There were just three eager birders ready to start the New Year right, despite the new fallen snow and the frigid temperatures. We began the trip by taking a detour to New Bedford, where a rare Mandarin Duck was reported at The Sawmill at Acushnet River Preserve. The pond was partially frozen, but we found the graceful duck floating in the outflow river with Mallards, Black Ducks, Canada Geese and several domestic ducks and geese. The preserve is a lovely place, but the clock was already ticking, so we moved on to try for a Snowy Owl reported on the beach along the New Bedford Cove Walk. We did not find it, but did spot an array of waterfowl, including Red-throated Loon, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Eider - and another life place!
Onward to the Cape, we picked up Turkey Vulture and seconds later Black Vulture from the moving car. We arrived at Siders Pond in Falmouth around 11:25 to find less birds than in previous years. We counted about a dozen each of Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese and Mallards, and five Double-crested Cormorants. At nearby Salt Pond, there were less than a dozen Scaup, but two Great Blue Heron were hunting at the back edge of the water. Other birds were Bufflehead, Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers, and a Belted Kingfisher. Off Surf Avenue there were 2 Red-throated Loon, 4 Common Loon, lots more Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Goldeneye and a Long-tailed Duck.
After a break, we headed to Flax Pond and found the reported Redhead Duck with some Canada Geese. While there we picked up few songbirds and a Flicker. Next stop was Ashumet Pond, where parking was difficult and most of the waterfowl were distant. There were Scaup, lots of Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye, and with them was one male Barrow’s Goldeneye.
On to Marston’s Mills, where the newly frozen ice forced the ducks into an area where we could get good views. We picked out two male Pintail and a Green-winged Teal, as well as Hooded Mergansers, Blacks, Mallards, 5 Mute Swans, another Great Blue Heron and the always cheerful call of the Carolina Wren.
We accessed Mill Pond in West Barnstable by parking at the end of Gemini Road and walking down a snow and ice-covered trail. The Pond treated us to 50 Wood Ducks, 25 Canada Geese and two Great Horned Owls calling back and forth. On returning to the car, we spotted six Turkeys strolling in the neighbor’s yard.
It was after 4:00 by now and we still had much to do before sunset. We headed straight for Town Neck Rd, forgoing a quick look at the Sandwich marina, and parking at the usual spot, but the closed-down restaurant is now the new Tree House Brewing Co. Over the years, viewing the bay from this spot has given us wonderful close-up looks at hundreds, maybe thousands, of waterfowl and has been a good place to search for alcids, particularly Razorbills. We did pick up a few new birds for the day, 4 Black Scoter, a Great Black-backed Gull, and a Red-necked Grebe, but even with that and the four lovely Long-tailed Ducks, we were left wanting for alcids and Gannets.
On to Plymouth Wharf, where we hoped a new location would bring us luck. We quickly found 20 Surf Scoter, more Common Eiders, Bufflehead, Canada Geese and lots of Black Ducks.
It was late, so we rushed west to Cumberland Farms. Scanning there in the almost-dark, we spotted 3 Short-eared Owls flying together, weaving an imaginary web as they circled in figure eights with the crimson-colored sunset sky as a backdrop. The last bird to make itself known was a Great Horned Owl, perched high up in a deciduous tree on the back edge of the farm fields. After a few moments it began calling, too. It was a great end to our day’s adventure. We garnered a total of 54 species and added many birds to our new year lists.