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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cape Cod 12/24/12 (7:37am-4:42pm)

T'was the morn before Christmas and all through my head frolicked the noises of the Cape Codian highway and the Crosby, Stills and Nash playing on the stereo. “Chestnut-brown Canary, Ruby-throated Sparrow, sing your song...” yet my mind was distracted by the possibility of the more existent birds that awaited us this day. A single grey cloud swathed the horizon in a damp pallor, but we remained undaunted as we approached Provincetown. 


We arrived (”we” being grandfather, brother and I) in the seemingly deserted parking lot of Race Point as the clock dashed through the 8:40's. A screech of breaks, a slamming of doors and the zipping of coats and then we were enjoying the company of a Palm Warbler. It in turn was enjoying the roof of the abandoned park restrooms on which it’s frozen feet clutched in order not to be swept away by that unpleasant sea breeze. Palm Warblers tend to be rather uncommon so late in the season so this was a particularly pleasing find.

Approximately a minute later we tallied our first and only lifer of the day which came packaged in the form of an Iceland Gull, we would have five of the species by the end of the day.

Two of three Iceland Gulls sen at Race Point
Another Iceland Gull
Our confidence boosted to a level only attainable through good birding we advanced down the beach. Confidence alone however was not enough to keep the self warm through the billowing caresses of the frozen wind and we soon withdrew back to the comparative safety of the car. We had in this rather short time nonetheless seen a number of species including; Northern Gannets, Snow Buntings, White-winged Scoters, two more Iceland Gull and a particularly handsome Gray Seal.

The next stop on the route was one Herring Cove. While not being any great distance from the last beach it is quite unlike it’s counterpart. Most noticeable in comparison with Race Point is that this beach faces into the placid Cape Cod Bay instead of the unfriendly turmoil of waves and wind that is the great North Atlantic.

Abutted by towering dunes, those mighty piles of ground stone and shells looked upon so fondly by those unique beings, New Englanders, the beach glimmered in the now just appearing sun. Unions of hardy aves (gulls and cormorants) littered the beach in un-organized patches of cackling bills, flesh and feathers. In the water similar organizations had been founded by even more numerous Eiders, Scoters and Mergansers. Above them frequently could be seen small flocks of Dunlin carrying themselves east via sputtering flight. We soon grew tired of the location’s feathered selection who although all fascinating were of but a few species and all (still) common. As we departed a brief glimpse of a fly-by Iceland Gull made the walk worthwhile. 

A quick drive through some large salt marshes, where all to be seen was some mud, a kingfisher and a couple of American Black Ducks, and then through the center of town, which consisted solely of gift-shops, we found ourselves meandering down the town pier. 
Listen: I am unsure how the residents of Provincetown survive with a shopping venue which includes but baseball caps and magnets with lobsters on them and most notably does not include any edible items. 

Returning back to the thought-stream from which I have just strayed; here eiders, Buffleheads and goldeneyes floated amongst the boats of their anthropomorphic coworkers. Into the feathered stage rose to my eyes the princely crown of an immature King Eider. A most elegant duck who paddled about in circles for a good half-hour serving only to make us rather dizzy and bored. The motionless form of an elegant Oldsquaw came as a relief as did the return to CSN and the cushioned seats of the car. For those unfamiliar with the name “Oldsquaw”; it is the original (and offensive) title of the bird now referred to as the Long-tailed Duck, which I use only for its unorthodoxy. 
The King Eider and a Common Eider
A Common Loon at the Provincetown Docks

Next we ... this is getting boring and I want to start writing a post about the Dovekie we saw the other day, scratch this here’s a list (with attached notes and numbers when recorded):

X
Brant (Branta bernicla) - a few at First Encounter Beach.
X
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

X
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

X
American Wigeon (Anas americana) - a few in Marston's Mill Pond.
X
American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)

X
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

4
Northern Pintail (Anas acute) - Martson's Mill Pond.
X
Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) -Marston's Mill Pond.
1
King Eider (Somateria spectabilis) - Provincetown Docks.
X
Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)

X
White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca)

2
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis) - Provincetown Docks and Corporation Beach.
X
Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)

X
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

X
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

X
Common Merganser Mergus merganser)

X
Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator

X
Common Loon (Gavia immer)

X
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)

X
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
- Herring Cove.
1
Great Blue Heron (Ardea hernias)
- Marston's Mill Pond.
X
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

X
Sanderling (Calidris alba)
- a few with Dunlin at First Encounter Beach.
X
Dunlin (Calidris alpine) - Herring Cove flyby flocks and a small flock at First Encounter Beach.
X
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)

X
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

5
Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides) - 3 at Race Point, 1 at Herring Cove and another at Fort Hill.
X
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

X
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia)

X
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)

1
Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon)
- Hunting in a salt marsh in Provincetown.
X
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)

X
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

X
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

X
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

X
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)

X
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)

X
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)

1
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus

X
Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa - with Yellow-rumped Warbler at Fort Hill.
1
Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis - heard singing at Wellfleet Bay Audubon.
X
American Robin Turdus migratorius

2
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos

X
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

X
Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis)
- flyover flock at Race Point.
2
Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)
- Race Point and Fort Hill.
X
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) - flock at Fort Hill.
X
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arbor) - Wellfleet Bay Audubon feeders.
2
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) - at the feeders of Wellfleet Bay Audubon.
X
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melody)

1
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)
- in the grasses by Marston's Mill Pond.
X
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinals)

X
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoenixes) - flock at Wellfleet Bay Audubon.
X
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

X
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

55 species in total, an excellent number for a single December day in Massachusetts. Credit and thanks is owed to my grandfather for his willingness to drive us around Cape Cod on our annual Solstice birding trip.

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