Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Maine Event: Conglomeration of the Commons

It's a gloomy day here in Phoenix (finally!), with monsoon rain continuing through from the night before. Rather cruelly, these are some of the most special, cherished days in Phoenix, even as they impede outdoor activities. 
We had a similarly overcast day while in Maine a few weeks ago, when we were making a day trip from my in-law's house in New Hampshire. Gloomy weather is, of course, more expected there, and given our limited time it was also no reason to hold back on birding, so we went out slipping and sliding on the wet rocks of Seapoint Beach, with the promise of lobster shack lunch soon after.

Herring Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls were the most common birds, both foraging along the shore and floating out in the inlet. Being about two and a half weeks out of surgery, I was still pretty limpy and wimpy moving around the jetties, but this Spotted Sandpiper demonstrated how it's done (with style).

A few Common Terns added to seabird scene, as well as a couple Great Black-backed Gulls. All in all the diversity wasn't great, but this was the first time I'd seen Common Terns, their name not withstanding. Dainty and somewhat swallow-tailed, they're a particularly elegant member of the Tern family.

A small raft of Common Eiders provided another new bird, though they were not as playful nor as inspiring as the Terns. The largest duck in the Northern Hemisphere, according to Cornell, these were all females and/or immatures--not exactly the most colorful bunch.

Once they became more comfortable with me spying on them though, they resumed their diving, crabbing ways. Needless to say, with the family and I being in Maine already, this helped put everyone in the mood for some crustacean gestation.

A single Common Loon floated out in the inlet too. We had seen some beautiful Common Loons in their breeding plumage and with chicks on Granite Lake, back in New Hampshire, but unfortunately I did not have a camera at the time (which was also a good thing, as I was floating in the middle of the lake on pink pool noodles and the camera might've alarmed the Loons).
For a short while I optimistically tried to turn this into a Red-throated Loon, but it just wasn't there...

So the seascape had some fun birds but was a bit bleary. The crescent beach had plenty of seaside vegetation and shrubbery on the opposite side of the sand though, and while the Seaside Sparrows never sounded off nor came into view, there were plenty of Song Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds.
Exploring the paths through this overgrowth was an interesting experience. In some places the vegetation was high and thick enough such that none of the ocean breeze came through. It was thus quite sweltering and buggy in these tangles, rather unpleasant for people but perfect for other critters.

As I've mentioned before, birding in lush places like Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, or Maine, affords much better looks at birds like the Yellowthroat, in addition to the regional specialties. I never get nearly as close up, clear, or prolonged views of this otherwise common bird in Arizona, and it was very nice to finally get a satisfactory image, even with the overcast blur.

It was only recounting the birds and photos after the trip that I realized everything I photographed, including two new birds, had 'Common' in their name. Sometimes common can still be pretty cool, although I also might've picked up a common cold out there...