Monday, January 30, 2012

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge

I went in search of a Snowy Owl.  No luck there, but it was a wonderful day filled with beautiful scenery, fresh air, good exercise and nice birding!

I arrived at the Visitor Center about 10:50 AM, picked up a map and a trail guide and headed for the entry gate.  Paid my $5 entry fee and headed in.  Temperature was about 35 degrees, but with the whipping wind, it felt much colder.  My first stop was the North Pool Overlook, where I saw some ducks (pintail, bufflehead and others that I am not able to identify), but they quickly swam to the far side of the water and I didn't get any worthwhile photos.

I stopped next at the Hellcat Wildlife Observation Area.  There was no way I was going to climb the lookout tower with the winds, but I did walk out to it and check out the visible water fowl.  Then, I took the Marsh Loop trail, quite beautiful boardwalks through the marshes.  Cold near the water.

Next, I took the Dunes Loop trail, also mostly boardwalks, through a lot of scrub growth and finally up to a high point on the dunes with an overlook to the sea.

Saw several birds in the berry bushes on the way down from the dunes:  chickadee, cardinals, robins and a downy woodpecker.

Massachusetts State Bird, Black-Capped Chickadee

The next stretch of road was popular with gulls who were dropping shells to crack them open.

I stopped next at Stage Island Pool Overlook.  Another brisk walk and I spotted a marsh hawk (Northern Harrier) hunting in the salt marsh.

On the return trip, I looked carefully over the open fields, thinking this was the most likely area for viewing the Snowy Owl.  The sky was very pretty.

Saw a marsh hawk several times (maybe the same one) on the drive out.  The biggest water fowl activity was just prior to the entrance gate, at the open water.  There were dozens of Canada geese in the sky, many coming in for a landing in the water which was already filled with many geese and a variety of ducks.  It was neat to see so many large birds in the sky at one time!

I left the refuge about 2:30.  A great birding day!  I like the fact that there were very few people in the park.  I wonder what it is like in the peak birding months.... I will probably find out this year!

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