Crossbills, Salisbury State Park, Massachusetts

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.

White-winged Crossbill (male)

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.

Merlin (falcon)

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.

Click here to view a selection of photos and one video from Salisbury Beach State Reservation.

Additional updates, we are happy to announce anyone interested in purchasing Migration Productions latest video “Epic Journeys” you can now do so from Buteo Book.

As always enjoy the great outdoors and please help to protect wildlife and wild places.

Shawn P. Carey
Migration Productions

Wildlife Videos Massachusetts

Am I more interested in photographing wildlife or recording video? That’s the question I’ve asked myself for a little over a year now and in the last ten months I’ve found myself “shooting” more video then photographs. WOW! What has Canon done to me! By the way I still hear people use the phrase “video taping”. There is no “tape” when you are recording video with a digital SLR camera, all the data is recorded on the same CF or SD cards I’ve used for many years now. Therefore I prefer to use the term “recording video”. So why the new found interest in recording video? For starters I have become very enthusiastic about also recording audio. So by combining the two I’ve started to see (and hear) the natural world in an entirely new way. When I’m out “shooting” with other photographers I now do not want to be anywhere near them. I simply do not want to record some great video of a Marsh Wren singing and in the background you hear the “click, click, click” of a shutter on another photographers camera. Thankfully that’s somewhat easy to avoid,… just stay clear of other photographers. What is not so easy to avoid are all the other man made sounds that assault all of us on a daily basis even when we are in what we believe to be a “wild place”. For example (as posted in my last Blog) I have been recording the same video (and photo) of a scene from Mass Audubon Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield at the end of each month for almost two years. Each month I try to record a minimum of 45 seconds without any man made sounds. That means no car horns, car alarms (when’s the last time anyone paid attention to a car alarm? Show of hands please. That’s what I thought, no one!) lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snowblowers, dogs barking and the biggest offender planes flying by! In Eastern Massachusetts this is not easy to do and at best I have been able to get just over one minute before an unwanted sound causes me to end the recording. Don’t believe me? The next time you are at your favorite state park, refuge or Audubon Sanctuary just stop and see how long before you hear your first man made (or not natural) sound.

For this Blog I have three new videos I’ve posted on YouTube. Click on the photos to see each video. The first is an interesting look at a Box Turtle and Spade Foot Toad. As a side note on the Spadefoot Toad, this is a species I have been trying to photograph for over ten years. It just so happened there was a Spadefoot at Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay the week I was on vacation this past August and finally I was in the right place at the right time!

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Spadefoot Toad (Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary)

The second video shows the Goose Pond at Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary also recored the week I was on vacation. I spent each morning from sunrise until about 10:00 AM sitting in the observation blind at Gooses Pond or my personal photo blind. I was able to record video of both Lesser and Great Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Eastern Phoebe, Kingfisher, Snowy Egret, Green Heron and this Stilt Sandpiper shown below which is not a bird we see often on Cape Cod. Click on the photo below to view this video.

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Stilt Sandpiper (Goose Pond, Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary)

The final video was recorded over about a two week span at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, Massachusetts back in May. This is the best time to see, photograph and now video for Marsh Wrens. It’s also a good location and time of year for Red-winged Blackbirds. With both species being so vocal this made for some nice audio along with the visuals. I hope you enjoy these latest videos and please see links below for some of my earlier video posts. Take care and remember to get outdoors enjoy it and help protect wildlife and wild places.

Marsh Wren, Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Concord, Mass.

Piping Plovers, Plymouth Beach 2011

Piping Plovers, Plymouth Beach 2010

Piping Plovers, Plymouth Beach

American Kestrels, June 2010

Turtles, Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Penn.

“Seasons” Mass Audubon Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary

Red Knots

Take care and please help to protect the natural world.

Shawn Carey
Migration Productions