Date: 1/11/21 11:18 am From: Barbara Volkle <barb620...> Subject: [MASSBIRD] Road trip - Plum Island
Thanks to Strickland Wheelock for this report.
Barbara Volkle Northborough, MA <barb620...>
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 2021 16:30:02 +0000 (UTC) From: "YahoomaiI..Service" <skwheelock...> Subject: Road trip - Plum Island
One of the top birding locations in MA is Plum Island which I recently explored/birded twice recently and would like to share my experiences to any birder who wants to visit Plum Island - many excellent birds such as Snowy Owls to enjoy.For me, I drive directly to the Parker River NWR pre-light [gates are open] and hope to hear a Gt-Horned or Barred Owl calling just north of Hellcat but goal is to get to Cross Farm Hill at early light and park along the edge of the road. Shortly the Short-eared Owl often starts hunting low over the hill - in the far trees on the south side of the hill are often raptors from Red-tails, occasionally a Rough-legged, etc - various sparrows & a few other passerines can be also found there.Then I head directly toParking lot 7 and walk up to the platform overlooking the ocean and Emerson Rocks - from the platform [scope is important although you can walk the beach to be closer], this location is the best location on the island for viewing the ocean birds with the Emerson Rocks being a big draw - all 3 scoters, many C Eiders, Long-tailed Ducks, 1 female Harlequin, Goldeneyes, Bufflehead, etc - the rocks will attract Dunlin and Purple Sandpipers - also there are Common & Red-thr Loons, Horned & Red-n Grebes, various alcids like Razorbills, gull species, Gannets , cormorants in the water and/or flying off shore - Parking lot 1 beach is another spot good for looking for seabirds but 7 is the best - often excellent birders are at 7 calling out the interesting birds & who are very helpful.
I head back to Parking lot 4 to Hellcat Wildlife Observation Area which is an excellent spot for observing many species - Snowy Owls, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcon [who often sits on the tower], N Harrier, Merlin, Cooper's Hawk occasionally - in the water dikes [if not frozen] are various ducks likePintails, Gadwalls, etcTake the trails off the parking lot through the woods where you can pick up a variety of passerine species - the trail cuts across the main road and that area has many berries & good for finches & sparrows. > From there, I head to the Maintenance parking lot and check the dirt > parking lots around the buildings for Horned Larks, Snow Bunting and a > very occasional Longspur - also you will find Savannah Sparrows - walk > to the far small pines behind the buildings to check for finches, etc > - also you can scan the Plum Island Sound from there for a variety of > ducks, geese, gulls
One could head back to Parking lot 6 and walk the trail to Stage Island Pool overlook but also has another nice look at the PI Sound again but closer - many geese, ducks and gulls feeding there - along the trail over the hill= there are various passerines that could prove interesting [Shrike??]
There are other viewing locations on the refuge to explore like the Pines Trail [Parking lot 5], etc that I am probably short changing - like the Snowy Owls [2 or 3] can be anywhere but the word spreads where they are to be seen - just driving the main road you can spot various raptors, geese, etc -even 1 late Great Egret
One exciting birding location and one great spot for photographers is the northern end of Plum Island - head off the refuge and drive Northern Blvd tothe very end to the parking lots. One option is at the end walking out on a commercial dock for great scanning of Newburyport Harbor for all the many many ducks, gulls, etc. Next exciting option is to walk the beach to the right of the dock so you are looking straight across to Salisbury Beach State Reservation.- keep walking further up the beach to where you can easily scan the ripping ocean water between the breakwaters entering or exiting the harbor depending on the tide - hundreds & hundreds of ducks along with loons, grebes, cormorants, gulls are tightly packed in feeding non-stop - if you were a photographer, just sit along the beach and these species will swim close by with no care of your presence.
Obviously best to get to the refuge early for all the early bird movement but also to avoid all the tourist entering the refuge later filling the parking lots - always special birds are there at the refuge to make any trip exciting
For those interested in birding competition and supporting the Parker River NWR and it's "Friends' Internship Fund" which helps support wildlife conservation students working with the refuge staff, there is a "Parker River NWR Winter Birding Challenge" that takes place between Feb 13th - 19th.Two separate competitions that covers the total Plum Island - which person or team can see the most species in 1 day during that week or the 2nd competition who or team can see the most species during that week.