Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall in Massachusetts - Saturday afternoon

(my apologies for the formatting issue in the below post, despite approx. 20 attempts to correct it the software can't cope - I was going to include the picture of this White-breated Nuthatch and say how it had joined us at the top of a tower overlooking the swamp at the Ipswich River Valley, but that really mucked things up:)

Anway, Plum Island was a thirty minute drive from the Ipswich River Valley. We stopped off at the Joppa Flats Education Centre and were advised that an unusually high tide was due right about now. Well that did for our plans for lunch, as we headed straight out on to the Island, to see what might have been 'pushed-up'.

Our first stop was the car park opposite the salt pans. Though we were there to see what was in the pans, our attention was grabbed by a band of very small birds buzzing around the bushes to the right of the car park. They were Golden-crowned Kinglets:

Here's one stretching a wing:

These birds are remarkably similar to Goldcrests. At this point Darwinian evolutionary theory comes to mind. There are so many similar but distinct species in the old and new worlds that they must have had a common evolutionary source...

On the pans themselves and close-to this Greater Yellowlegs was wading and dashing around close to the shore:

Most of the Greater Yellowlegs were roosting but this one was very active and feeding. Birders we met later said there were also Long-bill Dowitchers, but we didn't see any.

Heading from the car park into the wooded area, a number of these Yellow-rumped Warblers were visible from the boardwalk:

And of course the colours of Autumn were everywhere:

Further along the Island we stopped in a car park with access to the beach via another Boardwalk (most of the paths stop short of providing access to the beach itself), the view was a delight:

Unusually there were small groups of waders 'hanging around' clumps of seaweed on the beach. I got the impression the unusually high water levels had confused them. It was good for us though as these birds were really close to. This is a White-rumped Sandpiper (thank you Mark):

There were numerous Semipalmated Plovers:

A lone (and confused) Savannah Sparrow 'roosting' with the waders:

A Sanderling scuttling up to the line of vegetation for cover:

More Semipalmated Plovers, this one wandering on the shingle:

We could have walked along the beach and no doubt seen many more birds, but we were loathe to disturb them too much so headed back to the car and further along the island. Next stop was another car park and another boardwalk. I'm advised this is a female Ruby-Crowned Kinglet:

That is due to its size, location and overall appearance, though I cannot fully resolve the plumage against the field guides I have. On the other side of the road a path led up to an overlook. There were plenty of ducks about including Garganey, Wood Ducks, American Black Ducks and Mallards. Near the overlook, we spotted this juvenile Northern Mockingbird:

I can only think this is another Savannah Sparrow; this time I'm using the general size and shape and in particular the chest patterns as the colouration on the head is confusing:

Out on the boardwalk overlooking the beach, this adult Ring-billed Gull in Winter (non-breeding) plumage:

The warmest part of the afternoon, around 3pm, reminded us just how tired we were so we decided to head back off the island and to the hotel, though with one last stop at the salt pans. We'd seen this heron on our previous stop but hadn't really noticed the differences versus a Great Blue, on closer inspection though it looks like an immature Tri-colored Heron, moulting to adult plumage:

A great afternoon at a great spot, the birds we saw on this visit being completely different to those we saw when we came in June. Other birds we saw but haven't pictured or blogged included Northern Harrier, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Snowy Egret, a Nashville Warbler and a pair of Great White Egrets.

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