Lots of news to report in the first part of 2013. For starters a web gallery of photos from my trip to Florida this past December and early January. Highlights were once again from Myakka River State Park in Sarasota which continues to be my favorite place to photograph birds and other wildlife in the Sarasota and Venice area of Florida. That said one of the more interesting sightings were several Razorbills that had been blown in by Super Storm Sandy before I arrived. I even found one dead on a beach in Englewood, saw one on Sanibel Island and three off the Jetty in Venice one of which I photographed two days before I departed Florida. Speaking of Sanibel Island if you find yourself on the island I recommend The Island Cow for breakfast, lunch or dinner. While we are talking about food and I LOVE good food, on my return trip from Florida to Massachusetts I had dinner at Paula Deen’s restaurant The Lady & Sons in Savannah, Georgia. Great meal and GREAT service, our waiter Kelson was the BEST! I had the buffet with Southern Fried Chicken, Collard Greens, Mac and Cheese, some baked beans and for desert Peach cobbler. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Finally as a reminder anyone interested in purchasing a copy of “Epic Journeys’ you can do so locally at Mass Audubon Drumlin Farm Gift Shop or online through Buteo Books.
Take care and as always get out and enjoy the natural world and please help to protect it.
Any good “birder” in Massachusetts can tell you in a year when White-winged Crossbills are to be found the first place to look is (SBSR) Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Located just south of the New Hampshire and across the channel from Plum Island this late fall and winter “Hot Spot” can really deliver the goods for birders and bird photographers looking to score a nice selection of birds that we do not see every year here in Massachusetts. In fact the last time we had a good southward movement of Crossbills was back in the winter of 2008/2009. While that was a good year for Crossbills it’s NOTHING like we are seeing this year. I’ve been birding or photographing at this location for about 20 years and I have never seen this many Crossbills at SBSR, and it’s not even close! It’s impossible to get an exact count of how many Crossbills there are this year but a conservative estimate would be 100+ and that might be low.
If you go arrive at sunrise and as you enter the park look for the campgrounds on your right. The X-bills are usually not difficult to locate if they are present and this year as I stated there are more Crossbills then I have ever seen at this location. The vast majority of which are White-winged (95%) with a few small flocks of Red Crossbills mixed in along with Redpolls, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Pine Siskins. All of these birds are there for one main reason….food, and their food of choice are the seeds found in the pine cones that scatter the entire campground area. The birds will move from tree to tree looking to split open these cones and extract the seeds and sometimes they are even found hopping around on the ground picking seed that have fallen from the trees. While the Crossbills are busy feeding another group of birds are also moving in looking to feed. Only these birds are not interested in seeds. Sorry to say these birds are looking to catch and eat other birds and in this case Crossbills are on the menu. These are the mid-sized falcon we find in the Northeast the Merlin and possibly a Cooper’s Hawk or Sharp-shinned Hawk. These birds of prey arrive looking to take advantage of their own harvest just as all the seed eating birds are reaping the benefits of a good years crop from all the seed bearing trees. So as you are photographing or viewing Crossbills be on the lookout for any number of raptors that may appear.
Another good wildlife viewing opportunity is at low tide look across the channel towards Plum Island. As the large rock become exposed the local Harbor Seals will haul out and begin to sun themselves or rest for a few hours. For Photographers this is best done in the afternoon or on an overcast day. This is possible one of the best locations to see Harbor Seals on the North Shore in large numbers and different color morphs.