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Cape Ann and Plum Island

Cape Ann
Plum Island

February 25, 2023

Kathy and Myles Conway

Twelve members made our way to the North Shore of Massachusetts February 25-26 for one of the Club’s longest-running field trips.  A total of 64 species were seen or heard.  We never know if New England winter weather will even allow us to make the trip.  This year the weather was cold, but conditions were not brutal.  Winds were not as strong as predicted and seas were relatively calm, so we were able to enjoy scope and binocular views off the coast. Snow squalls met us while we were at Nelson’s Island on Saturday afternoon and again at Plum Island on Sunday, but we managed some great sightings.  

Some highlights were many Long-tailed Ducks, including a large raft of around 50right below the cliff at Halibut Point; a virtual Harrier show at Plum Island and again at Salisbury; two Rough-legged Hawks together in the snow squall at Nelson’s Island (and a reward of two Short-eared Owls for two of the group who stayed until dusk); an immature White-throated Sparrow scratching in some pebbles at our feet, seemingly oblivious to our gaze; a surprise Barred Owl just off the side of the road at Plum which drew a crowd of birders and photographers; and some Pipits feeding along the wrack at Brace Cove.  Looking for these birds, which had been reported, led us to a new location for us - the back side of Niles Pond accessed from Bemo Rd.  The path not only gave us looks of the beach at Brace Cove, but also a view of the pond, without dealing with the hazard of the narrow road we typically parked on.  

Of course, we always search for alcids on this trip, and we were treated to several Razorbills, one close at Jodrey’s Pier in Gloucester and then later 4 in a row off Cathedral Rocks. The views were wonderful since the seas were calm. No Murres or Dovekies, but one of us had a Guillemot as well.  We also had a distant view of an Eared Grebe off of Niles Beach and about a half dozen Turkeys which we don’t usually see on Cape Ann.  In addition to missing other alcids, we also did not pick up any white-winged gulls nor Red-necked Grebes, and we did not see the reported Red Crossbills at Salisbury. That simply means there is more to be seen on our next trip to the North Shore!