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January 21, 2013

Birding season ready to take flight

The first weekend in February promises to be a busy one for birders on Cape Ann.

The bird watching kicks off with the start of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce’s Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend, held in conjunction with Massachusetts Audubon on Friday, Feb. 1.

Bird lovers from all over the country have come to Gloucester to see Arctic and sub-Arctic species that winter here when their habitats ice over.

“This is their Florida,” says one of the organizers, Gloucester resident Chris Leahy, the Gerard A. Bertrand Chair of Natural History and Field Ornithology at Mass Audubon.

Some birds likely to be seen are harlequin ducks, which especially like this cape’s rocky shores, loons, grebes, purple sandpipers from the Arctic, and some gulls that are only spotted here in the winter, Leahy said.

Events over the weekend of Feb. 1 to 3 will be geared to birders of all experience levels, including tours of the region’s hot birding spots, and a sea trip on the 7 Seas Whale Watch’s Privateer IV.

The Elks Club at Bass Rocks on Gloucester’s Back Shore will serve as the event’s headquarters. There, the public is invited to exhibitor venue and demonstrations.

Leahy says an infrequent visitor to Massachusetts, and one that is never seen inland, a king eider, has been spotted the last few years in Gloucester. It is likely the same duck and he’s been spotted this season in the area between the Elks and Salt Island, he said.

The weekend opens Friday at Friday, Feb. 5, at the Elks at 3 p.m., when walk-in registration will take place for the Saturday tours. On Friday at 6 p.m., Wayne Petersen, author of “Birds of Massachusetts,” will give a talk on what birds migrate to Cape Ann for the winter that participants are likely to see over the weekend.

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