I had another great day of birding on Plum Island Saturday, it sure has been my “go to” spot for birding. Beth & I tallied up 45 different species for the day. Chris was recovering from a nasty cold and couldn't join us, so sorry she missed out. We were on the island a bit over four hours, the day started out gray but soon cleared and the temps rocketed to the 70s! Yup 70 in October, can't beat that.
We both added new birds to our life lists. We weren't on the island but minutes when we spotted a large flock of Eurasian Wigeon bobbing up and down in search of food in the marsh pool. Just as its name implies these birds breed in Eurasia and only occasionally visit the Atlantic coast. We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time to see such a large flock during their migration. If you look these up in a bird guide I can tell you they were much more handsome in person, with their rusty brown head and golden mohawk.
We stopped at a spot where we saw a couple of men with elaborate camera/scope equipment to see what they were watching. They sell their nature pictures and were telling us the cost of their equipment ran into the thousands! Yikes, I guess I'm gonna give up the idea of taking up digiscoping after all. They were waiting to capture pictures of the Northern Harrier that was hunting in the fields. We spotted one later, the bird did not disappoint those watching as he flew and hovered close to the road in search of prey. A magnificent bird indeed. We spent time watching the mixed flocks of sparrows trying to ID them all. Which can get difficult because they all have very similar markings. Beth was able to add a new species to her life list.
As we sat in the car and had our lunch before heading out to the bird blind we watched as a small flock of birds flew into the scrub pines. We made note of where they landed and decided to look for them as we walked the trail to the bird blind. And sure enough, we spotted the birds, they were Red Crossbills! I have seen them before but they were a first for Beth. We enjoyed watching them hang upside down and pick apart the pine cones. Those with birding apps look these up, the female is an olive yellow and the male a deep red, very pretty birds with a weird crossed bill.
We walked out to the back marsh pools carrying the scope and then out to the platform overlooking the ocean hoping to finds something good. But alas just the usual suspects, lots of Greater & Lesser Yellow Legs, Gulls, Common Eiders & Cormorants. Nothing new or exciting. It was getting late, time to begin the drive off the island. But we had one last place to stop before leaving, Hellcat Trails to check out the observation tower and trails.
Those of you who are not familiar with the area let me set the scene for you. There is a narrow boardwalk that weaves through the tall marsh reeds for about ½ mile or so, you can't step off the boardwalk and depending on the tide the water can be very high. It can be quite peaceful as you walk among the reeds gently swaying in the breeze. As Beth & I walk along I tell her I rarely see any birds along this trail because those that inhabit the reedy marsh are all too secretive, and hide deep in the reeds.
By now the sun is shining and the temperature has risen, there are many people enjoying the boardwalk. Couples and families, children run and laugh along the boardwalk. Beth & I figure with all this activity the chances are slim that we will get to see any shy marsh birds. I ask her if she has ever seen a Sora, she reply’s that she has heard them but never seen one. I mention that I'd really like to see a Sora, that would be an exciting sighting.
Then suddenly from behind us, we hear this loud “swarrrkkk” it stops me in my tracks. I tell Beth that is a new sound to me, let's turn around and find where that sound came from! We follow the sound and Beth notices movement in the reeds. She calls out SORA! I can't believe it, I search where she is looking but can't find the bird. Then I just catch a glimpse of a small chicken like shorebird, with a yellow beak, black smudge on its face turning into a gray neck, then dark back. SORA! Just as suddenly as it appeared it disappears back into the thick reeds.
So all this time I've been quietly tip toeing along that trail trying to sneak up on this shy marsh bird when all along it was the loud clickety clack of many feet along the boardwalk that finally pushed the shy little bird into view. Beth is indeed my birding good luck charm, for the second time she has seen a bird I'd just mentioned to her I wish I could see. Thank you, Beth. Finally, I Saw A Sora!
Current Big year Total........229
Happy Birding, Jane