WORDS ON BIRDS
Lots To See at the Eagle Festival
February 10, 2018
By Steve Grinley
Saturday, February 17, is the Merrimack River Eagle Festival in
Newburyport. If you attend the Festival, chances are good that you
will see eagles and all kinds of raptors.
You can attend a one-hour morning or afternoon presentation at the
Newburyport City Hall where Mary-Beth Kaeser of Horizon Wings will
present two educational programs featuring raptors great and small.
It is first come, first served and recommended for adults and
children age 6 and over. You can also pre-register to have photos
taken with a raptor for a small donation.
If you have younger children or cannot attend the City Hall
presentations, you may visit the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education
Center, where you can have close looks at live hawks from the Mass
Audubon Drumlin Farm Sanctuary. At the Parker River National
Wildlife Refuge Headquarters across the street, you will get to meet
a few owls, also from Drumlin Farm. Both locations will have family
projects, arts and crafts and more!
These indoor programs are great fun, however the best show is
usually outdoors where the bald eagles, along with other area
raptors, ducks, and geese are sure to put on an amazing display. I
will be co-leading one of several van tours that will take you to
venues along the Merrimack River in search of eagles. If you like
taking pictures, there is also an afternoon tour this year
especially for photographers. Van tours require pre-registration at
Mass Audubon Joppa Flats. If you wish to visit these venues on your
own, maps are available at the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats Education
Center or at the Parker River Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.
During your visit to the venues along the river, you might encounter
harriers hunting the marsh, or an occasional Cooper’s or
sharp-shinned hawk. You might also see one of the new resident
peregrine falcons that now regularly hunt the river and are likely
to nest in the area this year.
on the river, you may watch common goldeneye and bufflehead
courting, and handsome long-tailed ducks, common and red-breasted
mergansers feeding in the river. Great cormorants can also be seen
fishing in the river and sometimes a wintering great blue heron or
kingfisher might be found. Even a harbor seal or two have made
appearances in the past.
also spend part of the day on your own at Plum Island where you
might find a snowy owl in the dunes or marsh along the refuge road.
Several snowy owls have been spotted on the refuge this season along
with red-tailed and rough-legged hawks. There have also been bald
eagles seen from the North Pool Overlook, and perched on Grape
Island south of Lot 5. If birders are present with scopes, they will
likely share their optics and the experience of viewing these birds
Most of the tours and the
indoor and outdoor experiences during the Festival are FREE! For
additional information, please contact the Mass Audubon Joppa Flats
Education Center at 978-462-9998 or the Parker River Wildlife Refuge
If you are unable
to attend the Eagle Festival on Saturday and would still like a
chance to see eagles and owls with a group, you are welcome to join
me for a free “Eagles and Owls Walk” next Sunday, February 18. We
will meet at Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift at the Traffic Circle at
1pm and we will carpool to look for bald eagles along the river and
then head to Plum Island to try to see eagles, hawks and snowy and
short-eared owls. The trip should last about 3 hours. Everyone is
welcome, but dress warmly, and bring binoculars, scope, or field
guide if you have one.
I hope to
see you next weekend!
Bird Watcher's Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
years of service to the birding community!
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