April 2019

Vol. 47, No. 2

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for November-December

Neil Hayward


November–December 2013

During the last week of the year, the "goose fields" of Argilla Road, Ipswich, hosted not just a Ross's Goose and Cackling Goose but also a Red-headed Woodpecker. The winter of 2013–14 saw the largest invasion of Snowy Owls in eastern North America for over 50 years, with birds reported as far afield as Florida and Bermuda; Nantucket counted 33 Snowys compared to a previous high of four. A White-winged Dove was a one-day wonder at the JFK Library in Dorchester. Rare flycatchers included a Say's Phoebe in Fairhaven and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher on Nantucket. Other passerine highlights included a male and female Western Tanager a mile apart in Rockport, a Bullock's Oriole in Chelmsford, Harris's Sparrows in Wenham and Northampton, and a MacGillivray's Warbler that was found on the Taunton-Middleboro Christmas Bird Count.

Best sighting: a female King Eider at Quabbin Reservoir on November 11 was a first for Hampshire County and only the third inland record for the state.


November–December 2008

A Barnacle Goose was at Charlton from December 3–13. "The" Eared Grebe that had been a mainstay at Gloucester each winter since 1995 failed to return. Rare gulls abounded with a Sabine's Gull at Andrew's Point on November 1, a Franklin's Gull at Plum Island on November 5, and a rare inland record of Little Gull at Turner's Falls on December 21. The continuing Broad-billed Hummingbird at East Dennis held on until December 13. Other highlights included a Boreal Chickadee in Windsor in November and a female Mountain Bluebird at Fort Hill, Eastham, from November 23–December 7.

Best sighting: an adult Black-tailed Gull at Herring Cove Beach, Provincetown, November 1–7 was the second record for the state and the first to be physically documented.


November–December 1998

There was a fallout of Tundra Swans across the state including a flock of 28 at Westport on November 22. Two American Avocets were on Plum Island at the start of December. Two Ash-throated Flycatchers were found this period including a long-staying bird in Mount Auburn Cemetery. Other western rarities included a MacGillivray's Warbler in the Mattapan neighborhood of Boston, December 13–16, a Townsend's Solitaire and Western Tanager in East Orleans, and a Varied Thrush in Annisquam. A Harris's Sparrow at Plum Island, November 11–18, was "very cooperative"—at one point it was observed standing on a birder's shoe.

Best sighting: a Western Grebe on a reservoir in Attleboro, December 23–26, represented the first inland record for the state.


November–December 1978

Ten Fulvous Whistling-Ducks dropped into Plum Island on November 7. Cape Cod hosted a Franklin's Gull at Monomoy on December 7 and an American White Pelican through November and the first week of December. A Black-billed Cuckoo on Nantucket on December 24 remains the only Massachusetts December record for this species. A Boreal Owl was found at Salisbury on New Year's Eve, and Fish Crows made their first recorded visit to Plum Island on November 19. A Brewer's Blackbird returned to Martha's Vineyard for the winter, with a second bird recorded in Truro in early November. Other highlights included the continuing Lark Bunting at Salisbury and a Harris's Sparrow at Acoaxet present from December 23 through February.

Best sighting: a Great Gray Owl found at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Topsfield, on December 28 was the harbinger of the largest ever incursion of this species into the Northeast.

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