Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Big January Wrap-up

DSC_0101 Common Eider (male) 1-30-11 Gloucester, MA

We ended our Big January Hunt on Sunday when we drove out to Cape Ann and Gloucester, MA. Once again I would see birds in the water but find no place to park or deep snow banks in the way.  I wanted to climb one of them on a dead-end street near a river but Gus wouldn’t let me, so, I had to settle for what I could see more easily.

DSC_0041 Male Red-breasted Merganser 1-30-11

We stopped at two very good places. One was Independence Park in Beverly where I was able to get out and walk down onto the beach. The tide was out and there were some rocky areas where I looked and looked for a purple sandpiper but no luck. I did see a red-breasted merganser as well as other common sea ducks, but nothing new.

DSC_0046 Independence Park, Beverly, MA 1-30-11

We drove the loop along Rt. 127 and 127a all the way back to Rt. 128 again, which is the main road into Gloucester. In Gloucester we stopped near the Gloucester Fisherman's Memorial. It was here that I finally saw something new, a few Gadwall and Greater Scaups.  I got my best look ever at Common eiders.  My, what a pretty bird!

DSC_0103 Male Common Eider 1-30-11

So, here is my big January total: 56 species of birds. And these are the places I saw them all. At least half of the list came from my own neighborhood.

Big January 2011 Bird List

    1. Tufted Titmouse-in yard 1-1-11
    2. American Crow
    3. American goldfinch
    4. White-throated sparrow
    5. Dark-eyed Junco
    6. Blue Jay
    7. Downy woodpecker
    8. Black-capped Chickadee
    9. White-breasted Nuthatch
    10. House Sparrow
    11. House finch
    12. Mourning dove
    13. Northern Cardinal
    14. Red-bellied woodpecker-at bog
    15. American robin
    16. Song sparrow
    17. European Starling
    18. Red-tailed hawk-Stirling Loop
    19. Cooper’s Hawk
    20. Rock Pigeon-Jct. Rt. 495 & Rt 2, 1-3-11
    21. Mute Swan-Turner Falls, 1-3-11
    22. Herring gull
    23. Great Black-backed gull
    24. Canada goose
    25. Ring-billed gull
    26. Common merganser*
    27. Mallard
    28. Cackling Goose*
    29. Snow goose*
    30. American black duck
    31. Common goldeneye*
    32. Golden-crowned Kinglet-Andover Yard, 1-4-11
    33. Sharp-shinned hawk*
    34. Northern Mockingbird-Sacred heart park, Andover, 1-5-11
    35. American Tree sparrow-Stirling Bog, 1-9-11
    36. Bufflehead-Joppa Flats 1-10-11
    37. Long-tailed Duck*
    38. Northern Harrier
    39. Common Raven-Plum Island North End, 1-10-11
    40. Horned Grebe
    41. Red-breasted merganser*
    42. Red-breasted Nuthatch*-Andover yard, 1-11-11
    43. Carolina Wren-Andover yard, 1-12-11
    44. Hairy Woodpecker-Andover yard, 1-13-11
    45. Great Blue Heron Andover yard, 1-14-11
    46. Swamp Sparrow*-Stirling Bog, 1-14-11
    47. Common Loon*-Salisbury Beach, 1-17-11
    48. Black Scoter
    49. Rough-legged hawk*
    50. Red-throated Loon**-Salisbury Beach, 1-22-11
    51. Common eider
    52. Bald Eagle*
    53. Eastern Bluebird-Stirling Bog, 1-28-11
    54. Greater Scaup*-Gloucester, 1-30-11
    55. Gadwall*

    Note: Bold lettering denotes start of new location or new date. All species following bold entry were seen at that location on that date. *indicates Massachusetts Life Bird. **indicates Life Bird

    DSC_0075 Female Red-breasted Merganser 1-30-11

So, I added 16 species to my Massachusetts Life List and 1 species to my Total Life List. Not too bad after all, though my big January total falls far short of the other previous years I have participated. Still, it got me out of the house in-between snow storms, for which I am grateful.

DSC_0050 American Black Duck and Herring Gull 1-30-11

Here are the Totals from the other participants. If you don’t see your name and blog listed here, please let me know and I will gladly add you!

  1. Birding Couple 101 species Maryland
  2. Larry Brownstone Birding Blog 82 species CT
  3. Kathiesbirds 56 species MA
  4. Ruth, Body, Soul, and Spirit 52 species Ontario, CA
  5. Frank, The Early Birder 31 species somewhere in England
  6. Robert Birding is Fun 88 species in Utah and AZ
  7. Anyone else???


Male and female Common Eiders 1-30-11

DSC_0128 Greater Scaup female 1-30-11

While this is not the best picture of a scaup you can clearly see the profile of the head, which is critical in deciding if it is a Greater or Lesser Scaup. The Greater Scaup’s head is more flat or rounded on top and the head is equal to the length of the bill, whereas the Lesser’s head is more peaked and described as having a little “corner” at the back of the skull. In the lesser the skull is half the length of the bill or beak and the head is taller, rather than longer from front to back. In all other ways the two species are identical in color. The brownish color and the white tufts near the nasal area indicate that this is a female scaup and not some other duck species. Greater Scaup are more often found in coastal areas and the Lesser are more frequently found inland but there can be an overlap in territory.

To see photos of a male scaup and read another description of how to tell the difference read this excellent post by the Bird Couple, How Very Sibley of Me.

DSC_0135 Gadwall 1-30-11 Gloucester, MA

DSC_0154Gulls following a fishing boat 1-30-11 Gloucester, MA


  1. Great list of birds for your January list. The photos are great, love the Common Eider.

  2. Impressive list Kathie! I love love your photos of the Eider..what a beauty! Stay warm near your fire..looks like you are getting hit with another storm.

  3. Awesome photos of the eider and merganser! I've never gotten that close to either one of them. I'll put my list out their in a couple of days-don't really have any pictures to go with the post-I'll have to dig some up.Looks like you got plenty of state birds and even a life birds-well done!

  4. The Eider Kathie,
    super photographs of a super duck.

  5. I have never seen an Eider and really like your photos. Birding in the north in January is lots of work, but you are right when you say it gets us out between storms.

  6. Eileen, I love the Eider also! What a pretty bird! Thank you!

    Dawn, yes, more snow. I'm housebound but it gives me time to catch-up on blogging! You must be loving that Florida sunshine!

    Larry, thanks! I could not believe I got so close to the Eiders. I had only seen them from a distance previously and all my shots were blurry distance shots. What a gorgeous bird they are up close! The merganser really surprised me by coming up onto the beach even though there were people and dogs around. I could have tried to get closer still but I don't like to disturb the birds just to photograph them. Can't wait to see your list. I really hope I get to see a winter wren aorund here especially since they just split the species and I already have the Pacific variety.

    Roy, thanks! I was fortunate to have a bunch of them swimming in a channel below a bridge and they did not swim off!

    Ruth, well said. Thanks. I hope you do get to see an Eider someday.

  7. The Eider is gorgeous. I could not see any eyes, were they closed or just really black?

  8. Beautiful Eider shots Kathie, quite stunning.

  9. You have some wonderful water birds up your way Kathie. I've always wanted to head up to Gloucester one of these days.

  10. Katnell, I think the eyes are just very dark and as the duck was down in a canal with steep stone sides and the day was overcast I never caught a glint of light in its eyes. I was so thrilled just to see the bird that I just kept framing and snapping away. I got dozens of photos of these gorgeous birds!

    Celeste, thank you! I hope you are safe and warm wherever you are! I hear that storm is pounding Chicago! We are in for round 2 tomorrow! Thus, I am inside and blogging and not out watching birds!

    Denise, you would probably love it. Wonderful old architecture, beautiful scenery, quaint old shops and lots of birds! You can't miss, but do come when it is a bit warmer (and before the summer crowds)!

  11. Beautiful eider! I've never seen one before.

    I ended up with 88 birds in January. That trip to AZ really helped!

    One BYU student-birder got about 120 birds in Utah in January which was very impressive.

  12. Great month's tally and WONDERFUL photos of your finds, Kathie! I especially love that Common Eider - beautiful!

  13. I see nothing common about that Eider! What a stunningly beautiful fellow. I had only seen them in books before so it is really nice to see you superb photos.

    I thought your birsd-count was pretty good considering the time of year and weather.

  14. wonderful photos and a very nice list. I started out Jan. with a bang on the 1st but really never got out to bird due to weather and life :).


  15. I've never understood why ornithologists insist on calling birds "common." That Eider is anything but! You are a brave woman going out in all the snow.

  16. Beautiful shots of the eider. They are stunning when you get to see them close-up aren't they. I'll have to look at my January list and see how I've done......I'll let you know.

  17. Hi Kathie. Interesting to learn how your list turned out ... I'm sure NEXT January it will be much larger. Great shots of the Eider from Gloucester. BTW do you follow Steve B ? http://shootingmyuniverse.blogspot.com/

    Just to correct the scores my January total for my County (Surrey, UK) list was 70 (31 was just a very local patch close to home) and UK 2011 list is now up to 95.

  18. My first visit here and what a treat! Quite the January list. I love the photos of the Eiders, not a bird I've seen. Wonderful post!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.