A very warm Friday turned into a cold, blustery Saturday.  The temperature dropped over 10 degrees between the time I awoke and the time we all met at Masonville Cove.  Unfortunately, Masonville was unexpectedly closed, so after waiting about 15 frigid minutes, our group of 7 moved on to the second stop – the parking lot of Harbor Hospital.  The wind was beginning to bite by then, but we were still able to scope out a good number of Canvasbacks, a fair number of Lesser Scaup, some Buffleheads, Mallards and a Ruddy Duck.  The parking lot was full of gulls, but they all were Ring-billed Gulls in various age plumages.

 

When we had seen all we could stand, we moved on to Middle River Park, where we added both Turkey and Black Vulture to our list, but only a few ducks, and nothing we hadn’t already seen.  We did turn up some cool stuff – like a hollow at the top of one of the posts of the dock, which contained several vertebrae of a small animal; presumably the remains of something which been enjoyed by one of the winged predators that huts the shoreline.

After this, we headed over to Fort McHenry, an interesting ride through the back roads of the industrial sector of the harbor.  While it was still quite cold and windy, the overcast was beginning to rise and break up, offering hints of a sunny day to come.  Our first nice bird was a short look at what I realized was a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but which took to the air and flew off to the far shore before we could all get good looks at it.  Below is a comparison of the Ring-billed Gull such as it was associating with, and the darker, slightly larger Lesser Black-backed Gull.  Great Black-backed would have been both dramatically larger, and much darker than the other gulls in the area.

Shortly after this, while checking over the area  near some Buffleheads, we spotted three large, dark ducks in the water, with a white face patch and a very striking white bar on the wing.  These birds had the characteristic Scoter face, but for our purposes the white markings were the keys to identification.  At least two of the three were young birds, and the third was probably an adult female; although the cold wind made even scoping somewhat shaky, none appeared to be an adult male.  The photographs below are not of our birds; merely for examples.

We finished the circuit with both Horned and Pied-billed Grebes and other regular birds of the area, including a nice Red-shouldered Hawk which fought its way over us through the stiff wind, letting us see the orange wings and breast, and the banded tail.  While the day was ferociously cold, we were all pretty pleased with the birds that we saw.  Let’s hope that February’s trip is warmer and still as good for birds!