My temperamental weather station showed things got a bit chilly last night—down at least to 5 degrees (F). Still single digits at first light, but apparently none of the whipping winds of yesterday. Sunny. An achingly blue sky. From the back deck I heard the voices of crows, chickadees, and a downy woodpecker.
On a trip to town, I counted the usual herring and ring-billed gulls and saw a single European starling in flight.
Then, despite the cold, my birding friend Kristen and I ventured out to the breakwater not long after high tide, where rime ice coated most of it granite surface. Somewhat surprisingly, several other couples and groups hazarded a Saturday walk along the narrow strip of ice-free stone. And there was wind—there’s always wind—but relatively light and northwesterly. The stroll out wasn’t too bad. On either side we saw loons, great cormorants, long-tailed ducks, eiders. We saw buffleheads, goldeneyes, mallards, guillemots. Kristen quickly ID’d a horned grebe in winter plumage. Herring gulls, of course.
On the way back we headed more or less straight into the wind. Despite my hat, hood, and scarf, my ears and forehead grew numb in a hurry. But once we’d covered about three-fourths of a mile, we’d reached the lee of the shore, and my face thawed. In fact, we took a little side trip northeast, to a little cove we visit during our area’s annual Christmas Count, to check on a pair of red-breasted mergansers and a group of black ducks.
But the most impressive sight came as we drove back, at Clam Cove—a wide tidal flat just a stone’s throw from my place. The tide was going out, and a dozens of crows stalked the icy mud together, poking around for grub. And if the crow party below caught our attention, so did a similarly large collection of small gulls floating far out in the open water: Bonaparte’s gulls, maybe sixty of them. They were pretty far away, but they appeared to have their heads tucked under their wings, snoozing.
Humans, loons, long-tails, black ducks, crows, gulls—all going about their Saturday business in the company of like-minded individuals. Not that I’d describe cold January as miserable, exactly, but it does seem true that most species do love company. (Ironically, I got one photo that features three wildly different ducks.)
After our walk, as Kristen headed home, I heard the spring warble of a house finch coming from across the road.
Greater black-backed gull
Tags: American crow, black duck, black guillemot, black-capped chickadee, Bonaparte's gull, bufflehead, common eider, common goldeneye, common loon, downy woodpecker, European starling, great cormorant, greater black-backed gull, herring gull, horned grebe, house finch, long-tailed duck, mallard, red-breasted merganser, ring-billed gull