NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 19, 2013

Birding adventures on a perfect autumn morning

Before the government shutdown, Doug Chickering of Groveland paid a visit to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in late September and shared with us the magical spirit that this natural place holds for us. Now that the shutdown has ended and the refuge is open, the following may remind you of the special place that it is and prompt a visit:

“I drove onto the refuge a half hour before dawn and started the day with a walk out to the edge of the marsh from the Wardens looking for sparrows. It was a splendid way to start a perfectly cut gem of a mid-autumn day. I stood in the shadows as the rising sun illuminated the broad sweep of the salt marshes and the hills of Newbury on the far side. In places, the sun flashed off the windows of the distant houses. Heading north were small groups of egrets laboring in low flight, almost yellow in the new sunlight, off to fishing pools somewhere out there.

There was no wind and the morning was nearly soundless. Just the distant muted crash of the ocean behind me and, oddly enough, the low deep growl of ‘MR’ groaner, the sea buoy marking the mouth of the Merrimack River; a good four miles away. There were no sparrows yet so I went to check the Bill Forward Pool first and then head into Hellcat for passerines.

It appears as if the height of the shorebird migration is pretty much over in the Bill Forward Pool, with the tide still half up, there were only a scattering of dunlin and yellowlegs. At Hellcat I was, once again, the first one in the parking lot and the first one on the trail. Right away I came across two Black-and-white Warblers that I took to be a good omen. Then, right after them, I spotted a Scarlet Tanager directly overhead. It had gone over to basic almost completely, with only a splash of scarlet on the belly and peeking out of the undertail coverts. The bright red set against a deep yellow that had a taste of orange was nearly as breathtaking as if it were in full breeding colors. It was the start of an understated but special day.

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