Kathy & Myles Conway
Day 1 - Four cars met at Gloucester on a cold, windy day under cloudy skies. However, we reminded ourselves of what we were NOT experiencing since the trip had been postponed from Valentine’s Day weekend (when the forecast was anything but lovable!). We stopped briefly at Annisquam, finding a couple of accipiters and glimpsing only a very few ducks. The wind was strong and cold, but the offshore storm also sent huge waves crashing on the shoreline. We stopped at the cemetery and found a Screech Owl hidden deeply in the hole of a lower branch. Folly Cove had Harlequins, Scoters and Eiders and nearby Halibut shore had mostly a strong headwind and tremendous surf. Andrews Point had a flock of Common Eiders, but we could not spot the young King Eiders, though a flock of Purple Sandpipers sped past. Nearby Cathedral Rocks and Granite Pier were less wild with Common Loons, Eiders, Bufflehead, and another Purple Sandpiper flock. After lunch we hit the more protected east side of Rockport facing into the open ocean. Even so, there were only a few Harlequins and Eiders at Straitsmouth Cove and a few more at Loblolly Cove. Looking south from Penzance Road we had good looks at Loons, Goldeneyes, Bufflehead, and Eiders, plus Great Cormorants were roosting on Milk Island.
Arriving in Gloucester, we were greeted by a Harrier at Good Harbor Beach and a Peregrine on Salt Island. We stopped at the Elks Lodge, but there was no sign of the adult King Eider. Instead it was Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Scoters, plus a flock of Purple Sandpipers and a Horned Grebe. Brace Cove had a flying Razorbill, two floating Black Guillemots, plus Scoters, Loons, Goldeneyes and Mergansers. At Eastern Point the harbor was much calmer and we had good looks at an Iceland Gull. Also there were Oldsquaw, Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, and Surf Scoter. Niles Pond was glassy calm, with great views of 2 Redheads, Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, and a big flock of 65 Red-br Mergansers. A Lesser Scaup hid at the edge of the cattails. The stop at Jodrey Pier had no alcids (a Murre had been reported), but plenty of regular gulls and some Eiders plus a few each of Common and Red-throated Loon, Oldsquaw, Surf Scoter and Red-br Merganser, and one seal near the pier. Saturday ended with 51 species and awesome views of sun “haloes.”
Day 2 - We arrived on time at the usual breakfast place in Rowley, and then we returned to Ipswich to bird Argilla Road, which had hundreds of Canada Geese, plus four Snow Geese and a few Killdeer. After that we did Town Farm Road, where we found two Redtails at a nest, and Pineswamp Road for Brown Creeper and the usual land birds. Back in Rowley, Stackyard Road had a few Robins, but little else. From the kayak shop parking lot, we had two Cooper’s Hawks crossing the river, 3 Oldsquaw and some Bufflehead. Just before turning onto Rolfes Lane a pair of Cooper’s Hawks was spotted on a nest in a small grove next to the road. The Joppa Flats visitor center had welcome bathrooms and a huge flock of geese. A bonus here was 3 Pintail and some Cedar Waxwings.
We arrived at Lot 1 at 11:30 to find the surf again high and noisy but giving views of an alcid, a Loon, and some White-winged Scoters. The salt pannes were mostly frozen over with 4 Gadwall among a hundred Black Ducks. Another walk to oceanside at Lot 3 got us all the scoters and a big flock of shorebirds flying past. We noted a few hawks at the Wardens, including 2 Harriers heading south. Hellcat was also mostly frozen, but we found more Harriers, including an adult male. At Cross Farm Hill one of us spied a Snowy Owl half hidden by a small bramble bush. While watching it a Rough-legged Hawk began hunting the north side of the hill, putting on a show for quite a while. Others driving by stopped for the owl and we told other birders about it. We went on to Lot 7, where we found more sea ducks and spotted the big flock of shorebirds resting on and working the rocks. They were mostly Dunlin, but some Sanderlings were also in the flock. From the tower a flock of 40 Pintails were visible in the Stage Island Pool. Next we drove upriver to Cashman Park, where there were Bufflehead, Goldeneyes, Red-br mergansers, and Oldsquaws, as well as a Great Blue Heron on the far shore. Last stop was Salisbury Beach, where the tide was low and there were many resting and feeding Eiders and White-winged Scoters, plus a few Gadwall and Loons. The seals basking on the exposed rocks were also a treat. We called it a weekend very pleased, with 71 species, despite the cold and wind, and a few “misses".