April 2018

Vol. 46, No. 2

Bird Sightings: November-December 2017

Neil Hayward and Robert H. Stymeist


The warmer than average temperatures in October continued into early November; a high of 75 degrees in Boston on November 3 was 20 degrees above normal for that date. The first official freeze in Boston occurred on November 11 when the overnight low was 23 degrees. The month averaged 44 degrees, just one degree below normal. Rainfall was only 1.8 inches, four inches below the average for November.

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There are seven species of wild goose on the Massachusetts state list and, with a bit of driving, all seven could be chased this period. The rarest, a Pink-footed Goose, was in Westfield for the first two days of November, and then possibly the same bird appeared as a one-day wonder farther north at Turners Falls on November 5. A Barnacle Goose continued in the Westfield area from the previous period and may have been responsible for additional sightings in Longmeadow and central Connecticut. This was a good year for Ross's Goose; six individuals were recorded at four coastal locations. This year marks the twentieth anniversary since the species was first admitted to the state list (Sunderland, March 25–26, 1997). Ross's Goose has undergone a range shift in Arctic nesting sites, which has brought more to the East Coast. It has been recorded annually in Massachusetts since 2008. This was also an above average period for Cackling Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose, with both reported from more than 10 locations.

A Tundra Swan was seen by many on Farrar Pond, Lincoln, on November 10, before disappearing the next day.

Eurasian Wigeon numbers were particularly strong this period, with reports from eight locations. Three of the ten birds involved were females, reflecting a growing confidence in identifying the more cryptic sex. Nantucket hosted a male Tufted Duck for the fifth year in a row. An additional male was present in Lakeville. Tufted Duck has been recorded every year in Massachusetts since 1995 with the exception of 2006 and 2008. King Eiders were reported in good numbers from all the usual locations. A female at Deer Island in Boston Harbor is the first Suffolk County record since January 2012. Redheads are enjoying an excellent year. A high of 17 birds on Nantucket is the highest period count since 1979, when 67 were reported in Falmouth. The period featured a couple of interesting potential duck hybrids: an American Wigeon x Mallard hybrid in Plymouth in November; and a Common Goldeneye x Barrow's Goldeneye in Boston Harbor in December. Both birds were photographed.


A few dedicated hawk watchers continued to monitor migration long after the peak of the Broad-winged Hawk flight. At Mount Wachusett, during a five-day stretch from November 4–8, 69 Turkey Vultures and 66 Red-tailed Hawks were tallied. At Blueberry Hill in Granville, two juvenile Golden Eagles and 15 Red-shouldered Hawks were counted on November 6. Other Golden Eagles were noted from the Barre Falls hawk watch, Groton, Groveland as well as a bird photographed in Salisbury. A high count of 15 Black Vultures was observed in Blackstone on the Rhode Island border. It was a good year for Rough-legged Hawks with reports from 14 locations compared to five areas during the same period last year.

This winter is a good one for Snowy Owls. By mid-November Snowies were showing up all along our coastline. The last major irruption was four years ago during the winter of 2013–14. Four years is the typical cycle between Snowy Owl irruptions, which coincides with the peak of lemming numbers, their preferred food source. During those years when lemmings are plentiful Snowy Owls will breed and raise young. There were reports this period from 14 locations, with a single day high of 16 individuals at Plum Island on December 18. The Greater Boston CBC found 12 birds, with eight of them at Logan Airport. Two Snowies at Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, were the only inland reports. In mid-December a Barn Owl was found roosting in a garage in Lexington. Barn Owls are unusual away from Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket. Long-eared Owls were reported from six locations with multiple birds in Essex and Lexington.

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