New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Blow out" a little too much wind for a boat ride!

     Day 5 (Oct 16)- The original plan for Sunday morning was to head back to Provincetown, and take a whale watch trip with the Dolphin Fleet. We would meet up with John Conlin the bird expert and naturalist for the fleet. Unfortunately with the 40 knot winds blowing, the trip was cancelled. With the west/nw winds predicted, Jen and I decided to start the morning at First Encounter Beach. The winds were ideal for this location blowing straight into the beach, a gift for sea birders. The only down side to the morning would be the low tide. The sand bars extend a half mile out into the bay, keeping the birds much farther out in the Bay and from shore. Jen and I were joined by Paul Wolter, and Carl and Catherine Ekroth. Dawn broke over the horizon, and the sea birds (mostly Gannets) were swirling off in the distance. Small groups of Terns were showing up, and Paul picked out a few Jaegers in hot pursuit of the Terns. Many flocks of Scoters were trading back and forth across the Bay, as well as Common Eiders. First Encounter Beach is one of the best locations on the Cape for excellent morning flights of Common Eiders; my absolute favorite bird. This morning wasn’t any different, as small flocks buzzed the beach and many lifting up over the sand dunes heading for the large marsh, or just trying to escape the menacing winds.

     As we were scanning the Bay, I picked up on a small pelagic Gull heading outward. I tried to concentrate on the bird to identify it, but the wind was so strong it made the scope vibrate. I soon lost the gull when I announced it to Paul and Carl. I tried to find it again, but couldn’t. My instinct tells me it was a Kittiwake, (I hope it wasn’t a Sabine’s and missed it). A Great Blue Heron announced its disapproval of the heavy wind struggling to fly down the beach.

     While I was searching for the Gull. A huge cloud of birds lifted off the distant Billingsgate Island and suddenly came into our scopes. Paul and Carl also saw the massive flock of birds which would appear and re-appear as the flock wheeled and twisted over the Bay at least a mile out. When the huge flock would catch the sun, all the birds appeared white, which probably indicated Terns, and a mass of them. The flocks broke up and scattered all over the Bay, it was quite a sight!

     It was another great morning sea birding on Cape Cod, with low tide, although many birds were seen, most were a mile out from shore. As the tide continued to fall, the birds retreated farther out into the Bay……time for breakfast. Jen and I said our goodbyes, and worked our way back off the Cape, of course checking a few other spots on the way: Barnstable Harbor, Sandwich Marsh, Beach and Canal.

     During mid-week prior to our Cape Cod trip, the Sandhill Cranes returned to a cranberry bog in Wareham, Mass. This year there were five Cranes present, and since we were going through Wareham on our way home, we all decided to stop and see if we could see the Cranes. Paul and Tom arrived first followed by Carl and Catherine, and were rewarded with good views of the Sandhills. Jen and I were behind the others, and when we arrived at the cranberry bog, Jen spotted the Cranes. The five Cranes were a few hundred yards from the small pull off along the road. We stayed for half an hour watching the Cranes and then said good-bye to the five Sandhill Cranes, and Cape Cod!

     It was a perfect end to a perfect trip to the Cape! Time to go home and prepare for my upcoming class.

For a complete species highlights list and trip wrap-up go to this link:

Keith and Jen Mueller     Killingworth, CT

Continues.... turn the page, click on "Older Posts" below right

Addendum- Day 6 (Oct 19) "Quickie Shorebirding" and Day 7 (Oct 26) "The Pelican Tale".......