|Harbor Seal off Salisbury Beach, checking me out|
Hosting 365(ish) species annually, Plum Island/Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is usually ranked in the top 5 birding locations in America. An 11-mile long barrier island, it's a collection of beaches, sand dunes, salt marshes and pannes, freshwater impoundments, and maritime forests. It's bonkers during spring and fall migration, a good spot to see Snowy Owls and Rough-legged Hawks in the winter, and a breeding area for the endangered Piping Plover.
Salisbury Beach State Reservation sits across the mouth of Merrimack River from Plum Island. It's another site ideally suited for birdwatching, though (for me), a preferred cold-weather site after the RVs have disappeared. Great rafts of Eiders and Scoters float around harbor seals. Snow Buntings practice their takeoffs and landings. In irruptive years like 2020, flocks of Crossbills feast in the pines. And, like Plum Island, Salisbury can host Snowy, Saw-whet, Long-eared Owls, and Eagles . . .
|Salisbury is where I saw the Eagle surfing an ice floe from the Atlantic down the Merrimack River in December 2019.|
My home base for birding is the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Mass Audubon's largest sanctuary and part of the Eastern Essex County Interior Forest Important Bird Area. Its magnificent 2,800 acres are also the hub for a collection of sanctuaries that, though I'll spare you the details, made getting out during COVID not just possible but pleasurable. (One of these sanctuaries, Rough Meadows, took me back to my business school days and one of business history's greats, Professor Alfred Chandler. I wrote about my visit to that sanctuary here.)