11/27 – 11/29: Thanksgiving Birding

Thanks to a break in the treatment schedule, my family was able to enjoy Thanksgiving weekend at our cottage in Cape Cod. Having sold our beloved house in Yarmouthport just the year before, we ended up buying a wonderful abode just down the street from our former residence. Our cottage is surrounded on three sides by water, two sides of which abut the expansive salt marsh that connects to the “Great Marsh” in Barnstable. After just a summer at the place, the yard list already hovers around 70 species. I definitely intend to go into further detail on this wonderful spot in a future post.

My grandfather, Jim Orrico, and I headed up on Wednesday, November 29, making a couple of stops for birds along the way.

Our first location was Greenbacker Farm Pond in Durham, CT where a Greater White-fronted Goose had been seen. It took a little persistence, but we were eventually able to nail the goose flying in with a large flock of Canada Geese, half an hour into our rainy vigil.

The pond was chock full of waterfowl, including a couple of Bufflehead, birds that have a more coastal flair to them. It is likely that the less-than-ideal weather conditions had forced these birds down onto the pond, which was a definitely a weird place to see them.

Other waterfowl species included Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser and Ruddy Duck. The omnipresent Mallard and American Black Duck were also around.

Our next (and last) stop was Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, in hopes of catching up with the Lapland Longspur that had been reported.

While waiting in the Nature Center parking lot, we noted the calls of Horned Larks above. After circling a bit, these jumpy birds eventually put down, affording close views. Within this group were three Lapland Longspurs, a high count for me in Connecticut. The longspurs appeared to consist of one apparent male-type and two female-types, although those arbitrary designations are based on my limited knowledge of this species, and thus might not be wholly accurate.

Other highlights at Hammo included Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant and Black-bellied Plover.

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

The next morning (Thanksgiving) dawned cold and blustery, and we found ourselves in beautiful Yarmouth Port, MA. Per my Thanksgiving tradition of getting a little birding done before stuffing my face, Jim Orrico and I headed over to nearby Hallet’s Mill Pond early, to see what was around.

We ended up walking the periphery of the east side of the pond, checking the open water and nearby thickets. Our highlights included a Gray Catbird, 7 Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Swamp Sparrow, all working the thickets along the road. American Black Ducks, Bufflehead and a Hooded Merganser were the only waterfowl species present on the pond.

We then headed back to the house, seemingly through with birding for the day. But the wonderful part about this house is, the birding really never ends. Upon returning home, I noticed a sharp NE wind coming off the marsh, and scores of birds flying offshore.

My curiosity into these congregations, coupled with some terrific conditions, resulted in a spontaneous two-hour long seawatch, right from my living room!

The highlights contained a number of firsts for the property, and included: Northern Shoveler (present just beyond the marsh with American Black Ducks), Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflhead, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Gannet (~85 plunge diving offshore), Sanderling, Dunlin and Bonaparte’s Gull.

It was definitely an experience enjoying a typically less-than-comfortable activity (but one of my favorite aspects of birding) from the comfort of my own home. I’ll definitely be looking forward to one of those fall nor’easters sometimes soon. Yard Sabine’s Gull sounds pretty good…

After an unbelievable Thanksgiving meal (thanks, Mom!), Black Friday (11/29) found my family on the Outer Cape, avoiding the crowds, and taking some time to enjoy the area.

Before meeting the others, my dad and I stopped off at Nauset Beach in Orleans, a favorite spot of mine.

Nauset Beach tends to be the most reliable location on the Cape for Harlequin Duck, and this visit did not disappoint, as we quickly noted a male Harley among the more numerous Black Scoters.

We were able to note all three Scoter species on our visit, as well as Common Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Gannet and Bonaparte’s Gull. Funny, I saw a good chunk of those birds at the house the day before…


This entry was posted in Cape Cod Birding, Connecticut Birding, Rarities. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 11/27 – 11/29: Thanksgiving Birding

  1. Helen says:

    Sounds like an awesome holiday, Alex! So glad you were able to bird the Cape. Thanks for your report! –Helen

  2. Betsy says:

    Hi Alex,

    Happy Holidays to you and your family. Your Thanksgiving was a “Birding Heaven” especially for the turkey. Thanks for sharing your birding adventures. I’m never disappointed.
    Betsy & Bruce too

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