25 July 2021

Gannets

Thursday, September 30th, 2010
Northern gannet, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Northern gannet.

Up early. Mostly overcast, but with breaks in the clouds to the east. After breakfast, I took off along down to Lobster Cove. En route, a merlin swooped over and perched in the tip of a spruce tree, silhouetted against the golden sunrise.

I walked all over the place. Back through town to the ice pond, where I spotted a Nashville warbler in some low foliage amid the ever-present yell0w-rumps and a couple chickadees. Mallards in the pond, along with a couple of black ducks and the pair of blue-winged teals. No kingfishers today that I could see. But plenty of flickers, and sparrows, and, of course, ‘rumps.

Yellow-rumped warbler, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Up the narrow path through the thicket behind the schoolhouse. On the ledges near where someone left some seed I saw a blue-headed vireo flitting about. Then around back of the meadow, where I met a woman who asked if I’d seen an older gentleman wearing a blue sweatshirt and carrying a cane. I hadn’t. If I should see him, I was asked to mention that he was missed at The Island Inn. I figured someone would track the old gent down.

The sun would emerge, the air would grow instantly warm, and I’d tie my over shirt around my waist; the clouds would overspread, a chill would rise, and I’d put my overshirt on again. Up beyond the lighthouse I found no sparrows or dickcissels, so I decided to head down the trail toward White Head. About a hundred yards in, I noticed a number of small birds zipping around in a stand of small trees: red-breasted nuthatches, chickadees, more ‘rumps, and a single black-and-white warbler. Just as I was starting to photograph the warbler, it took off in a hurry. I brought my camera down in time to see all the small birds vanish as a sharp-shinned hawk burst noisily through some leaves.

Chipping sparrow, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Chipping sparrow.

Nearing the cliffs, I heard voices and decided to take a side path to the north. The path wound around over roots and into a wood of tall trees, crossed a running stream, and met another small path. I turned west, and within a couple minutes ran into Ted, an older fellow birder whom I’d met earlier in my stay. Ted had had a stroke, so I was told, which explained why he walked very slowly, aided by a cane. He was wearing a blue sweatshirt. He was far from town—essentially in the middle of nowhere. It’d been a good half-hour since I’d seen the lady asking for him.

I turned around and walked with Ted through Cathedral Woods, down the trail lined with secret fairy houses made of bark and twigs, ornamented with shells and feathers and sea glass. At his diminished pace, it took us a good hour, hour-and-a-half to make it back to town, but Ted tells a good story.

After saying goodbye at The Island Inn, where Ted had a boat to catch, I returned to the birdy trail behind the schoolhouse, where I saw a pair of cardinals and about four or five dozen more yellow-rumped warblers. Then I headed back through town and down to Lobster Cove again. It was early afternoon. I made my way out to the exposed eastern rocks, just above the tide, where waves broke in white fountains below me. Fog hung low over the ocean. Northern gannets flapped on long wings back and forth not far from shore.

I must’ve sat there for a half-hour, forty-five minutes, watching the gannets fish. They’d flap by high, slow or circle, pull their wings in, then veer over and down—spiraling down, it looked like—and splash cleanly into the gray swells. Soon they’d emerge, float a moment, then take wing again. Over and over. I loved the feel of the sea wind, the sound of the waves, the ghostly appearance of gannets.

Got a few new birds. Had drinks with friends after. And just now I’m recollecting my time with the gannets.

Red-breasted nuthatch, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Red-breasted nuthatch.

Monhegan List
(Not in order of sighting.)

1. American black duck
2. Mallard
3. Blue-winged teal
4. Common eider
5. Ring-necked pheasant
6. Northern gannet
7. Double-crested cormorant
8. Sharp-shinned hawk
9. Merlin
10. Herring gull
11. Great black-backed gull
12. Mourning dove
13. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
14. Downy woodpecker
15. Northern flicker
16. Eastern phoebe
17. Blue-headed vireo
18. Blue jay
19. American crow
20. Common raven (voice)
21. Black-capped chickadee
22. Red-breasted nuthatch
23. Carolina wren (voice)
24. Golden-crowned kinglet (voice)
25. American robin (voice)
26. Gray catbird
27. Cedar waxwing
28. Nashville warbler
29. Yellow-rumped warbler
30. Palm warbler
31. Black-and-white warbler
32. Common yell0wthroat
33. Chipping sparrow
34. Clay-colored sparrow
35. Song sparrow
36. White-throated sparrow
37. Dark-eyed junco
38. Northern cardinal
39. Rusty blackbird
40. Purple finch
41. American goldfinch

Merlin, Monhegan Island, Maine, 30 September 2010.

Merlin.

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Bird Report is a (sometimes intermittent) record of the birds I encounter while hiking, see while driving, or spy outside my window. —Brian Willson



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