, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 23, 2013

Luck and timing helpful to birders

Last Sunday, on Saint Patrick’s Day, the luck of the Irish was with us. Well, it was and then it wasn’t. We had to make some of our own luck. We decided to head south to the Cape and South Coast and try for a couple of “write-ins” - birds that, historically, do not show up in Massachusetts every year. Both had been reported for more than a week, so we were hoping that would increase our chances that they would still be around.

Margo and I headed first to Sider’s Pond in Falmouth where a female tufted duck was being reported the previous few days, after being originally found in Falmouth Harbor. The tufted duck was associating with hundreds of scaup in the pond, making it a challenge to pick it out among the female scaup ducks which look similar. It also didn’t help that the large raft of scaup were all the way across the pond, not in the best light, and it was freezing cold and windy that morning. It also didn’t help that most of the ducks were sleeping with their heads tucked.

The heat shimmer effect, created by the “warm” water and colder air, distorted the images through our scopes. Zooming my scope up to 60 power didn’t help much because of that distortion. So after more than an hour, we decided that we had to get a closer look.

We were standing on the north side of the pond behind the town hall, the only public access to the pond that I knew. The rest was surrounded by private homes. So we checked our Google maps and found a cemetery on the west side that would get us closer. We headed there, joined by two other birders who were also looking for the duck.

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