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
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.
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.
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 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!