Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner and Boxing Day Birds

Christmas Day was a new venture for our family. Rather than doing the holiday at my Dad’s, Christmas dinner as at Chilmark Girl’s place, with dessert later at my brother’s. CG made dinner, which was also non-traditional: rack of lamb and some (for us) new vegetables, including an amazing cauliflower gratin. I participated in the appetizer, which was a fruit compote- raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apricots and bananas- in raspberry coulis with tangerine sorbet. I made the sorbet. The entire meal was wonderful and memorable.

White Beach

Salt marsh behind White Beach

Today, Leon and I participated in a tradition of our own- a drive around Cape and with birding. We started at White and Black Beach. The weather was beautiful- sunny and in the mid 40’s. Unfortunately, good weather keeps the ducks further off shore and out of view. Still, the day held some real pleasures.

Eastern Point Lighthouse and breakwater

Navigational beacon at the end of the breakwater

Black-backed gull (Larus marinus) on the breakwater

Purple sandpipers (Calidris maritima)

The weather was so nice, that we were able to walk the breakwater at Eastern Point in Gloucester. The breakwater is about a quarter mile long, and connects the lighthouse at Eastern Point with a small navigational light at the entrance to Gloucester Harbor. In previous years either the weather was too cold, or the waves were crashing over the breakwater. Today it was only us and the birds. We saw mostly gulls, but there was a flock of about 60 purple sandpipers flying about and landing on the rocks of the breakwater. I managed to get a few pictures.

Roadside birders on Eastern Point. What are they seeing?

The real treat of the day came as we left Eastern Point. Passing a small pond, we noticed a group of birders lining the road with spotting scopes trained on a group of gulls out on the pond ice. I rolled the window down and asked if this was a Christmas Bird Count, or if they were seeing something special. It turns out that there was a slaty-backed gull from Asia out in the flock. It was the first-ever record of this species in Massachusetts. We were invited to look through a spotting scope and got pictures through it. My birding friends will be jealous of this one.

Slaty-backed gull (Larus schistisagus)
The characteristic pink legs are visible in this picture.

We continued our circumnavigation of the Cape through Rockport and on to Essex. The only noteworthy sighting was a hooded merganser in a salt marsh in Rockport. Lunch was fried clams in Essex. For a day when the conditions were not the best for duck viewing, we had an amazing experience.

Slaty-backed gull (Larus schistisagus)

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At 07:31, Anonymous Jyoti said...

Wish you a Very Happy New Year ... and it's too late to wish for Christmas, but hope you had a great one ...

The dish, "fruit compote" - raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, apricots and bananas- in raspberry coulis with tangerine sorbet ... sounds real yummy!!!!

From the photos I can image a lovely day and wonderful drive ...

At 09:35, Blogger robin andrea said...

That sounds like a wonderful celebration, and a great drive around the cape. The slaty-backed gull is a beauty. What a cool sighting. Now that we are spending the winter on the coast, we are paying attention to the diversity of gull species we see. The shorebirds and surf birds are quite a delight to watch.

At 22:51, Blogger Ur-spo said...

I have always enjoyed the gulls and their cries.
I forget how much fun bird watching is.

At 11:31, Blogger Floridacracker said...

Nice. I love maritime scenery as much as the maritime birds.
Great shots!

At 20:48, Anonymous Mark H said...

How does an Asia Gull get to the East Coast and WHERE was the 18" of snow that was in Boston? I can't believe your weather was so mild. GREAT day for birding, and thanks for posting the pics. **Nice dinner......I LOVE lamb.....

At 06:17, Blogger rcwbiologist said...

That dinner sounds wonderful. Thanks for the pictures from this area. We will make it up there one of these days, it looks Beautiful. Purple sandpiper would have been a life lister for me as well as the slaty-backed. Glad you had the mild weather you did. We woke up to a low of 61 here last night. Our normal HIGH this time of hear is around 52.

At 19:00, Blogger Chilmarkgirl said...

Thank you for the compliments on dinner- it certainly was a blast having my big brother cooking with me in my kitchen!
I am quite jealous about the slaty-backed gull sighting. I will have to see if said gull is still in these parts and see if I can view it myself. I am even more impressed with the photos of said bird through a spotting scope!!!
Great butterfly and bug shots from Mexico and Equador- your nephew is enthralled and looking forwrd to blacking lighting on Martha's Vineyard in August with you!!!


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