Yesterday, with rain and snow in the forecast, I volunteered to drive Mary down to a doctors appointment at Dartmouth Hitchcock Med. Center in Hanover. (My truck has better tires.) As I often do when visiting an area with time to bird, I checked Birdseye for what folks had seen in the last few days. I saw Black Scoters listed for the Wilder Dam and since I have never seen them in Vermont or New Hampshire, thought I’d try to check them out.
After a drive in crappy weather, I dropped Mary and took the 20 minute drive up to the dam — where I had never been. I missed a detour and hit the Connecticut River at a park upstream, where I found a lot of juncos, sparrows, and a lot of cold rain. I backtracked, found the dam and noted from the truck window a raft of about 50 scoters on the water.
There was a local birder there and together we watched through rainy binoculars and scopes seeing all three types of scoters, a few buffleheads, and a couple of cormorants. The temperature was about 38 and the rain made it miserable, in spite of all the birds. I got back in the truck, warmed up my hands, email, finding this message from Chip of North Branch Nature Center:
Wrightsville Reservoir in Montpelier/Middlesex is often devoid of avian
life, but not this morning. A huge raft of approximately 200 Black Scoters
were the center feature. Mixed in were 4 White-winged Scoters and a small
group of 6 Surf Scoters, which mostly kept to themselves.
And added bonus was a lone female Northern Pintail, which was associating
with a flock of 6 Common Mergansers.
Wrightsville is about a mile from my home and here I was 70 miles away! I picked up Mary and we drove home, hoping the birds would stick around. About noon, we showed up and the flock had diminished but there were still over 50 scoters there along with the lone Northern Pintail. It was a treat to share them with Mary as they paraded back and forth in the scope.
VTBird, our listserve, was alive with reports of huge rafts of scoters on bodies of water all over the upper half of the state — one veteran birder noted that: “I don’t recall Black Scoter numbers like these, including even wintering concentrations off the coast of Maine or at their favorite locations along coastal Rhode Island.”
I went down this morning and there were only two scoters left on the reservoir and most others reported few if any left after yesterday’s scoter fallout.