|A view from Pilgrim Heights at Dawn, with a marsh and pond in the foreground. This is a great spot to watch raptors as they soar above the dunes. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
As we climbed haldf-asleep into the vans we drove out in the darkness, headed for Pilgrim Heights to look and listen for birds active at that strange intersection between the night and daylight. When we arrived we walked slowly down a narrow trail, listening to the far-off hooting of a Great-horned Owl still calling and the song of an Eastern Towhee no doubt about to begin its day. Our walk took us on a loop, past an important hawk watching site and down through a wetland and back to the parking lot. It was just as we were coming out of the woods that one of our group heard the distant calling of a Black-billed Cuckoo, a new life bird for me, and a species I had hoped to see the morning before at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. The Cuckoo kept calling as the sun began to peek over the horizon and we stood and listened to it serenade the morning for a few minutes, before heading into Provicentown to check the harbor.
|A birder scans the harbor for new species to add to our bird-a-thon list in the early morning light. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
After a few more stops on land we headed to Provincetown Harbor where we boarded a whale watching boat that took us out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We were hoping to see pelagic species such as shearwaters, but instead we were treated to a fantastic show by Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and White-sided Dolphins who were out in great numbers and very easy to see. We even got to witness a breach in which a Humpback whale lifted itself completely out of the water and came crashing back down again with a thunderous slap on the surface of the sea.
|A Humpbacked Whale dives down again after surfacing. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
As much as we looked and looked, not a single pelagic bird species appeared. We saw plenty of Herring Gulls, Laughing Gulls, Double-crested Cormorant and Northern Gannet, but no petrels or shearwaters. We event spotted a lone Chimney Swift swooping over the stern of the boat and disappearing into the sky behind us. I also got to see some interesting interactions between the whales and the gulls which follow these mammoth marine mammals, hoping to grab a meal in the roiling froth created when the whales are feeding. I even saw several gulls land directly on a whale's head and go for a short ride as the animal swam through the water scooping up plankton.
|Gulls and other seabirds will often gather near feeding whales, hoping to grab a meal in the chaos created by the feeding habits of these giant marine mammals. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
|A large group of Double-crested Cormorant nesting at the entrance to Provincetown Harbor. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.|
In all I added the following 23 species of birds to my New England birding big year list:
Great Crested Flycatcher
In our 24 hours at the end of Cape Cod we saw over 100 species of birds, 7 species of mammals and some of the most beautiful scenery in New England. I can't wait to do it all again next spring.
Thanks for reading.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.