Monday, January 4, 2010

Hay and High Water

Coffee of the Day: Sumatra
Weird Wrack Item of the Day: me?
Bird of the Day: American robin -- flock of about 2 dozen chowing down on winterberries near the granite marker field

The water in the marsh is very high today. I'm told it was even higher over the weekend during the storm. I took this picture from the parking lot next to the bridge onto Plum Island. The posts mark the edge of the parking lot.

To compare and contrast, here is the same haystack in October:
The hay is stacked on a hay staddle. I think this one was actually constructed as a demo/history lesson for Trails and Sails weekend back in September. Hay staddles, when the hay has already been removed to a barn or wherever, make perfect perches for wintering snowy owls. They like to hunt from low perches. The classic Plum Island snowy owl sighting is on a hay staddle in the Great Marsh. Snags, fallen logs, and other random pieces of wood are also popular with the Arctic visitors. The snowy I saw on New Year's Day was hunkered down in the marsh, not perched on anything. It was barely distinguishable from the chunks of ice sticking up from the water.

I didn't see any snowy owls today. There was not a lot of bird activity on the refuge or along the Merrimack River besides a lot of Canada geese and mallards at Joppa Flats. The best waterfowl I saw today were a pair of red-breasted mergansers in the river right outside Plum Island Coffee Roasters. There wasn't much open water on the refuge -- too much ice. I did see one American tree sparrow, a northern harrier, and a couple dozen American robins. The robins were all together in the trees/shrubs across from the granite marker field (just south of the north pool overlook) going to town on bright red winterberries ( Ilex verticillata - native to this area). They seem to be a favorite food of wintering robins.

Did I mention the water in the marsh was really high? How about another gratuitous photo of that haystack? The closeup gives a better view of the snow.

In a topsy turvy turn of events, it started to snow when I got back to downtown Newburyport after my refuge visit. It was just light snow, the kind you want to have when you're Christmas shopping or watching pond hockey.

By the time I got over to Salisbury Beach, the sun was going down. Not much bird action there either and the water in the river was up to the top of the boat ramp.

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