New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Part 3- "Finally; Gusting Northerly Winds, But Maybe Not Gusty Enough!"

    Part 3-  (Third Day), Thursday, December 6- Eastham, First Encounter Beach- After dinner last night, I checked the marine forecast, and it finally indicated some stronger Northerly winds. It stated twenty knot winds with gusts up to thirty. Although not as strong as I would have liked, but we would take it! Just after midnight, the wind came up and you could hear it blowing over the roof of the Cove Motel.

     Jen and I were planning on going to First Encounter Beach in the morning with the winds. Since the winds had only come up real early that morning and they weren't as strong as I was hoping for, it was a good place to start the day. Low tide in the morning didn't improve our chances at closer looks at Alcids, but it is what we had.   Tina and Carolyn getting an early start-

     Besides the distant flocks of large Alcids (presumably mostly Razorbills), scattered Gannets, and Gulls, this flock of a few hundred Dunlin wheeled around the shoreline obviously stressed by the wind-

     They landed on the sandbar many times-

      A few Brant landed on the sandbar trying to get out of the wind-

     I walked out to my favorite spot at First Encounter on a falling tide which was the grass beds along the sandbar. If any birds were flying close along the shoreline, this would offer me the best opportunities for closer viewing and photos-

     The Dunlins continued moving from one spot to another-

     Than the Eiders came-

     One of the many flocks of large Alcids that morning-

     These were close enough to identify them as Razorbills-

     Only a few Gannets came within a few hundred yards. Most like the Razorbills behind were way out in the Bay-

     More Eiders-

     I looked back as an immature Greater Black-backed Gull landed on the beach. It landed by what appeared to be a large carcass of what I first thought was a Seal.-

      As I walked back to see what the carcass was, a single Black-bellied Plover landed in front of me. This was the only Plover I saw-

     When I got closer to the carcass I recognized it as an Ocean Sunfish which was tagged-

      I reported the dead Mola to the NECWA and they informed me that they had performed a Necropsy on it two days earlier (marked by the Orange tag). The Eiders continued to fly by the grass bank by the sandbar-

     Orleans and Dennis- Rock Harbor, Sesuit Harbor and Corporation Beach- Jen and I were planning on leaving the Cape early that morning and take our time driving home. We would make a few more stops on the Cape and a few in Rhode Island.

      We stopped at a few of our usual places on the Bay side driving along 6A. We didn't find too much of anything just the usuals: Eiders, all three Scoters, Oldsquaw, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, Black Ducks, Common and Red-throated Loons, Horned Grebes, a few small flocks of distant large Alcids, Gannets and a handful of Bonaparte's Gulls trading along the outer sandbars.


     Wing preening Black Duck (Crowell influence) The most famous Black Duck pose carved by Elmer Crowell

     Large bodied Black Duck (Crowell influence)-

     Sleeping Black Duck decoy (Gloucester style and influence)

    Resting Black Duck decoy (Shang Wheeler influence)-

       Relaxed head pose Black Duck decoy (Wheeler influence)-

      Preening/sleeping Black Duck decoy (Wheeler influence) This decoy is my tribute to Shang Wheeler. It was modeled after Shang Wheeler's most notable and famous decoy that he carved which sold at auction for over eighty thousand dollars!

     Sundown on three of my Black Duck decoys-

     This is one of the designs I painted for the Rhode Island duck stamp series (from 1999 - 2006) featuring CT style Black Duck decoys at Dutch Island lighthouse in Jamestown.-


      Scusset Beach State Reservation, Sandwich- Jen and I took the first right turn off the Sagamore Bridge is Scusset Beach. This is a beautiful park and always worth stopping here if you have the time. With the strong Northerly winds, this would be a good spot to check to see Razorbills close in the Canal. Since Tina found the Pacific Loon on Wednesday, it would be a nice bonus.

As Jen and I walked along the sandy trail that lead to the long jetty, a Harrier was hunting the dunes-

     It landed behind a small grassy hummock maybe after a Vole or maybe to get out of the wind-

     Looking out into the Bay, the distant Kittiwake show was exceptional-

    There were only three Razorbills in the Canal. Jen spotted a single Razorbill about thirty yards off from the jetty about half way down. It surfaced and then flew off.-

     The Kittiwakes (four in this image) continued flying across the mouth of the Canal out by buoy 5 where Tina found the Pacific loon-

     Jen also spotted a flock of Snow Buntings flying across the Canal and they eventually landed on the Beach near the beginning of the jetty-

     We only found three sanderlings on the Beach-

     Looking out to the end of the jetty. I decided to walk farther out to get closer to the Kittiwakes. The end of the jetty is one of the best places in Massachusetts to find King Eiders often in multiple numbers. I have seen many here over the years with the most being a flock of five (1 mature drake, 2 mature hens and 2 juveniles). I have seen King Eiders every year that I have come here (mostly n January)-

      From the end of the jetty the Kittiwake show was excellent-

       Great Cormorant-

      In the upper Canal out of the wind, a large raft of Eiders were gathered-

      From the walking/biking path along the Canal, we walked down towards the raft of Eiders. There were plenty of Loons present both in the Canal and outside (but we didn't find the Pacific Loon). This Loon was tucked in close to shore enjoying the quiet lee out of the wind. It started preening giving me many ideas for a carving-

      As we walked up onto the raft of Sea Ducks, there were a few small groups of Scoters mixed in. Drake Surf Scoter (aka "Skunkhead" in New England)-

     Pair of hen White-winged Scoters-

       Small group of hen White-winged Scoters with one hen Surf Scoter (middle left)-

     Hen Surf Scoter (top left)-

     Part of the rafted Eiders-

      There were nearly a thousand Eiders in this group. Jen and I searched every one looking for a King Eider, but couldn't find one. I did however find a very probable Northen Eider (ssp. borealis) but couldn't confirm because of the backlighting conditions. The head and body shape, size and bill shape were perfect for borealis, but I couldn't get a good enough look at the frontal process of the bill lobes to confirm. I have seen Northern Eiders three other times in the Canal, and twice in Rhode Island-

      A few Red-breasted Mergansers and White-winged Scoters mixed in-

      Looking down the Canal to the heavy surf of the Bay-

     White-winged and Surf Scoters.....

        .....and one hen Black Scoter-

     Part 4 (Day Three) "Lighthouse Attractions and a Salt Pond Greeting" Continues.......
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