Monday, March 3, 2014

I can die happy now.

This morning I went out with a neighbor, a friend of the community, who is a serious birder.  Best time I've had in eons.  I should have known it would be a good morning when we stopped by the French bakery for coffee, and they had one of my favorite kinds of pastry from my junior term in France. Happy already.

This picture (via Google) looks very similar... sigh. Yum... Good to have right before Ash Wednesday!

Coffee in hand, we went out on the Gurnet, a thin peninsula dividing Duxbury Bay from the ocean.

the road down the Gurnet

waves up today - the edge of the snowstorm that passed to the south of us, thanks be to God

Gurnet Light (also known as Plymouth Light)

There isn't a paved road there, so one is required to have a four-wheel drive vehicle and a special town permit.   We went to see the Snowy Owls, but we quickly started finding birds I'd never seen (and known about, anyhow).

First off, a tiny flock of Snow Buntings.  They look like mostly-white sparrows.  Apparently they don't usually stay put as they did today.  Beautiful little creatures; the photos don't remotely do them justice.  I was glad I had brought the binoculars for a good look.  Never having officially gone birding in my life, this is the first time I've used them.

snow buntings hunting for breakfast

so beautiful - more so in person

Then I was introduced to a number of ducklike creatures, many of which looked much alike. Bufflehead Ducks I know well - I enjoy watching them in our cove. The others? I am told that I saw a White-Winged Scoter, but on going back through my pictures, I can't seem to find it.  Ah, well. Next time. However, I did see (and find again) a Common Goldeneye, a Common Eider, and a Surf Scoter.

Common Goldeneye
no idea if the eyes are golden, but I can recognize the round white spot at least
Common Eider - not the clearest photo, but you get the whole family - two adult males in breeding plumage, 1 female (brown), and 1 male in his first winter 
Surf Scoter - not the best picture, either, but you can see the huge, wild bill - love it!

Then there was a Brant, which looks like a tiny Canadian goose without the white on its neck, and some Great Cormorants in flight.

Great Cormorants
which I gather are not the same cormorants I see in the summer

Horned larks flutter quickly and have yellow on them. I've been hearing the phrase "sing like a lark" all my life, but I'd never seen one.  Now I have.

Horned Larks

There were familiar birds, of course - Herring Gulls, Black-Backed Gulls, and, somewhat out of season, a couple of little sanderlings along the water's edge.

cranky-looking Herring Gull may not be finding any herring today

And on the way back, we saw a merlin having brunch - something that had been white.

I decided no one wanted to see the photo in which he is taking a bite of his brunch.  All of a sudden it's rather obvious that this is a type of falcon.

The bird we went to look for, however, remained elusive for some time.  We had almost begun to wonder if we would see one at all, though there have been more of them this year.  Our birder friend said that usually there will be two Snowy Owls spending the winter.  This year, he has seen up to eight in one trip. As a matter of fact, there was a New York Times article about the unusual influx:

Here are related links I just looked up:

Well, just as we were getting towards the end of the road, one showed its face among the lumps of snow that were making the search more difficult than usual.

Well, hello there!
Beautiful bird.  Saw us, too, and didn't seem much bothered.  Of course, we turned off the car and were quiet, but all the same, I'd not  have expected her to be so calm.

another snowy owl watching the geese
Apparently the females are browner than the males; I think the juveniles are, too. I'm sure I should have guessed that - it's logical - but I've not paid much attention up until recently.

Here we have a male owl.
I have more photos of them, but I think I'll have to make that a separate post.  

Anyway, it's been a beautiful day thanks to these lovely creatures of God.  And to a neighbor's generosity with time and teaching.  I am so grateful.

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