New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Part 2- Provincetown, MacMillan's Wharf Continues.....

        MacMillan's Wharf comtinues......Soon to move in on the schooling baitfish were the Common Loons. There were a handful of Loons off the end of the Pier such as this adult in full winter dress-

     The schools of baitfish moved from the northeast end of the Pier and started moving out towards the breakwater. The light rain slowly turned into a steady shower. But even with the steady rain, I was able to duck in out of the rain because the Ferry dock canopy at the Southwest end of the Pier was still up, complete with benches! It made for a perfect place to watch birds in the Harbor. Jen did the smart thing and went off to get us a little hot coffee. 
     Below the Pier just outside the Ferry dock, the Black Guillemot swam in and then dove. I thought this would be a great opportunity to float the Guillemot decoy and try and capture the two together in a picture. So I walked quickly down to the dock and tossed out the decoy. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was standing on the line, and the decoy splashed down to the water about three feet in front of me. At this point the Guillemot hadn't returned to the surface yet, so I tossed it again, and it landed perfectly about thirty-five feet off the dock. Now I was ready. I had my camera tucked into my rain jacket ready to pull it out to take a quick picture or two if I needed it.....

     .....and of course I never saw the bird come up from its dive. I searched for it, but couldn't find it. Because the wind was blowing from the Southwest, the decoy was being pushed right back towards the dock. So I had to pull it in where normally I would have left it floating if the wind had been blowing from North or Northeast. And to add to the fun, it was still raining, which means I had to retreat back to the shelter of the canopy above me on the Pier.

     When I was back under the shelter, guess what? The Guillemot swam right back to the corner of the dock where I was standing and the decoy was floating. I tried again a few more times with the decoy, and was unsuccessful. But it did break up the rainy morning-

     By now the numbers of Razorbills increased in the Harbor. These five swam in from the Northeast end of the breakwater by the channel-

     They joined these four that were chasing the schools of baitfish-

     And these seven appeared with this flock of swimming Eiders-

      And a few came a little closer to the Pier like this first winter juvenile-

     The Thick-billed Murre came and went and followed the Razorbills-

      Thick-billed Murre with a drake Common Eider-

     Four Razorbills with a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers-

     There are always a few Oldsquaw in the Harbor-

      The number of Razorbills in the Harbor grew to over thirty. (Thick-billed Murre third from left)-

     Black Guillemot (center) with Razorbills-

      The rain seemed to let up a bit (at least for a few minutes) and I went back down onto the dock to wait for the Guillemot. A drake Eider started feeding on the bottom of a piling below the Pier-

      Always enjoy watching Red-breasted Mergansers which are my second favorite species of waterfowl. Red-breasted Mergansers are also a very popular species of decoy with my collectors. They are the second most requested species behind Eiders.

     The Greater Black-backed Gulls were still busy picking at the remaining fish in the nets of the Whiting vessel (although there wasn't much left)-

      The front continues from the Southwest over Provincetown. I was hoping for a break in the clouds, but it didn't look like it was going to happen anytime soon!-

      The Razorbills continued in the Harbor, and they were getting closer to the Pier. (Adult second from left)-

     I noticed that three Razorbills were swimming directly towards the Ferry dock. I went down to the dock to try and meet them there and maybe into good photo range. On the corners of the docks are large support pilings; perfect for hiding behind.-

     The three Razorbills dove. Not knowing where they would surface, I waited. Suddenly, two of them an immature and and adult (top) appeared quietly right in front of me......

     .....they were joined by the third bird, another first winter juvenile-


      They dove, and were gone. The three birds popped up across the Harbor by the Women of Provincetown wooden Pier.

      Another juvenile Razorbill swan directly towards me and passed by very close. Here are a few images-


        Winter adult Razorbill decoy (Modern realistic style)-

       Winter Razorbill decoy (Crowell influence)-

     Wishful thinking?! Dovekie decoy (aka Sea Dove-former nickname from fisherman on Cape Cod, also name used by Elmer Crowell)


     Herring Cove Beach- The Alcids continued to mingle about in the Harbor, with most settling in by the outer breakwater. The rain had finally let up, and the sky offered glimpses of actually clearing. After spending a couple of hours on the Pier, we decided to drive back to Herring Cove Beach. At the beach, we could see the sky was clearing to the North and West-

     After scanning the Gulls again with no luck, a single Bonapartes' Gull passed by fifty yards off the Beach, followed by a few more distant Kittiwakes-

     Now that the rain had stopped, I decided it would be a good time to try and lure in as many Gulls as possible hoping another Iceland Gull (or two) would be around. I grabbed my trusty bucket of dry catfood and walked down the beach to the edge of the ocean. With a few Bonaparte's Gulls and Kittiwakes flying just off the Beach, I knew that when I get the Gulls worked up into a noisy horde of feeding-frenzied birds, their natural curiosity would get the best of them. And sure enough, when the Herring, Ring-billed and Greater Black-backed Gulls began their feeding cyclone all around me, a single Bonaparte's Gull  appeared so close I could almost reach out and touch it-

      A Kittiwake came over for a closer look-

      I looked through the mass of Gulls that were gathered all around me who were waiting for the next handful. I didn't see any White wings, bands, numbered leg markers or wing tags. As I was ready to toss another handful of catfood, I looked up and was taken by surprise by the spectacular Kittiwake that was swimming twenty feet in front of me-

     Kittiwakes are a beautiful Gull species and a wonderful winter sea bird treat. I always enjoy seeing them on the cod boats in December and January. But its not often that you have the pleasure so close to shore standing on a beach-

     A few more Bonaparte's Gulls came in and landed with a few of the other Gulls only a few yards off the beach-

      And a few more Kittiwakes came by to see what all the commotion was about-

     The Bonaparte's Gulls stayed for quite a while-

      And more Kittiwakes came, many flying right in front of me investigating the other feeding Gulls-

     The Gull showing was excellent at Herring Cove Beach. Although I didn't find any other Iceland Gulls or "marked" birds, we really enjoyed the Bonaparte's Gulls and the spectacular Kittwake showing. We had over sixty Kittiwakes that morning all very close to the beach. That was memorable.

     Back to MacMillan's- We had another great time spending the morning in P'town. On the way out of town, we decided to give MacMillan's one more look, its always worth just one more look! On the Northeast end of the Pier, we ran into another birder. His name was Bob and he was from Indiana. He was looking for another of his "lifers" the Thick-billed Murre. He told Jen and I that he had come East to see the Lapwing (another lifer) in Bridgewater (which he did) and now he was searching for the Murre. I told him that he standing in the perfect spot for the Murre, but the only birds there were a pair of Razorbills. We searched the Harbor and couldn't find the Murre or the Black Guillemot-

      With clearing skies over P'town, Jen and I decided to head back South for the rest of the day. We said our Good-byes to Bob and hoped he finds the Murre. (We found out that Bob was successful the following day and he found the Thick-billed Murre).

     Nice blue sky over the Town Hall-

      Welfleet Harbor- The Harbor was very quiet. We searched everywhere, but we couldn't find the Common Murres. A flock of Brant flew towards us. As the flock got closer to us, I noticed a much smaller bird in the flock. I thought at first that it might be a hen Merganser. When the flock was close it was obvious that the smaller bird was the smallest Brant that I had ever seen! Talk about a runt!-


     High head Brant decoy (classic Elmer Crowell style and influence)

    Preening Brant (Crowell influence)-

     A tribute to one of my favorite Elmer Crowell decoys- preening Cnada Goose

     (Joe Lincoln influenced) standard Brant decoy. Joe Lincoln is also known as one of Amreicas top ten decoy carvers. Mr. Lincoln carved decoys in his shop in Hingham, Mass. and was one of Elmer Crowells greatest carving influences.

    Charles "Shang" Wheeler influenced Brant decoys. Shang Wheeler was my greatest decoy carving influeces was from Stratford, CT -

     Modern preening Brant decoy-

     This Black-backed Gull flew in while I was standfing on the boat ramp. I think it wanted to have its picture taken-

     Back to Hyannis- After leaving Welfleet we stopped by First Encounter Beach, but there wasn't very much there. Jen and I decided to go back to Hyannis for lunch and a bit of shopping. Since we were already going to be there, I  could use a few better shots of the Egret and the Black-headed Gulls assuming they were still there! And they were-

       After taking a few closer shots of the Egret, it  flew back to the Northern part of the marsh. I walked out on to beach to look for the Gulls, but the only birds there were a few Brant feeding along the shore. From the small rocky area at the western end of the beach, I looked down the shoreline towards Ocean Ave. Beach, but I couldn't find the gulls there either-

      We drove down to Ocean Ave. but we didn'ts ee the Gulls. So we took a drive down to Craigville Beach with hopes of finding an Iceland or Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The only Gulls on the Beach were Ring-billed and a few Herring Gulls.

      Back to Kalmus. We were turning around in the parking lot when I spotted the Egret in the marsh landing right near the road by the culvert-

     It walked around for a few minutes, and again flew off to the Northern end of the marsh-

      While I was at Kalmus, I walked down the beach to the Western point of rocks and looked down the shoreline for the Black-headed Gull. And there it was! It was at its usual hiding spot along the seawalls about halfway between Kalmus and Ocean Ave. Beaches.

     We drove around (again) to the Circle off Sea St. and I walked down the beach towards the rocky point to the east of Ocean Ave. Beach. I met two other birders/photographers that had just been with the Gull. I asked if it was still there, and they told me that "It was, it was swimming off the pile of rocks". -

     Since it was just before high tide, there was still enough beach left to walk down to the Gull below the high tide line. The adult Gull was generous, allowing me to get close enough for great looks and photos.-

     I had a nice hide right behind a set of sea wall stairs. The Gull at one time flew off  but only a short distance and landed on the sea (about twenty yards out).-

      It turned and swam right back to the rocks-

      After twenty minutes it flew off again, this time heading for Kalmus Beach-

      A welcomed sight- the sun going down over the Vineyard Sound-

       On our way back we stopped once more at Veterans Park and then Kalmus for one last look. The Egret was walking around the Northern end of the marsh, but this time in the middle in plain view from the road. We saw another birder there with the Egret and he had the Egret in his scope. We all introduced ourselves. His name was David Flynt from Virginia. David had also driven up to Mass. for the Lapwing (which he saw) and bonus seabirding on Cape Cod. He mentioned that he saw my Massbird reports listing the Iceland Gull, Black Guillemot, Kittiwakes and Thick-billed Murre in P'town which he was going for on Thursday morning. David said that he also wanted to see the Murre. We exchanged emails and said our Good-byes. David emailed me on Thursday that he did find the Murre in the Harbor, and also an adult Iceland Gull (not the second winter bird from HCB) in the Harbor, but he missed the Guillemot. Congratulations David!!

     The last look we had at the Egret before calling it a day and driving back to Orleans-

      Jen and I had plans on Wednesday night to meet Tina Green and Carolyn Cimino two known CT birders for dinner. The two Ladies were going to be on the Cape for several days birding, so Tina suggested that we meet for dinner. We had a nice dinner at the Thai restaurant in Orleans talking about what else.....birds! That morning Tina found a Pacific Loon at Scusset Beach on their way to the Cape. Great find Tina, Congratulations!

 Par3- Third Day, "Finally; Gusty Northerly Wind, But Maybe Not Gusty Enough"!  Continues.......

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