Before I dive into birds I want to let you know that email notifications for new blog posts will no longer work starting sometime this month. The third-party company that handled that will no longer be handling it. For those that still want to be informed of new IUTHB content you can sign up here and I will send out an email from 5MRbirding@mail.com whenever I post.
Ok, now Massachusetts. Of course the best part was seeing my fully vaccinated family for the first time in two years!
Some of my dad's metal pets
The second best part was the birds. My parents' yard on Cape Cod offers better birding than some of the local eBird hotspots. My first day there I noticed a pair of Baltimore Orioles bringing food to a well-concealed nest over the garage.
Two days later I heard some begging sounds and saw one of the adults fly out of a shrub. One of the babies had fledged and was sitting there looking ridiculous.
Many more yard birds were feeding young though I never spotted any of the catbird's kids.
What do you think of the weirdly small amount of red on the back of the Downy Woodpecker parent's head? I had not seen that before.
Parent Downy, child Downy
Red-bellied Woodpeckers also had youngsters and I realized that if you can only see their head they are very nondescript.
Tufted Titmice youngsters were the hardest to photograph as they are pretty spazzy and stick to the leafier parts of trees. I didn't remember them having cool eye rings.
Common Grackles had tons of babies and were feeding them impressive quantities of bugs and things.
Great Crested Flycatchers had already finished nesting in one of my dad's bird houses by the time I got there, but a couple were still hanging around.
One day my dad and I birded a couple of the local beaches.
We found a couple of these dead Dusky Smooth-Hounds (ID by iNaturalist) which are a type of houndshark.
Later we saw a guy carrying two of them out into the water and throwing them in. Not sure if they had been beached or if they were even still alive.
We went on a whale watch another day and saw lots of humpbacks and a few Northern Gannets. No shearwaters, alcids, jaegers, or other birds of interest, unlike whale watches I've done in August and October.
One morning I got up early and drove up to Race Point Beach at the tip of the Cape. This is a great spot for terns and gulls as well as gray seals. One was resting in the sand when I arrived which made it easy to remember which beach access I had used.
Later on I saw a large group of them in the water.
Least Terns nest here in good numbers and are constantly showing off their fish to other terns, and sometimes even to Piping Plovers. While taking a bath.
Common Terns were also...common.
The real tern highlight for me was Roseate Terns! I had only seen them once before in Maine but my photos were on the SD card that died.
And see those bands? Many of the Roseates were banded!
I was able to submit six of the bands and learned most were banded in June 2019, one in June 2018. They were banded at four different locations in New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Connecticut. Yet here they all are, hanging out together in Massachusetts. This is a major staging area for Roseate Terns come August so I imagine they will be here until their fall migration.
Double-billed Roseate Tern
While I was watching the terns a balloon appeared and was blowing slowly along the sand towards some gulls that were running away from it. I ran up the beach to catch it.
That's when I learned that you cannot slowly let the air out of a balloon filled with confetti. It exploded everywhere and made a huge mess. I picked up what I could. Thankfully the confetti was a very thin paper material and should be less harmful than the balloon and string.
I was hoping to see a couple of recently reported Little Gulls that were sometimes roosting with Bonaparte's Gulls. I sat and watched a flock of Bonaparte's, Laughing, Great Black-backed, and Herring Gulls for long time as birds were coming and going. No Little Gull for me.
Even without the Little Gulls it was an excellent morning of chill birding, most of the time sitting in the sand.
My last morning my brother picked me up and we went to look for some reported Yellow-crowned Night-Herons. My dad and I had tried a couple days earlier with no luck, but a few people had seen them since. We found two adults and one sub-adult stuffing their faces with crabs.
It was super fun to share this experience with my non-birder brother. He loves wildlife but probably wouldn't be as excited if I had dragged him somewhere to look at sparrows or something.
While I was in MA I helped my mom clean out the negatives for hundreds of old photos and went through some of the duplicates as well. I found a couple gems including these two of birds:
These have been saved for at least 30 years. The second one is a House Sparrow and maybe the first is also.
Ok, that's it for Massachusetts. I'm so grateful I was finally able to travel and see my family safely! Good times!!