Janice Zepko and Tim Carter
Plum Island gave our group of nine members a full day of birding. The temps were in the low 70’s with winds from the east 10-15 mph, some sun early on, but clouds increased to total overcast by late afternoon.
Our first thought was to head straight down to the end of the island, because we were shut out of the parking there by beach goers last summer. On the way, it was hard to miss the large numbers of Tree Swallows gathering for migration. We had to make a stop to enjoy the spectacle of them rising from the low shrubs to cover the sky. One member, who was keen to see the congregating Tree Swallows, described it as THRILLING! It was exciting for the entire group and for the hunting Merlin, too.
Other raptors observed during the day were Northern Harriers flying low over the marsh, Osprey “treading air” above a kettle pond for at least 15 minutes while fishing, and three Peregrine Falcons performing aerial feats over the salt pannes. We got great views of Least Terns on the beach at Sandy Point, but our long walk to the tip was not rewarded, finding only boats and people and not the hoped-for shorebirds. The parking area used to access Emerson Rocks was full by the time we got there, so we began heading back towards Lot 1 with many stops along the way.
Other highlights of the day included Black-crowned Night-Heron (immature), Black-bellied and Semi-palmated Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted, Least, and Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Short-billed Dowitcher, Snowy and Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron. We picked up a few songbirds, too, including Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Black-capped Chickadee, a striking Eastern Bluebird, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow Warbler and American Goldfinch.
There were some misses as well, but a day of birding with friends never fails to provide a good bird sighting or two, some lovely scenery, and a good dose of camaraderie.