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


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.

Stay safe
Strickland WheelockUxbridge MA

Join us on Facebook!