Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cape Cod, March 9

After seeing the Gyrfalcon yesterday, I left Gilgo Beach at 5:38 pm and drove to Providence, Rhode Island and stayed the night just over the line in Massachusetts.  I will be seeking Dovekie and Razorbill, and perhaps King Eider at Cape Anne further north if I was successful at Cape Cod.

The weather had improved further.  No more snow, but relatively strong wind.  I arrived at Macmillan Warf in Provincetown at about 10:00 am, and noticed a man with binoculars and a camera walking out from the parking lot to the docks.  I asked him if he was looking for the Dovekies, and he said yes, and offered to walk out with me.  However, I needed a port-a-potty break and said I would meet him out there.  That was how I met Dan Logan, a photographer and writer, who showed me some of the spots to look for the birds I needed on Cape Cod. 

I saw a man with a video camera standing at an inside corner of the outer dock and asked him what he was photographing.  He said he was filming the Dovekie, and just then one popped up almost under our feet.  Dan and I and two other local birders joined the fun of trying to see and photograph the Dovekie in the few seconds that it stayed on the surface.  It was a tough challenge to get a photograph, but I managed the two shown that are identifiable but not good photos.  I was too close for the second larger one, resulting in a marginal photo. 
Dan told me that he had been at First Encounter Beach earlier in the morning, where he and other birders, including Marshal Iliff, a local expert, had Razorbills flying by and also close to the shore, as well as two fly-by Thick-billed Murres that Dan did not see.  I followed Dan to Race Point, where we did not see much except several potential candidates for large acids, but the surf was very violent and it was hard to find any birds.  We checked out nearby Herring Cove and found a lot of Common Eiders and four White-winged Scoters.  I did not find a Razorbill.  Dan was headed west and would stop at First

Encounter Beach.  I joined him there, but the tide had gone out, and there were none of the birds seen earlier in the morning.  In the morning after a storm, this location has birds from the ocean that get deposited by the high winds, but they disperse later in the day.    I scanned for a while with my telescope and picked up on a small flock of seven alcids that I believe were Razorbills.  They were black above on the wings, back, crown and tail and white below, with the bull-necked appearance of alcids (no neck) and rapid wing beats.  The bills appeared to be blunt rather than pointed.  I tracked them as they headed south and appeared to veer out into the bay.  Dan tried to pick up on them and photographed a flock that turned out to be Brandt, identified by photos.  They were not the birds that I saw, because Brandt have long necks and white upper tail surface.  I am satisfied that they were Razorbills, but I would like a better view.  In my experience, it is difficult to get good views of Razorbills, even when on a pelagic boat trip in the winter to see them.  They are often too brief fly-by views. 

I decided to stay on Cape Cod.  Dan called a friend who told him that I should try Cape Cod National Seashore at the Marconi location, where there is a high bluff to scan the ocean and also try Race Point.  Just before Dan and I parted ways, I noticed a fox walking down an eroded sand ravine to the parking lot.  Dan got a photo and will send me one. 

I headed to Cape Cod National Seashore in the main area and the Marconi location and scanned the ocean, but found no further Razorbills.  I returned to Race Point and scanned the ocean again.  The waves had subsided quite a bit since earlier in the day.  I found a Black-legged Kittiwake in the outer surf line.  It was a smaller gull with more pointed wings than the Ring-billed Gulls also present and had the sharply demarcated black wing tips, as if dipped in ink.  Dan had told me that at First Encounter Beach they also had Black-legged Kittiwakes in the morning, so they had been in the area.

I left Race Point at sunset and drove north of Boston to stay the night.  Tomorrow I will try for King Eider and start driving back to Cincinnati, OH.   Dovekie, Razorbill and Black-legged Kittiwake makes the total 167. 

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