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Gone Bowling [Flashback Friday]

January 28, 2011

Just about a year ago I posted the follow to this blog:

Friday morning, as this is posted to the Whole Wide World, I’ll be on my way to Massachusetts. After driving east for six hours, interstate after interstate, I’ll reach the outskirts of Boston where I’ll meet up with five guys I’ve never met. We will then commence to bowl.

I should clarify that I don’t mean the ancient sport of kings. No, my casual use of “bowling” is the more active but less known world of competitive birding, in this case a challenge known as the Super Bowl of Birding.

This year, history repeats itself and I am saying the same thing with one notable exception: this time around I’m meeting up with five guys I have met before (check out the introductions of the 2011 Bloggerhead Kingbirds, starting here).  But for today, I’m remembering last year’s event, mostly because I never recounted the high points of the birding, only the team members.  But I’m short on time, so welcome to my first-ever, bulleted-list Flashback Friday!


  • The afternoon before the big day Christopher treats us to near point-blank looks at a Northern Saw-whet Owl. Killer photos, if not for all of the branches.
  • We then visited Jason, a friend of Christopher, for near point-blank looks at a Chaffinch. It makes a brief appearance, enough for good looks and bad photos, then is pursued by a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Happily, we were not the last ones to see it alive, the Chaffinch returned to the feeder a few days later. (Read more from Jason about hosting this rarity at Brewster’s Linnet.)


Common Chaffinch, Waltham Massachusetts

This Chaffinch visited a feeder in Waltham, MA from December 2009 through April 2010.

Game Day

  • Watching a small group of waterfowl illuminated by the city-glow to pick out American Coot, the only one we hoped to encounter.  Mallards, Hooded Mergansers, Mute Swan also ticked.  Spirits soar, a good start in the pre-dawn!
  • Standing in 4*F temperatures, attempting to call in an owl in the clear stillness.  Any owl. Nate finally coaxes a single screech-owl to respond, Great Horned and Barred go unrecorded. Spirits dip as low as the mercury.
  • Civil twilight overlooking a bay yields more waterfowl, including Common Eider, Greater Scaup, Gadwall, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, and more.

    Red-breasted Merganser

    A Red-breasted Merganser, sporting a funky 'do, found in Gloucester Harbor.

  • On Nahant we find Brant, two scoter species, loons, grebes, and gulls, along with backyard birds such as Black-capped Chickadees, titmice, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal and sparrows.  Northern Mockingbird and Carolina Wren also found.
  • Peregrine Falcon picked up on Gloucester where we expected, but no unusual gulls picked out at the harbor.  A Black Scoter cleans up the scoters.
  • Niles Pond, a gull hot spot, was not so hot when we arrived.  Hardly any gulls, let alone white-winged gulls.

    Great Black-backed Gull

    We were hoping for a Glaucous Gull at Niles Pond, but this Great Black-backed Gull was about as close as we came.


  • A hoped-for King Eider missed on the way to Cape Ann, but we do find Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, and Red-throated Loon.
  • On Cape Ann we add Yellow-rumped Warbler, alcids including Dovekie, and Black-legged Kittiwakes.  Great looks at the kittiwakes, momentary looks at the Dovekies (in fact, I didn’t see them at all).

    Harlequin Ducks, male and female

    A pair of Harlequin Ducks found off of Cape Ann, which offers the best seawatching on the east coast.

  • A Turkey Vulture soars overhead as we drive through Ipswich.
  • At Salisbury Beach we add Song and Savannah Sparrows, Horned Lark, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier.
  • Ending the day at Plum Island we miss Northern Shrike and Short-eared Owl, but add American Kestrel, Snowy Owl, and Iceland Gull.


  • Revisiting several sites to try for better looks at Dovekie, to find the King Eider, and to add what we can to life lists.


Common Eider

It's hard to look off the coast and not find a Common Eider. I hope I didn't just jink us!

Wish us luck tomorrow! I’m sure some of us will be tweeting, check in on our progress via Twitter by following John Beetham, Nate Swick, or Andrew Baksh.


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