WORDS ON BIRDS
Alcids and Ducks Highlight Cape Ann Visit
By Steve Grinley
received a call last Saturday from our friend Ida that there was a
“cooperative” dovekie at Cathedral Ledge in Rockport. As we made our
way there, we decided to stop at the Granite Pier where we found
other birders scoping the outer Rockport harbor area. All three
species of scoters were swimming in the nearby waters along with
common eiders, red-breasted mergansers, bufflehead and a stunning
long-tailed duck was floating close to the pier. A single razorbill
was the only alcid that we spotted.
Glenn D’Entrmont and Ernie LeBlanc told us about thick-billed murres
at Folly Cove and Andrew’s Point, and they also gloated about seeing
five king eiders, one sub-adult male and 4 females at Plum Cove. I
don’t think that I have ever seen more than 2 king eiders together
anywhere in Massachusetts.
point, Sam Miller, who was also scoping with us, received a phone
call that there was a puffin at Bass Rocks. In the hierarchy of
Massachusetts alcids, puffins trump a thick-billed murre and even a
dovekie any day. We all decided to head across Cape Ann to Bass
Rocks on the back shore of Gloucester.
When we arrived, birders on site were on the puffin. However more
birders were arriving, including about a dozen members of the
Hoffman Bird Club from central Massachusetts. It was difficult to
get directions on where to look for this diving bird in the open
ocean with relatively few points of reference. Margo and I
eventually got on the puffin, somewhat surprised by the amount of
orange on this winter plumaged bird. The other winter puffins we
have seen have been mostly gray faced with large dark bills. This
was our first Massachusetts puffin seen from land and a “life bird”
for many others. As if the puffin wasn’t reward enough, in the same
general area were several black guillemots, a dovekie and another
bonus; a snowy owl perched on the roof of the Elks Lodge across the
We also learned that an
adult male king eider was seen from the Elk’s, far out near
Thatcher’s Island, so before we left, we scanned the ocean with our
scopes and I was able to locate the uniquely patterned black and
white eider a couple of miles out just left of Thatcher’s Island. My
95mm scope at seventy power made it possible to see the birds
beautiful blue head and bright orange, wide shielded bill.
We headed back across Cape Ann to Plum Cove on the north side of
Gloucester, with visions of Glenn and Ernie’s five king eiders on
We first stopped at
Lane’s Cove to see if we could get an angle on where they said the
birds were located, but it was too far a look with the late
afternoon sun before us. We continued to Plum Cove, walked out on
the beach and searched the water.
Sure enough, there was a group of four or five eiders moving in and
out of the Lanesville side of the cove. We finally got good enough
looks to see the bright orange bill on the immature male king eider
and three of the female king eiders. More icing on the cake was
seeing a male Barrow’s goldeneye and another thick-billed murre
swimming in the same area as we watched this amazing collection of
One last stop back at Folly
Cove for a couple more thick-billed murres did not disappoint. The
two murres were swimming close in near the rocks, giving great
binocular views and even better scope views. It capped one of the
best birding days on Cape Ann in recent memory!
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