NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 29, 2014

Spring-like weather brings great birding days

The redwings and grackles are arriving in full force anticipating better weather ahead. The weather almost feels like it is turning to spring, but we have been fooled before.

Take, for instance, another day in early March when temperatures crept up to around 50 degrees as Doug Chickering of Groveland describes a great day in the field:

“Lois Cooper and I had some of our best birding of 2014 on one of the most pleasant days of the year. Hovering around 50 degrees and fairly clear skies, we took the opportunity to make the best of the day and we hit our usual haunts and came up some surprising and satisfying bird sightings.

The best bird of the day, and the biggest surprise, came when we were heading north from Hellcat on Plum Island. Out in one of the copse of trees in the Town Marker field I spotted a large raptor perched on a branch on the right side of a bare deciduous tree. Immediately, it was evident that this was a Buteo.

In the Town marker field my first thought was probably a Rough-legged hawk or maybe even a Red-tailed Hawk. When I acquired it, I immediately saw that it was neither. The tail was striped sharp black and white and there was thick red barring on the side and on the upper breast. A Red-shouldered Hawk! For me, a Red-shouldered hawk is not a common occurrence anywhere, and on Plum island a rarity. I think this might be only the second or third Red-shouldered I have ever seen on the island.

I was able to inform Rick Heil who I met only a few minutes after and then eventually got to inform Tom Wetmore and Mary Margaret Halsey.

The bird had flown off the tree shortly after I got it in my scope and flew over into the pines on the dune side of the road so I don’t know if any of them saw it. The rest of the day was nearly as rewarding. When I told Rick Heil about the hawk he said he would look for it and then promptly pointed out a Northern Shrike on one of the tree tops in the Marker field. There was also a beautiful male Harrier working the field, and a Rough-legged hawk perched in a bush on the far side of dike; just barely discernible even with a scope.

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