Birding with Joppa Flats Education Center

Today, I took part in one of the Wednesday morning birding events from the Joppa Flats Education Center in Newburyport, MA. There’s a faithful core of birders who have been doing this for years but each week, many others attend from all over the country. Today we had birders from North Carolina and of course, I’m from Vermont. It’s a very welcoming group and the two leaders, Bill Gette, the Center Director, and Dave Weaver, a certified volunteer leader, are excellent. This is the second time I’ve attended a Wednesday session and I’ve also done a Saturday one. If you are in the area, it’s a great opportunity.


Today, we went to the Parker River National Wildlife Reserve and in a caravan of vans, stopped numerous times to look at shorebirds and waterfowl. There were some good birds — we saw about 40 species, and for me, a couple (Eurasion Wigeon and Hudsonian Godwit) were life birds.


Something spooked these widgeons


Several things impress me about these ventures: the level of expertise among the participants is higher than I’m used to, the leaders work very hard to make sure everyone sees the bird, and the teaching is ongoing and very appropriate. Such things as “Notice how nervous those wigeons are — no one is feeding, there all acting tense. Something’s bothering them.” And just then, the whole flock scatters — probably spooked by a skulking raptor. It’s the kind of behavioral knowledge that makes birding much more than “Oh, there’s a Yellow Warbler.”

I try to plan our visits to Massachusetts to coincide with a birding session. If you haven’t taken part, I strongly recommend it.

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