Monday, February 15, 2010

New England, U.S.A - Jan / Feb 2010 (7)

Day Thirteen - The Coast

male Bufflehead

A later start, a few changes in schedule, and an ultimately ill-fated morning at the base of Cape Cod.... with only a couple of hours before L & P had to head back south, the gods were less kind for the morning session. Sandy Neck beach (a site where I'd previously watched thousands of Scoters and other ducks) was a bird-free zone, except for a pair of Bluebirds along the approach road; an attempted twitch for a wintering Townsend's Solitaire in a well-to-do suburb in Yarmouth port had the writing on the wall when we found a male Merlin relaxing in the bird's favoured group of trees (but thanks anyway Peter); and with time running out, the only option was to indulge in abject gluttony at a local diner.

White-winged Scoters, New Bedford

Fond farewells exchanged and daylight still remaining, Neil and I decided to try New Bedford - a run-down, trashy port town nearby with an attraction to gulls (and probably to fans of poor quality class A's). Not a great deal around the business end of town, but more success along the peculiarly urban beach that runs along the bay in the centre of town. The conditions were great for enjoying seaducks, loons and grebes, with the highlights being yet more ridiculously tame scoters (with White-winged again acting like curious Mallards in a London park), at least 45 Slavonian Grebes in several flocks, and two pairs of always impressive Long-tailed Ducks.

A small group of nearby gulls included the bird pictured below, alongside American Herring and Ring-billed; the jury is (and may have to remain) out on a positive ID, but the most likely answer appears to be a hybrid, perhaps most plausibly Glaucous x American Herring Gull.

With some light left, we returned to Horseneck Beach, and encountered much the same (very welcome) selection as previously - scoters, sawbills, the female Merlin (appearing not to have moved), flocks of Purple Sandpipers and Dunlin, the tame groups of Greater Scaup, loons and grebes, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and two Northern Harriers - one of which apparently came straight in off the sea and over the bay.

Greater Scaup and American Eiders, Horseneck

But once again the highlight on the point were the Ipswich Sparrows, running like mice (often towards us) and giving excellent views as the laight faded.

Slavonian (Horned) Grebe, Horseneck Beach

Our coastal base at Westport produced a few nice species in the garden over the three days; alongside the commoner passerines, Hermit Thrush, Carolina Wrens and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker were all showing well.

Red-bellied Woodpecker and Carolina Wren, Westport