Monday, July 21, 2014

The Pleasures of Plum Island

1. 6-26-14 Parker River NWR Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island 6-26-14

June 26, 2014: It just so happened that Chris planned his visit during the same time when my family gets together for the Annual Adams Family Road Race. It is a family thing we do every year and now that I had moved back east, of course I had to show up! But, since Connecticut is a four hour drive from where I currently live in Brunswick, Maine, who says we had to drive it all at once! We got up early, packed the car and headed south to Bird our way there! I knew before he ever arrived that I really wanted to take Chris Rohrer to Plum Island. I had hoped that we could meet up with Dawn Fine there, but my plans became up predictable and, in the end, it just didn’t work out. Still, I could not wait for these Arizona Guys to see Plum Island! In a little over two hours we pulled through the gate and parked in the first parking lot.

2. parking lot-kab Our first surprise was finding Purple Martins in a martin house right by the restroom building! And yes, there were Purple Martins in it! The guys walked up the boardwalk to scan the beach, but all they saw were gulls and humans, so they came back. We keep our eyes and ears open for seaside sparrows but did not find any. However, at the edge of the parking lot, we did find a few birds.

3. hat and bird-kab What is that beyond Chris’ big head with his new hat?


4.purple finch Female Purple Finch!


5. cedar waxwing-kab Cedar Waxwing in a Cedar tree!

Imagine THAT!

Farther down the road…

6. common yellowthroat-kab …a Common Yellowthroat!

And then a big surprise,

7. mute swans-kab Mute Swans!

In all the time I lived in Andover, Massachusetts, I never birded Plum Island in the summertime. I knew they shut much of it off for the nesting birds, including most of the beach, so I never tried. It was quite a revelation to bird here in summer. Of course, we did have to use bug spray! But it was worth it to see…

8. common tern-kab …a Common Tern!


9. willet-kab Willets were everywhere!

We hiked out to the dike and the marsh in hopes of finding an American Bittern.

10. searching for bitterns-kab Chris and Micheal scan the grasses for birds.

While we did not see any bitterns, we did see these birds:

11. plovers and dowitchers-kab Black-bellied Plovers and Short-billed dowitchers across the cove.


12. bb plovers-kab Black-bellied plovers after they landed.


13. eaki-kab Eastern Kingbird


14. cang-kab Canada Goose parent


15. gosling-kab Juvenile Canada goose (gosling)

It is a long six mile drive to the end of the road, which starts out paved but turns to dirt. there are numerous pull-offs and parking lots with hiking trails, but any that led to the beaches on the east side of the island were blocked off to protect nesting birds. At the end of Plum Island one reaches Sandy Point State Reservation. Here there is another mile of dirt road to drive to the parking lot at the end. sandy Point is where I saw a snowy owl years ago, as well as several shorebirds and terns during migration when I went birding with the Birders who Blog, Tweet and Chirp one fall. While I knew we would not see the hoards of shorebirds we saw then, I still hoped we would see something. We did.

16. 6-26-14 birding Plum Island Chris hiking the sand at Sandy Point

Piping Plovers and their babies!

17. piping plover and chick-kab There’s the momma on the right, can you find the teeny baby on the left?

I did not want to get too close as it really upset the parents.

Then, in the sand dunes behind us I found Least Terns!

18. least tern on beach-kab Notice the thin yellow bill and the white “headlight” on the forehead?

This is our smallest tern and it is very graceful when it flies!

I believe they are nesting at this site, but once again, I did not want to get too close and disturb the nests!

We got over 45 species on Plum Island this day. We entered two counts into eBird. One for Plum Island, and one for Sandy Point State Reservation. Afterwards we drove into town to eat, then got back on the road and arrived at my Mom’s house well after dark.

Here is a list of all the birds we saw on Plum Island on June 26, 2014. Many of them were Life Birds for Chris and Micheal.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute SwanDSC_0279
  3. Gadwall
  4. American Black duck
  5. Mallard
  6. Wild Turkey
  7. Double-crested Cormorant
  8. Great Blue Heron
  9. Great Egret
  10. Snowy Egret
  11. Glossy Ibis*
  12. Osprey
  13. Black-bellied Plover
  14. Semi-palmated Plover
  15. Killdeereaki-kab
  16. Willet
  17. Shot-billed Dowitchers
  18. Herring Gull
  19. Great Black-backed Gull
  20. Least tern
  21. Common Tern
  22. Rock Pigeon
  23. Mourning Dove
  24. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  25. Eastern Kingbird
  26. Blue Jay
  27. American crow
  28. Purple martin
  29. Tree Swallow
  30. Barn SwallowDSC_0246
  31. American Robin
  32. Gray Catbird
  33. Northern Mockingbird
  34. European Starling
  35. Cedar Waxwing
  36. Common Yellowthroat
  37. American Redstart
  38. Yellow Warbler
  39. Eastern Towhee
  40. Song Sparrow
  41. Northern Cardinal
  42. Bobolink*
  43. Red-winged Blackbird
  44. Common Grackle
  45. House Finch
  46. Purple Finch
  47. American Goldfinch

*These species are new to my Massachusetts Life List

Then, at Sandy Point we saw these 16 species:

  1. Double-crested cormorantsong sparrow-kab
  2. Great Egret
  3. Osprey
  4. Piping Plover
  5. Willet
  6. Herring Gull
  7. Great black-backed Gull
  8. Least Tern
  9. Gray catbird
  10. Cedar Waxwing
  11. Common Yellowthroat
  12. Yellow warbler
  13. Song Sparrow
  14. Red-winged Blackbird
  15. Common Grackle
  16. American Goldfinch




  1. What a wonderful trip and great photos! I love Cedar Waxwings, one of my favorites!

  2. Black-bellied Plovers have got to be one of the best-looking shorebirds. And Piping Plovers too?! Sheesh! Good to see them nest successfully.

    Are Mute Swans problematic out there in terms of destroying habitat? They have been deemed an invasive species in MN and are often eliminated by the DNR.

    1. I know around Wisconsin, they had become problematic and allowed for hunting of this bird. Some states in New England have been granted the rights to control these birds. Others are a bit more concerned that hunters would confuse the Mute with the Trumpeter or Tundra Swans. It just depends what state you're in. Most agree, however, that they must have a control plan in place. Either hunters or the Natural Resource department of the state are the means by which the states choose to control their populations.

    2. Josh, I don't know what th eoffical policy here in the Northeast is. I know I have seen Mute Swans in most of the New England States, though a friend of mine in CT was photographing and keeping track of a family of them at Hammonassett Beach State park a year ago and suddenly they disappeared. I know I have seen them in Connecticut and Rhode Island since I was a young girl, so they have been around for at least 40 years! My first eBird record of them is from 1980's at a beach in Rhode Island!

  3. What fun, a very successful birding trip.

    1. Denise, yes it was! for me, it was fun to return to a favorite birding haunt and share it with my good friends!

  4. Sounds like you had wonderful day of birding at Plum Island! That's quite a list. It must have been especially fun for Chris and Michael, seeing many life birds. I love the Black-bellied Plover and Willets in their breeding plumage. I have only seen them in during non-breeding times. Wonderful images!

    1. Thanks Julie! I was quite pleased with the list, even though we didn't find the bitterns!


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.