Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Waterfowl Highlight Coastal Birding
November 7, 2009
By Steve Grinley

     November is always a “ducky” month in the bird world. The number of ducks continue to build as migrants stop over on our rivers, lakes, ponds and ocean. Some of the wintering ducks are also starting to arrive.

     Tom Wetmore (a.k.a. Mr. Plum Island when it comes to birds) saw twenty-two species of waterfowl on Plum Island this past Thursday. In addition to the usual black ducks, mallards and gadwall, there were American wigeon, green-winged teal, northern pintail northern shovelers. 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 Pannes, in Bill Forward Pool, or at Stage Island Pool.

     Joining the dabbling ducks have been some diving duck species. Tom found two ruddy ducks along with ring-necked ducks and greater scaup at Stage Island. Hooded and red-breasted mergansers, also diving ducks are also present on the island. Small flocks of long-tailed ducks and one of the first American goldeneye of the season flew past Emerson Rocks off Lot 7 that same morning.

     Of course, many of these species of ducks can be found on ponds and reservoirs throughout our area. Large numbers of ring-necked ducks, along with ruddy ducks, 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, American wigeon, ruddy ducks, hooded mergansers and American coot.

     Off the coast of Salisbury and Plum Island, 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 there is often a large raft of eiders just off the jetty at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation. White-winged scoters are the most numerous of our local scoter species with several hundred counted offshore. Fifty to a hundred black scoters were counted off Plum Island and almost as many surf scoters have been found.

     In addition to the ducks, there have been large numbers of red-throated loons this past week off our beaches. Upwards of a hundred red-throated loons, many of them not very far offshore, have dwarfed the number of common loons lately. Most of these birds will migrate through, but many winter off our coast. In addition, horned and red-necked grebes are showing up in small numbers off Plum Island this week.

     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. An immature gannet was even seen in Newburyport Harbor this week from the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education Center.

     If you would like to see some of these birds, you are welcome to join me for a free bird walk this Sunday, November 8. We are going to meet at 1:00 pm at Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift at the Traffic Circle in Newburyport. There is no pre-registration, just show up! From there we will carpool and head to the coast to view some of these waterfowl and perhaps a few land birds as well. It is a bit early for eagles and snowy owls, but who knows!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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