cart-

     Once the Dolphin is carefully placed on the cart.....
 is wheeled down the beach.....

     .....where it is carefully lifted off.....

     .....and placed on cushioned mat-

      The Dolphin is cared for and monitored while the second Dolphin is retrieved.-


     This Dolphin is tagged and a Satellite transmitter/tracking device has been attached-

     The second Dolphin is brought down to the beach-

     With both Atlantic White-sided Dolphins in place, they will be set free soon!-

     The release strategy is meticulously discussed. It was explained to all of us on the beach, that both Dolphins were found beached earlier that morning: one in Sandwich and the other nearby on Race Point. Both Dolphins had received a complete medical examination with blood tests. These blood tests determine if the Dolphins were healthy enough to be released, and both were. Both Dolphins were tagged and only one of them received the Satellite transmitter.-

     Race Point in he background-

     The release-

     They hold and suspend the Dolphins so they can acclimate to the water  and the water temps. When the Dolphins are ready, they push themselves off the carriers-

     There they go!-

    As the Dolphins slide into the sea, a joyous crew watch their movements carefully-


    Unbelievable!! Jen and I want to personally Thank all the crew of the IFAW Rescue team that made this incredible rescue and release happen!

     After that great wildlife experience, Jen and I drove over to MacMillan's Pier. Other than a few Loons breakwater Cormorants, and typical group of resident Common Eiders there weren't too many birds there. I talked with three birders there and they told me that we were about a half hour late as a single Dovekie and Black Guillemot were hanging around the docks before we arrived. Although that would have been great to see, the release of the Dolphins was an unforgettable experience....we could always see another  Dovekie and a Black Guillemot! I looked up and spotted a single Kittiwake flying across the outer Harbor-

     Driving off the pier, Jen looked over and spotted this drake Harlequin Duck-

     I walked down the dock to get closer photos, and this drake Eider popped up from a dive with a cluster of small blue mussels-

    Saturday, November 10, 2012, Hyannis- BBC Pelagic. Part 1 Vineyard Sound, Hyannis to the southwestern tip of Monomoy-     (Note)- This is an unofficial report, just my accounting of the day for my blog. All sightings and  locations are my estimated accounts; I didn't have access to GPS, charts, etc.  For the official report see the Brookline Bird Club's website

      My observation area was from the pulpit of the Helen H and will vary from the official report simply from being  a different vantage point for viewing.  Observers joining me on the pulpit included Bill Thompson, Paul Wolter and John Oshlick. We did not count birds, and all listed species numbers are just my rough estimates.

     I wrote this report for all of those who have never participated in and/or may be interested in experiencing a seabirding trip for the first time. Seabird trips such as this one would expand your birding experiences opening up a whole new birding area for you. 

     Well the morning had finally arrived, and the wind (at least at the dock) was nearly still. However, if you have been on the sea before, this is always misleading. The water thirty miles off shore is always much different than is a small protected harbor. It was mentioned that morning that the wave buoy off Nantucket was showing 1.7 foot seas, but the offshore buoy told a different tale! We all started assembling at 6:00 am for a boarding time of 6:30 am. The Helen H was scheduled to leave at 7:00 am. Obviously many of us were anxious to get underway, so birding talk consumed the waiting area. Ida Giriunas the trip host and organizer arrived soon after Jen and I did and she set up her registration area. Soon more began funneling into the parking area including Paul Wolter, Bill Thompson, John Oshlick, Naeem Yusuff, and Steve (one of the trips leaders) and Jane Mirick. Before long, everyone was there and we began boarding; it was a great morning!

     The original plan was to bird Nantucket Shoals, but with the brisk northwest wind still hanging on, I suspected a different route was being discussed for the day. The morning was crisp, clear and sunny, much better than the past two years! The Helen H cast off its lines and we were underway. In the inner harbor near the Helen H's dock, this Common Loon swam by still retaining most of its summer dress-


     At the mouth of the Harbor, many Scoters were trading back and forth such as this flock of Black Scoter-

     The Scoters were politely upstaged by many single Bonaparte's Gulls.....

     .....and Oldquaw-

     Surf Scoters-

     drake Oldsquaw-

     Surf Scoters-

     When we were a mile or two outside the harbor, it was obvious that the Helen H was taking a different route. With the slowly diminishing northwest winds still a consideration, I figured that they decided to travel along more of an inner protected route hoping that the wind would die down later in the day. This route took us along the shore heading towards the tip of Monomoy. Sea Ducks were spread out the entire leg of the trip such as these Oldsquaw-

     Surf Scoters-

     An interesting note for the day was the substantial numbers of passerine species that flew over (and as you will see later) and to the vessel. These passerines (and a few other land bird surprises) were seen near Monomoy and well off shore in the outer Shoals. The passerine species included: Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, White-winged Crossbills and a Redpoll.

     Another Common Loon of many seen that day.-

     White-winged Scoters-

     Approaching Monomoy from the west.-

      A group of Grey Seals hauled out on the beach at the southwest tip of Monomoy-

     Part 2- "East of Monomoy" continues......Click on "Older Post" below right-