Saturday, February 19, 2011

Class Trip #3 -- Fairhaven & Mattapoisett

With the cooperation of Mother Nature, we got our final class on "Birding the Southeastern Coast of Massachusetts in Winter" in. We visited Fairhaven and Mattapoisett on Sunday, 2/13 and had a great day. We started at Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven which is an historic site. Sitting at the entrance to New Bedford Harbor, the fort was the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolutionary War in May 1775. Three years later it was attacked and destroyed by the British but rebuilt after that and named Fort Phoenix after the mythical bird which rose from the ashes!
It was manned during the War of 1812 and the Civil War and there are still 5 Civil War cannons at the site today....
along with a rebuilt Revolutionary War cannon that was captured in the Bahamas by a ship on which John Paul Jones was an officer. I was amazed to find so much history from 3 significant wars so close to home. If you're interested, you can get much more history than I've given you by going to any of several sites on Fort Phoenix, including a blogspot site.
But as interesting as the history is, we were there for birds....even these Mute Swans which flew in and out several times during our stop.
Landbirds were pretty scarce on this trip, so this little Song Sparrow was fun to watch going in and out of the ramparts.
There were Long-tailed Ducks making their strange call and displaying to females in the harbor as well.
Fort Phoenix was the westernmost boundary of our trip. From there we headed to the easternmost end in Mattapoisett at Ned's Beach. It seemed a bit quiet for seaducks and we certainly didn't have the drama of watching a Peregrin eating a Bufflehead like the last time we visited.
But we did have two Snow Buntings feeding on the grass (yes there was grass and not snow in some spots) near the lighthouse.
This is a somewhat unusual bird (at least for us) in this area. In fact, it may have been the first time we had anything except a flyover and I'm not even sure about that. Of course, we were a little jaded given the show that had gone on in December and January at the Worcester Airport. However, there were some members of the class that hadn't seen Snow Buntings this winter, yet, so it was fun to watch them preen. I'm just not used to seeing only 2 birds....where was the rest of the flock?
We had a large group of Canada Geese in the fields along Shaw Cove Road; but even after checking every bird we had to concur they were all Canada's.
Near the golf course on Reservation Road we had a cooperative Yellow-rumped Warbler. Some of the class really wanted to take this as a sign of spring, but Mark wouldn't let them. Still they felt good seeing a warbler and a bit of yellow!
We had some nice flocks of Greater Scaup out in the bay....
and at the end of Sconticut Neck Road we had a nice flock fly by fairly close to where we were standing.

We almost missed them, since we were all so intent on studying the Glaucous Gull which was right in front of us!
It was a great size comparison with the Herring Gull.
And we were able to really study the bill structure, including the defined dark tip, and the flatter look to the head...not as round as the Iceland Gull we had on the Plymouth trip. Also the wings didn't extend as far beyond on the tail as in an Iceland.
The bird was very cooperative and flew only a short distance, as if to show up every wingtip before resettling. Much like the Snow Bunting, this is a not a common bird for us in the Fairhaven area; in fact it might actually be our first Glaucous Gull in this area.

As exciting as that was, we were even more thrilled to find an unusual Brant at West Island!
For decades Mark has said to check every Brant for a "dark-bellied" or Black Brant. And this time we lucked out. There was a small flock near the rocks just east of the major beach entrance and one bird with a dark belly was standing on the rocks.
We were able to get all scopes riveted on this bird, and it clearly shows the darker belly on this bird. We watched the flock for about 15 minutes, before they flew off. Mark has spent the last several weeks researching everything he can find on this species and feels this is not the common Brant we usually find along the Massachusetts coast.
Also at West Island we had a small flock of Dunlin.
And with them was one Ruddy Turnstone blending in very well to the rack line along the beach. I had walked up to get closer photos of the Brant and I almost stepped on this bird before I saw him. When I got back to the class they had not seen the Turnstone in their scopes. It took a few minutes to pick him out from the dried seaweed but finally everyone got a look.
We made a couple of quick stops at various overlooks heading back up Sconticut Neck and finally called it a day and headed back to Worcester. In our last class the following Wednesday, we were able to compare shots of the Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and it was quite informative.

So after 6 weeks, our short, 3-week class that had been thwarted by class and trip cancellations due to weather finally came to an end. Of course, we are all excited for spring migration which really is just around the corner!


No comments:

Post a Comment