Friday, March 29, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #13

Either I am overly ambitious, the '13' in the title of this post is responsible, or doing a 'big year' is far far more challenging than I had ever imagined.

Spring is upon us and the chance to get winter finches is  slipping away. With reports far afield and a convenient Thursday, I did some logistical planning in order to make the shlep worthwhile.

What started with a post mentioning Bohemian Waxwings in Queensbury, morphed into a much more extensive trip. Queensbury is the same distance as Carlisle, MA., but obviously it is better if more than one bird can be gotten on the same quest.

I discovered that the Bowax were also being seen near Utica, and the reports there about also indicated Sandhill Crane, Tundra Swan, and Evening Grosbeak. So I came up with  a plan...

Plotting the bird locations on a map and travel time I came up with this.

What - its only 640 miles round trip
Earic, Capt'n Bob, and I met at Mickey Deez at 7 am, because Bob had to drop his wife off at the airport. Otherwise, we would have left earlier. Making our way through morning traffic though, the traffic demons did their best to delay us.

The 'early morning' demons had their way with me though too, making me think less clearly than needed. I was going to go out I-80 and up I-81 to the Evening Grosbeaks first, but Bob inquired if I was going to stop at the station on the Palisades. This threw me off and after I realized it decided to do it the other way around. 

Once we made our way through the teeming masses, it was smooth sailing at "very good" highway speed. We arrived at our first destination an hour earlier than planned despite the initial displays. This is due to Bob's well developed foot flexor muscles when his foot is externally rotated.

So we arrive in the area of New Hartford, being guided by GPS coordinates. Nearing our destination, we passed an open field, where Earic spots a bunch of birds he says might be Starlings. Bob misses the cue that he is supposed to pull over immediately. Unfortunately, his foot does not seem to work equally well internally rotated: as he has not grasped the concept that 'STOP!' yelled by a birder means leave a skid mark. Way too far down the road to see the tree in question, I suggest we continue on to our destination instead of trying to u-turn.

We found the location easily enough, but the trees were devoid of birds. It became evident that there was a lot of fruiting trees and habitat for these birds to be in, and after walking around a while, we spotted a very large flock flying by and it was the Bowax!

We tried to drive around and see where they went, and eventually stopped at the field where the 'Starlings' were. They were still there, or the birds we saw fly by landed there. We set up scopes and got better looks. Had they been there all that while? And then as if on cue they departed!

We drove around some more and relocated the flock sitting high up in another tree near a small cemetery. We got scope looks, and then walked through the grounds to get a better look. All appeared to be Bowax, a lifer for Bob and year birds for me and Earic, but I was hoping for some Cedars as well as I needed that for the year too.

We drove around some more and stopped again at the field where Earic had first spotted the 'Starlings'. We pulled over and scanned, and while sitting there we suddenly discovered that we were just 15' away from a Barred Owl. He was sleeping sitting on a pole, just feet from the busy road!

Barred Owl on a Stick
Having done well, but mindful of the clock, we took off for our next destination in Montezuma NWR. The Knox-Marsellus Marsh had held Sandhill Cranes the day before, and we were told our best bet, as in most often seen here.

Scan we did, but no cranes did we find. We drove over some dirt roads for alternate vantages, while Bob boasted of his 4 wheel drive. What we did find was unexpected. Our next target bird was Tundra Swan, and several swans were out in the water, but these were actually Trumpeter Swans. A lifer for Bob, but Earic and I had had them already in Yaphank.

Trumpeter Swan
We tried some alternate locations, where we found rangers and were told the cranes were out in the marsh, or at least they were yesterday. We walked around, then drove to some other vantages, but no dice. Dang.

So we moved on to our next stop in Cayuga Lake. Lots of ducks, and I mean LOTS of ducks, but no Tundra Swans. Double Dang.

Time was slipping away, and we had a distance to go. We headed off and Bob was not amused by my prodding for haste, making excuses like: "I cannot pass that car" or "It's a red light" and "stop looking at the speedometer". 

We were vexed by small local roads and traffic with folks in a distinct lack of purpose in getting somewhere. But we finally arrived pretty close to where we were supposed to be on Carpenter Road in Georgetown.

The instructions given me were to look for a house before the first intersection with a lot of feeders in the yard. We only passed one house with feeders, and they were lonely and besides, filled with the wrong seed for Evening Grosbeaks. 

We tried surveying up and down the road and finally I decided that it was not the correct house. I was also told that the homeowner, Linda Salter was very birder friendly, so I tried googling her - its what a powerbirder does.

Lo and behold - I found a snippet with her name and a telephone number. Could I be so lucky? I tried it - figuring if it was the wrong number I would simply apologize. A man answered, and i asked if I had reached Linda's residence. He said yes, but one could palpate the curiosity in his voice.  I explained our predicament, and he told us where the house actually was.

We arrived to find Linda outside to greet us, welcome us, and share the news of the Evening Grosbeaks. That is to say that they were seen about an hour and a half ago and that typically they would not be returning again this late in the evening. Groan. 

But she welcomed us to park in her driveway and keep vigil should they prove her wrong. They did not. But she returned some time later offering us the use of a restroom if need be, and several very tasty homemade cookies. What a nice lady. 

Nearing 8pm, it was time to head home. 1 year bird for me of the 4 potential. I have to do better...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trying to Take Care of Some Loose Ends

Last weekend I tried unsuccessfully for Blue-winged Teal at Hempstead Lake STPK. Armed with new intel that they had been found in not one but TWO different locations on long Island, as well as a Pipit, I made plans to try before work on  Tuesday the 26th.

Capt'n Bob met me and we went looking at the first location, a nothing of a pond in Brookhaven. It was devoid of any quackitude, but picturesque nonetheless. We beat a hasty retreat to East Hampton where we located a construction pit adjacent to the Nature Conservancy HQ. There as promised were 4 Blue-winged Teal.

Blue-winged Teal

From here we next tried the farm stand a short distance off where a Pipit had been reported. these birds sure have been hard to pin down this year; I have looked for them specifically on no less than 8 occasions. And this made the 9th without success.

But Bob nevertheless, is out standing in the field.

Where the heck are the pipits?
PS. the next morning on the way to the office I got a call from Steve Schellenger, that the Blue-winged Teal previously reported at Hempstead had been relocated. Sheesh!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take t-Hoo, Hoo

Capt'n Bob decided that he needed to go to Florida for some reason, but he had returned and was desirous of a Fieldfare. I was desirous of a decent photo. The reports from Saturday had many success stories, so we decided to meet Sunday March 24 at 6 am. 

Earic had inquired about planning, but he decided to go with Jeff Critter, and they would be departing at 3 am. Having seen the bird already, that was way too early for me. So he and Jeff went up, while me and Bob left later. 

That night I got a text from Jean LeConte Sparrow that Karlo Mirth had discovered a Long-eared Owl in Forest park! I called Bob to let him know and of the possible altering of plans.

With a dreadfully long wait before either Jean or Karlo got back to me, I eventually was given the exact location and called Bob to meet at Forest instead of Mickey Deez. But at 6 am it is still dark, and we had to wait 45 min before there was ample light. 

Once that was present I started gingerly looking in the trees, and just as Karlo promised, there was the bird.

Bad phone picture of Long-eared Owl
Having seen the bird and not wanting to disturb it with more photos, we made haste to head up to Massachusetts. En route I called Derek to let him know, and later on called Earic as well. But Earic reported that as of 9:30 the Fieldfare had not shown. 

We arrived to a throng of birders, and the local constabulary placing traffic cones out to prevent parking where forbidden. A beautiful day 
was had, though sadly devoid of birds. The flocks of Robins and Blackbirds that were all about the other day had seemed to have moved on. 

At lunch time, Earic and Jeff decided to call it a day and try for the LEO, while Bob and I stayed a bit longer. No dice, the bird never showed as far as anyone can tell...

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #12

I was monitoring the lists because a Fieldfare, a ABA Code 4 bird had been discovered in Carlisle Massachusetts. Not only is this a great discovery and bird, but it was looking like it was sticking around, I could actually get a life bird out of seeing it, and Thursday was approaching!

But despite looking good, and having made tentative plans with Earic and Gary, the few reports posted were negative. That night we all gathered for the monthly QCBC meeting, and Avian informed me that the bird ~had~ been seen, but by the end of the day. 

Encouraged, Earic, Gary and I made plans to go the next day. The one wrinkle was that I was supposed to have a contractor come do work at 8am. We agreed to leave afterwards, pending the job completion. But as it turns out, they didn't show up despite promising being on time. After an hour of waiting I called, only to  be told that they were emptying the truck at the dump and were on the way. "Never mind" I said, and called Earic and Gary to tell them the news.

I caught both of them in the shower, though to be fair to them, I am fairly certain it was different showers. We met at Mickey Deez an hour later and set off. 

The trip was uneventful, and we arrived to find that there was a stake-out behind a barn on the street; the owner being very accommodating. Word had it that the bird had been revealed to like eating the Barberry, and had been seen coming in twice in the morning with a group of Robins.

Despite being told "authoritatively" the bird would return in about an hour, it did not. And standing around on a stake out for hours can get tedious. We each took walks at various points in the hope of finding the bird at the other previous locations, or at least something interesting. 

In the fields we relocated a singing Norther Shrike. At first it was shy but it eventually found a perch it liked and deigned to permit us closer looks and some photos.

Northern Shrike
Meanwhile back at the ranch, folks were tailing off and giving up. I joined Gary who was not as keen about walking around as we were, and we kept hoping. 

While may people amused themselves in conversation with other birders, I amused myself by observing that they were so preoccupied that if the bird flew in they would miss it.

I was scanning the surrounding trees that had groups of Robins and Blackbirds come and go. From time to time a group would venture down to the Barberry, and we would look at each one hoping it was ~not~ a Robin. 

And then at about 4:30 pm, a group of ~8 Robins beset the Barberry. I looked at each one, and then at the back of the shrub and well hidden was the Fieldfare! I yelled out: "I got it! The bird's in the right bush, in the back center!"  I was very gratified that I got others on it before it left, but the most pleasing aspect of this twitch was that despite chasing someone else's discovery, I was the one to 'find' it. For lifer # 1080, ABA lifer # 690,  it felt good!

I had put my scope away some time before, getting tired of shlepping it around. Another birder some 20' away had his though, and he got on the bird too. From there everyone present including Gary got on the bird. Earic was still off elsewhere, so I called him and he came running. I went over by the horse fence and fired off a couple of hail-mary shots, hoping for something, anything.

And then the bird departed, but before Earic could arrive. We waited around hoping for its return, but Earic got antsy and we walked off again towards the fields of piggery road. And the Gary called.  We ran back as fast as we could but the bird did not stay long. Gary got a good look at the bird perched on a branch, but had put his camera away. 

As is common at these sorts of events, I ran into some old familiar faces. One such was Linda Ferrarasso, who I originally met at her discovery of a Mongolian { now re-named 'Lesser Sand' } Plover in Rhode Island in 1999.  That bird got me my first 'published' photos in Bird Observer and North American Birds. 

Finally, with daylight departing we decided to leave. Maybe the bird would stick around a few more days for Earic?

Crappy shot #1 of a Fieldfare

Crappy shot # 2 of Fieldfare

Monday, March 18, 2013

Weekends Are For Going Crazy Birding Everywhere

Some trips fall together quite nicely. Others by definition do not work quite as well. A Long-eared Owl was found at the Marine Nature Study Center in Oceanside and had the bad manners to avail itself only on Friday. 

I attempted to see it Saturday March 16th on the way to work but it was a no show. On the way home I decided to try for Screech Owl in Caumsett STPK, and struck out there too! My only consolation was my FOY Osprey on the platform by the waters edge.

It gets worse though. Having missed the LEO Saturday, I made plans to try again Sunday, forgetting that MNSC is closed! Doh!

So I arrived to locked gates, and called Jean LeConte Sparrow and Earic Miller, still on their way,  to tell them of my blunder and suggested we meet instead at Hempstead Lake STPK.

I had heard reports that there were Blue-winged Teal being seen there, and that is the last duck I need for the year!  We arrived and searched as well as we could, and ran into Ken Fuestel who reported that he had not seen them either.

But we did have scads of Brown Creepers, often as many as 6 at a time, with birds chasing each other around the trunks of trees and from tree to tree. Ah, spring is in the air, but oh - to be chased by a creep{er}!

Brown Creeper

More highlights were a Fox Sparrow found bt Jean and 6 FOY Tree Swallows on the lake.

Fox Sparrow
Burning daylight in an ambitious day, we touched base with Cap'n Bob and Gary Strauss and met at the Mickey Deez to car poodle. First stop: Marshlands Conservancy in Rye. 

There had been reports of a female Evening Grosbeak there recently, but she was too demure that day. More accommodating were upwards of a dozen White-winged Crossbills munching on Sweetgum balls. 

White-winged Crossbill eating Sweetgum

A Goldfinch facing away fooled a couple of us and we thought we had the EVGR but it turned out not to be so. Other niceties were Hairy wp, both nuthatches, and 20+ turkeys that ran by the visitor's center.  

No, these are not the Turkeys at the visitor's center.

Hairy Woodpecker
Moving on, we set the controls for the heart of the sun. Having left behind my Pink Floyd CD, we instead set the controls for the New Paltz area.

Arriving in the small town of Highlands NY, we drew near to the flooded forest along Weston Road, and no sooner had we stopped than I spotted our quarry: a beautiful Red-headed WP! 

Red-headed Woodpecker
Everyone was very pleased with the sighting, something difficult not to do when it comes to this woodpecker.

But Bob had to head home as he was off to Florida for a few days. Poor Bob. We all crammed into Gary's car to continue our day's tour. 

The synchronicity of our last visit to the region was despoiled when we learned that Tundra Swans had been found in the same location as the  Pink-footed Goose a few days later - but out of reach of another attempt until this day. En route, we encountered Bald eagle and Bluebird.

Arriving at the Camel Farm,  it was pretty devoid of geese. we drove around and explored many areas, but the goodies had for the most part appeared to have moved on. 

Having known from the last time that day length meant that the Short-eared Owls would be coming out later in the day, we timed our departure such that we would arrive at Shawangung Grasslands NWR without having to wait a longtime. 

We drove past the NWR entrance as we always do of late, only to find the Galeville town park closed. It is being stripped of trees so they can put in baseball fields. Mind you, everyone concerned knows that no one lives near enough to make use of it but it seems the local politicians are set on building them anyway. 

We back-tracked to the old entrance and parked, finding out that a new lot is now available at the edge of the grasslands. With darkness falling, we saw many SEOs out in the fields, and Earic { who else } called our attention to the peenting of Woodcocks. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Squeezing in Some Birding

Sometimes, the birding gods cooperate quite nicely. I had too much to do and not enough time to do it, and then a Varied Thrush is discovered in Prospect Park. My only opportunity was Saturday March 9th after work, and I made plans to meet Capt’n Bob there.

He got a change of heart and decided to go there earlier, figuring “what the heck do I have to wait around for that guy?” There were a lot of birders in the park, so Bob certainly didn’t need my help...

I arrived some time after he did, he having already seen the bird. I arrived armed with a map of its previous location, but its having moved elsewhere made it less useful. So Bob met me by the ‘bridge’ and we joined crowd, where the bird was pointed easily out to me. It worked well for me that he had gone earlier!

A really nice looking bird, though sans camera, and in the shadows and behind brush made a photo not possible. What was nice was meeting Tom Stephenson, who was most kind and helpful with contacts for the upcoming NY Birders Conference, is scheduled to speak at the Queens County Bird Club’s April meeting, has a very nice blog on birding and photography, and will be coming out with a fantastic book on warblers soon. Can’t wait!

While viewing the Varied Thrush, Bob struck up a conversation with some of the folks there. One thing led to another and somehow I was mentioned. When I arrived at the crowd looking at the bird, Bob mentioned there is someone here that wants to meet you. It was fellow birder Tim Dunn who had emailed me several times about the Thick-billed Murre in Brooklyn back in January. While Jean Bob and I were looking at that bird from Bob’s boat, I was also answering emails. A face was put to the emails, and I was glad to hear that Tim had gotten the bird with our help. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #11

Capt'n Bob had been under the weather for a few weeks because a really bad cold knocked him on his ass. Feeling better, he called to inquire where we were going birding. As he has been jonesing for a Golden Eagle ever since we went to Arizona, and the spate of recent reports from Storm King Mountain,  we made plans to get this bird. I contacted Earic Miller who coincidentally was also in a mind to chase this bird, and we met in the morning.

Crows, Red-tails, and Turkey Vultures were in the sky along the way, TV being a year bird for me. YB 1, 151 de l'annee. But I might want to clarify at this point as I am 'counting' NYS birds, so there are a few birds I have seen outside NY this year, but they are not part of the big-year-iness. 

Pulling into the Storm King state park pull-out along 9W, we found a nice big flat patch of concrete. A 6' square that made a great place to set up our scopes off of the wet grass. Way down below on the river we spotted an Immature Bald Eagle { YB 2, 152 de l'annee } on the ice, as well as Canada Geese, Mute Swan, and even a few Crows. 

Kettles of TVs passed over the mountain, and then we spotted Black Vultures mixed in with them! YB 3, 153 de l'annee. Many birds were soaring about Storm King, and then we picked out one that looked different.  Was it a Golden Eagle?

We followed this bird to the side of the mountain where it landed on a snag. All of us had questions about the plumage characteristics of the bird, making us spend a lot of time studying it in our scopes.  

Throwing us off was the light tawny back of the head and neck, almost giving it a Bald Eagle like look. 

Really bad digi-phone-scope shot of the Golden Eagle
The bill was not as large as would be expected for a Bald Eagle, and the dark face and throat made for a sub-adult Golden. A lifer for Capt'n Bob, and year bird for me and Earic. YB 4, 154 de l'annee.

After quite some time with the bird, we decided to break for lunch. We also pondered where to go next. Shawangunk came to mind, as did the recent report of the Pink-footed Goose, but the later had only been seen once and none of us were familiar enough with the area to want to try to get lucky. 

Enjoying a leisurely lunch of pizza, no sooner had we finished eating than I got an email that the Pink-footed Goose had been relocated and was being seen now! Checking the directions, it threw me a bit as the town listed is quite far away from the specific intersection.  Never the less, I had Bob set his GPS to the town of New Hampton, and en-route played with my maps to pin down where the bird was. 

When we arrived we found several birders looking out into the field. Curt McDermott, who had sent the email, informed us that the goose had just taken off... What timing!

But Curt knew of another location nearby that the goose had also been seen, and we followed him caravan style to the 'onion fields'. There were lots of canada Geese there and we all set up scopes to try to find our quarry. Curt managed to pick it out first from all the others and every one got good looks. YB 5, 155 de l'annee. Thanks Curt!

Also present were large numbers of Snow Geese and looking at the trees, we were  able to find a lot of hawks, and of particular interest, some Rough-legged Hawks! YB 6, 156 de l'annee.

Not being familiar with the area, Curt gave us some ideas on where to bird and at his suggestion we birded nearby Indiana road. Earic Miller found us a Lapland Longspur in with a flock of Horned Larks, but not much else.

At this point we decided to try Wallkill River NWR, as it was close by. We wanted to go to Shawangunk, but it was too far and too late.  A very health population of Pintail was present, easily the most I had ever seen at once. Both Hooded and Common Mergansers were on the river, and impressive flocks of blackbirds streamed by - many thousands. 

While we were scanning the area, Earic yelled out Snipe! Where? Flying over he said. Bob and I as well as another birder were able to get looks as it flew over. Earic inquired if we were able to hear it making it's 'snip' call. We all looked at him blankly. He then started laughing at himself as he recalled that I refer to him as Earic instead of Eric...

 Though in the upper 40's the whole day, with the sun setting, the wind picking up, and the damp air it felt a whole lot cooler. On top of this, I awoke with a scratchy throat, and by now was feeling very under the weather. No mater what I did I could not get warm, so I sat in the car with the heat on, still chilled. 

We set a deadline of 5:45 to leave by, and that came and went. We were hoping for Short-eared Owls, but we had to settle for a lot of Red-tails and even more Harriers. All of us needed to be back; I had a conference to attend at 8.  No sooner had I walked in at 8 than I got a call to remind me to attend.

Well, they say timing is everything, and certainly the day had an element of synchronicity. But feeling like crap means that I will not try to beat myself to a pulp by attending the pelagic trip on Saturday.

A Winter New England Trip

Every other year we { that being the Queens County Bird Club } do this great trip to a beautiful part of the country. Led by Junco Llins, we do a tour of the quintessentially New England locations around Cape Ann Massachusetts.

We got off to a great start on Saturday, the forecast weather not arriving as predicted.  AvIan and I met at 6am for the ride up, one shy as Capt'n Bob was still recuperating from a recent bad cold. No traffic to speak of and an uncomplicated trip was a nice feeling.

That is if you don't count disturbing car messages. We made a pit-stop in Sturbridge to fuel up, and something made the security light and service engine light come on. I was not happy. In the past this happened after a security sensor went bad and would prevent the key from starting the car!

We were still in the lot of the station with the car running as we cleaned the wipers, windows, and otherwise prepped the car for the rest of the journey, when this occurred. I decided to not attend to it but rather get to the hotel first. The amber messages on the dash gnawed at me, but we arrived unscathed, and upon trying the car later the problem did not resurface. Yay!

We were the first ones to arrive, but the others joined us shortly thereafter, and we car poodled to our first stop along the Merrimack river. Viewing from the bridge, we were looking for Bald Eagles. Sethophaga Ausubel alerted us to a raptor sitting in a tree over the river, and at first glance man\y of us thought it was an immature Bald Eagle. A closer look revealed that it was actually a Rough-legged Hawk. A short while later I located another bird next to it that was also a RL Hawk, though I was surprised that they were located where they were.

Other goodies seen here were a Great Blue Heron who caught a large catfish that we watched it do its best to consume. The spiny dorsal fin may have put the kibosh on the dinner plans though.  Takers of more modest fish included Great Cormorants replete with white lateral spots, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, and White-winged Scoter. 

An overly ambitious Great Blue Heron
Moving down the river we stopped at a number of vantage points and got some more of the usual suspects, like Gadwall, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, and common Loon.

We also diverted a wee bit to an industrial park so that we could enjoy a flock of Pine Grosbeaks! There were no males amongst them, and the lighting was bad in almost all respects, but we got nice looks and that's what really matters anyway.

Resuming our original course down river, we made our way to Joppa Flats. At the visitor center we found a person who looked strikingly like our own Mary Normandia, and who was in fact her brother Paul. The feeders there provided nice looks at Am. Tree Sparrows, and the facility was a good pit stop.

Across the street we were enticed by a flock of what turned out to be House Sparrows, and an empty feeder, but at least two of us got on a flock of Snow Bunting wheeling  about before they departed.

Moving on to Parker River NWR there were numerous targets we wanted and we set out to find them. One such target was a drake King Eider, which we looked for to no avail. Stopping and scanning at a number of reported locations did not reveal the beast.

Similarly, we tried to track down the Bittern, and it was a no show. We stopped at a number of locations on the way out, what with light fading and another stop planned.  With a plea for Junco Llins to stop one last time, he did. We got lucky as a woman with a scope asked HellOnWheel Lark if she would like to see it. Yes!

Turns out the duck was just out of sight behind the marsh grass. We were looking at the right location earlier, but the duck was out of view. Someone had climbed the stairway that goes way up and over the dunes and from that vantage was easily able to see the duck. Of course, after running up there and seeing it, it came into view for those who moved a bit more slowly.

Drake King Eider too far away for a decent photo.

Elated, we made haste for our final stop, er final birding stop at Salisbury. We couldn't find the Crossbills in the pines, but we more than made up for it at the inlet.

Razorbill and Red-throated Loons, followed by one two three four Red-necked Grebes! Two Iceland Gulls were on the jetty, and then not be inconsequential, Sethophaga picked out a Dovekie in the Inlet. Wow. What a great cap to the day, justly rewarded by an excellent meal at the Black Cow. { Junco Llins would never let us eat at anything but a great restaurant }

We returned to our hotel, and turned in early for the next days events... ...which began with meeting for breakfast before our caravan up to Rockport. It began to snow lightly, and for the most part was not much of a hindrance until we actually got to Rockport, where the snow was really accumulating.

It was so bad that Sethophaga radioed in that he was heading to his hotel and calling it quits unless the snow stopped. And we did as well... except that the snow made travel above 10 mph ill advised, and upon arrival at our place, we discovered that the snow covered driveway and it's steep pitch meant there was no way we were getting up it.

Even after it was plowed it was too slippery, and I retreated to a shopping mall where I could move out of the way rather than staying on the narrow road. Junco Llins intrepidly walked up the hill to check in, and later joined us. And not too long later we were retrieved by the plow driver who had put down salt and offered either a ride or that we try again.

Success!  We got up the hill and to our rooms to settle in. Convening in my suite, Junco Llins, HellOnWheel Lark, AvIan and I contemplated what to do. I suggested that "beverages" might make a suitable way to pass the time, and Junco Llins let it slip that he had a bottle of wine. He appeared worried, and quickly stated it was for friends he planned to visit on his way home. Then with perfect synchrony we all replied: "oh, it's for your ~friends~". But AvIan doesn't imbibe, I avoid wine [ though I'm sure it was a fine one if he chose it ] and HellOnWheel Lark thought a nap would be a better use of her time. Junco Llins escaped unscathed.

After a boring interlude, we met for lunch at a small place that proved quite tasty. Afterwards, we attempted to see if we could actually see something despite the snowy and windy conditions. The roads were not too bad, as Massachusetts does not wait for the snow to stop or melt - they get right to it!

We went to the Jodrey Fish pier.  As predicted it was clear of snow so that the commercial activities could go on unencumbered. That had to do with the ground only though. the air was still filled with lots of white stuff that made viewing challenging. Not the least of the snow and wind's problem was that it would blow into your eyes and into your binos. Not fun!

The others seemed top withstand it better than I, and after a while I ducked back into the car to warm up and clear off the binos. Therein I found HellOnWheel Lark who did not think to bring her hat or binos. 'Semper Aucupium' I said, because 'don't leave home without them' is copyrighted.

Masses of gulls were there looking for an offal handout, in which we spotted a single Glaucous and single Iceland, both young birds. 2 Razorbill were also spotted amongst the RB Mergansers, Common Eiders, and the usual suspects.

When we returned to our cars, Sethophaga once again amazed by picking out in the far distance and through the swirling snow, a Black Guillemot! How he was able to pick out the speck with it constantly diving to boot, is remarkable. We set up scopes and some of us got a lifer. I got a life plumage - having only seen them in their white winter plumage in the past! Two Peregrine Falcons were also seen perched on the City Hall tower. 

Black Guillemot almost in full breeding Plumage

We made a few more stops and then returned to out rooms, but some of us stopped at the local package store and we sampled local products in anticipation of dinner later that evening.

Junco Llins ever vigilant about our having only the best meals, was notified by the Gloucester House with whom he had made reservations, that they would remain closed due to the storm. No matter, he set upon finding another locale, and we had a fine dinner at Passports. 

Cape Ann Light Station AKA Twin Light Houses

Monday morning you would never have thought the storm had ever occurred. We had our breakfast at the traditional  place, Lee's. We returned to Jodrey State Fish Pier where we saw all the birds we’d seen the other day but with much better conditions. At Niles Pond we added Ring-necked Ducks for the trip, then we headed to Rockport. Almost everywhere we stopped we found lots of Harlequin ducks, and Cathedral Rocks had Purple Sandpipers.

The definition of Picturesque

Massachusetts puts out 'caution' barrels to protect birders and promote birding in their state. 

An unexpected find was a Swamp Sparrow at one of the vistas, as well as more Harlequins

Swamp Sparrow

Harlequin Duck

After lunch, we all parted ways, and an uneventful trip home was punctuated by stopping to refuel the car. AvIan offered to fill it up, then was astounded that it used so little fuel. That felt curiously good for some reason.