Cape Ann on the Massachusetts coast north of Boston attracts a large number of wintering birds, including ducks, loons and grebes. A visit to Rockport last week was rewarded with lots of sightings on an unusually warm November morning. It started off with a pair of Hooded Mergansers in a flooded quarry at Halibut Point State Park.
Red-breasted Mergansers flew over the ocean below the bluff a little later in the morning.
The most common ducks on the water and in the air were Black Scoters and Common Eiders. The Eiders are large ducks mostly known for the down collected from their nests. Mature males are white and black but the females have a nice chestnut color. Younger males are not as striking in their plumage.
There are three types of Scoters: Black, White-winged and Surf Scoter. The Blacks were by far the most plentiful. The males have a bright orange bill that is easily spotted from a distance.
White-winged Scoters flew by and demonstrated the source of their name.
There were a few Surf Scoters too. We would have missed them but for the photos that let us pick them out from the other Scoters. Many of my photos are not quite photo calendar quality but are invaluable for identifying birds. I got interested in bird photography for this reason. The three birds at the top of this photo are Surf Scoters with their multicolored bills.
There was also a flyby of Long-tailed Ducks.
A Red-throated Loon, minus the red throat at this time of year, lingered at the base of the bluff.
And last is another ID-quality photo, not very artistic but essential for spotting a species. In this case a flock of shorebirds darted out from the rocks below and quickly disappeared back into those rocks. They were invisible from our vantage point up on the bluffs so this quick photo is the only way we could know what they were. These are Purple Sandpipers with two slightly larger birds with white stripes on their backs. Those are Ruddy Turnstones. Purple Sandpipers winter here in New England but the Turnstones head for the Gulf of Mexico. These two are lingering a bit longer than usual.
More Cape Ann photos coming soon.