NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 17, 2012

Birding can be both exhilarating and calming

It is has been an exciting few weeks in the bird world with exotic birds like lapwings, mountain bluebirds and pelicans being driven in by storms. Doug Chickering of Groveland shares with us a day of discovering some rare birds and more:

“I started my walk north from the Wardens on a cold, breathlessly clear autumn morning. I particularly like walking the S Curves on Plum Island in the early morning, when the sun has just started breaking through the leafless trees and before the automobile traffic begins to annoy the birds foraging along the edge of the road. I had started at parking lot #3 and planned to walk the S Curves south to the Wardens, try to get lucky by finding a lapland longspur there and then walk back. Today the walk up was quite sedate, with only a few robins and chickadees along the road and a mockingbird and song sparrow at the Wardens. On my way back I had only gone about 50 yards when I saw some movement on the trunk of a tree on the marsh side. Woodpecker, no doubt. Those were my first instincts. I brought my binoculars to bear and was surprised to see a bird, pecking at the tree like a woodpecker but without the markings of any woodpecker that came to mind.

“It appeared generally gray. Dark gray on the body a lighter brownish gray on the head. Certainly neither a downy nor a hairy. Maybe a sapsucker? I didn’t think so. I took a step to my right to get a better look when it flew across the road, ending my speculation. There were large square white patches on the wings. Red-headed woodpecker!! I hadn’t seen a red-headed woodpecker on Plum Island since 2006.

“Certain that Tom Wetmore would want to know about this bird, I tried to call him on my cellphone but could only leave a message. No sooner had I put my phone away when it rang. It was Tom, not answering my call, but informing me that he was on a pair of cave swallows in the field by the new blind.

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