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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dec/3/11 Birding South Kingstown

I recently had the opportunity to go birding with another local young birder and his mother. Gabe and Cynthia (those being their names) were both great birders/twitchers. Twitchers are the highly evolved type of bird watcher that chase rarities many hours from their base camp or house. According to Sean Dooley, an Australian twitcher himself (sounds like the name of a bird doesn't it? - the "Australian Twitcher"),the word 'twitcher' derives from a pair of British birders who used to go chasing the rarities around the countryside in their open top car and by the end of these long drives they were twitching from the cold and presumably the thrill of the chase.

Anyway, I enjoyed birding with them immensely. I have noticed on numerous occasions that the majority of the young birder population online is fifteen years of age, as was Gabe. We started our walk at Trustom Pond NWR and from there we continued to Moonstone Beach. Trustom was quiet for the most part at least in the woods and in the meadows, barely a feather stirred. The only highlight in the woods was a Winter Wren which made a very brief appearance on the Osprey Point Trail. The feeders were just a bit better with many a Tufted Titmouse and Black-capped Chickadee, plus a few juncos, Mourning Doves, cardinals, White-Breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers and White-throated Sparrows. I didn't even see a Blue Jay, let alone the rust colored denizen of the woods, the delightful Fox Sparrow.

In the damper, wetter sections of this ever-so-glorious refuge we were was able to rack up a fair list, although we missed such species as Cackling Goose, Redhead and Bald Eagle which had recently been reported here. Pied-billed Grebes were amazingly bountiful considering their shy and unsocial behavior (kinda like me). Did you know these little grebes (not to be confused with the Little Grebe of Europe) attack potential rivals who threaten their territories by going submarine style, sinking below the waters surface, then bobbing back up directly beneath the opposing bird. We counted nine grebes altogether.

Black sentinels perched unmoving on the distant rocks in the center of the pond. These shrouded figures transformed into primeval looking Great Cormorants with a quick squint through a scope. Next to the antediluvian cormorants floated: Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks. Also drifting about on Trustoms blue-gray waters, while not being next to the antiquated Great Cormorants bobbed: Canada Geese, American Coots, Greater Scaups and a lone Red-throated Loon.

We were able to pin point two solid gray forms on the bank; both turned out to be Great Blue Herons, above them wheeled a pair of female Northern Harriers, elegant wings upraised, white rumps flashing. Out over the rolling blue Atlantic waters gannets and a few loons flew.

Our return walk back to the car was uneventful, the only highlights being a Song Sparrow and a Red Bellied Woodpecker.

From Trustom we drove to Moonstone Beach. Halfway to Moonstone I spotted the distinctive silhouette of a Barred Owl in the quickly darkening woods. It was a miracle that I spotted it as it was very well camouflaged in the leafless woods. Due to the low light I was unable to get any good photos.

Moonstone had a fairly common array of birdies. There were many gannets over the water, below which loons of both species (and a few Common Eiders) bobbed over the waves. On the bank of Cards Pond was a Double-crested Cormorant who waddled into the water in a manner quite unlike that of your average cormorant.

Another local birder (Carlos Pedro) pulled up in the parking lot informing us that he had just seen a Virginia Rail run across the Moonstone Beach Road. So we ended the day's adventure by the side of the road playing the calls of the Virginia Rail on an Iphone. After a while we finally heard the distinctive call of the rail from somewhere in the marsh.

Scanning the opposite side of the road from the marsh, we came up with a few cardinals and bunch of Mourning Doves roosting the bare trees with a fairly late female late Red-winged Blackbird and best of all a female Rusty Blackbird! It was only the second Rusty Blackbird I had seen this year.

The walk ended with 42 species; 20 species larger than my usual birding list! Here is a list of all the birds seen on the entire enterprise. I've added a star next to the names of good birds, and two stars next the RI year birds and 3 for year birds:
Canada Goose 400+
Mute Swan 4
American Black-Duck 2
Greater Scaup 100+
Common Eider 4
Bufflehead 11
Common Goldeneye 15
Hooded Merganser 6
Red-breasted Merganser 50+
Ruddy Duck 50+
Red-throated Loon 4
Common Loon 5
Pied-billed Grebe 9*
Northern Gannet 22**
Double-crested Cormorant 1
Great Cormorant 12
Great Blue Heron 2
Northern Harrier 3
Virginia Rail 1***
American Coot 80+
Ring-billed Gull 12
Herring Gull 32
Great Black-backed Gull 8
Mourning Dove 16
Barred Owl 1**
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 1
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Winter Wren 1*
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
American Robin 2
European Starling 14
Song Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 2
Northern Cardinal 7
Red-winged Blackbird 1*
Rusty Blackbird 1**

On the 23rd at Echo Lake in Barrington I had a shocking 81 Gadwall plus a few wigeons and Mallards.

On the 27th of November we were walking our dog at a local park (Blackstone Park) when I happened upon a pair of Northern Shoveler in the smallish pond which as always was overflowing with beautiful green headed Mallards (and brown headed in the case of the females).
Shovelers are really good birds in the area and I can count on one finger how many times I have seen them in New England. It was a great birthday present - my 13th being on the 29th of November.
Northern Shoveler

On November 28th at Second Beach Campground (the place where the Green-tailed Towhee was seen earlier in the year) we had a flock of Snow Bunting. But were unable to come up with anything more interesting then some Purple Sandpipers and a few Ruddy Turnstones at nearby Sachuest Point NWR (not even a Harlequin Duck damn it).

Snow Bunting

On the 29th (my birthday) I had a very large flock of Greater Scaup and some distant White-winged Scoter and Common Goldeneye at Sabin Point in East Providence.

I have seen the local Merlin which spends the winter in East Providence on the Sacred Heart Church Steeple quite a few times this week.

Good job to anybody how ID'd the Dunlin and the Greater Yellowlegs in the last photo quiz.
Here's your next quiz! Good Luck!
This photo was taken in August in Petersham, MA. This is a zoomed in on part of the bird.

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