By leaving a day early and returning late on the last day of a conference, I was able to combine a business trip to New London (west-central New Hampshire) with some birding. Most birders' target bird in that area is Bicknell's Thrush, which it should be for me as well, but I decided against that for this trip for a variety of reasons: It takes a lot of time to find the bird, a visual observation is far from given, especially late in the breeding season, and I don't have a good recording of the song to help me identify a singing bird. Furthermore, the number of species as well as individual birds along the coast was more promising, with at least one other target life bird possible: Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, plus some unlikely out-of-season candidates. I therefore spent most of the first two days (weekend) along the coast between Plum Island, Massachusetts, and Portland, Maine.
This wasn't my first trip to New England. A few years ago, I took my family on a summer vacation trip through the area, but since then I have become a much more capable birder, and this time I was able to spend all my spare time birding.
I arrived around lunch time in Manchester (NH) where I rented a car. A quick stop along the airport perimeter road (from the airport access road, turn right at the sign for a fire station) next to a swamp yielded the first nice birds, two of which I never again saw during the trip: Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Pine Warbler.
Then I drove to the coast which I reached at Hampton Beach. The weather being still sunny, there were lots of people around, but I accumulated the typical herons (marsh), gulls, and some shorebirds anyway. The rocky beach ca. two miles north of the end of NH-51 was fairly productive for the latter, although no rare species were found.
I continued north on NH-1A along the coast, stopping wherever it was possible. Near Rye, I found a few White-winged Scoters and an immature Common Loon. The clouds started moving in, and soon the sun disappeared.
My next stop was at the corner of Odiorne St.P., where the road crosses a small river at a boat ramp. Several hiking trails lead into the park from here, and I made a short loop toward the bay. A scolding American Redstart was a new warbler for the day, and Tufted Titmouse is always nice to see. However, while I was on the trail, the thunderstorm moved in, and I got completely drenched in a heavy downpour.
After changing clothes, I now headed south on US-1, which has a lot of traffic and is generally slow. At least the rain stopped for the next couple of hours. I again drove out to Hampton Beach but now turned south. At the south end of town I stopped at the draw bridge and checked out the Piping Plover/Least Tern breeding exclosure on the beach, but none of these were visible. There were shorebirds along the inlet, but nothing new, thus I continued through Salisbury, and Newburyport (Massachusetts) to Plum Island and the Parker River N.W.R. (also visited in 1995).
Purple Martins were near their houses, and I added several shrub (Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Northern Mockingbird) and marsh birds (Canada Goose, Am. Black Duck, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Osprey) to the day list. More remarkable, at least to me, was a Tricolored Heron at Hellcat Swamp. Again, the usual shorebirds (both Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plover and Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Sanderling, Least Sandpiper, Willet) were found.
As it started to rain again, and the daylight started to fade, I called it a day and drove on the tollroad to South Portland (Maine), where I had a hotel reservation.
Day total: 60 species (40 in New Hampshire and 48 in Massachusetts).
I had chosen my overnight location to be near Scarborough Marsh for the Sharp-tailed Sparrows (both species had been reported on the hotline). However, I forgot the instructions to the marsh at home, and it took me a while to find it. In fact, I ended up birding several other places before I reached the marsh. The first place was the tiny resort of Higgins Beach. While it seems impossible to park there, I was still able to pull over at the north end of town and scan the beach and mudflats from the side of the road (the overcast weather kept the people away). Again, I found the expected gulls and shorebirds, but this time two Whimbrels and a Least Tern added some excitement.
I worked my way south on the peninsula and found myself in Prouts Neck (parking at the boat ramp). Common Terns were especially numerous there but not much else. Along the road was an overlook over the north end of Scarborough Marsh which yielded many herons (including the only Green Heron of the trip and the first of several Little Blue Herons) and a possible Glossy Ibis which could not be seen unobstructed. A Red-breasted Nuthatch called from across the road.
Back via US-1 to Pine Point Road (ME-9). Again, I passed by the marsh proper and went all the way to Pine Point, which was a waste of time (one looks at the same inlet as from Prouts Neck). On the way back, I found a brand new community natural area with some freshly cut trails through scrub and forest to the edge of the marsh. This was quite productive, with two Great Crested Flycatchers, Chestnut-sided and Black-and-white Warblers, and the only seen Northern Cardinals of the trip. I also heard probable Fish Crows calling from the marsh.
Finally, I found the Audubon trailer at the marsh and was instructed on where to go to find the sparrows: 1/4 mile east, park at a brick pump house and walk along an old roadbed across the marsh to where there are some shrubs on the side. Along the way, I spotted a distant Willet, several more Little Blue Herons, a Tricolored Heron, an Am. Black Duck, and some Swamp Sparrows. At the indicated place, I started to scan the short grass marsh for Sharp-tailed Sparrows, and soon birds started to pop up briefly, giving glancing views. The majority went unidentified, but at least one Saltmarsh and a couple of subvirgatus Nelson's were obvious. For distinguishing features, see David Sibley's June 1996 article in Birding magazine and Jim Rising's and David Beadle's The Sparrows of the United States and Canada (Academic Press, 1996). The National Geographic field guide (3rd ed.) doesn't seem adequate for this ID problem.
I then drove (again on extremely busy US-1) to the Rachel Carson N.W.R. just north of Wells. Contrary to expectations (especially for a coastal location), the trails of the refuge pass mainly through woodlands, with only occasional, distant views over the tidal marsh. My best birds here were a Hairy Woodpecker, a loudly singing Hermit Thrush, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Wells Harbor was my final stop along the coast. With the low tide, it had a lot of shorebirds (but nothing new), and a few Least Terns. The last bird in Maine was an American Kestrel near South Berwick. The remainder of the afternoon was spent driving in increasing rain to the conference site in New London, NH.
Day total: 66 species, all in Maine.
Most of these days were spent at a scientific conference at Colby-Sawyer College. It rained at least until the morning of August 2, and it was foggy until the 3rd. I added a few birds on campus, such as Chipping Sparrow and Eastern Bluebird, and the most unusual sighting was a Greater Yellowlegs with Killdeer on a soggy soccer field.
On August 2 I had a few hours in the afternoon, and as the rain had finally stopped, I drove to nearby Winslow St.P. ($2.50/person fee). The main attraction there is the trailhead to Mt. Kearsarge (1100 ft climb), but even in the parking lot there were "good" birds: singing White-winged Crossbill and Purple Finch. I decided to climb the mountain on the longer, less steep trail, which was very muddy. Interesting birds noted along the way were: Hermit Thrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, Black-throated Blue and Nashville Warblers. Dark-eyed Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets were numerous. Along the way up, the sun came through for brief moments, but when I reached the top after much huffing and puffing, I was in the fog again. I took the much faster descent on the steeper trail (less mud but more running water over bare rock) and found a Blue-headed Vireo almost at the trail head.
Day total for August 2: 22 species.
On August 3, I also had a few hours which I spent near the east shore of Lake Sunapee. The first stop was at a forest reserve near Chalk Pond, where I followed a gently sloping logging road up the hill. Here I found again several warblers (Magnolia, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green etc.) and a family of Scarlet Tanagers. The other stop was at John Hay N.W.R. Again, the trail was mainly through the woods. Not many birds were evident, but there was a profusion of mushrooms. Most of the birds were in the berry shrubs around the historic mansion ("The Fells"), including the only Baltimore Oriole of the trip.
Day total for August 3: 25 species.
I only had to be in Manchester around 6 pm, and the conference ended soon after breakfast, thus I had most of the day for birding. Furthermore, the weather was picture perfect sunny, around 70°F. I first drove northwest on US-4, with an interesting birding stop (old railroad grade) near Grafton: 5 warbler species (incl. Canada), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Least Flycatcher, two Purple Finches, and a pair of Belted Kingfisher.
My map showed a road connecting Canaan with Newfound Lake to the east through Cardigan St.P., but the road that I found dead-ended at the state park. I birded for a while in the vicinity of the trailhead but except for Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers didn't find much interesting.
Therefore, I continued north on NH-118 and in West Rumney (two Common Raven flying over the road) turned southeast on NH-25. A sign to "Quincy Bog Natural Area" looked inviting, and I found it near the town of Quincy. It turned out to be a very nice Nature Conservancy site with a botanically high quality bog and a 1-mile loop trail. However, the birding wasn't too exciting in the midday lull.
I then drove south on NH-3A (note that contrary to some maps, the Quincy bypass rejoins NH-25 east, not west, of the 3A turnoff!), but drove around Newfound Lake on the west side. There is an Audubon Nature Center with some nice trails at Paradise Point. There I added Blackburnian Warbler to the list. A second Audubon center affords a nice overlook over Hebron Marsh but the birds were scarce.
Heading south, I saw a soaring Osprey while I was stopped at a traffic light in Franklin. My last birding excursion was to follow a hotline report of a Sandhill Crane along Long Road northwest of Boscawen, but I wasn't able to find the bird. A Red-tailed Hawk near Concord was the last addition to the trip list. Manchester, which had seemed so sleepy on the day of my arrival was a madhouse with an enormous traffic jam, and I almost missed my plane back.
Day total: 43 species.
Species Scientific Name Dates States -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Common Loon Gavia immer 29 NH Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias 29, 30, 3, 4 NH, MA, ME Great Egret Ardea alba 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Snowy Egret Egretta thula 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea 30 ME Tricolored Heron Egretta tricolor 29, 30 MA, ME Green Heron Butorides virescens 30 ME ? Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus 30 ME Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura 4 NH Canada Goose Branta canadensis 29, 30 MA, ME Gadwall Anas strepera 29 MA American Black Duck Anas rubripes 29, 30 MA, ME Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 29, 30, 3 MA, ME, NH Green-winged Teal Anas crecca 29 MA White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca 29 NH Osprey Pandion haliaetus 29, 4 MA, NH Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii 30 ME Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis 4 NH American Kestrel Falco sparverius 30, 2 ME, NH Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Killdeer Charadrius vociferus 29, 31 - 4 NH Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca 29, 30, 31 NH, MA, ME Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia 29, 30, 3 NH, ME Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 30 ME Sanderling Calidris alba 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus 29, 30 MA, ME Bonaparte's Gull Larus philadelphia 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis 29, 30, 4 NH, MA, ME Herring Gull Larus argentatus 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Common Tern Sterna hirundo 29, 30 NH, MA, ME Least Tern Sterna antillarum 30 ME Rock Dove Columba livia 29, 30, 4 NH, MA, ME Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura 29, 30, 2 - 4 NH, MA, ME Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica 29 MA Belted Kingfisher Ceryle alcyon 29, 4 NH Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius 2, 4 NH Hairy Woodpecker Picoides villosus 30 ME Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus 29, 4 NH Eastern Wood-Pewee Contopus virens 30, 3, 4 ME, NH Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus 4 NH Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe 30, 3, 4 ME, NH Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus 30 ME Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus 29 - 4 MA, ME, NH Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius* 2 NH Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus 30, 3, 4 ME, NH Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata 30, 3, 4 ME, NH American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos 29 - 4 MA, ME, NH ? Fish Crow Corvus ossifragus 30 ME Common Raven Corvus corax 4 NH Purple Martin Progne subis 29 MA Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor 29, 30 MA, ME Bank Swallow Riparia riparia 30 ME Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica 29, 30, 3, 4 MA, ME, NH Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus 29 - 4 MA, ME, NH Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor 29, 30, 4 NH, ME Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitta canadensis 30, 2, 4 ME, NH White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis 3 NH Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 2 NH Marsh Wren Cistothorus palustris 30 ME Golden-crowned Kinglet Regulus satrapa 2 NH Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis 1 NH Hermit Thrush Catharus guttatus 30, 2 - 4 ME, NH American Robin Turdus migratorius 29 - 4 MA, ME, NH Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis 29 - 31, 3, 4 MA, ME, NH Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos 29 NH, MA Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum 29 MA European Starling Sturnus vulgaris 29 - 4 MA, ME, NH Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum 29 - 31, 3, 4 NH, MA, ME Nashville Warbler Vermivora ruficapilla 2, 4 NH Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia 29, 31 MA, NH Chestnut-sided Warbler Dendroica pensylvanica 30, 4 ME, NH Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia 3, 4 NH Black-throated Blue Warbler Dendroica caerulescens 2 - 4 NH Yellow-rumped Warbler Dendroica coronata 30, 2 - 4 NH Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens 3, 4 NH Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca 4 NH Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus 29 NH Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia 30 ME American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla 29, 4 NH, MA Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas 29, 30, 3, 4 MA, ME, NH Canada Warbler Wilsonia canadensis 4 NH Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea 3 NH Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus 29 MA Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina 31 - 4 NH Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow Ammodramus nelsoni 30 ME Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow Ammodramus caudacutus 30 ME Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia 29 - 31, 3, 4 NH, MA, ME Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana 30 ME White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis 2, 3 NH Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis 2 NH Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis 30 ME Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus 29 NH Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus 29 - 31 NH, MA, ME Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula 29, 30, 4 NH, MA, ME Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater 29 NH Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula 3 NH Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus 2, 4 NH House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus 29 - 31 NH, MA, ME White-winged Crossbill Loxia leucoptera 2 NH American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis 29 - 4 NH, MA, ME House Sparrow Passer domesticus 29 - 31, 4 NH, MA, ME
Trip total: 108 species, of which one life bird (Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow) and two unconfirmed IDs (Glossy Ibis and Fish Crow). In addition to Fish Crow, two species (Marsh Wren and Eastern Towhee) were heard only. I had 14 warbler species, all seemingly on breeding territory.
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