Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bird-Nerdery at Halibut Point

Someone else's lovely picture of a northern gannet,
about to fold up and dive.
Went to Halibut Point in Rockport this morning to do a little birdspotting. Normally you can expect to see groups of bufflehead ducks floating in the choppy ocean or flying past on their migration routes (they summer in the arctic and spend their winters in the comparably balmy northern states), and daredevil harlequin ducks traveling dangerously close to the rocky coast in wave-tossed clumps. We didn't spot either of those usual suspects today, though we did see a quality group of juncos (mixed flavors) out in the open grass near the bushes, passing mergansers skimming the sea, and several gannets. The gannets were the highlight. At first glance it's easy to mistake them for gulls out in the distance, cruising over the waves, but for starters they fly a bit more athletically than gulls. Then they rise. Then they commit suicide. Well, they don't, but it looks that way. A gannet will spot a fish, rise up in the air, then tip over, fold up like an umbrella and shoot downard to dive deep into the water. We got some great ogling done with the binoculars, and braving the cold coastal wind was well worth the chapped hands and runny noses.

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