By Gail McCarthy
---- — The fifth annual Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend promises to provide bird enthusiasts of all kinds with tours of local hot spots with expert guides, a boat cruise, talks, a live owl demonstration and other programs — even an art exhibition.
Bird-watchers from New England and beyond flock to Cape Ann, known for its concentrations of winter seabirds, to take part in the event, which runs today through Sunday. This is an opportunity to view certain Arctic species that may not be encountered farther south.
“The guides who are leading the tours know the most likely place to find rare and interesting birds that winter here on Cape Ann,” said Peter Webber of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber, working with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, has organized the event, which continues to grow each year. The event headquarters is at The Elks at Bass Rocks on Gloucester’s scenic Back Shore, with events at other venues, including the Trident Gallery in Gloucester, which is mounting a special exhibition with works on loan from the Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon.
This year’s program includes bus tours of Cape Ann’s birding hot spots led by some bird experts from the Brookline Bird Club, founded in 1913, which is the largest and one of the oldest bird clubs in Massachusetts. The club’s website notes that Harlequin ducks have returned to Halibut Point in Rockport.
Some of the club’s best birders will take part, including Jim Berry, Susan Hedman, Jim McCoy, Sue McGrath and John Nelson. Berry will present a slideshow on Cape Ann’s winter birds today at the Elks. Tomorrow afternoon, Nelson, the director of the Brookline club, will give a lecture and slideshow on “Capt. John Smith’s Eagles: Birds and Cape Ann Cultural History.” Sunday, weather permitting, features the boat trip on the Privateer IV, skippered by Jay Frontierro.
“It’s going to be a great weekend. There are close to 100 people signed up,” Webber said. “There is growing interest in the weekend for sure. It is drawing people from near and far. We have the locals who love to come, and we also have bird enthusiasts coming from Brattleboro, Vt., and upstate New York.”
The Trident Gallery exhibit, which runs through March 2, features more than 30 prints, paintings and miniature sculptures by renowned artists John James Audubon, Milton Avery, Andy Warhol, Allen James King, Robert Verity Clem, Lars Jonsson and others.
Webber said the organizers are continuing on a theme started last year in which the links between the arts and nature are featured. Last year, there was a bird-themed music concert in Rockport.
“This year, we are highlighting a different field of art,” Webber said. “Bird enthusiasts and artists share a similar skill — that of close observation. It’s a nice connection.”
If you go
What: Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend
When: Today through Sunday
Where: Headquartered at The Elks at Bass Rocks at 101 Atlantic Road, Gloucester
How much: Guided tours cost $30 to $80
More information: www.capeannchamber.com
Exhibitor venue, open to public, 3 to 7 p.m.
Welcome reception (cash bar), 5 to 7 p.m.
“Winter Birds of Cape Ann,” a talk presented by Jim Berry, Essex County coordinator for Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas, 5:30 p.m.
Coffee, bagels and late check-in, 7 a.m.
Guided bus tours, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Exhibitor venue, open to public, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lunch available for purchase, noon
Guided bus tour, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
“Eyes on Owls” program, with live birds, 2 p.m.
Lecture and slide show, presented by John Nelson, Brookline Bird Club, 4 p.m.
Birding boat trip, with Capt. Jay Frontiero aboard the Privateer IV, 8 a.m.
Wrap up and checklist, Gloucester House Restaurant, 12:15 p.m.