Saturday, January 21, 2012

Big January Continues in Gloucester

1. Gloucester-kab Gloucester, MA 1-16-12

On Martin Luther King Day I decided it was a good time to drive out to Gloucester to see what I could see. The day started very cold but eventually warmed to near 30F. I got a late start to the day, trying to get a few errands accomplished at home before I left, so it was nearly 2 p.m. by the time I rolled into town and parked. I parked along the main beach near the Fisherman’s Memorial and got out. A cold blast of wind hit me right away, and though I was bundled in my long down coat my hands soon got stiff with cold in the thin leather gloves I had on.

2. 3 birds-kab Bufflehead, Herring Gull, Common Goldeneye 1-16-12

I saw red-breasted mergansers and Common eiders right away along with Herring Gulls galore, but soon added a Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye to my list.

3. goldeneye-kab Gull and Goldeneye 1-16-12


4. greater scaup-kab Greater Scaup

Down in the cove by Stage Fort Park a small flock of Greater Scaup floated along with some American Black Ducks. At the eastern end of the walkway the pigeons gathered and walked or flew, looking for some poor fool to toss them few bread crumbs.

After scoping out all the birds in the harbor I drove over to the Jordrey State Fishing Pier where I found…

5. gulls-kab Gulls…

6. Gulls-kab Gulls…

7. more gulls-kab …and more gulls!

Gulls of all varieties and plumages were using the moss covered warehouse roof as a roosting place. While I was scanning the gulls for one special species…

8. boat-kab Coming into port

I spotted this huge boat coming into port through the lens of my camera.

9. iceland gull-kabKumlien’s Iceland Gull?

But I was here to find one special gull, and I think I finally found it! There in the water was my target bird…an Iceland Gull! I saw it as it landed with little to no black in its wingtips. Another birder with a scope came over and set it up for both of us to take a look. With the wind gusting fiercely it made picture taking difficult at best, even with vibration reduction on my 70 to 300 mm lens, but I did my best to steady myself and in the fading light captured a few shots. I looked all over the internet for information on this gull and found an excellent article by Corey on 10,000 Birds: What is a Kumlien’s Gull?

10. iceland gull-kab Juvenile Iceland Gull

In another part of the harbor another birder had his scope set up and we spotted this juvenile Kumlien’s Iceland gull. This sweet little bird had no black in its wingtips and a soft brownish checking on its body. I’m sorry for the poor quality photo but by now the wind was gusting, the light was fading, and my fingers were freezing and my eyes tearing up! And, the bird was far across the harbor. Still, you can see the lack of black in the wingtips,

11. iceland gull-kab Juvenile Iceland gull in flight

especially on this in-flight shot. (Click to enlarge any photo for the best view.)

12. loon-kab Common Loon in winter plumage

While I also saw Common Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers and a couple of Double-crested Cormorants in the waters off the state pier, the other birders and I also spotted something else. The tall man with the scope showed me the peregrine falcons atop the town spire. I had looked for them earlier but did not see them. From this location and with his scope, I could clearly see two falcons on the rooftop ledges. But then the man noticed something much closer and a bit different. Across the harbor from us we could see a warehouse and docks and some yellow lobster cages on one of the smaller docks.

13. docks-kab View of docks at State Fishing Pier


14. what-kab What’s that on the yellow lobster cages?

Perched on top of those yellow lobster cages was a bird-like lump. We were both agreed that it was a large raptor of some sort, but was it a hawk, or an owl? It’s short thick neck and rounded head suggested an owl, and I think it was a short-eared owl.

15. owl-kab Short-eared owl?

But though we looked through his 60x power scope and I looked through my bins and took these pictures with my 70-300mm zoom all we could see was a fuzzy image like this. The wind was just too brutal. I still think it is a short-eared owl, but unless I can confirm that, I will not add it to my Big January 2012 Bird List. While I have seen short-eared owls before, I have not seen one in a very long time and never on the east coast. It would be such a thrill to see this bird again. Without counting the owl I added 6 species to my Big January 2012 Bird List today for a total of 57 species! that’s 2 species ahead of my total from last year, but far behind Larry of the Brownstone Birding Blog, or Robert Mortensen of Birding is Fun! With a trip down to Connecticut later in the week, and a few snow storms predicted, my birding days in January are running out. I wonder where I should go to next?

16. scaup-kab Flock of Great Scaup at Gloucester Beach Cove

Birds Seen in Gloucester on 1-16-12

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. American Black Duck
  4. Common Eider
  5. Common Goldeneye
  6. Bufflehead
  7. Red-breasted Merganser
  8. Greater Scaup
  9. Horned Grebe
  10. Herring gull
  11. Ring-billed gull
  12. Great Black-backed Gull
  13. Rock Pigeon
  14. Double-crested Cormorant
  15. American Crow
  16. Iceland Gull*
  17. Common Loon
  18. Peregrine Falcon

*Life Bird


  1. What a wonderful place to go birding with so many waterbirds AND an owl! WOW!

  2. Kathie, it sounds like a wonderful place for birding, except for the wind of course. Congrats on your Iceland gull sighting. I would like to add the Goldeneye to my list. Great birds and photos. Have a great weekend and Happy birding.

  3. How cool to find an owl there! You are finding a great variety of ducks and gulls. I bet your life list is really growing :-) Too bad you aren't closer to Indiana/Kentucky...counting the geese and ducks here during migration would be a huge challenge! (see my blog for the snow geese)

  4. Great tour of Gloucester and it's avian wildlife. I would have never expected an owl. Cool!

  5. Yet another great day birding. I like how you birders flock together. No wonder you get such great closeups with that big lens. If you hold that by hand you must be a very steady lady.

  6. Glad you found your target bird! I love the first photo of Gloucester, looks like a postcard! Beautiful.

  7. Arija, is one of my favorite places to visit here on the east coast now that I live here.

    Eileen, it is not always that cold or windy but when it is...Brrrr! Thanks!

    Mary, my life list IS growing and I am finding a lot of the bigger birds but I am having trouble finding simple birds like Carolina wrens and mockingbirds!

    Marvin, thanks!

    Gaelyn, yes I hold it by hand. I am too active and too lazy to carry around a tri-pod!

    Tammy, thanks!

  8. Hi Kathie

    You certainly are a bundle of energy, you aways manage such an impressive list of birds thru all your hard work. I am in awe.


  9. Hi Guy, LOl! I was so tired and cold when I got home though and I slept like a dream! It was worth it though!

  10. Congratulations, Kathie, on the juvenile Iceland Gull and the adult Kumlien's! I have never seen an adult. Sounds like a great trip!

  11. Thanks Hilke. It was fun. I ran out of daylight though and got too cold!

  12. ...I've always wanted to go to Gloucester. Matty and I almost made it there this summer, but we ran out of time. Congrats on the Iceland Gull. I need to read Cory's article on Kumlien's...

  13. wow! what a wonderful place to go...not just for all the birds...but from all the other pic's it looks like an nice place to wander...if the wind ever dies down!

    congrats on that little iceland gull!! what a find...something to add to your ever growing list of birds! yeah! :)

  14. I think it looks like an owl too!

    Oh my goodness. Warmed UP to 30F. With the wind, it must have felt like below zero! I cannot imagine how those birds in the water do not freeze their little legs off. Amazing. Wonderful photos! I know you were scouting for birds, but the boat pics are gorgeous!

    Thanks for sharing my drawings with your mom. I'm honored! :)

  15. Kathie, this is so amazing and what a woman you are for braving the cold to get these shots. I couldn't do it ... I'm such a wimp, I can't do anything outside in extreme temperatures except jump in the pool when it's 95F or above here! I'm so happy to live where winters are mild. A few weeks ago we went to Charleston, SC, less than two hours from our house, to visit a beautiful cemetery on a river. There I took pictures and video of very large White Ibis perching on the branches over the water, grooming themselves incessantly. Next week we're going to Folly Beach where I love to photograph the grackles and gulls on the pier and at the water's edge. I can only identify a few but I'd like to learn more. Happy birding to you but please do stay warm!

  16. You did great Kathie! I had one of my best fishing trips out of Gloucester.-Great cod fishing out that way.


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.