Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlifeView Marion's Bio
During the winter, seabird flocks – some of which spend the rest of the year as far north as the Arctic – cruise all along the Massachusetts coast. It’s a phenomenon known among the birding community nationwide.
My husband and I make an annual winter trek up to Cape Ann to see colorful Harlequin Ducks, striking black-and-white patterns of Eiders, Golden-eyes, Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks (aka Oldsquaws), aerobatic Gannets, and diving Dovekies, Guillemots and even Bald Eagles! Click here for images and information on these birds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website.
If you, your family or friends want to give winter birding a try, check out two events happening on the North Shore in February. These events are a great opportunity for bird lovers of all skill levels to join expert guides who will help you identify birds.
The Mass Audubon Society and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce is hosting the Cape Ann Birding Weekend on February 5-7. The event includes tour of the area's birding hot spots, including a sea trip on the 7 Seas Whale Watch boat the Privateer IV! MassWildlife will provide checklists of birds and other wildlife related materials. Last year, 65 different species of birds were observed with 26 bird types spotted right from the window of the Elks Lodge! Click here for more information about this Cape Ann birding event.
The Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and MassAudubon are sponsoring the Merrimack River Eagle Festival on February 16. While the focus of the event is on eagles, you will see many other kinds of seabirds in the designated eagle spotting areas around the Merrimack River and Plum Island. The event includes family activities and a live eagle presentation! You can also visit with MassWildlife biologist Pat Huckery (pictured above looking through a spotting scope in a photo I took at the 2006 Eagle Festival) who will be near the Chain Bridge that day. Click here for more information on the Merrimack River Eagle Festival.
P.S. Bring binoculars or spotting scopes if you have them. Be prepared for cold temperatures and coastal wind! Winter birding and wildlife watching is a great activity but if you are cold, it’s not fun. Dress in layers of fleece or wool and wear warm and sturdy boots. Make your final outside layer something that provides wind protection such as rain or wind pants and jacket. Don’t forget a scarf, neck or face mask! You may be totally unrecognizable, but you’ll be warm and comfortable while you search the winds and waves for birds and seals.
The photo above is of me – unrecognizable but warmly dressed – and Scott Handler at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport in December 2009.