Spring Birding on the North Shore

This spring, I visited several wildlife sanctuaries on the North Shore of Massachusetts looking for migrating spring birds. I have only been birding for 2-3 years, but it is such a fun hobby and honestly, I’m kind of obsessed with it. You can see and experience many species right here in your own back yard. It is a wonderful way to connect with nature for everyone, really, and I hope you enjoy reading my blog and sharing my journey to find Spring birds.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newbury, MA was the first place a fellow birder friend and I visited. We hopped into the car and drove from the reserve to Newburyport, back to the reserve, stopping at birding hotspots along the way. Below are a few of the birds we saw that inspired and amused us.

This was the last bird we expected to see, but the first bird of the day and he was standing in the middle of the road!

“Look at what I can do!”
The female turkeys ignored him…
but I was impressed with His Puffiness.


We headed into Newburyport to grab some coffee, and realized that we were very close to the Merrimack River. What a pleasant surprise when we walked out to the flowing river’s edge and saw one of my favorite ducks of all time … the Long Tailed Duck! Not just one or two, but 15-20 of them making their way back up to the Arctic Circle to breed.

Non-breeding male in background and immature female in foreground.
Long Tailed Ducks spend their winters along both coasts of the United States. They swim as far down as Oregon on the west coast, and as far down as Maryland on the east coast.
How can you not love ducks that look like Puppies?
Piping Plovers love the beaches of the North Shore. If you think they’re cute, you should see their babies!

Skipping ahead a couple of weeks to April, native and non-native flowers have begun to bloom at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. The weather has been atrociously cold and rainy, but I finally emerged from indoors, and low and behold, a welcoming pathway and fragrant flowers were there to greet me.

Magnolia Bushes along the trail.

I walked around the circumference of the Sanctuary and was headed to Averill’s Island when I chanced upon another of my absolute favorites. If you haven’t already guessed, I have a lot of favorites. And this time, I snapped a decent photo.

A Northern Flicker! This species of Woodpecker is native to most of North America.

Averill’s island was uneventful and cold, as once again, I had forgotten to wear my gloves. Heading back towards the Stone Bridge, on my right through the woods, I heard a rustling. I tiptoed a little closer, and was barely able to capture this image of the very FIRST Wood Duck I have ever seen. I tried so hard not to disturb it, but it heard me coming I guess and moved behind the reeds. Aaargh … Frustration Nation. As a rule, I do NOT post blurry photos, and I promise that next time my wood duck pic will be in focus. But I just have to share my first Wood Duck sighting with you…

These ducks are very elusive. One of these days, I will get a clear photograph of a Wood Duck!
A Yellow Warbler flew by to say hello, but he was so fast, it took me a while to get a clear photo!
The usual suspects, like this girl, were following me around the whole time. Chickadees, Titmice, they were all after me for Seed. I almost got a Red Winged Blackbird to eat from my hand as well. Almost.
This guy is a Lifer for me, a Belted Kingfisher!
As I was searching for Wood Ducks, this guy just gave me such a great Pose.
At the end of my 3 hour journey, I was attempting to get closer to this Great Egret who was fearlessly fishing. The only way I could get closer to him was to follow the Waterfowl Pond Trail. Now, the Waterfowl Pond Trail might as well be called the Waterfowl Pond. It is often filled with water, with only a few tufts of grass on the edges to step on. So I began hopping and, then 3/4 of the way there, realized that I was surrounded by water.
I finally just plunged my foot in and walked through the water logged trail. Yes, my feet were soaked.
Until next time … with a wing and a wave, I bid you Fare Well!

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