Wednesday, 26 March 2014

A weekend on Cape Cod

Barbara was keen to show me around Cape Cod, any area she knows quite well & has fond memories of. I was even keener to go, as I knew it was a premier birding locale!
 The still very icy, Charles River in Boston.
 The famous bridges that cross the river.

 The Community Boat Club in Boston.
 Barbara doing some stuff with big things!


Saturday morning was spent helping to clean up the Community Boat Club in Boston, Barbara is a keen sailor & everyone was pitching in before the season could get underway. It was a very nice morning, meeting some interesting people. I undertook the more mundane tasks of lifting, carrying & cleaning! Barbara helped rigged the small boats. We finished off with a free pizza lunch & then Barbara navigated through the centre of the city & we were off!
Hi Clare!
Notice your Daddy looks like a homeless person,
 with belongings in a plastic bag!

The drive was a pleasant one & we crossed over on the bridge & we were on Cape Cod! Route 6 is the main highway & it runs approximately south to north, being flanked by coastal pine forest for most of the way.
A group of Wild Turkeys were seen on the side
of the road. Still a bit of a novelty for me!
We made a couple of brief stops before our eventual destination of Provincetown. We quickly found our lodgings for the night, which were absolutely delightful! Really delightful. We were the only straight people there!
 The wonderful sheltered bay in Provincetown.
 Superb houses &
buildings abound.
 Me & my new friends!
You get to see all the best shows!
 Provincetown or P-Town as it is known, is the gay capital of the east coast & it shows! It is a beautiful, linear town with some amazing buildings & a sheltered bay. But one cannot escape the fact that this is a big gay & lesbian focal point. It really does smack you in the face with it! But, people are great, lodgings & restaurants superb & the birding isn’t half bad either! It would be a wonderful place to live, filled with culture & art + the attractions of the natural world right on your doorstep. We enjoyed an evening stroll through town & then visited an Italian restaurant in which the service left a lot to be desired (unusual in the USA) but the food was really yummy! Cocktails in our guesthouse were excellent amid some rather unusual company! The stunning girl propping up the bar almost certainly wasn’t one! But Barbara & I laughed a lot around a rather nice open fireplace & retired to bed. There were birds to be seen & I wasn’t to be disappointed!
Cape Cod is packed full of areas of
special scientific interest.
The extensive dunes at Race Point.

I was keen to be up & out. But it was a cold, windy morning. Winter still held it tentacles strongly here! We drove to Race Point & then Herring Cove where we spent most of the morning. We met Ian & Diane, an Anglo/American couple who proved to be both delightful & informative company for the morning. It wasn’t long before we spotted a Northern Right Whale offshore. This is probably the rarest whale species in the entire world, with an estimated population of around 300 individuals!

(Taken from an open access resource on the internet).
This shot is fairly representative of the views we were
   getting. We all enjoyed great views through the telescope,
 but the animals were too far out for me to get 
any meaningful shots.

Taken from an open access resource on the internet.
Just to give you an idea of how big these creatures
 actually are!
There were at least two feeding off the headland & they eventually came closer, into the bay. We watched them through the telescope & binoculars on & off, for the next two hours. This was an unexpected thrill for me & a new world mammal tick! Diane proved to be especially knowledgeable on this species & it was an excellent morning, in excellent company.

 Birding off the beach was very productive,
 but most flocks were quite a long way out.

Birding was very good as well, with lots of sea duck feeding offshore.
3 Common Loon, 13 Red-throated Loon, 1 Horned Grebe, 1 Red-necked Grebe, 25 Great Cormorant, 55+ Northern Gannet, 70+ Razorbill, 75+ Brant, 350+ Common Eider, 14 White winged Scoter, 25+ Surf Scoter, 2 Black Scoter, 35 Common Goldeneye, 65 Bufflehead, 100+ Red-breasted Merganser & saving the best until last, 2 pristine adult Kumlein’s Gulls! A world tick for me!

The dune grass landscape, behind Race Point.
 Pilgrim's Heights area.

We eventually tore ourselves away & drove the short distance to the Beach Forest, Pilgrims Heights & the nearby Swamp Trail. All were productive & despite the icy wind we enjoyed our walk around.
  A nice variety of habitats are found in a small area.
Grass slowly gives way to pine forest.
 Coastal pines tend to dominate the landscape.
 Birding was slow going, as the migrants
haven't yet arrived.
 The delightful White-breasted Nuthatch.

 Black-capped Chickadee were omnipresent.

 The very cute, Tufted Titmouse.

 Red Squirrel.

Best birds were 11 Turkey Vultures, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a brilliant immature Peregrine Falcon (hunting low over the dunes & giving superlative views), lots of woodland birds at the Beach Forest feeding station + brilliant views of a very hungry Red Squirrel!

Barbara however, had saved the best till last. She suggested we take a look at Fort Hill, on our way off the island. I, of course, knew nothing about the location, but as we drove into the small car park, a Northern Harrier greeted us just before I spied the fantastic view of saltmarsh & estuary. The place was awesome! But light was fading fast & the whole area was birds filled, but the downside was one could spend a whole day here winkling species out! We walked down the slope towards the estuary birding all the way.

Barbara, on her rock!
 Barbara showed me her rock, which she always sits on when passing! And then, something remarkable happened! I spotted an immature male SNOWY OWL! Wow! Just its head was visible at first in the saltmarsh, then it flew onto a nearby stick & sat there for around fifteen minutes, giving excellent, if long distance views. The light was failing & I cranked up the telescope to 60x & even Barbara was impressed by this ghost from the north! It was getting late, but we had a long drive back to Boston. It seemed almost criminal to leave this superb bird on view. Definitely my best siting of the week!


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