Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Cold Hike at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land

Central Mass Birders posted on Facebook that there was a Wilson's Snipe sighting at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.   I was really busy most of the day today, preparing for dinner tonight with friends, but just prior to sunset I hurried on over to see if I could find it.  No luck.  Pretty hike though, in spite of the temperature in the low teens.

I saw:  4 Cedar Waxwings, 1 Tufted Titmouse, 2 Song Sparrows, 20+ Mourning Doves, 1 Red-Tailed Hawk, 2 House Sparrows, 4 Dark-Eyed Juncos and heard House Finches, Black-Capped Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds.

The sky was pretty!

 Dark-Eyed Junco

Happy New Year to all!  Hope your 2014 is full of birds and butterflies and other beautiful sightings of nature!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Snowy Owl Quest II

Horseneck Beach campground was tempting me after I saw some beautiful close up photos of Snowy Owls taken there.  Alas, I just could not stand the thought of 3 hours of driving (round trip).  I decided to set my GPS for Duxbury Beach instead, a much more do-able destination and a guaranteed enjoyable hike, regardless of sightings.  I parked in the lot at the end of Powder Point Bridge and began my walk from there.  The sky was beautiful, with pale lavender, pinks and greys making it look more like sunset than 11:00 AM.

From the bridge, I immediately saw some ocean-going ducks.

Buffleheads (female)

Surf Scoter (female)

 Horned Grebes

Herring Gull

The direction I walked....can you stand that view?  So beautiful.

 the flock in motion - most are Dunlins, I believe

a loner

 Sanderling (this one was colored differently than the rest though, more white)

 the lighthouse

I have come to Duxbury Beach looking for shorebirds several times in winter months, and this was the first time I really saw such a good number of them.

This beach has a lot of stones.  Maybe better to bring a chair than a blanket during summer....

Dunlins (I think)


 And finally.....a Snowy Owl!

Squinty eyes = relaxed.

Depending on where you were standing in the road, this particular owl could completely disappear into the grasses.  When I first spotted it, 5 people were walking towards me from the other direction, and none of them saw it.

Common Eider

view off bridge looking towards Marshfield

 Isn't that tree gorgeous?

Brants (seen from the car just before leaving)

You can't beat a winter day off from work with temps in the 40s, windy or not.  A day at the beach, a Snowy Owl, beautiful scenery.  Life is good!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary

I took a short walk this morning at Waseeka.    My back was not feeling too good today, and after about an hour, it was letting me know that was enough.  I came away with no bird photos, but I did see or hear the following species:  Eastern Bluebird, Belted Kingfisher, Song Sparrow, Black-Capped Chickadee, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Golden Crowned Kinglet, American Crow, and Blue Jay.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snowy Owl Quest

I worked up the motivation for a day at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  Really, it is a lovely place with great beaches, boardwalk trails and birding, but it is a long drive and it was only in the low 30s today.  Whine, whine, whine.  I know!

Note the icicles hanging from the bottom of the sign!

Very clear signage.

Within 5 minutes of my arrival I passed a group of people with cameras who were trampling on fragile dune habitat in order to get their photographs of a snowy owl.  What a bunch of idiots.   Within less than 5 minutes further down the beach, I passed a second Snowy Owl, visible from the beach without harming habitat.   Victory!  I only took 3 quick photos, hoping that if I didn't stop too long, the idiots behind me might not notice it and climb the dunes again.

If you don't know the story of the snowy owls, let me share a little of what I have learned with you.  They are typically in the Arctic.  After a year of a good food supply (lemmings), there is usually a year with a large population.  Usually, the food supply doesn't keep up with the owls' demands, and those that are hungry fly south in search of other food supplies.  This year, there seems to be a huge influx of snowy owls, and we are certainly enjoying it around here (although this was my first time seeing one this year).

The beach was beautiful and at this point in the day, the wind hadn't whipped up too badly.  A couple hours later, it was much worse, and I was glad I hit the beach first thing.

 White-Winged Scoter

 Snow, sand and shells

 There were several of these "balls" on the beach.  I wonder if the wind forms them?

Northern Mockingbird

Wild Turkeys

Mute Swans

American Tree Sparrows

The clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped and the wind picked up.  There was one opening the sky where the sun was still shining through, and it was quite beautiful.  This photo doesn't really do it justice.

The above photo is cropped.  Here is an uncropped photo of the same owl.  We were standing on the boardwalk that takes you to the beach.

Once I had had enough of the cold and was satisfied with 3 different snowy owl sightings, I headed out.  Every time I visit Parker River I am tempted to stop and photograph the old homes in Newburyport.  Many are marked and date from the late 1700s.  This trip, I could no longer resist.  Christmas decorations and the snowy setting were just too charming to pass by.

 Darn car

 Look at those pillars!

I just know that my brother would love this town and all the old doorways and beautiful decorations!  While I was walking around, I spotted the road to Michael's Harborside, a delicious restaurant, so I stopped there next for a steaming bowl of clam chowder and warmed up.  Then I took a quick stroll down the Harborwalk, enjoying some ducks along the way.

 Red-Breasted Merganser (male)

Red-Breasted Merganser (female)

Long-Tailed Ducks