Sunday, December 11, 2011

Scoters & Parker River Nationl Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island, MA

A boardwalk leading to an ocean beach, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Yesterday I posted about the rare sighting of a Greenland's Barnacle Goose on U.S, soil - in particular, on Plum Island near the Parker Riv NWR's Visitors' Center.  A month ago, during my brief 2-day trip to Massachusetts,  I was hoping to see and photograph birds that I wouldn't ordinarily see in the Midwest, my stomping grounds, and I wasn't disappointed. Immediately, I was able to see the Barnacle Goose, and during the few hours spent on Plum Island (Above: 11/11/2011), I was able to identify almost 40 bird species and net six new birds on my Life List.

A chattering flock of House Sparrows in a bush waiting to invade the Visitors' Center feeders, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
I saw a few land birds (Blue Jays, House Sparrows (Above), several finches and many PBB's - "plain brown birds" that were too swift and hidden to identify); however, most of the birds I saw were water birds - swimmers, dabblers, divers, waders, and shorebirds.

A Great Blue Heron,  Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Water birds identified: Canada Geese, Barnacle Goose**, Mute Swans, Mallards, American Wigeons, American Coots, Northern Shovelers, Gadwalls, Ruddy Ducks, Red Heads, Common Eiders, several species of Scoters (White-winged**, Black**, and Surf**) (Below), Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers,  Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons (Above), Double-crested Cormorants, Sanderlings, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers**, Black-bellied Plover**, Greater Yellowlegs, Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, and Great Black-backed Gulls**.
** denotes new birds added to my Life List.
A float of Black Scoters bouncing in the Atlantic waves off of Sandy Pt., Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
One of my Life List additions, Black Scoters (Above & Below), were fun to see as they were bouncing in and out of view out on the active Atlantic waves. Getting a quality photo was out of the question as they were tiny dots in my view finder being quite a bit off shore and constantly being hammered by 2-3 foot waves. They were true surfers riding the waves. At one moment they would be in view on a wave's crest and in the next moment disappear in the trough between two waves.
A close up of some Black Scoters, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Male Black Scoters are quite striking with their complete black jet body with a bright yellow knob (Below) on its bill, like a lghthouse lamp in the night. Females are less striking - brown overall bodies , lighter on the cheeks with a darker crown.

Another pair of Black Scoters, and a better look at the yellow knob on the male's bill,  Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
In the summer months, Black Scoters are found on the two extreme coasts - northeast Canada and far northwestern Alaska. In the winter, they will migrate along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

A female White-winged Scoter, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
Another Scoter that I added to my Life List is the White-winged Scoter (Above & Below) which landed near the shore while I was chasing some Sanderlings (Next weekend's post).
Although not a great photo, it's a better look at the female White-winged Scoter's oval white loral patch and white patch behind its eye, Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA; 11/11/2011.
White-winged Scoters are slightly larger than Black Scoters and like the Blacks are found along both the Atlantic seaboard and Pacific coast during winter months. In the Summer, Whit-wings are found throughout western and northern Canada and Alaska. Although I didn't locate a male of this species, they would be a treat to see with its dark brown body, white secondaries on its wings, red-orange bill tip, and a white "comma-shaped" eye patch.

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