As it turns out I did muster up my courage (and some willpower) to head out early Thursday morning. Up at 4 am and out the door by ten to 6. I got all bundled up--two layers of socks, new boots, leggings on underneath my jeans, boybeater, long-sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, and I had gloves, a ski-mask (with just one big opening for the eyes), my hat with earflaps, and my scarf in my backpack ready to go. I drove up to Rockport listening to my favorite Rage Against the Machine songs (helps to feel more awake) and then belted out some tunes from Taylor Swift's new album (odd juxtaposition, I know).
I got out there on the scenic overlook, ready to face the cold and the wind. And.......it was fine. No wind to speak of. And not that chilly, even though it was just barely dawn. A nice surprise, really.
I spotted a group of Harlequin ducks and cheerfully headed down closer to the shoreline.
I was at Halibut Point for about an hour and a half, taking tons of pictures of the Harlequins, and getting shots of all the other birds who treated me to a fly-by:
a double-crested cormorant
6 white-winged scoters
2 surf scoters (a new lifer!!)
A common loon, a couple red-breasted mergansers, and a long-tailed duck were also in the area. Actually, common loons followed me wherever I went that entire day.
On my way from Halibut Point to Gloucester Harbor I stopped by at Folly Cove Landing to get some shots of a group of American Black Ducks. They were joined by a female red-breasted merganser (who I suspect to be the same bird I had seen earlier flying past in the general direction of the cove), a common loon, some ring-billed gulls, and a raptor I was unable to identify. I was just about to put my car in reverse and leave Folly Cove when I saw the raptor fly up and land in a tree. So, out the camera came again, just after I had packed it away in its case.
Then it was off to Gloucester. Hung around by the Fisherman's Memorial, taking pictures of the 2 common loons I saw there, the 5 or 6 long-tailed ducks (They seemed to be working on a chorus tune or something, made quite a bit of noise. Made me giggle at them fondly.), and the big bunch of common eiders hanging out not too far from the memorial. They were also making quite a fuss, with funny little muffled squeaks. Not sure if that's an accurate description, I just remember that they, too, got a fond giggle for their vocalizations. Once they saw me walk up to the railing by the side of the water, they swam over, no doubt expecting some bread crumbs.
I don't mean to leave out the gulls, it's just that I've been so enraptured by diving ducks lately.
A quick stop at home to upload the contents of my memory cards to my brother's computer, and I was off again, this time to Wachusett Reservoir. It was one of the places on my "need to explore" list, and I just sort of chose it at random. Went hiking along some of the trails, near-ish to South Bay, I believe, and was a little disappointed when I got close enough to the water to survey a large portion of the reservoir--a solitary bird-dot. You know what I mean by "bird-dot", right? Well, it turned out to be a common loon, which I watched for a little while as it dove and foraged underwater. The loon would stick its head underwater to survey potential prey, as far as I know, and then lift its head up for a moment. A few times it would scan underwater, lift its head up briefly, and then proceed to dive under, but at one point it seemed to be having some rotten luck. It repeated the scan-then-lift-head-up process several times again and again without diving, then seemed to resign itself to preening.
More hiking the trails led me to black-capped chickadees, a couple of downy woodpeckers (I have yet to see a Hairy), a white-breasted nuthatch, and at least a dozen kinglets. I was delighted to see them, I'd forgotten how much I missed those little guys. I still insist that they like having their picture taken. Such curious little birds. Once my presence was known, they flitted closer and closer to me, begging to have their pictures taken, but not willing to give up all the dignity of wild creatures. To maintain the self-respect of wild creatures, they hop around too rapidly to make taking their picture too easy. Funny little fellows.
Then I was more or less exhausted, and quite satisfied with good pictures of Harlequins, a new lifer, and seeing some kinglets again for the first time in weeks.