Sunday, January 5, 2014

Birding at Salisbury Beach State Reservation

I couldn't decide whether to go north to Salisbury Beach or south to Duxbury Beach.  Duxbury, in my opinion, is a much nicer walk, but Salisbury offered some birds (reported, anyway) that I had never seen!  In the end, the doppler radar helped me make up my mind.  Cloud cover was moving in from the south.  I made the right decision!  What a day!

I drove into the campgrounds first and found about 5 birders with scopes and cameras set on a bird off in the marshes.  I parked and asked if they had a Snowy Owl and was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a Short-Eared Owl, a life bird!  It was distant enough for a lousy photo, but I got a nice look at it through a man's massive camera.  The birders told me that an hour earlier it had been flying right in front of them all, nice and close.  Oh, come on!  When birding, those of us who missed an opportunity can't worry about what happened an hour ago!   While we were watching the Short-Eared Owl and willing it to take off from its resting place, I noticed another large bird flying low over the marsh that landed near the water's far edge.  A Snowy Owl!  It was even farther away than the Short-Eared, but wonderful to see anyway, and they were both surprised that I had spotted it when they hadn't.

While we watched the more interesting birds afar, I also spotted Song Sparrows and American Tree Sparrows hopping through the brush just off the road.

Short-Eared Owl (Trust me; it's there!)

I asked the two birders what else they had seen since they had been there all morning.  They mentioned Lapland Longspurs over at the boat ramp, which would be another life bird.  I headed there next!

Lapland Longspurs

There was also another Snowy Owl just across the water from the boat ramp!  You may need a circle around this owl, too!  Also from the boat ramp, I saw Buffleheads, Red Breasted Merganser and Long-Tailed Ducks.

As you can see in the following picture of the same owl, the clouds finally caught up with me, and the good lighting was pretty much gone for the day.

The clouds move in.

Horned Lark

You can see why the Snowy Owls would find this landscape similar to the arctic tundra.  This was the view of the marshland as I was exiting the reservation.  Of course, there was one more group of cars pulled off the road looking at a Snowy Owl, so I stopped one more time.  I saw the owl, another off at a good distance, but this one pure white (a male). 

There was a woman, off to the side of the rest of the people, and I moved over to join her, noticing that she was photographing a small flock of ground foraging birds.  They turned out to be Horned Larks.  While we were watching them, a hawk with a striped tail swooped in and plucked one of the unlucky, slower-reacting Horned Larks for its mid-afternoon snack.  Oh, I wish I would have captured that in a photo, but it happened so fast and I was just mesmerized watching it.  It was over in a matter of seconds.

 Seconds before the hawk

And after the hawk!

Just before I packed it up one last time, I spotted a Northern Harrier hunting over this same area.  A very popular spot, or was it just that time of day?  I don't know, but I really enjoyed my visit to Salisbury Beach.

1 comment:

  1. It looks very cold over there! Lovely pictures of the conditions, though.