Thursday, January 5, 2012

down the bay

The New Year's weekend afforded a great opportunity for some birding all along Narragansett Bay.  There were some fun birds and surprises but still no Tufted Duck.

At Colt State Park, we were looking at a flock of brant near the boat ramp when a flock of ruddy turnstones materialized on the rocks.

Ruddy Turnstone
Three of the Several Hundred Brant
Usually we see lots of horned larks on the grass and in the parking lots at Colt State Park, but on Sunday they were hanging around on the rocks by the boat ramp acting remarkably like ruddy turnstones.

Horned Lark Pretending to be Ruddy Turnstone :-)
At Beavertail Light, we hoped to see harlequin ducks. We didn't find any harlequins, but saw tons of surf scoters, black scoters, common eiders, and northern gannets. There were so many northern gannets that I lost track of counting them. They were spectacular to watch.

Eiders and Scoters, Oh My!

The big surprise at Beavertail was a small flock of purple sandpipers hunkered down on the rocks. I wasn't sure they were purples at first because I couldn't get a good look with my binocs.  I asked a guy carrying a scope if he would check them out. He confirmed my ID and let me look at them through his scope. Friendly birder.

Rocks Where Purples Hide
On Monday at Salter Grove in Warwick, we saw lots and lots of scaup, mostly lesser, but with several greater mixed in and discovered vintage Ms. Pac-Man game at Roger Williams Park.

Ms. Pac-Man
Tuesday was set aside for looking for the tufted duck. First I had to find the Manchester Reservoir in Attleboro. That took a lot of driving around and getting lost. When I finally got there, I met a birder who had the same experience trying to find the place and had seen the tufted duck in with a flock of scaup who had all flown off together out of scope range. He wished me luck.

Manchester Reservoir of Attleboro
I hung around the dam for about 2 hours, got good looks at a pair of greater scaup and several courting pairs of hooded mergansers. Isn't it early for courtship? I associate that with February.  I spotted a small flock of scaup in the distance and followed a trail through the woods along shore to get closer to them. The tufted duck was not among them.

Miniature Landscape

The walk in the woods yielded lots of interesting moss and lichens and plants in miniature landscapes and a rough-legged hawk overhead. Somehow, I didn't mind not seeing the tufted duck.

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