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Monday, January 31, 2011

January 29, 2011 2:30-4:30 pm 30` cloudy, Sachuest Point NWR, Middletown RI

A Red-tailed Hawk takes off

My brother, my parents,my grandfather and I (my sisters preferred to say home with our grandmother) were happily driving up the road to Sachuest and our first stop was the Second Beach campground to look for the Green-tailed Towhee. The two car parking lot was stuffed with cars so we were forced to park along the road. At least fifteen birders stood quietly next to the picnic table which we had sat on last time, all apparently waiting for the arrival of the towhee. Ironically the bird hadn't made an appearance all day and the birders were getting impatient. The ground was littered with countless American Tree-Sparrows (Sachuests most common winter sparrow), mixed in with the American Tree-Sparrows were Song, Savannah Sparrows and a few Black-capped Chickadees. The two highlights for the campground were two beautiful Fox Sparrows and an "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow. Both the "Ipswich" and the Fox Sparrows were quite tame, and happily posed for my camera. I have never seen an "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow. I have never found such tame Fox Sparrows. How odd it is that all these sparrows stay in one little section of the campground when they could be anywhere in the vicinity.

"Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

Up at the Sachuest parking lot we were greeted by a mixed flock of Northern Harriers, Birders and Short-eared Owls. The Short-eared Owls were amazing; swooping about and diving into the grass after scampering mice. They flew with slow, steady wing beats over us and every time one went overhead there would be thirty cameras raised to the bird. There were exactly four Northern Harriers, three Short-eared Owls and approximately 40+ birders. It was quite an occasion.

Short-eared Owl

On one instance we saw an owl tussle with a harrier but mostly the owls stuck to themselves. Every once in a while an owl would land in a tree or bush and cause an onslaught of camera wielding bird nerds to begin wildly snapping off photos with their 2 foot long camouflage lenses. What amazing birds these owls were.

Short-eared Owl

While scoping the bay I spied a speck of an owl flying lazily over the water towards Sachuest Point. The very first time I ever saw a Northern Harrier we were in Little Compton, directly across the bay from Sachuest. If harriers like it there then very likely owls do too (so maybe the owl was coming from there).

Once we saw an owl hover over the grass and snow and then slowly and quietly fall to the ground, you could just see some wings flapping and then suddenly the owl rose from the ground with a fat bundle of fur clutched in its talons.

Short-eared Owl

Short-eared Owl with a delicious fur ball

The only other highlight for the day was a mixed flock of sea ducks way out by some rocks in the middle of the bay. In the flock we found Surf, one (female) Black and White-winged Scoters, Common Eiders and Harlequin Ducks.

My only regret is that we were ignorant to the fact there was also a Barn Owl being seen a Sachuest.
All in all it was a great day, even with out the Barn Owl!

Friday, January 28, 2011

More on the mystery Mallard

A new theory for my mystery Mallard is far more reasonable. I believe now that it is an intersex Mallard; an elderly female which gradually looses its mottled plumage for the more splendid plumage of a male. You can see a photo of an intersex Mallard here. Intersex Mallards occur when a females estrogen decreases giving the appearance of a male.
Thanks to Warrech who suggested that it was a intersex.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Murky Waters: the case of the mystery Mallard!

Januray 25, 2011 12:30-1:30pm 10` cloudy Turner Reservoir East Providence RI

A thick layer of ice coated Turner Reservoir and the ground was covered with a heavy layering of whiteness making this winter wonderland look like a chef had gone over board with white icing (in truth this was as far from reality as you could get, as you very likely guessed it was just another snowy day!)

Today Turner was fairly uneventful; a Red-bellied Woodpecker here, some Tufted Titmice there and so on. The only excitements discovered were what I suspected was a Northern Flicker calling somewhere off in the woodlands and a bird feeder in a local backyard which had attracted a mass of House Sparrows, a White-throated Sparrow and a Northern Cardinal.

The Ten Mile River flows under the frozen Turner Reservoir, there is a dam at one end of the reservoir, over the dam water rushes and pours down 15 feet to the Ten Mile River which winds away into the woodlands. Here the water is open and Common Mergansers swim cheerfully about. When we had started our walk I thought I had seen a Ring-necked Duck with those Common Mergansers. So when we returned to our car we decided to split up, my mother and sisters going to the car to warm up and my brother and I continuing down the trail a little way more to see if we could find the Ring-necked Duck for a positive id.

We found a few birds other than mergansers and a Great Blue Heron who took off when we appeared on the river bank. Then as we clambered through the bushes trying to get a good luck at the water I noticed a pair of Mallards a male and what appeared to be a female. Suddenly I realized that the "female" had a greenish tinge to the head and a male's black and white tail with curved tail feathers to boot!

Every summer males molt loosing their green, chestnut and silver feathers for the more modest colors of a female (this is called an eclipse plumage). They then molt the eclipse plumage in fall for their bright breeding colors. The dull-colored eclipse Mallard as well as the breeding male and the juvenille Mallards all have a yellow or olive bill. This unusual Mallard had the orange blotched with black coloring particular to only a female bill. Funny bill, funny tail, funny head coloring. All in all it is one crazy Mallard!

The only conclusion that I could come to is that it is a gynandromorph which in more understandable terms means that it is both a female and male. Usually one side of a gynandromorph bird has female plumage while the other side has male plumage. Seeing that we could only see one side of the bird we can't be sure that on the other side there is the male plumage but I doubt that there is.

I have only found one reference to a gynandromorph Mallard and that was on a Seirra Nevada bird alert where the author (Will Richardson) writes as follows

"Cove East and the Upper Truckee Marsh were LOADED with Mallards!! The area of the Upper Truckee Marsh closest to the Cove East parking has
several inches of water on it, and the ducks are loving it! A few
pintail, but mostly just tons of Mallards, including an interesting
gynandromorph that looks really similar to one I photographed there a
few years ago. Same bird? "

Frustratingly he didn't leave a photo of the bird or any description.

The only photos of a gynandromorph bird that I could find was of a Northern Cardinal from Illinois. The birder also wrote about what a gynandromorph is on his blog, it is very interesting allbeit confusing. You can check it out here . Here is another link to his blog where he shows photos of the bird.

It would be great if it really is a gynandrmorph and a very unusual find.
I would greatly appreciate any help you could give.

ps I found the Ring-necked Duck in the end (a year bird)!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Case of the Unsolved Mystery Sparrow

LBJs are the hardest of the hard. LBJ stands for "Little Brown Job" and if identifying a little brown bird is a job then I sure have one tough job here. See if you can identify this sparrow as it is a true LBJ!!!!

In my January 10th post I mentioned seeing an "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow, a pale variation of Savannah Sparrow. I have changed my mind about its identification and I now believe that it's a species of tern, nah - just kidding, I think that it looks more like a Vesper Sparrow than an "Ipswich" although I am definitely not ruling out Song or Savannah. I have sent the photo of the sparrow to a few people and have also put the photo on some Internet sites asking for help. Most people so far have said Song Sparrow (7 in total), 3 people have said Vesper Sparrow, 7 people have said Savannah Sparrow (counting me) and 3 "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow. Unfortunately a very few people are one hundred percent positive about their id. Here are some of the remarks people have made about the sparrow:

"The supercilium is too well defined and the breast streaking is too extensive for Vesper. I'm on the fence between Savannah and Song currently." Brennan Mulrooney

"i don't think this bird has the broad/prominent malar nor the broad breast streaking of a Song nor does it have the right facial pattern (particularly the framing) of a Vesper." Warrech

"Regarding the sparrow, I consulted Peterson, Sibley and National Geographic field guides. They all give the two most important field marks for vesper sparrow as the white eye ring and the white outer tail feathers. Your photo shows a white eye ring very clearly and if you look at the tail, I think you can see a white line. The third field mark, rufous lesser coverts, are said to be harder to see and not always visible. Savannah sparrows are rather variable but the ones I am used to seeing have eyebrow stripes that are noticeably yellowish. In "Birds of Massachusetts" savannah sparrow is said to be "uncommon but regular in winter" while vesper sparrow is "rare and erratic" in winter. Of course, you were in Rhode Island but not that far from Massachusetts as the sparrow flies. All in all, I think vesper sparrow is more likely from the appearance in the photo." John Goodchild (my grandfather)

"I also agree that it is a Savannah, though I would not be terribly surprised, if the bird is observed again to find out it is a Song.
In addition to the mentioned reasons for it not being a Vesper, it is clearly far too red for that, there should be no red edging on Vesper sparrow tertials, whereas this bird clearly has that.
But why my feeling is that it is a Savannah over a Song (bear in mind, this is probably the most variable sparrow around here) is harder to pin down. The beak looks small, but it does not look that small, the streaking looks thin, but not that thin, the body looks brownish-reddish, but it does not look that brownish-reddish and the tail looks short, but it doesn't look that short. So the collection of these halfway wrong features for Song Sparrow make me think it is a Savannah. But the reddest, darkest Savannah I have ever encountered.
To muddy the waters further, in the last or second to last one of Christian's pics, there is some white visible, but I think it is just the undertail coverts, though that almost made me jump to the Vesper camp despite all the reasons it is not one.
Went out there a couple days ago and, unfortunately, did not see this bird - not that I knew to look for it then, but everything segregated easily into the Song/Tree/Savannah/Towhee camps.
Good luck - this will probably be argued for awhile (a good thing)."Eric LoPresti

Another birder has also apparently seen our mystery sparrow. He was calling it a Vesper Sparrow originally but now he too calls it a "Sparrow sp". Here a link to his Flickr page where you can see his photos of the bird. And here's another link to my brothers photo of the bird.

It sure would be great if it is a Vesper Sparrow - it would be a lifer!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 17, 2011 2-4pm sunny and freeze-ass, Trustom Pond South Kingston RI

Black-capped Chickadee

It was a frigidly beautiful day with a rich blue sky. A perfect day for an owl I thought to myself - last year at around this time we had come across our very first owl sitting on a branch right on the side of the path, that Barred Owl was very tame and let us photograph from only feet away from quite some time. None of us had quite gotten over the thrill of that day, so we look for owls every time we visit Trustom (especially in January, because that was the lucky month we saw it).

Today we were looking for a Short-eared Owl. a meadow bird which is occasionally reported here. Short-eared Owls breed in the Western US and in Canada and the Canadian ones come South to the US every winter. They are more diurnal then most owls and can often be seen soaring over the meadows like Harriers.

The Trustom bird feeders were fairly uneventful, the only highlights being a few Purple Finches. We came across a flock of robins, while I was watching the robins my brother discovered a Gray Catbird suspiciously watching us from the bushes. The Gray Catbird is a good bird for this time of year.

We rounded a bend in the path and were afforded our first view of the pond. Damn! It was completely frozen with not a bird in sight. Usually there are patches of open water in the winter months that are filled to overflowing with cold waterfowl. We got to the look out platform where we scoped the pond there was nothing in sight except for one frozen goose carcass way out on the ice.

My gorilla brother pointed out a Northern Harrier soaring over the distant sand dunes I scoped it out, while doing so I noticed a hunched form perched on a post. There was no mistaking what it was. I freaked out - it was a Short-eared Owl! I turned away to tell my family what I had found when I looked back it was gone. Suddenly the gorilla freaked out grunting and yowling wildly. I clearly heard him say "Short-eared Owl". I had my scope on the spot instantly, there on the ground was a Short-eared Owl tussling with two female harriers! (Peterson says that the Short-eared Owl "often tussles with Northern Harrier"). One broke free stood on the ground for a moment then flew off. The fight was quick and only lasted a few moments. When it was over the two combatants separated and took a quick rest on the ground. Then the harrier took wing and soared of. The owl stayed on the sand for a minute or so more then it too took to the air only flying a few feet before landing on a post. It switched posts a few times while we were watching it.

Short-eared Owl

What a bird he/she was and a lifer! Soon my mother noticed a dark form perched on one of the sand dunes, looking closer we were able to identify it as a Turkey Vulture - a good bird for this time of year.

Turkey Vulture

There was a man on the platform that we were scoping from he told us that he was a wildlife cameraman. He said that was waiting for the sun to set and hoping that some Coyote spook a deer onto the ice where the deer would be unable to run or walk due to its lack of claws and would be an easy meal for the scheming Coyote. What a horribly amazing spectacle that would be and one that the man says he has seen three times at the ice covered Trustom Pond. We left him waiting for the action of the evening. He probably will be frozen to his bench by the time he tries to leave.

Back at the feeders we found a Brown Creeper, another year bird. In total we had 4 new birds for my year list for the day: the owl, the catbird, the Turkey Vulture and the creeper.

We then stopped by Moonstone Beach but found nothing of interest other than two Northern Harriers. Though we didn't see any Bald Eagles at Trustom (which is odd for eagles winter at the pond) we did see one flying over the highway on our drive South to Trustom which made up for the lack of them at Trustom. We had a great day at the refuge though we didn't see many birds, usually we see hundreds of swans, geese and ducks.

Today we saw a Fox Sparrow in our backyard! A new bird for our yard list and year list!

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10 2011, 11am-1pm, icy wind and sunny 30' Satchuest Point and surrounding area

"Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow?

American Tree Sparrow

Green-tailed Towhee

My brother, another birdwatcher and I were sitting on a picnic table bench watching (and photographing) the birds that hopped before us: Song Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows, American Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees-all nice birds, but definitely not the Green-tailed Towhee we were looking for.

Yep we were going after the rare Green-tailed Towhee again, this time with some more information about its location. The three of us were in a small grass covered lot which was surrounded by a fence. Other than the grass it contained: a swing set, some picnic tables (like the one we were sitting on) and a gravel walkway. The minutes ticked slowly by. Then out of bushes flew a green backed bird with a drab gray breast, a rufous crown and a white throat, malar stripe and eyebrow. Though it stayed on the opposite side of the metal fence I knew what it was immediately!

"There, there look the towhee" I whispered barely able to control my voice the excitement within me was so great. I was trembling uncontrollably. I raised my camera and snapped of a few shots. Though my hands shook I was able to get some decent shots. Then it suddenly leaped from the ground abandoning its foraging. It flew back into the bushes. A few minutes later it returned to its previous location. Sadly it hopped behind a tree and we lost sight of it behind its trunk.

Though we stayed a few minutes more the towhee decided that we had seen enough of it for the time being. Luckily the minutes after the towhee vanished were not spent for nothing. We had found an interesting sparrow and were busily photographing it. I believe that it was an "Ipswich Sparrow" a pale form of Savannah Sparrow. As luck would have it I got a nice photograph of it before it too vanished into the bushes. We returned to our family who where waiting for us in the car. On the drive to Sachuest Point NWR I happily thought about how the time we spent in the icy blast of the wind was not spent in vain.

We were strolling down one of the foot paths at Sachuest. To our left was a broad meadow and on our right was the Atlantic Ocean. My sister stopped and pointed to a point on the path. "What's that, what's that?!" A small brown bird was walking down the side of the path. My parents only gorilla child raised his binoculars and said "who hooo rrrrg." Luckily I had taken a course on how to speak gorilla and right now I was pretty sure that IT was saying "I think it's an American Pipit!" Excited now I focused my scope on the spot and confirmed the gorilla's suspicion. It was an American Pipit. A life bird that I had been searching for, for quite some time! I sneaked forward hastily (hastily because there was a lady coming from the opposite direction and I wanted to get a few photos of it before she scared it off). I knelt and snapped three photos of it then I started sneaking forward again. Then the pipit took wing and flew into the meadow.

The pipit and the towhee were the only life birds, but we saw many other nice birds as well. Here is a list of all the birds we found at Sachuest and the out lying area:
Canada Geese (seen from the car somewhere in Middletown),
American Black Ducks (Sachuest Point),
Mallards (Sachuest Saltmarsh),
Common Eiders (Sachuest Point),
Harlequin Ducks (Sachuest Point),
White-winged Scoter (Sachuest Point),
Surf Scoters (Sachuest Point),
Black Scoter (Sachuest Point,
Greater Scaup (Sachuest Point),
Common Goldeneye (Sachuest Point),
Buffleheads (Sachuest Point),
Red-breasted Mergansers (Sachuest Point),
Common Loons (Sachuest Point),
Horned Grebes (Sachuest Point),
Great Cormorants (Sachuest Point),
Northern Harriers (Sachuest Point),
Red-tailed Hawk (Sachuest Point),
Purple Sandpipers (Sachuest Point),
Herring Gulls (Sachuest Point),
Great Black-backed Gulls (Sachuest Point),
Ring-billed Gulls (3rd Beach),
Mourning Dove (seen from the car somewhere in Middletown),
American Crow (Sachuest Point),
Fish Crow? (Sachuest Point),
Black-capped Chickadees (2nd Beach Campground),
Carolina Wren heard (Sachuest Point),
Northern Mockingbird (Sachuest Point),
American Pipit (Sachuest Point),
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Sachuest Point),
Green-tailed Towhee (2nd Beach Campground),
American Tree Sparrows (2nd Beach Campground),
Field Sparrow? (Sachuest Point),
Savannah Sparrows (2nd Beach Campground),
"Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow (2nd Beach Campground),
Song Sparrows (2nd Beach Campground)
and American Goldfinches (2nd Beach Campground).

It was definitely one of our better birding days!

Thanks to our librarian Linda who gave us detailed directions for how to find the towhee.
This blog post is dedicated to our grandfather who, due to a lack of available cars, was unable to come with us to see the towhee (that's bird species number TWO that you've never seen!!)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jan 6, 2011 11-1pm 30`sunny Trustom Pond NWR, South Kingstown, RI

The feeders (and the ground below the feeders) were covered with birds large and small, dull and colorful but all hungry, all the common feeder birds were there and even some less common ones like some Purple Finch. We noted Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, a White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays along with the Purple Finches. We were getting good birds and we barely had started our walk yet.

We were rounding the meadow when a huge and apparently unending flock of American Robins burst from the trees on the right side of the path. We were far off, but these Robins weren't going to trust anyone or anything for that matter - well at least a few had the sense to stay in or to return to the trees next to the path to let us watch them. They presumably were feeding off the countless Bittersweet berries, which clung to the vines which in their turn clung to the trees. After the initial wild rush of robins from the trees many realized that we were not a threat and returned to the feeding frenzy.

We walked on, passing by two Red Squirrels who dashed away instantly when they noticed Ben (next walk we do I am going to make Ben where a mask). A little further on I saw Red Squirrel eating nuts from a hole in the snow. Actually the hole went into the ground - this was one of the holes where the squirrel had a cash of nuts.

As I had expected I heard a kinglet call from somewhere in the trees to our left. I stopped seconds after. I had my binoculars trained on the small fragile form of a kinglet (from the call I would presume that it was a Golden-crowned Kinglet). Bernard Heinrich wrote some very nice words about the habits of the Golden-crowned Kinglet:

Lucky for a kinglet, it does not know the odds stacked against its individual survival. Presumably it could not contemplate its fate, regret about mistakes, or fret over injustice or lost opportunities. It does not worry about the future, or about life and death. Why can we presume this? Because these mental capacities could only compromise, not aid survival. They could not activate the bird to effective action, because there is so little, if anything, it could do to change things in its world where the relevant things—ice storms, a subzero night, winds, food scarcity—are ruled by chance. Undampened enthusiasm and raw drive would matter. I do not and cannot ever know the combination of happiness, hunger, or emotions that energize a bird. But whenever I've watched kinglets in their nonstop hopping, hovering, and searching, seen their intimate expressions, and heard their constant chatter of tsees, songs, and various calls, I've felt an infectious hyperenthusiasm flow from them, and sensed a grand, boundless zest for life. They could not survive without that in their harsh world. Like us, they are programmed for optimism.

I almost jumped in surprise when I noticed a Red Fox out on the ice of the basically frozen Trustom Pond. It was so majestic sitting there on the ice. It stayed there coolly watching us for at most a minute and then as I attempted to get close for a better photo it rose and trotted away. It was apparently in no hurry to leave (even with Ben's smell). It paused a few times in its retreat from the ice watching us wildly snap photos. Finally it entered the woods and we lost sight of its agile red form. What a beautiful animal and one I have never seen before (although I have seen quite a few Gray Fox and a Coyote - once I even saw a Fisher although it was not canine it was much rarer than any fox - the Red Fox has eluded me until now).

A majestic Red Fox

As we walked onto the lookout platform we came upon an ecstatic couple who had discovered a Bald Eagle feeding on something in an Osprey nest. Although not all that uncommon at this time of year, it was a good bird. Soon we had found another one perched in a tree nearby. Presumably these two eagles were a mated pair or had some other close relationship.

On the distant strip of water which was not frozen over the birds were more than numerous. They turned the water black in some places. Here is a list of birds seen on the water: Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Common Goldeneye, Scaup species, Red-breasted Mergansers, Gadwalls, Bufflehead, Redhead(s), American Wigeons, Ruddy Duck (?), Canvasback(s), American Black Ducks, Mallards, Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls. The Redhead was a lifer! We also saw a female Northern Harrier flying over the pond.

"Woodcock!" my family shrieked. I hurriedly dashed to the spot (well more speed-walked - dashing would have scared the bird). It had flown into the woods before I had a chance to see it. But considering the land we stood on was a 20 foot wide strip of wooded dirt which pertruded way into the middle of the pond it was not hard to flush the Woodcock out a couple of times for a positive identification. Once it exploded from the leaves a feet from my feet. American Woodcocks aren't that hard to find in mid-summer, but in mid-winter they are very unusual!

Down the path a ways we saw the pair of harsh looking Bald Eagles soar overhead! Back at the bird feeders we saw a Grey Squirrel and heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

We returned to the car and drove to Moonstone Beach. We hadn't taken 15 steps when I saw a small form vanish into a miniature mud cave which was gouged into the side of a mudbank which usually would be flooded over but today the pond was almost dry (due to the tide being out on a vacation in the deep blue sea) except for two small streams. I focused my binoculars on the spot where the dirt covered thing had vanished into the seven inch tall cave. A small head with two big black eyes and a big yellow bill peered back at me then vanished back into the cave. It poked its head out again and quickly took a glance at us and then it vanished back into its hiding spot. It was a Pied-billed Grebe! We walked along the bank a little way to where we could get a nice view of him/her. He/she watched us suspiciously trying not to look conspicuous. We took some photos of the adorable little bird and then moved on.

Can you find a Pied-billed Grebe in this photo?

Another photo of the Pied-billed Grebe

At Moonstone Beach we found: two Common Loons, a Pied-billed Grebe, Common Eiders, two Mallards, a Red-tailed Hawk, a Ring-billed Gull, two Black-capped Chickadees and a few mystery sparrows!

It was quite an interesting day. We saw one of the ugliest birds in America (the woodcock), one of the handsomest birds (the Northern Harrier), the most impressive bird (Bald Eagle) and one of the cutest birds (the Pied-bill Grebe).

What a great day!!!!!!!!!!!

Unusually disgusting guts

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jan 4, 2011 sunny, windy 30` 11:00 to 2:00pm Sachuest Point NWR and surrounding area

This is the face I made all the way home I was so anoyed with not seeing my goal bird!

A Green-tailed Towhee (a bird commonly found in the West but a vagrant in the East) had been discovered at Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge and was supposedly easy to find in between the wildlife refuge and Second Beach and that basic area. So we decided that with some luck we might find the towhee the instant after stepping out of the car. Sadly though we had no luck with our well planned but rash instant-towhee-finding-plan. Stepping out of the car at the Sachuest Parking Lot and after consulting the sightings bulletin board we learned that the towhee was at the 3rd Beach Camp Ground.

We then took a walk down to the "Island Rocks", one of the best places in the refuge for Winter fowl watching. At the rocks we found: 2 Horned Grebe, 1 distant cormorant species, American Black Ducks, Common Eiders, a possible female Black Scoter, a few rafts of White-winged Scoter floating way out in the bay (we were only able to identify them when I saw one flap it's wings showing off its white secondaries, very likely the easiest way to identify White-winged Scoter), a small flock of Harlequin Ducks floating inconspicuously about the rocks, some Common Goldeneye lightly bobbing way out in the distance, a few small flocks of Buffleheads also way out in the distance, a small camouflaged group of Purple Sandpipers on one of the many rocks which littered the shallow waters just off the shore and a few pale Herring Gulls.

In the bushes and over the scrubby bushes which cover most of Sachuest we found a Black-capped Chickadee, a Northern Mockingbird, a Yellow-rumped Warbler and two White-throated Sparrows. A Carolina Wren who would burst into song every minute or two sang from somewhere deep in the scrub.

A female Northern Harrier appeared every once in a while soaring low over the bushes, its keen eyes scanning for a mouse or a vole. One or two coyotes who were hanging out in the concealing mass of bushes would occasionally yip a few times and then go quiet again. Come nightfall they would be looking for the same animals that the Harrier was hunting for now .

We returned to our car and drove to 3rd Beach.

Once again we had no luck stepping out of the car: the towhee did not show itself. We walked up the beach a little way, routing about like Wild Boar routing for their mushrooms, but were unable to rout out anything from the bushes other than a few American Tree Sparrows and some Mallards who were curiously watching us from the Sachuest salt marsh which was on the other side of the side bushes.

On the beach we found some: Brant, American Black Ducks, a few small flocks of pale Sanderling, a group of Ruddy Turnstone (so named for their habit of turning up stones in search of food), Great Black-backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls

Incidentally, we saw many Ring-billed Gulls yesterday when we went in search of the Black-headed Gull, a rare winter visitor to America from Europe. Luckily there has been a Black-headed Gull who had been taking up residence every winter for the last few years at a tidal mudflat which was only a few minutes drive from our house. This bird was actually a bird that you could step out of the car and almost instantly see. It was an easy year bird.

Sadly we never got around to seeing the Green-tailed Towhee but we sure did have a good time at Sachuest. When we got home I learned that the Towhee was actually more commonly seen at Second Beach and Sachuest (as I had said all along!!!) and most people didn't see it at Third Beach after all! What a bummer!

PS this trip boosted my 2011 year list to 47 birds. Carlos Pedro has the biggest RI year list as far as I know. So far he has seen 82 birds. My father suggested making a shirt which said "Don't mess with Carlos Pedro" - not a bad idea at all.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Jan 2, 2011 cloudy and very misty 40` 1pm Turner Reservoir, East Providence, RI

We had a tiny list of six bird species all viewed from the bridge. We likely would have had more birds but sadly it was very misty and most of the birds were just forms in the haze. We did however find a juvenile Glaucous Gull hanging out on the ice twenty feet or so from the bridge. It was loosely associated with a small and spacey group of two Ring-billed Gulls and two Great Black-backed Gulls. We also saw: Mallards, Hooded Mergansers and a Great Blue Heron.

The Glaucous Gull was a lifer for me and my family. It was a pale mottled brown and white with pink bill and legs (the bill had black tip). At one point the Gull took off in hot pursuit of a Ring-billed Gull (very likely the Ring-bill was in possesion of a morsel of food always a good inscentive for a gull) the Glaucous Gull then returned to his previous location on the ice. It was very likely the rarest bird we have ever discovered with out help!

Ps My New Years resolution was to get more up to date on my blog so I am going to skip ahead to the more recent sightings, I will post about older trips in my spare time.