Tuesday, January 23, 2018

1.23.18  Tuesday Tweets - John Wing Trail - Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Brewster, MA 

Will we beat the rain, or won't we...?   Working outside often requires some gambling with Mother Nature.  She was kind to us this morning as we fit our full Tuesday Tweets in before the rains began.  It was a tad quiet as we started out over the salt marsh and there were definitely plenty of slick spots from the remaining ice.  Small snowy icebergs were scattered all over the marsh and they had done some damage to the phragmites (tall invasive reed grass) at the beginning of the trail.  The storms of the seasons truly shape the Cape and often in dramatic ways.  Yes, we travel this same trail twice a month, but each walk is different and we never really know who we'll see or hear.

The shore was quiet as well and it was close to dead low tide when we arrived.  The shell fishermen were busy out on the flats.  The fog was approaching from the southwest, but  we were bundled up and had already squished through the mud.  You can't go birdwatching in footwear you mind getting messy, you just won't have as good a time.  There were a few distant gulls we could see, and one of the Bird Nerds spotted a flock of Brants hundreds of feet out on the sand bar.  It was not a walk full of birds this morning, though we did have a great surprise...

As we entered back into the woodlands of Wing Island, a big blob up in a tree caught my eye.  I figured it was a nest at first, but I spied it through my binoculars anyway.  I saw fur.  I went to another angle to check this thing out, and I spotted a fuzzy ear, and a striped brown and black tail.  An Eastern Raccoon (!!!) enjoying a morning snooze.  This critter never raised her/his head, even with us making a fuss about 40 feet away from the prime nap spot  about 25 feet up on some strong pitch pine branches.  I get excited about all creatures, and a raccoon for me, was a big deal.  

We both saw and heard a few finale birds as we were just getting back to the museum: an American Goldfinch in his winter plumage and a Northern Flicker.  See... we just never know who will show up.  You should join us someday! (double click photos to enlarge)

Our List:
Northern Cardinal
Black-capped Chickadee
Song Sparrow
Ring-billed Gull
Red-tailed Hawk
Blue Jay
American Crow
Carolina Wren
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Northern Flicker
American Goldfinch

Northern Cardinal - male

Frozen Salt Hay on the salt marsh.  We wondered if it was extra white
due to frozen salt.  

Icy chunks still littered across the salt marsh

It is very clear to see which way the wind
typically blows on these trees.  They are not fairing so well
this winter.  The salty waters have reached them and many
of them have teetered over on their roots.  This will mean less
protection for the dunes behind this barrier of foliage.

We could see the fog rolling in from the south east.  It was such a peaceful walk this morning.

One of the museum's information signs has taken a beating with this last storm.

Much like underwater photos, you don't get the full color appreciation that we were able to see in this photo.
I realize the camera I was using on this day also has its own limitations.  Even in winter, there are lovely shades of nature.

Bird Nerds on Mammal Watch!
I have seen an Eastern Raccoon on a bird walk on Wing Island before but it was YEARS ago.
They were both doing the same thing though... having a deep sleep morning nap.

Looking southward at the back of the museum.  Notice all of the tall reeds  (Phragmites) on the right in front of the blue  Green Head Fly box.  Those reeds used to be all across this section of the marsh, but the icy bay waters crushed so many!

Can you spot the American Goldfinch?

There he is!
Bird Nerds!
Next opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 2.6.18 at 9am $4Members/$6Non-members

Happy Birding!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

1.14.18  Private Walk - Bass River - Dennis Salt Marsh
South Yarmouth & West Dennis, MA

When you get to do what you love, it doesn't mean you can't get into a funk sometimes.  It can be frustrating to find the time to enjoy the things that make you happy.  I thought in order to get outside in the freezing cold (21F, but 6F with the wind chill...)  and to be able to fit a bird walk in, I wanted to bring along another bird nerd.  I have had Andrew's photos and artwork featured on my blog here in the past and we were due for another time outside.  He promised to bundle up and he brought his binoculars and his camera, and we were off.  

Winter birdwatching is REALLY AWESOME on Cape Cod!  Why?  We have harbors and bays and estuaries and the ocean shore in general.  Some of the birds that we get to appreciate this time of year are migrant waterfowl.  Most of these migrants spend the "cold" months here, because they breed in the summer in northern Canada, some even close to the arctic circle.  So the temperatures we have in New England this time of year provide them with enough food to survive the winter.  

Some of these photos are mine and some are Andrew's.  I didn't let him know about the grand finale bird I was after and hoping to see while we were out... we saw her... a Snowy Owl.  Foolish me.  I didn't have a camera on Andrew's happy face when he spotted a wild Snowy Owl for the first time in his life.  I hope he remembers the moment as long as I will.

Our List:
Canada Goose
Great Black-backed Gull
American Black Duck
Common Eider
American Crow
American Robin
Herring Gull
Mute Swan
American Widgeon
Red-breasted Merganser
Hooded Merganser
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Checking out birds on Bass River from Wilbur Park

Andrew spotted the Song Sparrow, not easy even in this photo due to camouflage

There was so much activity there, we didn't want to leave. 
We WERE freezing though and needed to warm up in the car in between locations.

Mute Swan family
Mute Swan - Photo Credit: ANDREW
Mute Swan Family - Photo Credit: ANDREW

American Black Ducks & Great Black-backed Gull

Red-breasted Merganser - female

Ring-billed Gull

Canada Geese

Canada Geese

Andrew checking out a Mute Swan family

Bird Nerd!
Herring Gull - juvenile Photo Credit: ANDREW

Hooded Merganser pair in flight - Photo Credit: ANDREW

Common Eider flock in the distance - Photo Credit: ANDREW

The white blob next to the blue box on the marsh is indeed
a Snowy Owl!!!

Snowy Owl in the distance and happy young Bird Nerd!
Don't be daunted by the cold if you want to see beautiful birds that you only get to see on Cape Cod in the winter.  Bundle up, bring your binoculars and you're in for a birdy treat for a nerd!  Thanks for doing just THAT Andrew!  
Happy Birding!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


When we have the kind of crazy weather we've had for the past couple of weeks, it's treacherous enough to walk your dog on ice-covered streets and even yards.  I really don't like cancelling a bird walk, but I'm afraid I have to for today.  What I can report on is that wherever you see open water, watch for the waterfowl.  They are there.  They are beautiful and they are really fun to watch.  Bundle up!

Red-breasted Merganser -female & Great Black-backed Gull
seen on Bass River yesterday...

Next Opportunity for Tuesday Tweets: 1.23.18
Happy Birding!