Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Two Amazing Birds This Week
December 15, 2023
By Steve Grinley
Margo and I saw a couple of amazing birds this past week that I would like to share with you:
A rare Virginia’s warbler was discovered by Steve Mirick in in Bicentennial Park in Hampton, New Hampshire last week. The Virginia’s warbler is a bird of the southwestern states and this was only the second record for New Hampshire. Margo and I each saw this bird in Arizona seventeen years ago!
We decided to ventured over the border to try to see it the next day.
Bicentennial Park is a small, beachside park with a few juniper trees scattered in the north end of the park. Most reports were that the bird was elusive, moving around the small park and only providing brief views, so we didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. When we parked, we met a few birders that had seen the warbler and pointed us in the direction of other birders who were still trying to see the bird.
As we walked into the area of the junipers, half a dozen birders were scattered and looking in different directions. Each was bundled in down jackets as it was a cold day and there was a biting wind from the northwest. One of the birders was Sam Mroz who was originally from Seattle and who we use to take birding when he was younger. Now in college at Dartmouth, he was here looking for the same rare bird. It was great to see Sam again!
Together we all watched several birds flitting from tree to tree. We saw ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets and a couple of brightly colored orange-crowned warblers, which are always nice to see. The orange-crowned warblers even perched on the side of the juniper trunks, in the open, for great looks. Unfortunately, the other birds seemed to prefer the dense foliage of the trees, making them difficult to see and to identify.
After some time, we did catch glimpses of the Virginia’s warbler among the branches of the junipers. It was mostly gray, unlike the bright yellow of the orange-crowned warblers. It did have an eye-ring like the ruby crowned kinglet, but lacked the kinglet’s white wing-bars. Its bright yellow vent and the yellow on the breast were its most distinguishing marks. The bird was very actively feeding, darting from tree to tree and burying itself in the foliage each time.
In the cold couple of hours that we were there, we were able to get a number of quick, but diagnostic views of the rare warbler. The combination of all our brief views gave us confidence of the identification, but Margo wasn’t able to get any decent photographs of the elusive Virginia’s warbler, despite her best efforts. Still, we left satisfied to have seen a bird that we had only seen once so many years ago.
The second amazing bird was a total surprise. It is always more satisfying when you find a bird on your own that you don’t expect to see. We were driving north on Routes 1A/133 in Ipswich near the Rowley line when Margo started raising her binoculars to view a bird in the sky on her side of the road. She exclaimed “I thought it was a red-tail but it is large and dark underneath. We need to turn around.”
I turned the car around and I was able to pull far enough off the road to give us time to view the bird. It was circling high and the sun was shining on it from above. It was large, dark underneath, and the first thing I notice were the large yellow feet. It had long wings with “fingers.” It was an eagle.
Since the bird was now on my side of the road, Margo viewed it through the sunroof, but then quickly stepped out of the car with her binoculars and camera. The eagle was still circling in the thermal when it banked enough for us to see white at the base of the tail and its golden nape glistened in the sunlight. It was a golden eagle!
We watched the eagle fold its wings and grab the wind to move the bird southwest high over the road and out of sight. Margo jumped back into the car and we reversed direction once more. We pulled into White Farms parking lot where we relocated the golden eagle again, circling again high in the thermals.
The eagle became more silhouetted against the afternoon sun. We watched for a short time longer as it drifted southwest before it became obscured by the trees. We turned around again and headed west along Rt 133 to see if we could still track it, but we didn’t see it again. A golden eagle – definitely the “bird of day” that day!