Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Birding

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I hope everybody is doing well, and enjoying the holiday. My thoughts are with you all, and especially with my Grandma and my Mom and her two sisters, Marilyn and Patti.

Last night I spent a very nice Christmas Eve with my cousin Kate and her husband Kevin, their two kids James and Petey, Kevin's parents and his sister's family. We had a wonderful meal and it is nice to spend some time with family when I am otherwise spending the holidays alone here in Boston. No reason for too much pity, however; I will be spending a week each in Cincinnati and on Whidbey Island in January.

Today was my second annual Christmas Birding trek to Plum Island. We are in the midst of a stellar year for winter finches and frugivores such as redpolls, bohemian waxwings, evening grosbeaks, crossbills, etc. In particular, Common and Hoary Redpolls have been reported very consistently in the Hellcat parking lot on Plum Island, and I was hoping to see them there. No such luck. It was actually a pretty quiet day, with low numbers of species and individuals found (at least by me and those I was with). Nonetheless, you couldn't have asked for a nicer day and as it turned out I found a few nice birds anyway.

The highlight had to be the northern shrike; I was driving south along the refuge road and saw a bird perched at the top of a roadside tree, cocking its tail and grappling with the branch in the breeze. I got out and saw that it was a northern shrike. I watched it for a half-minute or so before a small flock of goldfinches came along and buzzed it repeatedly; it left its perch and flew across the road into a thick bramble. I lost sight of it but a moment later I heard a cardinal start pitching a fit, and suddenly a female cardinal burst out of the shrubs and flew across the road, the shrike in close pursuit, maybe just four feet behind it. Then I lost them; I don't know who came out the winner.

Other highlights included a Rough-legged Hawk and a Snowy Owl. For those who are interested in what a slow christmas morning's birding at Plum Island might bring, here is my complete list of species: Candada Goose, American Black Duck, Snow Bunting, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Northern Shrike, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, American Robin, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Tree Sparrow, European Starling, Northern Harrier, Snowy Owl, Horned Lark, American Crow, Blue Jay, Rough-Legged Hawk, Mallard, White-winged Scoter, Common Loon, Mourning Dove.

On the way home, I stopped off at the Ipswich River Sanctuary, still hoping for the redpolls. No dice, and their feeders were empty, so it was very quiet. However, I did add: Red-tailed Hawk (a wonderful view), Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse and one very friendly Chickadee that kept landing on my head! (They are used to handouts here).

On my way home, I also saw a Raven, my second for the week (the first was in Newton, outside my place of employment, of all places).

Not a bad morning, after all. 28 species. Later on I'll check massbird.org and see some fellow birder post 50-60 species (or more!) in the same locations, I'm sure.

Merry Christmas!!

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