Massachusetts (February 1999)

I was in Massachusetts during Feb. 4-7 and was able to get out for some birding. The weather was beautiful for this time of year.

I flew into Boston early on Feb. 4 and drove to Winthrop, where I got a fairly good look at a flock of GREATER SCAUP. I then proceeded to Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield, where I saw six LONG-EARED OWLS, a NORTHERN SHRIKE, and a flock of EASTERN MEADOWLARKS. I spent the latter part of the afternoon at Halibut Point in Rockport, where I saw THICK-BILLED MURRE, BLACK GUILLEMOT (the first time I had gotten a good look at one), GREAT CORMORANT, and a PURPLE SANDPIPER that was resting on the rocks and provided a great view from less than ten feet. The next morning, I stopped back in Winthrop and got to see the flock of GREATER SCAUP up close and saw the greenishness of the head.

Feb. 6 was one of those memorable days of birding: five alcids! I started off in Gloucester, where I ran into a group of birders from South Boston, who were observing BARROW’S GOLDENEYES. A small gull flew into the field of view of my binoculars and someone called out Bonaparte’s Gull. However, I noticed that the underwings were very dark and realized it was a BLACK-HEADED GULL just before someone called it out. I drove along the coast up to Rockport and (with the aid of my new Lane Guide) found my way to Cathedral Rocks and Andrews Point, where I saw RAZORBILLS, THICK-BILLED MURRES, and BLACK GUILLEMOTS. I also heard about another alcid species that had been seen back in Gloucester. So I backtracked to Bass Rocks and ran into the birders from South Boston again. I told them about the report I had just heard, and one of them located a DOVEKIE a few minutes later. I was thrilled to see this species, especially since it provided a good view. As I was about to head back to Rockport, I heard about yet another alcid species that had been seen near the seawall at Eastern Point. So I backtracked further and found a large group of birders scanning for the bird. After searching for about ten minutes, I noticed an interesting bird pop up right in front of the rocks we were standing on. It was an immature ATLANTIC PUFFIN. This bird spent a lot of time under water and only stayed on the surface briefly, which made it difficult to observe. It eventually started working its way along the seawall and spending more time on the surface and provided great views. I finally made it back to Rockport and got a good look at an adult male KING EIDER. My last stops of the day were at Newburyport and Salisbury, where I got great looks at SHORT-EARED OWLS. I watched them hunting and perched. I was able to see close-up details, including the color of the eyes and the ear tufts. Standing in the parking lot in Salisbury, I noticed a small gull that I recognized to be another BLACK-HEADED GULL by its red bill. I pointed it out to another birder, who called it out as a Bonaparte’s Gull until it flew and its dark underwings were revealed.

I decided to return to Newburyport on Feb. 7 since I had missed some of the raptors the previous day, which was too overcast for much hawk activity. I returned to the location on Plum Island where they had been reported but saw no sign of them. Since I had a long drive that day, I decided to give up and get moving. On the way back to Newburyport, I saw a raptor hovering like a Kestrel near the airstrip. It turned out to be a light-phase ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. After it landed in a tree, I noticed another one perched nearby. A few minutes later, they took off and circled right over me to give me the best view I’ve ever had of this beautiful species. On the way to Troy that afternoon, I stopped at Quabbin Reservoir to look and listen for owls. I parked my car at the powerline cut on the way into Gate 37 and walked the rest of the way since the road was very icy. After an hour or so of walking around, I heard the sawing sound of a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL. Despite the cold, I decided to stick around for about four hours until dusk, when I heard the call of a GREAT HORNED OWL and the tooting of a NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL.

Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Great Cormorant, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, *Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Eider, King Eider, Harlequin Duck, Oldsquaw, Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Purple Sandpiper, *Black-headed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, *Dovekie, *Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, *Atlantic Puffin, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, *Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, *Northern Saw-whet Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Northern Shrike, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Eastern Meadowlark, House Finch, House Sparrow