Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Another Rare Eagle Visitor
January 21, 2022
By Steve Grinley
If you have been following my column, or watching local and national newscasts over the past month, you have likely heard about the rare Steller’s sea eagle, an East Asian species that has “toured” the United States this past year. It was seen in Dighton Mass on Dec 19 and stayed long enough for 200 birders from Massachusetts and nearby states to see the bird. It left that day and was re-found in Maine a couple of weeks later. It has spent the last few weeks wandering around the Boothbay area.
Local birders are hoping that the sea eagle will move back south to Massachusetts and to the Newburyport area. Well, it hasn’t yet, but we had our own special eagle show up this past week. An eagle was photographed last Sunday along the Merrimack River from Pleasant Valley Road on the Amesbury side. It was feeding on a goose on the frozen ice. With help from birding friends, the photographer’s photo was identified as a golden eagle.
Many birders have since seen this handsome immature bird, mostly from Deer Island this past week. It has been seen flying over Eagle Island where many bald eagles roost.
Common in other parts of the country, the golden eagle is rare here in Massachusetts. There is a breeding population in northern Quebec and we get annual sightings of birds migrating late in the fall at hawkwatch sites. One is sometimes seen in the fall migrating over our area. Golden eagle are sometimes found in the winter at Quabbin Reservoir feeding with the bald eagle population there. In all my years, I haven’t known of one feeding in winter with the bald eagles along the lower Merrimack River.
Hopefully this golden eagle will stay until the eagle festival in February. Or it could be a short-term visitor like the Steller’s sea eagle. Time will tell.
This past week’s windstorm drove many sea birds toward the shore as sea watchers spotted hundreds of gannets, kittiwakes and alcids. Many alcids were seen moving in close view from shore including common murres and puffins.
A dovekie was reported from the Marblehead Police headquarters, several blocks for any water. It was not clear from the report if it was blown there or if it was brought there after being blown ashore elsewhere. A dovekie was blown ashore in Salisbury and a rehabber was called to help that bird return to the ocean.
Margo and I found four alcid species in Gloucester Harbor after the storm. A black guillemot, three razorbills, a thick-billed murre and a dovekie were all seen well. Surf scoters, common eiders, a long-tailed duck and three common loons were also in the harbor.
Snowy owls are being seen most days in Salisbury and on Plum Island. We see one or two most days we are out. One is often perched on Woodbridge Island, seen from the Plum Island Causeway or with a scope from the Salisbury boat ramp. We have seen most viewers being respectful of these birds, though most owls have out in the marshes, safely away from people. We have seen a snowy surrounded in the dunes by cameras and, though they were some distance away, may still stress the bird. Please give these visiting owls plenty of space. Get the shot and leave.
Not many unusual reports from backyard feeders these days. The storms have brought more numbers of birds to the feeders. There was a report of male and female Baltimore orioles in Beverly visiting a heated bird bath.
There have also been a few reports of redpolls in the field, feeding on natural sources that may still be available. These birds could eventually join the goldfinches at your nyger feeders, so do watch for them, as well as for pine siskins at the nyger. There is plenty of winter ahead of us!