Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Waterfowl Numbers Building in Our Area
November 30, 2019
By Steve Grinley
Late autumn is always a “ducky” time in the bird world. The number of ducks and geese continue to build as migrants stop over on our rivers, lakes, ponds and ocean. Some of the wintering ducks are also starting to arrive.
At least six species of geese were seen in Massachusetts this week. There are always thousands of Canada geese throughout the state, including more than three thousand alone on the Putnamville Reservoir on the Danvers/Topsfield line. A careful scan of these flocks will often reveal other less common geese.
The cackling goose, a miniature Canada goose was once a subspecies of the Canada, and a few of these have been spotted this week. Snow geese have been seen with Canada geese on Scotland Road in Newbury and off Argilla Road in Ipswich. A greater white-fronted goose was also in Ipswich recently, and others have been seen south of Boston and in western Massachusetts. Even more rare is a pink-footed goose found with a flock of geese on the Connecticut River in Agawam and a barnacle goose feeding with other geese on a golf course in Milton this week.
More than twenty species of waterfowl may be seen on Plum Island and around the Newburyport area this time of year. In addition to the hundreds of black ducks on Plum Island are mallards and gadwall, green-winged teal, northern pintail, northern shovelers and a few wigeon. All of these ducks are consider dabblers – mainly fresh water ducks that feed from the surface of the water. They are often seen tipping in the water, submerging their head and leaving their tail sticking up as they try to reach vegetation below the surface. On Plum Island, they are mostly seen in the Salt Pannes, in Bill Forward Pool, or at Stage Island Pool.
Joining the dabbling ducks have been some diving duck species that submerge completely to feed. Bufflehead, ruddy ducks, ring-necked ducks and scaup may be found at Stage Island. Hooded and red-breasted mergansers, are also present on the island. Small flocks of long-tailed ducks and a few American goldeneye are being seen in Newburyport Harbor.
Of course, many of these species of ducks can be found on ponds and reservoirs throughout our area. Large numbers of ring-necked, ruddy ducks, and bufflehead, along with common and red-breasted mergansers can be found on Cherry Hill Reservoir in West Newbury. Johnson’s Pond, on the Groveland-Boxford line, has been hosting ring-necked ducks, greater scaup, ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers, American coot and a few pied-billed grebes recently.
Off the coast there have been growing numbers of the larger sea ducks: common eiders and the three species of scoters. More than seventy common eider have been counted off Emerson Rocks on Plum Island and a drake King Eider was with them earlier this week. A large raft of eiders is, again, present this year off the jetty at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation. White-winged scoters are also numerous as are black and surf scoters.
In addition to the ducks, there have been good numbers of common and red-throated loons as well as horned and red-necked grebes off our beaches. Most of these birds will migrate through, but many winter off our coast. Add the continued gannet show to the ducks, loons and grebes and it is worth a trip to view the ocean for birds. The large white gannets with black wing tips are diving constantly in the ocean, many not far offshore, making for a spectacular sight.