Friday, May 15, 2009

Cape Cod - second day

The people we spoke with at Wellfleet suggested that we should try the Beech Forest Trail, which suited our plans as we wanted to visit the northerly tip of the Cape. Unlike Friday, Saturday saw low lying cloud and drizzle becoming rain, but we weren't going to be put off so headed out around 6:30am, arriving at the car park around 7:15.

With the low cloud and the rain photography was hard work but I believe the weather actually aided the birding as we got to see a good number of warblers, often at distances of just a few metres.

First-up a Black-and-White Warbler:

We'd seen one of these before, in Florida this January, but not in breeding plumage. As well as Warblers, White-throated Sparrows were moving around the trail in flocks of thirty or more birds together. The noise of them scratching amongst the leaves as a group was quite something. The next bird of note wasn't a Warbler, rather a Great Crested Flycatcher:

Curiously, as we moved along the path, we were followed by a Northern Cardinal who kept quite close (worth a closer look this one):

Next-up an Eastern Wood-Peewee:

Whilst we were watching the Peewee a group of local birders approached. They were hand feeding the Chickadees and Titmouses, one of the chaps gave Helen some seed to have a try, here a Tufted Titmouse is perched just about to grab a sunflower seed:

Naughty really, but very, very cute. They are very light and of course trusting. We also understood now why the Cardinal had been following us, they pick up anything dropped or discarded, though they won't feed from the hand. This picture shows just how green the woods along the trail are:

Time for another warbler, this one is a Black-throated Blue Warbler one of the more common species on the Saturday:

We had also seen Prairie, Palm and Pine Warblers on our way round and a brief first sighting of an Ovenbird together with Yellow-rumped Warblers (which are locally nicknamed 'butter butts':)

The rain got heavier the cloud got lower so we headed up first to Race Point in the hope of seeing the whales; no such luck, though we added Red-breasted Merganser, Gannet, Ring-billed and Herring Gulls to the trip list. Next we headed into Province town hoping to find somewhere nice for a cuppa but there was just one cafe open and it was heaving so we parked up at a 'gas station' and got tea and coffee there instead. On the basis we'd had such a good time on the Beech Forest Trail we decided to head back there and go around it again, this time anti-clockwise.

One of the local birders had obviously put out some birdseed, this Chipping Sparrow was making the most of the feeding opportunity:

We sat and ate our lunch, using provisions bought on Friday afternoon, and watched the birds feeding. As we sat there a family of Canada Geese headed from the lake to shore then on to the grass to eat. The vigilant parents were guarding six recent fledglings. We wound down the window, and stayed very still and quiet. Sure enough they headed over to where the seeds had been dropped, allowing me to get a close-up of one of the goslings:

How cute is that? After the geese had moved on a Blue Jay dropped down to take his share:

Having the car window as a stabiliser meant that even in low light I was able to take very sharp pictures, here the bird is facing away, showing the plumage on the back:

These are 24-25Mb picture files, compressed in the process of loading to the blogging site but still really very detailed.

We finally decided to walk the path around again, it's only three-quarters of a mile, the rain had stopped and most of the birds moved away from the feeding area. First up a pair of Eastern Kingbirds in the woods, followed by an Eastern Towhee alongside the path, foraging like the Sparrows in the fallen leaves:

I was amused by the way this Gray Catbird had plumped itself up:

Prior to this trip I didn't know why they were called Catbirds. Suffice to say if you hear a cat in the woods in Massachusetts in Spring it's probably a bird :) We added Brown-headed Cowbird, Wood Duck, and then a fabulous new bird, a Magnolia Warbler:

followed almost immediately by another new bird, a Nashville Warbler:

and then another, this a Chestnut-sided Warbler, though by now it was raining again:

Back at the car, we watched a Common Grackle feeding on a fresh 'deposit' of sunflower seeds:

Having completed our second loop of the trail we headed off next to Pilgrim Heights and the two trails there. The first bird from the trail was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, followed by a displaying Ruby-throated Hummingbird:

Another new species! Whilst on the trail a Wild Turkey ran across the path though too quickly for my reactions. It's an interesting spot because of the history associated with the Pilgrim Fathers, the founding of the colony at Plymouth, etc., and reasonably popular with tourists. The car parks are huge - though at this time of year also empty :) This is a view from an overlook on one of the trails, with just a hint of sunshine on the sand dunes:

We very quickly added another new species in the pine woods at the end of the trail, a Pine Warbler:

We also spotted a Cedar Waxwing and our only woodpecker of the holiday, a lone Downy Woodpecker. At this point I was also the proud owner of six major mosquito bites, despite having used citronella so even though I'm allergic to DEET, that's what it'll have to be from now on.

Other birds included this Olive-sided Flycatcher:

Followed by another flycatcher, an Eastern Phoebe:

Considering the light I'm delighted with this 'Butter Butt' taking off, taken earlier in the day:

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