June 2018

Vol. 46, No. 3

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for January-February

Neil Hayward


January–February 2013

The Blizzard of '13 (Winter Storm Nemo) dumped more than two feet of snow on Boston, the fifth largest snowstorm on record for the city. It also made birding headlines: 52 Atlantic Puffins were counted whirring past Orleans, a record for Cape Cod. In the aftermath, dozens of Razorbills were washed up on beaches. A gray phase Gyrfalcon was found in Hadley on New Year's Day, and despite being present for almost two months, many birding vigils came up empty. A much more cooperative and unseasonal LeConte's Sparrow spent five days in Concord in February. A home in Taunton attracted a Black-throated Gray Warbler and scores of visiting birders for 20 days in January.

Best sighting: Northern Lapwing (again). The two birds on Nantucket were joined by a third (!), setting a new high count for Massachusetts, and tying the high count for all of North America.


January–February 2008

The photographic highlight of the period was an American White Pelican standing in the snow in the Connecticut River on January 9. This is only the second January record for the species. Up to four Thayer's Gulls (now considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull) were hanging out in Gloucester and a Mew Gull was found on Nantucket on February 10. Two Western Tanagers appeared at feeders at the end of January, in Merrimac and Brewster. The massive invasion of Common Redpolls continued, including reports of up to 14 Hoary Redpolls.

Best sighting: the adult Slaty-backed Gull found at Niles Pond, Gloucester, the previous month stayed throughout the period.


January–February 1998

An immature Brown Pelican fishing in the frigid surf off Nantucket in January was the first winter record of this species for the state. A Gyrfalcon arrived at Logan Airport on January 10 for a layover that lasted through February and into March. An Eastern Whip-poor-will on Martha's Vineyard was the first January record for the state, possibly a beneficiary of the mild winter that year, which was attributed to the El Niño effect.

Best sighting: Ancient Murrelet, Race Point, Provincetown, January 4. This was the second record for the state of this north Pacific alcid, the first being from Rockport in November 1992.


January–February 1978

Five Cattle Egrets in Westport on January 28 became the first winter record for this species in the state. A high count of 1,500 Canvasbacks in Assonet was not atypical for the period 1975–1981. An impressive 13 Goshawks were counted in January and a gray phase Gyrfalcon was present at Orleans February 11–15. Red Knots overwintered, including 50 at Revere Beach. Boreal Chickadees were recorded in West Boylston, Waltham and Clinton. A flock of European Starlings on Martha's Vineyard included a male Brewer's Blackbird. 1977–1978 saw an excellent flight of winter finches: 1,000+ Pine Grosbeaks in the state; 1,258 Pine Siskins on the Concord CBC, and 500 at one feeder in Lincoln; and Plum Island alone hosted 27 Red Crossbills and over 200 White-winged Crossbills.

Best sighting: Eurasian Curlew, Menemsha Pond, Martha's Vineyard, February l8. This bird, the second record for Massachusetts, stayed into March.

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