Thursday, October 12, 2017

Massachusetts Part Two

Our second to last day on Cape Cod Jacob and I boarded a Hyannis Whale Watcher boat to hopefully see some pelagic birds.  The guy in charge of the microphone saw us boarding and asked if we were birders.  We said yes, and he chatted about all the birds we could see, and once on the water called out birds we were passing.  He may have called a Cooper's Hawk a Merlin but I was grateful when he called out the only Manx Shearwaters of the trip.

The first awesome birds we came across were Northern Gannets.  We saw dozens if not hundreds during the boat trip. 

Cory's Shearwaters were by far the most abundant shearwater that day.

We also had Great Shearwaters, one or two Sootys, and the two Manx already mentioned.

Great Shearwater

Of course there were jaegers keeping things exciting.

Parasitic, I think

We missed storm-petrels and terns but that's ok.  Plenty of humpback whale action provided entertainment.

The next morning Jacob and I planned to make it to Highland Light, a lighthouse near the tip of Cape Cod, for the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean.  Success all around.  When we arrived the harvest moon was setting and the sky was starting to turn brilliant colors.

Jacob stayed behind when I walked out towards the beach to see the lighthouse from the angle shown above.   When I returned to where Jacob was set up, I came around the corner and there were twenty more people standing there.  Ugh.  A whole photography class had shown up.  Oh well, there goes the peaceful sunrise.  The dude with the drone didn't help either.

Still beautiful, even with all the people.

 The original plan had been to stick around and bird this area after the sun rose but with all the people and more importantly, all the mosquitoes, we decided to head up to Race Point Beach instead. 

Hundreds of birds were flying over the water, though mostly too far out for decent binocular views.  There were terns by the truckload, plus shearwaters and gulls and at least four jaegers.  On the beach were Sanderlings and more Sanderlings, a few Dunlin and a lone Semipalmated Sandpiper.

When the terns would occasionally come close-ish to shore we would try get photos to pick out different species.  There were lots of Common and Forster's, though this bird seems to have a bigger bill:

Kind of looks like either a Caspian or a Royal, though either would be rare at this time, so maybe I'm way off.

Then there's this photo, which I think is a Forster's and a Common, but could be wrong. 

And a Common Tern fishing relatively close in:

The number of jaegers was impressive.  At any point you could look out and find one tearing things up way out there.

I am guessing they are all Parasitic but my confidence is low in jaeger ID.   Note to self:  more boats.

Hard to identify terns and jaegers are great and all, but the real highlight at Race Point for me were the gray seals.  Lifer mammal!

Wikipedia has taught me that their Latin name means "Hooked-nosed sea pig."

Sea pigs.  Love it.

This spot was a good reminder that I can't identify terns for shit, especially when they're far out on the water.  Something to work on.

While we were at my parents' house I set up my camera trap every night to see what I might catch.  I was super psyched to catch a red fox twice, plus a raccoon, skunk, squirrels, chipmunks, and an Eastern Towhee.

I think that's everything from our trip.  Congrats to Jacob for surviving a week with my family!  Congrats to my family for surviving a week with us!  Good times!!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Massachusetts Part One

In an effort to work on my 3000-mile Radius year list, Jacob and I flew out to Massachusetts last week.  Jk.  We went to visit my family.  Of course there were birds and of course I will share them with you.  I'll begin at the beginning, about an hour after picking up our rental car, when we stopped at Scusset Beach State Reservation.  Since this is a travel post I am linking each location's eBird hotspot page if it has one.

So effing New England

We walked out to the beach and Jacob began picking up lifers left and right.

Laughing Gull

We walked out to the jetty where I had once seen Great Cormorants.  They were exactly where I had left them.

Two Greats, one Double-crested

 We didn't see any full adults, just these scruffy juveniles.   Back on the sand we passed a few Black-bellied Plovers mixed in with the Sanderlings.

It was a perfect little stop on the way to my parents' house.

Throughout the week we wandered around my parents' Cape Cod yard and kayaked in the lake, finding more birds and things.  Cooper's Hawks were as common as cardinals, or so it seemed.

 Painted ladies everywhere

And on the lake...


Gray Catbird

Blue Jay

One morning we went out to the South Sandwich Conservation Area (Ryder Conservation Land) to look for warblers.  It was very birdy but we could only find one Black-throated Green Warbler.  This American red squirrel was far more accommodating for photos:

 This fungus took over one section of trail:

 One afternoon we went out to Peterson Farm with my dad for a nice walk around the area.  Jacob found a Brown Thrasher, which was awesome.

 I was pscyhed on these parasitic plants:

At the end of our loop around the area we stopped to check out the sparrows again, hoping a Bobolink would appear.  Instead a House Wren appeared, and then a Blue-headed Vireo.  I'll take it. 

Such a good photo.

 Jacob and I went out to Boston to hang out with my brother one day.  We got to meet his new-ish pup, Willow. 

After a hike through the woods with Willow, we set off on the T to downtown to walk the Freedom Trail.  I'll skip to the birds on the trek, like the Blue Jays that were nibbling on this historic (probably) building.

Jacob and I had joked about how much Black Phoebes like perching on gravestones, so when we arrived at the Copp's Hill Burying Ground he demanded a phoebe.  I thought I was being clever when I pointed out this grave stone:

A few minutes later we noticed a couple of actual Eastern Phoebes flying from grave stone to grave stone.  Of course.

At the end of the trail is the Bunker Hill Monument, with 294 steps leading to the top. 

There are little windows all around the top with views of Boston, the bay, and the burbs.  People push coins out the screened windows because that's what people do.  It seems some birds land in the windows and eat other birds too.  One window ledge held the head of a bird.

Note the bird bill sticking up at the bottom of the photo.

On our way back to my brother's house he suggested stopping for a short walk to a great view of the city.  This short walk was painful after climbing that monument, but the view was indeed great.

I'm going to squeeze one last outing into this post, an early morning trip to Sea Gull Beach in Yarmouth.  We actually had some warbler action here, which began with Yellow-rumpeds and then a gorgeous Canada Warbler I failed to photograph.  I did get some shots of a Prairie Warbler as it flitted through a shrub.

We also had a Palm Warbler here, and the only Northern Mockingbird of the whole trip (serious wtf).

There's more to come from our whale watching trip and a morning at the tip of the Cape.  Good times!!!!