Dear ECOC Members,

Participants in a fully subscribed program gathered at and departed from the Park & Ride in Newburyport for a few hours with the Bald Eagles on Sunday, February 24, 2008. It was a delightful morning with mild temperature and nearly windless conditions.

We set up along the bank of the swiftly flowing Merrimack River at the Newburyport Boat Basin on Merrimack Street. Very quickly a scope toting veteran spotted an immature Bald Eagle perched in a tree in the Salisbury marsh. Another immature eagle was seen perched on Ram Island in a twisted tree by one of our young naturalists. We listened to the ice sheets in the current.

We watched the courtship display of Common Goldeneye and heard their whistle on the wing. Two, immature Bald Eagles flew in front of the group, headed downriver; they jostled briefly as adolescents do. An adult Bald Eagle stooped for prey and transported the fish to a secluded brunch spot. We enjoyed two Northern Harriers ~ one brown female and a gray male. Their facial discs were well seen along with their white rump patch. These birds coursed and quartered the Salisbury marsh and flew over the river. At one point, these birds flew in a wheeling fashion. Great Cormorants aflight sported white flank patches and lemon-yellow throat pouches. A large-headed and thick-billed Common Loon was foraging to our left; it dove, and we never saw it resurface. 

We reviewed a map of the protected islands in the lower Merrimack River and spoke of the health of the river. We looked at interpretive materials to understand the field characteristics of these majestic birds of prey ~ the yellow cere, the powerful talons and the large, hooked, yellow bill. We spoke of their wingspan, vision and the length of these birds of prey. 

We headed to Old Merrill Street in Amesbury in hopes of some more action. We scoped Eagle Island; in the foreground were several Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and a congregation of Mallards. We saw more short-tailed cormorants and a seal bottling. 

Our group was thrilled with the fine weather, spectacular views and the abundance of Bald Eagles.

Best wishes,

Sue McGrath
ECOC, President