by Corey Husic | photographs by Phoebe Thompson, Jarrod Wetzel-Brown, & Corey Husic
Most people in the Northeast don’t get excited about traveling to the beach in February, but five of us gathered on the chilly morning of February 6th to do just that! After a 45-minute ride on the subway to Suffolk Downs station, we crossed the street and arrived at our first destination: Belle Isle Marsh Reservation-a salt marsh habitat situated just north of Boston.
The paths were still covered with slushy snow from the storm on Friday, and snow and ice constantly fell from the trees and bushes around us. As we walked down the path, we heard the chips of Song Sparrows and the soft notes of American Tree Sparrows. We got a few glimpses of the tree sparrows as they flew ahead of us in the brush. Phoebe spotted a Northern Mockingbird that was enjoying itself in a fruit-filled sumac tree along with some boisterous European Starlings. As we moved away, a small group of wintering American Robins flew into the same sumac to feast on the nutritious drupes.
We spotted lots of tracks in the snow, mostly of the humans and dogs that walked this path before us. However, we also spotted these tiny tracks that might have been from a Meadow Jumping Mouse. Note the mark left by the tail dragging through the snow.
We climbed up the observation tower and scanned the marsh. We found Buffleheads, American Black Ducks, Mallards, and Red-breasted Mergansers in the water. In all directions we could see Red-tailed Hawks-some were perched while others were in the air soaring or hunting.
From Belle Isle Marsh, it was just a short walk up the road to Revere Beach. Upon arriving at the partially snow-covered beach, we took a short break to pet an adorable Sheltie puppy that was bouncing and pouncing and racing its way through the snow. After our puppy fix, we wandered down to the water where we found a bunch of gulls. This provided an opportunity to point out key identifying characteristics of the three common species of gulls present: Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed. I was probably more interested in the gulls than were the other participants, so we moved on towards the jetty.
When we rounded the corner of the beach, I spotted two blobs perched on a rock offshore. Seals! Everyone was able to get good looks of these Harbor Seals through binoculars. We watched as one seal desperately attempted to wobble its way onto a rock and eventually succeeded (sort of…). After a bit of scanning, we found a total of four seals on the emergent rocks.
This rocky area was also full of birds! A number of elegantly plumaged Common Eiders loitered on and around the rocks and a few White-winged Scoters sat a bit farther offshore. Off to our right, several Surf Scoters sat in the sheltered cove. These birds were accompanied by Red-throated and Common Loons that dove so frequently it was difficult to get everyone on them!
Once we were satisfied with our views of the seals and sea ducks, we made our way to the Revere Beach station and rode the T back to campus. Thanks to Amy, Emma, Jarrod, and Phoebe (from Bowdoin College!) for joining me on this beautiful day!
If you’re interested in all of the bird species we saw, check out our eBird checklists:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S27339655 – Belle Isle Marsh
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S27339820 – Revere Beach