News & Events

Isles of Shoals Birding Trip a Huge Success

(by Pam Hunt)

Isles of Shoals Birding Trip, 2021, group photo (taken by Shoals Marine Lab staff).

For a third year (with a Covid gap in 2020!), NH Audubon partnered with the Shoals Marine Lab on an overnight birding trip to Appledore Island. Nineteen participants joined leaders Pam Hunt and Becky Suomala, plus the staff of the Lab, for a two-day exploration of the Isles on September 1-3. While birding was the obvious focus, many people also took advantage of opportunities to explore tide pools, learn about the Isles history, and tour the Lab’s impressive sustainability infrastructure.

Sunrise on September 3 (Pam Hunt).

We arrived on Appledore on a wonderful fall afternoon, but fully aware that the remnants of Hurricane Ida were heading our way. We had dodged a bullet already, since earlier forecasts had called for the storm to arrive on Wednesday, and were prepared to hunker down on Thursday morning during heavy rains and strong winds. In the end the rain was almost entirely an overnight phenomenon, and even the wind – which jostled us Thursday morning – was mostly calm by lunchtime. The seas were still on the rough side however, which caused us to postpone the boat tour of the Isles of Shoals until the next morning.

There was never a shortage of birds to look at, from the omnipresent gulls, waxwings, and Tree Swallows to more exotic fare such as American Oystercatchers, Lark Sparrows (8!), and a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. Songbird migrants were on the scarce side – including at the banding station – and we tallied twice as many species of shorebirds (12) as warblers (6, not counting those only caught in the nets). The one exception to the relative absence of songbirds was a small freshwater pond called Crystal Lake, where a group of us had excellent diversity after lunch on Thursday. The lake gained near legendary status after we reported our finds, and while still busy with birds on Friday before breakfast, generally failed to live up to the hype afterward.

Young Yellow-crowned Night-Heron sharing the intertidal (Pam Hunt).
Three of the eight local Lark Sparrows, a very rare bird in the East, and normally seen singly (Becky Suomala).

Ocean birding was good from both land and sea. Ida’s winds brought several seabirds close to shore, and Northern Gannets generally always visible somewhere along the eastern horizon, and often treated us to their plunge-dives into the water after fish. The Friday morning boat trip gave us good views of eiders and guillemots, as well as seals. In the end, the trip netted an impressive 71 species, plus lots of fun memories as everyone heads into fall.