This trip was mainly a family sightseeing trip, with several occasions for me to find a couple hours of birding time. I will only mention here the bird sightings and omit the other trip details. A Birder's Guide to Eastern Massachusetts (Bird Observer/ABA, 1994) was a very helpful resource.
Drive along I-80, then I-84 to southeastern Connecticut (Groton). No interesting birds except for the occasional TURKEY VULTURE or RED-TAILED HAWK.
Early morning, I drove to the University of Connecticut campus at Avery Point, where I looked for and found the flock of WILSON'S STORM- PETREL which had been on the CT hotline for several weeks. This was a rare occurrence of this species feeding in in-shore waters, here the mouth of the Thames River. On a rock with several GREAT BLACK-BACKED and HERRING GULLS was an AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER. Among the gulls and terns were also a LAUGHING GULL and both COMMON and FORSTER'S TERNS (I think, after consulting Kaufman's Advanced Birding). An OSPREY glided over the water, and DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS were everywhere. Swallows of three species (BARN, TREE, and BANK) were in the air. A pair of MUTE SWANS begged for handouts.
In the afternoon, we made an extensive picnic and swimming stop at the town beach of Matunuck, RI (not the state park which was one bay to the east). There, I found a flock of LEAST TERNS, as well as COMMON, also the usual assortment of the common gulls and cormorants. The rising tide brought in some RUDDY TURNSTONES for a quick meal. Other, unidentified sandpipers kept flying by.
Along the road to the Boston area, I also encountered the first NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD of the trip (a rarity where I live).
This day consisted of a day trip to Cape Cod (MA). At the suggestion of Paul DeBenedictis, I dropped off the other family members at the Coast Guard Beach in Eastham and went birding. The first stop was Fort Hill, a grassy overlook over a vast salt marsh. Due to the high tide there were no shorebirds to be seen except for quick fly-by's, but numerous herons stuck out of the marsh: GREAT BLUE HERON, SNOWY EGRET, and a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, and possibly a distant immature (white-plumaged) LITTLE BLUE HERON. A pair of OSPREYS were on or near a platform nest.
Then there was a little time for a trail along an inlet and another marsh near the Natl. Seashore Visitor Center. In the more protected marsh, I found a GREATER YELLOWLEGS, a SOLITARY SANDPIPER, and a few LEAST SANDPIPERS. Two BELTED KINGFISHERS were chasing each other, and one performed a spectacular dive right in front of me. A GREEN HERON let me approach much closer than I'm normally used to.
Later in the afternoon, we drove all the way to Race Point near Provincetown, at the tip of the cape. Far out, I could discern a few more WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS through the scope. A quick stop along the Provincetown harbor, now in falling tide, yielded large flocks of mainly SANDERLING, SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, and SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER.
On the way back, we made another stop around sunset at Fort Hill, with muck exposed for numerous shorebirds (most beyond even scope range). Among the identified ones were the ubiquitous semipalms, a few BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, and some Dowitchers (Short-billed?). A BLACK TERN popped up for a short flight before disappearing in the marsh again, and I found a few more BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS.
Early morning, I decided to check out the shorebirds on nearby Wollaston Beach (Quincy, MA) while the others slept in. Except for KILLDEER and a confirmation on SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, there were the same species as at the previous locations (including RUDDY TURNSTONE). However, the numbers and good views allowed me to study these species more closely than what's usually possible in the Chicago area.
Even larger numbers of the same species could be found in the late afternoon in a scan from the Ocean Spray cranberry information center in Plymouth (a short drive north of the famous rock). During one more stop, near the North River along the Scituate coast, I got a good and close look at a MARSH WREN, as well as the usual peeps.
This was the day of our morning whale watch out of Gloucester, MA (Yankee Fleet). The whales were great with Humpback, Fin, Minke, and rare Pilot Whales in good view. The only pelagic birds were WILSON'S STORM-PETREL, while the naturalist told me later that he quickly saw a distant shearwater, but didn't bother to point it out. The most surprising bird was a BARN SWALLOW that followed our boat for the entire trip. Both SNOWY and GREAT EGRET, as well as a BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER and several GREATER YELLOWLEGS could be seen in the harbor area.
After an afternoon nap, I dropped off the family in Newburyport (MA), while I took a look at Parker N.W.R. on Plum Island. Hellcat Swamp proved the most productive area, with six wader species (including a flock of several dozen GLOSSY IBIS), some CANADA GEESE, four BLUE-WINGED TEAL, and a NORTHERN HARRIER. The peeps appeared to be mostly LEAST SANDPIPERS, and there were both species of YELLOWLEGS, as well as both species of DOWITCHERS, allowing good comparisons. A SPOTTED SANDPIPER (without spots) patrolled the shore of the pond. Among the passerines were an EASTERN PHEOBE near the maintenance facility, and several PURPLE MARTIN colonies in several locations. YELLOW WARBLERS could be found in the shrubs near the Hellcat parking lot. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and daylight to check the harbor area for other shorebirds (especially godwits and Willet), and I didn't have any luck with sparrows, except for the occasional SONG SPARROW.
After some car trouble and a visit to Salem, we drove into New Hampshire where we stopped late afternoon at Rye Harbor State Park. There I could add BONAPARTE'S GULL to my list of gulls. A COMMON LOON in non-breeding plumage swam around the harbor. With the falling tide, shorebirds started to arrive: KILLDEER, SEMIPALMATED PLOVER, SANDERLING, GREATER YELLOWLEGS, SEMIPALMATED and LEAST SANDPIPERS. During a last stop along the coast in fading light at Rye North Beach, I found five WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS swimming in the sea.
Drive through the White Mountains, no birding.
In the morning, I thought I saw two COMMON RAVENS from outside the motel in Lancaster (NH), but I didn't have binoculars with me to confirm the identification. During the day, while driving across Vermont, I saw several more corvids that could have been ravens, but I could never get a decent look. A pair of COMMON LOON could be seen swimming on Molly's Falls Pond near Montpelier, VT. Another pit stop bird check in an interstate rest area near Burlington (VT) yielded a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH and an AMERICAN REDSTART.
Another such quick check at High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid (NY) revealed a BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER. On the other side of the Adirondacks, in Sackets Harbor (NY), I found the first CASPIAN TERNS of the trip, as well as several FORSTER'S.
During a brief visit to Boldt Castle, in the Thousand Islands area (Alexandria Bay, NY), I saw the only GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL away from a seashore. Apparently, this species has become sufficiently established in the Lake Ontario - St. Lawrence River area that even a casual visit can turn up a sighting.
Later that day, the most conspicuous birds were the numerous TURKEY VULTURES circling over the river canyon at Letchworth State Park in western New York. However, one tree along the trail by the waterfalls contained both a RED-EYED VIREO and a BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER feeding its chick.
Niagara Falls and drive through southern Ontario, no birding.
Early morning excursion into Point Pelee Natl. Park (Ontario). My first stop was at the marsh board walk (gorgeous sunrise!), where I found WOOD DUCKS, several MARSH WRENS, many SONG SPARROWS, and numerous BARN SWALLOWS. CASPIAN and other (Forster's?) TERNS flew around as well. However, I wasted too much time on the marsh trail, since a check of the tree alley revealed that the passerines were on the move! The first interesting one was a NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH, and looking up I saw a stream of PURPLE MARTINS, other swallows, and CHIMNEY SWIFTS moving toward the tip of the peninsula. I quickly relocated to the visitor center as far south as the road is open, and started birding a trail through low growth trees and shrubs along the beach. Empidonax flycatchers (some identified as LEAST FLYCATCHER, possibly others) were in just about every tree. Several NORTHERN ORIOLES and a SCARLET TANAGER flew between the higher tree tops. Several RUFOUS-SIDED TOWHEES were singing, but seeing one took some effort. In between flycatchers there were also warblers: BLACKBURNIAN, WILSON'S, YELLOW WARBLERS, and COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, as well as several BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS. Many of the gulls over the lake were BONAPARTE'S. Unfortunately, I had to leave this place long before I saw all the birds that were there, since we still had to drive back to Chicago that day.
* life bird; ? not certain identification
Common Loon Gavia immer Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus (*) Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias Great Egret Casmerodius albus Snowy Egret Egretta thula Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea (?) Green Heron Butorides virescens Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus Mute Swan Cygnus olor Canada Goose Branta canadensis Wood Duck Aix sponsa Mallard Anas platyrhynchos Blue-winged Teal Anas discors White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca (*) Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura Osprey Pandion halieatus Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis American Kestrel Falco sparverius Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus Killdeer Charadrius vociferus American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus (*) Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Sanderling Calidris alba Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus Laughing Gull Larus atricilla Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Herring Gull Larus argentatus Caspian Tern Sterna caspia Common Tern Sterna hirundo Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri Least Tern Sterna antillarum (*) Black Tern Chlidonias niger Rock Dove Columbia livia Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus Purple Martin Progne subis Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis (?) Bank Swallow Riparia riparia Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos Common Raven Corvus corax (?) Black-capped Chickadee Parus atricapillus Red-breasted Nuthatch Sittta canadensis White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea American Robin Turdus migratorius Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottus Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum European Starling Sturnus vulgaris Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas Wilson's Warbler Wilsonia pusilla Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Rufous-sided Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula Northern Oriole Icterus galbula House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Return to trip reports.