A great morning for sea ducks
Having postponed our Cape Ann trip the previous weekend due to bad weather, we chose Sunday, December 10 in hopes of better weather. Yet the forecast called for heavy rain and strong winds starting midday. We decided to squeeze in our trip and were glad we did!
I arrived in thick fog to the Fisherman's Statue and met our Spark Birding group. Suddenly the fog lifted, the sun shone brightly, there was no wind, and the temperature was in the 40's. These great conditions lasted all morning.
We elected to do the Cape Ann circuit counter-clockwise. First stop was at Halibut State Park at north edge of Rockport. Following an ice free trail down to a rocky headland we marveled at Arctic-breeding sea ducks that are only seen here in the winter. Highlight was the dozen or so Harlequin Ducks whose males are purple and chestnut with scattered white spots. Several Long-tailed Duck males in elegant coffee and white plumage, and a large raft of Black Scoters fed just below us offering great views.
Later along Atlantic Avenue in Gloucester the calm seas featured White-winged Scoters, many Buffleheads and two quite rare Red-necked Grebes. At Eastern Point by the lighthouse we had fine views of a male Surf Scoter with its swollen bill colored like a puffin, Common Eiders, Gadwall and sleek Red-breasted Mergansers. Niles Pond nearby was full of ducks including 100 or so little Ruddy Ducks with stiff tails in the air, a half dozen Ring-necked Ducks, and a dozen Greater Scaup.
Our final spot was the Gloucester Fish Pier where several Common Loons swam by at close range. Returning to our cars at the Fisherman's Statue we celebrated our good luck with the weather and the great looks at so many waterfowl of interest. Then the wind and rains came.