Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Big January Totals and Photo Essay

1. Andover NoCA2-kab Northern Cardinal Andover Backyard 1-22-12

Andover Backyard Birds

2. Andover WBNU-kab White-breasted Nuthatch 1-1-12

3. Andover AMGO1-kab American Goldfinch 1-1-12

4. Andover backyard downy-kab Downy Woodpecker 1-1-12

5. Andover BLJA-kab Blue Jay 1-1-12

6. Andover HOFI-kab Male House Finch 1-1-12

7. Andover HOSP-kab House Sparrows 1-1-12

8. Andover MODOb-kab Mourning Doves 1-1-12

9. Andover WTSP-kab White-throated Sparrow 1-1-12


Stirling Street Bog

10. Bog RTHA-kab Red-tailed Hawk 1-1-12

11. Bog SWSP2-kab Swamp Sparrow 1-1-12


North Andover Birds

12.Steven's Pond CANG-kab Canada Geese 1-1-12

13. N. Andover GBHE-kab Great Blue Heron 1-1-12

13a. N. Andover NPDU-kab Northern Pintail Ducks and Mallards 1-14-12


Plum Island Birds 1-10-12

14. Plum Island EUST-kab European Starlings

15. Plum Island BAEA-kab Bald Eagle 1-10-12

16. Plum Is. Eagle, gull, crow-kab Bald Eagle, Great Black-backed Gull, American Crow

17. RT Loon Plum Island-kab Red-throated Loon

18. Plum island WITU-kab Wild Turkey

19. Plum Island NOHA-kab Northern Harrier

20. Plum Island snowy-kab Snowy Owl


Cherry Hill Reservoir Birds

22. Cherry Hill Canvas back-kab Canvasback 1-14-12

23. Cherry Hill Cooper's-kab Cooper’s Hawk 1-24-12

Gloucester Birds 1-16-12

26. Gloucester ducks-kab Bufflehead, Herring gull, Common Goldeneye

27. Gloucester G. scaup and black ducks-kab Black Ducks and Greater Scaup

28. Gloucester greater scaup-kab Greater Scaup

29. Gloucester Iceland Gull 1-kab Iceland Gull

30. Gloucester Iceland gull 2-kab Juvenile Iceland Gull

24. Gloucester COEI-kab Common Eider

25. Gloucester COLO-kab Common Loon


Webster, Massachusetts 1-19-12

31. Webster AMCO-kab American Coot

32. Webster gull-kab Ring-billed Gull


Salisbury Beach 1-24-12

33. Salisbury NOMO-kab Northern Mockingbird


Turkey Hill Road 1-24-12

34. Mute swans 3-kab Mute Swans


Out-of State Birds

35. CT TUVU-kab Turkey Vulture 1-19-12 Willimantic, CT

36. NHOWa-kab Northern Hawk Owl 1-29-12 Palmyra, Maine Life Bird*

It was a fun and busy month of birding. I ended up with 66 species of birds here in Massachusetts and 68 species of birds overall. the last few days of the month I was gone a lot and not able to get out birding again, but I did hear an Eastern Screech Owl on the night of January 27th right after I got home from Connecticut while I was out walking the dog. Then, my final bird was a Common Raven I saw alongside the highway in Haverhill, MA area on our way up to Maine for this past weekend.I beat my last year’s total by 11 species for Massachusetts and 13 species over all.  If you did a Big January please let me know by leaving your total in the comment section below. You can see my complete Big January 2012 Bird List by clicking on the link. I added 6 species to my Massachusetts Life List and 3 species to my Life List so far this year! And to think the year is still young yet!

Our World Tuesday


World Bird Wednesday!

37. Mute Swans 1-kab

Kathie’s Stats Year-to-date

January 2012 Stats Life Year

Total Species

423 68

Total Checklists

3910 84

States Birded In:



166 66


136 23


108 18

New Hampshire

62 3

Big January 2012 Birders and Totals:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Northern Hawk Owl Adventure

1. Riverside estates-kabRiverside Estates, Palmyra, Maine 1-29-12

When I knew for sure we would be heading to Maine for the weekend I knew my plans would include a side trip to see if I could find the Northern Hawk Owl that everyone has been talking about. I consider the Northern Hawk Owl to be one of those species of birds that I would never see in my lifetime. It just seemed too exotic and elusive to me. I was sure it would take a trip on snow shoes or by dog sled to ever find one, yet one has been reported for over a month in Palmyra, Maine, right off route 2 and just east of Skowhegan. Since Skowhegan is about five minutes from where my in-laws live, I could hardy pass up the chance to look for this bird.

Sunday morning is a bright blue day as we head west from Newport on Route 2. Puffy clouds fluff themselves in the sky driven by a strong NW Wind. At my request Gus is driving slowly along the road while I scan the snow-covered farm fields and woodlands on my side of the road. From the eBird report I know that most of the sightings of this species have been on the South side of route 2 in an area bordering the Madawaska Stream. As we come down a little hill that will cross the waterway I look off to the south where I see a road sign that says Cutis lane, and a bigger sign that says, “Riverside Estates, Lots for Sale.” Gus turns the car around at the first opportunity and we head back.

We enter on the snow covered dirt road and start scanning the surrounding woods and open areas. I have my bins in hand, but suddenly realize my camera is in the far back of the vehicle. Gus stops the car for me and I jump out to retrieve it and then jump back in. The last thing I want to do is find this bird and not be ready to photograph it, but as we reach the end of the road and turn the car around, Gus and I both know we are searching for a needle in a haystack. The last report sighting of this bird on eBird was January 16, over 10 days ago. Really, what are my chances of seeing it now?

2. What is this-kab The lump in the tree

Gus is letting the car creep along slowly. I have rolled my window down to listen and look. We are headed towards Route 2 now and I am looking to the right while Gus is driving and keeping an eye on the left side. I say to him, “If you see anything that looks like a lump on a tree or a bush, tell me!” He answers me by saying, “You mean like this?”

3. N Hawk owl-kab I lean over him and look out his driver’s side window and there at the tippity top of the trees I see a feathered lump with a long tail streaming out behind it. That’s it! I cry! I cannot believe what I am seeing! I open the car door and step into the bright sunshine using the vehicle as a shield. The sun is behind the bird and the wind is rocking the tree but the bird clings tenaciously to its perch! I snap off one quick photo, then try to still my heart to snap off some more. However, I know that this birds is backlit by bright sunshine at the top of a swaying tree and will appear as little more than a silhouette against that bright blue sky, so I get back in the car and Gus backs up to see if we can get a better vantage point with a better angle of the sunlight on the bird. But the more we back up and the light gets better, the more the trees start to get in the way.

4. watching me-kab In frustration I jump out to take more shots of the bird, walking around to find open areas in the tangle of twigs and branches.

5. watching me-kab By now the bird has spotted me too. It has its eye on me.

6. treetop-kab 

7. one last look-kab 

8. gone-kab As I find what I hope is a sweet spot and go to take a shot, the Hawk Owl launches itself into the wind and disappears over the treetops.

9. Curtis lane-kab I lower my camera and get back inside the car. I am filled with wonder over the fact that I even saw the bird, and disappointed that I did not get a longer or closer look at it. But I DID see it and it is Life Bird number 423 for me!

10. blue skies-kab Blue Skies

For the rest of the day whenever I say, “I cannot believe we found that bird,” Gus responds by saying, “Me either! It was like looking for a needle in a haystack!” We are both incredulous. Me, because I never thought we would see one, Gus because he never thought we would find it. But we did! And it didn’t require snowshoes or a dog sled after all!

“Blue Skies, shining on me…nothing but blue skies, do I see…”

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Winter Marsh Sky

1-27-12 Salisbury Marsh-kab

Marsh at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation 1-24-12

Earlier this week I went to the Salisbury Beach State Reservation in search of birds. It was an unusually warm winter day with bright sunshine and temps in the 50’s. Here by the marsh the wind came rushing up Black Rock Creek, but down by the ocean it was actually a bit warmer. For me, it was a perfect way to spend the day with blue skies and birds. Besides, who knows when we will get another as nice as this one. Click on the link below if you want to see more…

Skywatch Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In Search of a Mockingbird

1. MOckingbird-kab Northern Mockingbird at Salisbury Beach 1-24-12

After last weekend’s snowstorm I kept my eye on the weather looking for a good day to go out birding. After a warm rain on Monday that melted all the snow I decided I would head out on Tuesday since blue skies and warm temperatures were predicted. As I tired to decide where to go birding this time, I thought about Salisbury Beach. For me it is only about 40 minutes from where I live and I know that I have seen Mockingbirds there on the road into the beach area almost every time I have gone. Now, mockingbirds may not be everyone’s target bird, but we seem to have relatively few here in Andover and I do not have one on my Big January 2012 Bird List…yet. It is nearly noontime by the time I point the nose of my car north for Salisbury in Search of a Mockingbird!

2. Marsh-kab As soon as I turn off Route 1A into the reservation road I roll my windows down and start creeping along at 5 miles per hour searching for birds. At first I do not see much, but a few starlings fly over the road and land in a tree. Next I see a small flock of pigeons flying from the neighborhood that runs along the north side of the road. I stop for a blue jay that is bathing in a puddle on the roadway in front of me. As I pass the entrance gate my eye catches some movement off to my left. I pull the car over and park, for there in the bushes by the marshy area is a Northern Mockingbird! It is sitting so close to the road that I am able to photograph it with my cell phone camera, though in that photo it only shows up as a fuzzy gray dot! Then I see another mockingbird as it flies further into the marsh, the flash of white in its wings and tail giving it away. In the marsh grasses I spot two song sparrows, and in some other nearby bushes I find 2 tree sparrows.

I continue my drive along the road, past the campground and towards the boat launch site all the while scanning sky, trees, grasses and water for birds, but there are few. No raptors. No owls. No new ducks. Just a couple of black ducks which I have already seen elsewhere.  But when I park the car at the boat launch where the Merrimack River meats the sea, I finally find three white-winged scoters out where the water runs swift. The tide is coming in now, pushing against the out-flowing river causing all kinds of turbulence. With the wind blowing over the water it is making me cold and I jump quickly back into my warm car. From here I continue my drive past the rest of the campground and towards the beach.

3. pathway-kabI drive into the parking lot filled with gulls and grab my peanut-butter and jelly sandwich before exiting the car. I tuck it into my jacket pocket so the gulls will not see it and mob me. As I head towards the path to the beach I pass a few cedar trees lining the grass. Once I am past this green wall I take my sandwich from my pocket and eat it in peace. Golden sand slides beneath my feet as I head for the deep blue sea!

4. ocean-kab Down through the dunes the sound of the pounding surf beckons me.

5. looking north-kab I look north towards New Hampshire,

6. breakwater-kab then head south towards the breakwater and the pounding sea.

7. Great cormorants-kab At the end of the rocks the Great Cormorants gather.

This is another new species for this year and also new for my Massachusetts Life List! I walk along the shore and turn back to the parking lot where I get in my car and head for the next spot. I had seen on eBird yesterday that a snow goose was seen at Plum Island Parking lot 1, so I decide to head there and see if I can find it. as I head past Joppa flats there are no birds in the cove, so I continue east down the road towards the island. As I am nearing the Plum Island Airport I spot a flock of birds across the street. I pull over and roll down my car window as cars whizz by. There sure is a lot of traffic out here for 2 o’clock in the afternoon!

8. geese-kab I scan the flock of geese for snow, but do not find one. All I see are geese,

9. geese-kab geese,

10. more geese-kab and more Canada Geese! Not a Snow Goose or a Brant in the bunch!

11. Plum Island-kab The Town of Plum Island

As I scan the marsh on the north side of the road near the drawbridge I spot a pair of gadwalls paddling in and out of the curves of the marsh, but they are too distant to photograph, so I snap a shot of the town beyond instead.  I pull into the refuge next and drive right past the ticket booth. Suddenly I hear a voice shouting, “Hey!” I look in my rearview mirror and am surprised to find there is actually a park ranger managing the booth. Last time I was here there was no one there, but it was much colder then and there were fewer people in the refuge. So, I back my car up and apologize, explaining I didn’t expect anyone to be there. I pull out my Duck Stamp which is my pass into this refuge and any other National Wildlife Refuge. I bought it last fall when I was here.  As I pull forward with permission now I see that today there are at least 15 cars in the first parking lot and many more driving up and down the road. I do not see any birds nearby and with so many people this is not fun. The warm weather has brought them out in droves, so I turn around and start to head home, but I decide to “Go Home by Another Way” as James Taylor would sing.

12. Mute swans-kab Mute Swans along Turkey Hill Road

I am heading west now with the sun in my eyes as it is getting late in the day. I drive through Newbury to West Newbury on Route 113 looking for Turkey Hill Road which will lead me to Moulton Road and Cherry Hill Reservoir. I have seen Turkey Hill Road marked as a Birding Hotspot on eBird and I want to check it out for myself. I pull off into a parking area when I round a bend and see a family of mute swans in the water. From the edge of the road I scan the water and find a few coots, a few common mergansers and a few crows as well. It is a pretty drive and I know that I will now do this again for it isn’t long before I am at Cherry Hill Reservoir.

13. Cooper's hawk-kab Juvenile Cooper’s Hawk in trees across the street from reservoir

The sun has dropped behind the hill as I pull my car over to scan the trees. I see a soft brown and pale vertical shape in the midst of all the thin gray saplings. Though the light is poor and the bird is far across a field I am able to get at least one half-way decent shot, my last new bird of the day and species number 64 for this year.

14. Cherry Hill res-kab I roll along the edge of the frozen lake slowly looking and listening for birds, but all I see is a flock of geese huddled on the ice at the center of the lake. Darkness is falling and I realize need to go home. I follow the back roads until I come to Route 133 which takes me into North Andover. As I come to the junction of Route 133 and 125 I see the lights on in Mad Maggie’s Ice Cream Shop. They must have opened today for the good weather! Mad Maggie's makes all their own ice cream on premise. I don’t have to think about this for too long, I quickly turn my car into their parking lot and park. Inside I order a waffle cone with one scope of Almond Joy and one scoop of Khalua Brownie Fudge! Yum! This sure beats peanut butter and jelly! What a way to end a full day of birding!

Birds Species Seen Today:

  1. Northern Mockingbird*-Salisbury Beach
  2. Blue Jay
  3. European Starling
  4. Rock Pigeon
  5. Black Duck
  6. Song sparrow
  7. Tree Sparrow
  8. American Crow
  9. Ring-billed gull
  10. Herring gull
  11. Great black-backed gull
  12. White-winged scoter*
  13. Red-throated Loon
  14. Common Loon
  15. Common Eider
  16. Great Cormorant*
  17. Northern Harrier-Plum Island
  18. Mallard
  19. Red-breasted Merganser
  20. Hooded Merganser
  21. Common Goldeneye
  22. Gadwall*
  23. Bufflehead
  24. Mute Swan-Turkey Hill road
  25. Common Merganser
  26. American Coot
  27. Cooper’s Hawk-Cherry Hill Reservoir*

*New Species for my Big January 2012 Bird List 

(Click on the link to see the complete list!)