NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 12, 2013

Feeding frenzies draw interesting birds and interested birders

Since I have been a bit under the weather this week, perhaps a touch of the flu, I will defer once again to Doug Chickering of Groveland, who has been healthy and birding the area, to describe a phenomenon that all of us birders enjoy:

“The western grebe can still be found right off the ocean observation platform at parking lot 1 on Plum Island. Lois Cooper and I had it one day this week and it was there again the next day. Tom Wetmore found it and I along with a few others saw it. We observed it at a distance of less than 100 yards and in the company of three red-necked grebes, which afforded a nice contrast.

“When I arrived around dawn, the wind had just started to sweep in from the northwest and slowly built in velocity. Over the years, the winds and storms have built the dunes up around the (lot 1) platform, forming a natural shelter against westerly and northwesterly winds. The morning sweep of winds that was so punishing in the parking lot was largely ineffectual up on the platform. The morning otherwise was clear and bright and the seas moderate. The air and water temperatures apparently were so similar that there was virtually no atmospheric distortion and even at the horizon, the visibility was clear and sharp.

“Soon after I arrived, the feeding frenzies began to form. Although not common, these frenzies do occur fairly regularly and any observer who visits the lot 1 platform often in the winter is bound to witness this rather spectacular event. It starts with the gulls. Almost unnoticed, all the gulls in the area take flight and move to congregate at one spot. These hungry birds stream in from all directions — usually close to the surface of the water, their flight profile direct and serious. Like weather fronts, these streams of birds collide into a flurry of activity when they arrive at the magic spot.

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