This weekend James Randall joined my father and I on our monthly trip out to our second home on the cape. What follows is a description of our great trip.
Day 1-Friday, February 5
After getting James from school we headed up to the Cape. The birding began immediately with a try for the Townsend’s Solitaire that had been spending a couple weeks in my town. Peter Bono had found the bird and showed us around the spots it had been. 45 minutes of hard searching turned up nothing. Peter ended it by mentioning an adult Northern Shrike found that day at Marston’s Mill’s airport.
Marstons Mills Airport is a spot I’ve birded before. Since James has only been to the cape two other times before it was new to him, as was the bird we were seeking. When we arrived dusk was on it’s way. On our rushed scan, James located a dot in the far distance that he thought was the shrike. I tried to get on what he was seeing but only saw a leaf. We drove closer and sure enough found the adult. Guess I had the wrong leaf! It gave good scope views before disappearing to roost before I could snap a photo. For James a lifer, and for me a year bird I didn’t think I’d get.
Day 2-Saturday, February 6
We awoke early to find a snowy and brutally windy storm on its way. With confidence still riding high we drove up to Race Point in Provincetown, where I had seen an adult Ivory Gull on a SUNNY day during my last trip to Cape Cod.
When we arrived at the point the wind was brutal and the temperature freezing. We braved the cold, seeking the old coast guard station for shelter. The surf was picking up by the minute but there were birds out there. Numerous scoters and loons with alcids mixed in. James saw his lifer Razorbill and Kittiwake, plus, we were able to locate an adult Pacific Loon (sorry no photos-see Nick’s blog) last seen by Nick Bonomo and James P. Smith. We had both seen one in CT before, but it was still a great bird for the day and the year. Soon, though the visibility, wind, and snow chased us out of there. Our next stop was Provincetown Harbor, to try to find a storm-blown alcid. No luck there but we did see two seals (Harp and Gray) close to the harbor. At one point, the Harp caught a fish and nearby gulls tried (without success) to steal it. We were also treated to nice closeup views of Common Eiders and Red-breasted Mergs.
After P’town Harbor we moved on to Pilgrim Lake, scanning unsuccessfully for the Glaucous Gull that had been there. At our next, stop we also missed Barrow’s Goldeneye but regrouped and headed for the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.
The sanctuary will always have a special place in my heart, as I’ve had many memorable birding moments there. This time we’d catch a break. Instead of freezing on the trails we planned to sit inside and watch the feeders. The sanctuary many feeders spread around a large area with large windows to view the birds closeby. It provided a great photo op. When we arrived we watched Cardinals, Blue Jays, Red-winged Blackbirds, Black-capped Chickadees, American Goldfinches, Song and White-throated Sparrows and European Starlings all vying for space and putting on a show. A Field Sparrow and a few Tree Sparrows added spice as did a Hairy Woodpecker that provided great comparisons with the nearby Downy’s. But the real stars of the show were the two Northern Bobwhites that had been hanging around the stations. Bobwhites, like eiders and Whip-Poor-Will’s are wonderful but unfortunately declining symbols of cape cod. The two kept us entertained racing around the feeding station, raising their beautiful crests when they entered. I was able to photograph the cute Bobwhites at close range. We all enjoyed them very much.
The wonderful day ended at the Bird Watcher’s General Store, where I enjoyed a nice conversation with my friend Mike O’Connor.
Day 3-Sunday, February 7
The last day of the trip began late with a diversion on the way home for 3 Black-headed Gulls that had been seen in a cove. I spotted the gulls after 10 minutes of scanning. My first and last lifer of the trip and a great ending for all of us.
I will post a ton of photos later tonight from the trip so check back after the Super Bowl!