Friday, January 13, 2012

Trip to the Coast on Cape Ann Part 1: Sea Ducks

Last weekend's trip to Gloucester and Rockport on Cape Ann was both exhilarating and frustrating, exhilarating because of the knowledgeable and enthusiastic guidance of  Bryan Pfeiffer of Vermont Bird Tours, a congenial group of participants and of course the beautiful warm weather, frustrating because the birds were mostly far out at sea, too far to get decent photos of, and the bright sunlight produced harsh shadows, not ideal for photography . Most photos worth keeping were taken on the second day when the sky was slightly overcast. For my next trip to the coast I will  have to invest in a scope after all and learn digiscoping. 

The Common Eiders were plentiful and fairly close to shore. There was a King Eider but far out and difficult to see even with a scope. 

Buffleheads were also easy to see. The males were beautiful with their iridescent head and neck contrasting with the stark white patch across the nape.

A high point where the Harlequin Ducks at Andrew's Point. 
Here they are perched on a rock enjoying the warm sun rising over the North Atlantic. 

They are at home in turbulent water, breeding on fast flowing rivers in the summer and moving to the rocky coasts of North America and Greenland in the winter. Negotiating the surf along a rocky shore they forage in shallow water close to the coastline.  

Common Loon

Red-necked Grebe

Female Black Scoter

Female Surf Scoter

I believe this is a first winter male Surf Scoter

White-winged Scoters

Male Red-breasted Merganser

American Black Ducks, male with yellow bill and female with gray bill

Male and female Gadwalls

And lastly not a sea duck:  
This Peregrine Falcon. perched on top of Cloucester City Hall, has been a regular winter visitor for the past 8 years

We saw several more species, but I am not including them here since I didn't get any photos. I saw the King Eider but not well enough to count it in my life list I added the Surf Scoter and the Red-necked Grebe to my  list bringing it up to 293. My next post about the trip to Cape Ann will be all about Gulls. They go through several stages of molt, while they age, making them difficult and challenging to identify, though they are some of my favorite birds to photograph. 

Happy Birding!

Thank you for visiting my blog. I would very much appreciate your comment.


  1. Great trip and post Hilke. Boom & gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  2. you get to see such great waterfowl that do not come this far inland! nice!

  3. Wonderful birds to see Hilke.. and I even get to see some of them over here..
    The first image made me smile.. we had a Spanish Sparrow on the south coast a couple of days ago and the newspapers had images a bit like yours.. but of crowds of upto 3000 twitchers trying to see the rarity.

    Big hugs and I hope you have a lovely weekend xx

  4. Great shots of the Harlequins on the rocks... Love the Bufflehead photo too- great colors.

  5. I enjoyed seeing your photographs but understand you would've been dissapointed on the day finding the birds way out of reach somewhat. The lighting too can be a hassle. Those birding tours sound quite some fun regardless. I especially loved seeing the Harlequins; spectacular!

  6. Hello Hilke, great sightings on the coastal ducks and birds. Congrats on your lifers too. I love the colors on the Buffleheads, very nice! Great photos and post. Happy birding and have a great weekend!

  7. I have never seen some of these guys...great photos..I do love the mergansers and see them here sometimes in migration...

  8. Lovely shots, despite the hard conditions!
    I can hear you on the frustrating part though (similar experience for me this past Tuesday :))

  9. What a wonderful trip, though! I would love to see the harlequins!

  10. Hi Hilke

    What a great collection of ducks. I don't think I have ever seen anyone capture the iridescent on the head and neck of Buffleheads like that, I really enjoyed seeing your photos.


  11. Wonderful photographs and a delightful site...thanks.
    Gene Vermillion

  12. Awesome collection of various ducks! The Harlequin Ducks are beautiful! I've never seen those in person.

  13. Nice show Hilke, my, I could have added several lifers to my list with that group. The perfect light and close proximity need for that perfect shot is all to often unavailable. What you gonna do? It's the getting out there that's important anyway.
    Good luck chasing gulls!

  14. Hi Hilke. A grand selection from your day at the coast ... especiaally the Buffleheads.
    I totally share your frustration when the quarry is too far away for the lens. Have a good week. FAB.

  15. A very interesting series of photos and great that you got good photos of so many different birds. I always have a chuckle when I hear about the light being too bright. That's the way it is out here most of the time and I have learned to live with it. Now dull days - I don't know how I could cope with those!! Or what my photos would be like!!!

  16. I love them all, but the group of Harlequin Ducks enjoying the view is absolutely number one:)

  17. So lovely and colorful! I love the photo of the male Merganser with reflection!

  18. Eiders are such amazingly beautiful birds, and I always love to see those harlequin ducks. I should make time for a trip out there, I haven't explored Cape Ann at all yet!


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