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A CMBO ASSOCIATE NATURALIST’S TRIP - Round Trip from Cape May 1038 miles

Wednesday Feb. 18 - Met at 6:00 am at the CMBO Goshen Center, repacked our gear, settled our seating arrangements, used the facilities and started off at 6:30 am. Janet Crawford, Karen Johnson, David Lord, and our Leader Don Freiday were in the lead car (RAV4), Chuck & Mary Jane Slugg, and Roger & Kathy Horn were in Chuck’s big Buick, while Karl Lukens, Tom Parsons, and Warren Cairo settled in Karl’s Dodge Minivan.

Approximately 400 miles, several “pit stops”, and 7 1/2 hours later we were checked into the Fairfield Inn in Amesbury Mass. and ready for birding. The sky was cloudy with some wind and 38-40 degree temperatures. A flock of 35 Cedar Waxwings was feeding on holly berries at the motel.

We headed for Salisbury Beach State Reservation looking for Crossbills, Owls, waterbirds, etc. We were losing light as we got there. Several traverses of the campground produced no crossbills. Karl managed to find an adult Kumlien’s Iceland Gull in a parking lot with herrings and ring-bills. Nice looks and photo ops. Another lot had 2 Horned Larks. Don found us a perched Kestrel and Merlin, and we had loons, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, etc. in the bays.

Darkness came and we returned to the motel and readied for dinner at “Stripers”. Some rain began to fall. Dinner was excellent (good New England Clam “Chowda“). We had to roust Tom from an after dinner “nap” with more than a little difficulty, and headed back to get some much needed rest - a long day. Raining.

Thursday Feb. 19 - Motel breakfast at 6:30 am and out to the cars at 7:00 to head for the Gloucester Harbor area, about a 45 minute drive through heavy rain and some fog. Temperature about 40. By 9:15 am the rain was stopping and clearing looked like it was coming. We birded the statue area at Pavilion Beach getting Common Eiders, Long-tails, Horned Grebe, Common Goldeneyes, White-winged Scoter, another adult Kumlien’s Gull, and took some “tourist-type” photos at the statue of the Gloucester Fisherman. Don found an alcid and got us on it and although a scope bird we got good looks and proclaimed it a Thick-billed Murre.

We decided to go to the Gloucester State Fish Pier and maybe get a better look at the Murre somewhere. At the pier area we had numerous 1st year and adult Iceland Gulls, a couple of 1st year Glaucous Gulls, and believe it or not, Karen Johnson found a Snowy Owl sitting up on some dock machinery!! Nice birding but time for a Dunkin’ Donuts break, and on to various spots along the harbor heading to Eastern Point. Niles Beach and Pond were rather slow but the Dog Bar Breakwater had Purple Sandpipers, and several Black Guillemots, not too far off, in both winter and breeding plumage. We had some wind, but the temperature was in the 40’s and blue sky showing. On the way off the point we found 2 Wild Turkeys.

From here we birded the Rockport coast including, Bearskin Neck, Pigeon Cove, Andrew’s Point, and Folly Cove. We found more Guillemots, many Eiders, Harlequin Ducks, a fly-by Peregrine Falcon, and 5-6 Razorbills. The Locust Grove/Seaside Cemetery provided us with a few land birds. We then headed back to the motel at about 4:45 pm and prepared for a good dinner at Michael’s a familiar place to some of us. We met Pat and Clay Sutton at the restaurant and exchanged birding information. They were leaving the next morning. On our way back to the motel some wet snow was falling and the temperature was dropping.

Friday Feb. 20 - Again a complimentary breakfast at 6:30 am and off to the south jetty area of Newburyport Harbor and Plum Island - after clearing off 2 inches of frozen-on snow from the cars - 19 degrees, windy and getting windier! Lots of Common Loons, and Red-necked Grebes at the inlet, but no Crossbills at the lighthouse pines. We were greeted by a closed gate at Plum Island, they had not yet plowed the road, so we stopped at the Mass Audubon Center in the Jappa Flats area and browsed while getting some local info on the plowing. Here we picked up a Bald Eagle and Goldfinch and then moved on to bird the Merrimac River while waiting for the plows to clear Plum Island road.

At one acces to the river we found a couple of Bald Eagles and managed to see one - maybe 3rd yr. bird - snag a Starling and proceed to eat it on the wing like some large Merlin. Among the Common Goldeneyes and Mergansers, Don found a Goldeneye female with an entirely orange-yellow bill. Good scope looks, but we wanted a closer look, but could not re-find the bird at another upstream access. All agreed it was a Barrow’s Goldeneye. Now time to do Plum Island.

Still closed! So now to the Parker River NWR headquarters to get up-to-date information and a “potty stop“. They said Plum should be plowed and open shortly. Meanwhile their feeders produced Am. Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, and a Siskin seen by a few.

No land birds on the way out to the gate entrance. Shortly thereafter we saw car stopped and looking at something in the dunes. We quickly had a well hidden Snowy Owl on the leeward side of a large sand dune. Nice looks. The road was open to HellCat and we birded our way down. At one stop we had a small flock of White-winged Crossbills fly by. At HellCat we had Black-capped Chickadees, and Tree Sparrows. We braved the 20 degree 20 mph wind to trudge out to the lookout and returned to the cars to leave the island. All the while we were on “Shrike Watch” but with no luck. As we left HellCat Kathy spotted some bird activity in the woods and we all jumped out and found a flock of ~35-40 Common Redpolls near the area Pat and Clay had them 2 days earlier. Nice! As we got near the gate Warren saw some birds in a pine which turned out to be White-winged Crossbills. Hard to see as they were on the back side of the large pine . As we called to the others ahead of us they radioed that a flock was coming our way. They landed in the same tree but views were bad. The Snowy Owl was still in his original place in the dunes. We left for the Audubon center to ready ourselves for the ride home, and as it was 2:00 pm, we asked about a place to eat. They recommended a simple but good place up the road - Bob Lobster. It was very good and hit the spot for everyone, even had Horned Larks outside. Nice Lobster Rolls and Clam or Fish Chowder.

On the road at 3:00pm, and although we did not stick together, we all hit the Hartford traffic and were home at around 11:00 pm. A good time was had by all.

The end.!