I got up at around 5:00 AM with my dad to go look for owls at Myles Standish State Forest in Plymouth. A few days earlier, there had been at least a dozen Northern Saw-whet Owls reported in one night. I had never heard or seen one of these owls and I hoped that this would be the place to finally add this bird to my life list.
When we arrived at Myles Standish, I realized that we had made a mistake. It was already getting light out and there would be very little owl activity while we were there. We both decided that we should at least try to find an owl so we parked the car on the side of the road and waited. After about 20 minutes, it was fully light out and we decided to get going to our next spot. On the way out, we saw a few birds including Mallards, Mute Swans, and Wild Turkeys. We then continued to a spot that had been rewarding to many birders throughout the year.
We arrived at the small field on Vaughn Hill Road in Rochester where I had seen five species of geese in the last six months including Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, which are extremely rare for our area. As I scanned the first flock of geese, I noticed that there were four Snow Geese this time instead of the one that had been here previously. The other goose seemed to have vanished while these four (2 adults, 2 juveniles), took its place. After scanning the field one more time, my dad and I decided to head to the nearby pond to see if any of the geese were hanging out there instead. But right when we were leaving, someone flagged us down to a place a little further up the road where he told us that the Barnacle Geese were currently in the field. I quickly spotted them and got back in the car to go look elsewhere for the Pink-footed Goose. The pond was empty except for a few Buffleheads and we decided to leave and made plans to come back later in the day.
Our next stop was the marshes next to Shaw Road in Fairhaven where there were reports of Pectoral Sandpipers that had been eluding me for years. As we arrived, my dad realized that this was the spot where someone had seen a Northern Lapwing, which vanished after one day. As soon as we pulled off to the side of the road, I noticed two smaller birds mixed in with the large flock of American Wigeons. There were two small Wilson’s Snipes hiding in the grass! I tried to get a better look, but they immediately erupted from the ground and flew further out into the marsh. As we kept looking, we noticed many Killdeer and eventually found the two Pectoral Sandpipers mixed in with the flock of Wigeons. This stop was extremely successful and resulted in me getting a new life bird for my list.
Before we continued, we had to check for the Pink-footed Goose one more time. We drove around the field multiple times and kept looking for it. But eventually we knew it was time to give up. Just as we were about to leave my dad spotted a Tree Swallow fly across the pond and into a birdhouse! I had been looking for one of these in the past few weeks because of migration and hadn’t managed to get one yet. After leaving, we made one more stop before heading home to get some rest and later going to look for a Pied-billed Grebe at Burrage Pond. We pulled into a small park and almost immediately heard an unfamiliar drumming sound coming from the woods. We waited for a few minutes before identifying it as a Pileated Woodpecker (another new Plymouth county bird). We then moved on.
After resting for a few hours at home, we decided it was time to go to look for the Grebe at Burrage Pond. Although I had only been there a few times, my dad went there many times in the late summer and fall and claimed to know the place very well. When we got there, we were both shocked by the number of cars in the parking lot. Normally, when we went there, there were only a few people. But today the entire lot was filled and we had to park on the side of the road. After a few minutes of walking, we got to the pond area and set up my scope. At first, there were not many birds out on the water. But after only a few minutes, we began to notice more and more ducks flying in. Most were Ring-necked Ducks and Green-winged Teals. But I noticed two that were much smaller. I zoomed in on them with my scope and identified them as Ruddy Ducks! I tried to get my dad’s attention, but by the time he got to where I was, they had already left. After that, we kept walking down the path and periodically stopped to look for the grebe. One thing we noticed while at Burrage was the sheer number of Mute Swans. By the end of the hike, we had a total of 31, which was definitely a record for me.
We kept looking for ducks out on the water but did not have much luck. We decided to take a break from looking out on the water and take a trail that led us more inland where we had never been before. We made sure to look and listen for Eastern Towhees, which had been seen here the day before. Most of the hike was relatively uneventful except for a few sightings of Eastern Bluebirds and Fish Crows. We ended up getting quite lost and had to turn around. By that point, we were exhausted and the 2.2-mile hike back down the trail was not going to be fun. We hoped that we would see something good to make up for our suffering and that wish came true. Just as we were about to head back to the car, my dad spotted a pair of Sandhill Cranes on the opposite bank and, shortly after, a Short-eared Owl sitting on a dead tree in the pond. This owl had been incredibly difficult to find this year. We had been out looking for it specifically many times with no luck and it just happened to be sitting right in front of us. We stuck around for a few more minutes and were rewarded with the chance to get some excellent photos of the owl. These last two birds of the day gave me the boost I needed to finish our hike and go back home.