Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day Birding

My first bird of the new year was a Tufted Titmouse who came to pick at some cracker crumbs on our deck.

I repeated last year's New Year's Day outing today by heading up to Gloucester and Rockport in search of Harlequin Ducks.

It was in the mid 20s, and I didn't think it would be too bad out there, but the wind picked up and the chill picked up, and it felt pretty darn cold as the day went on.  I must say that I love my flannel-lined pants, though, and my legs have not been cold on hikes since I got them.  Really the only problem I had today was cold hands, teary eyes and a runny nose.

My first stop was at the public beach in Rockport, where a family with two young children was feeding the ducks.  There were a lot of mallards there and some gulls mixed in, fighting over the handouts.  Look at all those shiny green heads!

My next stop was at the Old Granite Pier in Rockport.


Common Eiders

Red-Breasted Merganser (female)

My next stop was the public footpath at what I think is called Andrew's Point.  There were Harlequin Duck flocks visible in the distance both to the left and right of where I parked.  Ice from water flowing down the rocky shore blocked my path eventually to the left, without getting close enough for photos.  I headed back and the ducks that had been off to the right had moved closer, so with a little climbing I was able to get them in sight.  I also saw a good-sized flock of shorebirds flying in unison down the right shore, but was unable to identify them because of the distance.

I continued on to Halibut Point State Park, where I really experienced the wind chill as I walked down the trail and across the rocks to get as close to the ocean as possible.  Again, I had to deal with ice and at one point opted to plow through a thorny narrow path rather than slide across the ice.  I was able to get right down to the shore, though, and just kept myself back far enough to avoid the salt spray of the waves crashing against the rocks (which were forming icicles by the way).  The wind was really rough here, as you can see on the surface of the ocean.

Harlequin Ducks

Next I returned to downtown Rockport and took my obligatory photos of Motif #1, walked out to the end of Bearskin Neck and then stopped at the Red Skiff for clam chowder and a fried Haddock sandwich to warm up.

 Motif #1

Every bird counts in the new year, even the homely Rock Pigeon.

Rock Doves

Common Loon

Rockport entryway

After lunch, I walked very briefly at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, which is very popular with dog walkers in the winter.  A large flock of Canada Geese and many gulls were present.  There were some shorebirds too, but it was too wet to get to where they were and I was not quite as motivated as earlier in the day.

Good Harbor Beach

I planned one more stop, if it wasn't closed, and that was at Eastern Point Wildlife Sanctuary.  On the road in, I came upon this Wild Turkey literally pecking a passing car.  I think they were afraid of running it over, and I ended up squeezing past them since they didn't seem to be able to drive around the turkey.  (When I drove by, the turkey was on the other side of the car.)

teeny tiny Boston from Eastern Point

Eastern Point Lighthouse

I don't know if you've ever walked on a breakwall before, but it's not that easy.  The granite is uneven and it has gaps between the blocks.  You really have to watch where you are putting your feet.  If you make a mistake, it's a long way down!

Herring Gull

Red-Breasted Merganser

Not a bad start to the new birding year!


  1. Great lighting and colors! Those pics of Rockport and the lighthouse are calendar-worthy! The sky is so painterly. Hmmm, that gives me an idea...

    1. I love it when you paint my pictures!! Thanks, Ken! The sky was beautiful!