Newburyport Birders’ Update – November & December – 2017

Newburyport Birders’ Update – November & December – 2017

Seasonal Sightings

Observe the wintering grebes along our seacoast. Their legs are located far back on their bodies, an adaptation for diving. Grebes are able to feed at 80 feet below the water’s surface. Watch these divers!

Appreciate the Horned Lark. It is North America’s only lark. Search the dunes, stubble fields and open pasture for these winter visitors!

Identify the Long-tailed Duck. This deep-diving, sea duck has a short, stubby bill with a pink band at the tip. The adult male’s central tail feathers may be up to nine inches long and project five inches beyond the outer tail feathers. Its flight style is swift and careening!


On one Sunday morning in December, I was catching up on administrative tasks when I spotted a Red Squirrel roaming in the Red-bud Maple outside the house. A Red-tailed Hawk flew into and through the tree and attempted to snare the squirrel. The buteo then landed on the sidewalk and peered up into that tree.

I flew down the spiral staircase, went out onto the porch and then slowly crept to the walkway. The squirrel continued to wander through the snow covered branches. Then in a blast, the hawk flew up vertically and nabbed its prey item. I’d never witnessed a Red-tail utilizing this hunting technique. The red duo settled into the driveway closest to the tree. I watched the squirrel’s red tail quivering as the raptor fanned out its red tail while mantling its prey. The squirrel perished in the powerful raptor’s talons.

This bird of prey flew across the street with its prize, landing in a snow-ladened pine to nourish itself. My neighbor Bob had missed the earlier action but saw the tableau in the snowy driveway ~ remnants of the squirrel’s red and black coat, blood-stained snow and curved claw marks of distress. Bob got a good look at the bird in the pine. In winter, mornings and afternoons are the active times for the Red Squirrel. They often retreat into their nest in the middle of the day, avoiding the keen eyes of birds of prey. Again the avian action outside had distracted me from my administrative tasks…


There was an instructive short article in the New-England-oriented magazine, Bird Observer, in their December 2017 issue. It was about lenses and general cleanliness for optics, with a special emphasis on saltwater surroundings. The short piece was by Gail Fisher, a technician with decades of experience in the Swarovski Optik’s repair department.

On New Year’s Day I always clean my optics. So I followed Gail’s tips below:

  • First, clean the lenses in a standard way, including blowing off particles.
  • Then wipe off the surface with a moist lens-cleaning cloth.
  • What comes next is specifically related to optics and saltwater environments: Rinse the waterproof equipment at the end of the day; use Simple Green, a mild all-purpose cleaner (mixed with water), and a toothbrush to clear away dirt.
  • Be sure to use a soft cloth to dry the surface of the body’s armor.

You can learn more about Bird Observer:


After reading a study in “Environment and Behavior” which concluded that viewing trees, plants, animals and vistas reduces stress, I realize that ideal habitat for stress reduction is so available right here in Newburyport along the Merrimack River. The larger the habitat, the more significant the impact… Those with attention problems can focus more effectively after an outdoor activity, and all students show an increase in cognitive ability when they have access to a natural setting. Time outdoors is healthy!


    • Place the bird into a family ~ a raptor, a owl, a songbird, a shorebird.
    • Study the size, shape and color of the bird ~ make note of the field marks.
    • Focus on the bird’s behavior ~ diving underwater or flicking its tail.
    • Observe the habitat ~ beach, wooded area or marshland.
    • Listen to its call or song.


In 2018, consider subscribing to The Birding Community E-bulletin which is distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats. The issues are sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics.

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