Janice Zepko and Dan Burt
What better way to start the new year than by venturing out for a day of coastal birding. Six members were game to go, and rather than follow the scheduled route of birding Falmouth, Sandwich and Plymouth, we checked the latest rare bird reports and decided to head straight to Eastham. A Western Kingbird was the draw, and the views of the kingbird were plenty of reward for the extra drive, but we were also rewarded with eye-dropping views of a Lark Sparrow and four Savannah Sparrows, perched all together in low vegetation on the visitor center grounds.
With some advice from local birders, we went to Herring Pond next, also in Eastham, and counted large numbers of many types of waterfowl, including 58 Ring-necked Ducks, 26 Ruddy Ducks, 20 Wigeon, 15 Red-breasted and 12 Hooded Mergansers, 5 Bufflehead and one stunning male Redhead Duck. At Town Cove in Orleans, we added 2 Belted Kingfishers, a Coot, 4 Gadwall, 5 Greater Scaup, and 25 Black Ducks. That completed our pond birding, but we were anxious to see what the ocean waters held for us.
We headed to Nauset Beach on the Nantucket Sound side of the Cape, where the waters were calm and the sky was eerie, as New England was expecting a northeaster to begin that evening. Maybe the Razorbills knew, because we counted 55 of them spread out, mostly in small groups. Also there were 5 Red-throated and 2 Common Loons, 10 Gannets relatively close in and diving for food, 45 Black Scoters and single digit presence of White-winged and Surf Scoters, as well as Long-tailed Ducks.
From there we drove north to bird the bay side of the Cape, with the first stop being Corporation Beach in Dennis. The number of seabirds was not quite as impressive, but the variety was good, and we added Horned Grebe to the day’s list. We traveled just a short way to visit Dennis Chapin Beach and it turned out to be a perfect choice. The tide was still out and the beach stretched far out into the bay. There were over a hundred Dunlin, some close in, some farther away. With the more distant Dunlin were over 50 Sanderlings, and very close in were two Black-belled Plovers. As we packed up our scopes and walked back to the parking lot, one of us notice a Red Fox making its way across our path, and then we all saw a second Red Fox follow in pursuit.
We were hoping to get on the road early in an effort to beat the snowy forecast, but there was one last spot in the offing and that was Town Neck Rd in Sandwich. We found the Treehouse Brewery parking lot to be quite busy, with just a few spaces available. There was a large raft of Common Eider not far offshore, 5 Razorbills, some Black, White-winged and Surf Scoters, a dozen or so Red-breasted Mergansers, one Goldeneye and over 50 Robins flying about the hedge at the edge of the lot and swirling everywhere we looked as we exited.
For a cloudy day with temperatures hovering in the mid-30s and just a light northeast breeze, it’s a wonder most of us still felt cold at some point during the day. We ended as darkness approached with a total of 54 species and many moments of laughter to make the day even more memorable.