Saturday, January 4, 2014

Jan 4 (Day 4) - On the road again with goshawk, gulls, and dovekie!

Well, today's ride turned into a remarkably pleasant affair despite my dour predictions from yesterday. It was -2F or so when I left Salisbury this morning, and with the wind chill, the temp felt like -10F. It was a clear day so the sun helped to warm me as I cruised south. The temperature got warmer over the course of the day and I was quite comfortable during the ride from Salisbury to Gloucester. The photo is a shot I took as I crossed the Parker River this morning. I rode 31 miles today.

***Click thumbnail for full sized images***

As for birds, I found a few 8 new species for the year. Five of these are fairly widely distributed species: cedar waxwing, wild turkey, bufflehead, hooded merganser, and mallard. However, I did find 3 good birds today. 

The first of these was northern goshawk. I had stopped along the side of the road near Rowley when a huge accipiter came rocketing along the road. I immediately though goshawk, but was praying that the bird would either land or circle back towards. Luckily, the bird landed in a tree ~100 meters from me. I was able to remove the scope and tripod from the bike and assemble them in time to get a glimpse of the nice, broad eyeline before the bird flew off again. Goshawk confirmed! This is not a bird I expected to see until I got out west so this is a bit of a bonus bird for the northeast.

The second good bird was Iceland gull. This northern gull nests at high latitudes and winters in the Maritime Canada and the Northeast United States. It is easily identified as an adult by the lack of black in his wing tips, and by his uniform light tan plumage as a younger bird. These birds are fairly easy to find in Massachusetts in winter (particularly in Gloucester), but can be harder as one moves south. Thus this was one of my the birds I wanted to nail down before I head south. Here is a shot of a young bird from today.

Iceland gull from today

However, the bird of the day was dovekie, small auk that nests in Greenland. Auks are similar to penguins, except they can fly. Penguins are generally restricted to the Southern Hemisphere while Auks are generally found in the Northern. While dovekies routinely winter at this latitude, they normally do so out at sea and are rarely observed from shore. I found this bird on my first sweep of Gloucester Harbor. I immediately called ABA president Jeff Gordon, who I was to meet for lunch, to tell him that I had a dovekie in my sights. He quickly arrived with his wife, Liz, and Massachusetts birder Jim McCoy. Jeff was able to get a digiscoped shot of the distant bird (it was WAY to far for my  camera). This is a great find as there are many seasoned birders who have search for this species but never seen it. More than once birder was called the dovekie his/her "nemesis bird". This is a great find and alone makes the trip to Cape Ann worth the effort. It was not a bird I expected to see. 

Dovekie from today

Dovekie (from my stock)

In other notes, I also managed to find another Glaucous gull. This was an immature bird. He was floating around with a handful of Iceland gulls in Gloucester Harbor. He is bigger and paler than the immature Iceland gull from above (bigger, bicolored beak too!). I also found a pair of obliging common eiders, so I have included a shot of the male and another of the female. These are very common around Massachusetts in winter and rarer as one moves south.

Glaucous gull from today

Male common eider from today

Female common eider from today

I will be birding around Gloucester and Rockport all day tomorrow. I am hoping to find 6 birds. I will see red-necked grebe, harlequin duck, and razorbill. I will likely see king eider as well as the male that has wintered here for the past 6-7 years has returned. This would be a great find, on par with dovekie. Luckily this single bird is always found in the same area, year after year. If he wasn't around, getting this species would require lots of luck and lots of riding. I also hope to find black-legged kittiwake (possible, but not guaranteed) and maybe (*maybe*) a thick-billed murre. The murre is another alcid that winters at sea and sometimes makes an appearance near the coast. If I could get 4 of these I'd be happy,  five I'd be really happy, and 6 would be just amazing (probably less than 5% chance of that happening).

OK, I'm spent. Its time to start thinking about bed.

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