I led trip to the north shore with 3 cars and 11 people. At Cape Ann the ocean swells were deep and the waves crashed wildly. At Jodrey Pier we found a few Eiders, Loons, and Cormorants plus a Peregrine perched on the light pole for a several minutes before streaking away. In the harbor at Rocky Neck were a few Loons, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads, about 20 Surf Scoters, a Black Scoter, and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers. Eastern Point had only 3 Gannets, some Loons, Buffleheads, Surf Scoters, Horned Grebe and a pair of Harlequins. Niles Pond had 2 Coot, 5 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 3 Pied-billed Grebes, and some Ring-necked Ducks. Bass Rocks had Buffleheads, Common Loons and scoters, a Red-necked Grebe, and more Gannets.
We moved north to Cathedral Rocks in Rockport and had 50 Harlequins and 30 Eiders, a few Loons, Gannets, and Scoters. Andrews Point had 30 Gannets soaring low past us and occasionally diving. There were 60 Harlequins, Scoters, and Loons. A Razorbill appeared and flew before us, dropping briefly to join two more. Then all three quickly took to the air and flew back and forth a bit before landing in the deep troughs for distant looks.
Clouds had cleared and the sun was bright when we reached the Salt Pannes at Plum Island , where we found Great Blue Heron, 3 Harriers, a dozen Black-bellied Plovers and 25 Dunlins. As we checked the first flocks of Black Ducks, we picked out a pair of Eurasian Wigeon and we had good enough light to see their colors. They swam about for 2-3 minutes before taking off to the north. At Lot 3 there were two more Harriers and some Greater Yellowlegs, plus a pair of American Wigeon.
At the Wardens area we had a pair of Oldsquaw, a Goldeneye and Buffleheads far out against the sun and a closer, clearer Red-throated Loon. A Bald Eagle perched at the top of a low, bushy evergreen, and two more Harriers bounced before us. We went on to Sandy Point where the waves were crashing, the tide was high, and the Emerson Rocks were invisible. There were rafts of 200 Red-breasted Mergansers with a few Eiders and Loons. Gannets were sailing past again and a flock of Black-bellied Plovers landed.
We hurried back north to Hellcat, past the flooded inland marshes. Viewers were few and the ducks were close, more than a dozen Pintail, 2 Shovelers, a male Gadwall, 2 Goldeneye and some Bufflehead. A flock of Dunlin was also present as was a young Red-tailed Hawk recovering from its attack of a duck that others had seen. It spread its wings and tail in the sedges, then perched in low trees for some time. Two more Harriers hunted in the area.
It was late afternoon when we joined other watchers at North Pool with many birders. There, a reported “Snowy Owl” sitting in the grass on the bank of the dike turned out to be a plastic water jug. The Short-eared Owl was real and it was seen circling and rising up over the dike in sweeping, intricate circles and dives before disappearing. A Rough-legged Hawk flew off from the dike and went steadily west toward the tree line. The Harriers included one or two males and numbered an amazing eight birds that hunted continuously over the north pool and dike. Also present was a Merlin perched for a short time in a tree along the road. As the day darkened, we headed home with 53 species, 39 water birds and 14 land birds.