A Birding Adventure at the New Hampshire Seacoast

By Brynlee Kimball

The morning of Sunday, December 06, 2015 began at 7:02 when the sun came up. However, we are not early birds so we began to arrive at the Exeter Wastewater Treatment Plant at 9:00 a.m. As we waited for two more people to arrive our first “excitement-causing bird” of the day showed up. It was the male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was noticed clambering elegantly up and down on a tree with its bark stripped clean, hammering his little heart out. Then a few minutes later another species snagged our attention, the Northern Harrier, our first raptor of the day. He was spotted soaring gracefully over our heads; heading in a southeasterly direction. This sighting is exciting for our group because our club’s namesake is The Harriers. Now with a little more spring in our step, we exited the parking lot and were off to see our first waterfowl and hopefully (something rare) shorebird of the day.

The first birds that were seen were gulls. They were soaring around in a feathery tornado. There were two species we were able to identify, the Herring Gull and the Ring-Billed Gull. Sadly, we did not catch a glimpse of any Iceland Gulls. In the water of the first pool, we discovered a single little clump of Mallards. Hiding cleverly within this group, we located a few American Black Ducks. That was all we managed to spot in the first pool. So we promptly headed to the second pool. Again, we found Mallards and American Black Ducks. Then, we saw something very peculiar about two ducks way on the far side of the pool. For one, they were diving. That is not typical Mallard behavior. Two, they had different plumage. Therefore, we whipped out our bird guides and looked. After a bit more observations of the birds and checking our guidebooks, we identified them as Lesser Scaup. A stunning sight indeed. After watching the scaup a bit longer, we started again towards the back of the Wastewater Plant. Along one of the pools were some scrubby clumps of grass. A little high note was heard and our club leader Henry Walters identified the call of the White-Throated Sparrow. Then the little brown sparrow revealed himself by flying to another clump of scrubby grass. Then two more joined the first. They hid in the reeds not displaying themselves until we had ambled on. 

At the back of the Wastewater Plant, there were some bushes, long cattails and a small low-to-the-ground tree. A few rustlings and an occasional movement told us some American Tree Sparrows were hiding there. Then Henry noticed a cattail shaking violently. Then a little black and white head poked up. A Downy Woodpecker! He moved up and down the stalk and tapped on it as they normally do when looking for bugs! What a strange sight! We moved quickly to finish the end of our walk, stopping occasionally to observe a few rustling in the trees above. We were just at the end of the loop when Henry thought he heard a bluebird. We speedily went on a hunt for the bluebird. He was quickly found chirping at the top of a tree. A nice bird to finish off our walk! 

We then hopped into our cars and drove to the Seabrook Wastewater Treatment Plant. Sadly, we found almost nothing there, so we headed to Hampton Beach. On the way, we saw a Great Blue Heron and a HUGE flock of European Starlings. When we arrived at Hampton Beach, we saw many seabirds including two types of Loon, three different types of Scoter, a Red-necked Grebe, a Bonaparte’s Gull, and a Long-Tailed Duck. Then something adorably cute caught our eye in the spotting scopes. Seals! They were on a rock jutting out of the ocean. They even had pups! The pups were delightfully cute and fuzzy. Soon we had to leave but we have great memories to remember the day by!