Led by Dan Nickerson
A number of interesting and unusual birds were seen around the South Freeport Harbor in
the week preceding our bird walk of Saturday February 1.
With that in mind and with a consideration of the tidal phases we decided that Winslow
Memorial Park was our most likely location for winter rarities.
We arrived at the park with nearly ideal conditions--little wind and moderate
temperatures. And that situation only improved as the walk went on. An overcast sky
reduced glare over the bay offering excellent views of seabirds at a great distance.
Seabirds are always a highlight of a winter visit to the park.
From the boat launch we spotted a modest number of Buffleheads and Common Eiders.
Dozens of American Black Ducks working the edges of the mudflats on a receding tide
proved to be our largest group of the day and the largest number of any species of birds
for that matter. Four Canada Geese were also working the edges of the marsh grass along
We followed the soft vocalizations of Eastern Bluebirds to a stand of American Highbush
Cranberry--not a cranberry but a native viburnum that holds its fruit through the winter.
A couple of Northern Cardinals joined the Eastern Bluebirds foraging on the bright red
berries. It is likely that a feeder which we could not observe attracted Tufted Titmouse,
Black-capped Chickadee and White-breasted Nuthatch in this little passerine hotspot.
Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers were active in the area as well as a pair of Hairy
We made a beeline down the park road to the mouth of the Harraseeket River, hoping to
find some wintering shorebirds roosting on the exposed ledges before they dispersed onto
the mudflats. Dunlin and Purple Sandpipers often roost here. Alas that was not to be.
Perhaps one of the warmest Januarys ever provided them with an abundance of foraging
areas usually covered in ice at this season.
But there was a good cast of characters at the mouth of the harbor that included Common
Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Eiders, Canada Geese, American Black
Ducks, Common Loons and a couple of Mallards.
Always a highlight of the park are the gorgeous Long-tailed Ducks. Their pleasant
murmuring drifted a long distance across the still water. Four Long-tails in flight put on
a striking aerial flyby.
Five Mourning Doves roosting in a poplar brought our bird list to a respectable winter
total and our target of 20 species. They too were likely near that feeder just out of our
view. They do not travel far from their food sources on a winter day.
But still no rarities. We worked our way down the south shore adding American
Goldfinch to our list, some more Eastern Bluebirds and a few ducks. By this time the
wind had completely died, and we could identify the waterfowl easily at a great distance
on glassy seas.
With a little diligent scanning a duck showing a little more black on the back than others
got our attention. A beautiful drake Barrow’s Goldeneye, stunning in the scope, and
easily visible with binoculars, was joined by another drake and a hen. The Freeport
Harbor and Winslow Park are one of the few areas in the state where this species can be
seen with any regularity, but then again you never know if you will see them on any
Our last takeaway from the walk was the memory of magical shades of gray and other
subtle colors on a benign winter day.