December 2019

Vol. 47, No. 6

Hot Birds: December 2019

On September 20, just a few days after birders enjoyed a Common Ringed-Plover in the same vicinity, Tom Murray discovered a Wilson’s Plover at Sandy Point State Reservation, at the far south end of Plum Island. The bird remained in the area for nearly a week. Sadly, it appeared to be in poor health when last observed. Tom took the photograph above.

After being cancelled for bad weather both last September and in August of this year, the BBC’s overnight pelagic trip for September 2019 proved more than worth the wait for the lucky few on board! Unquestionable highlight was a Cahow (Bermuda Petrel), the second record from the state, but only the fifth along the Atlantic coast outside of North Carolina. Just to make the sighting more ridiculous, this bird was part of a mixed-species feeding flock that also included a Black- capped Petrel (at times allowing side-by-side comparison with the Cahow), a Brown Booby, and a Northern Fulmar! Joe Bourget took the photo above.

Not often does the BBC overnight pelagic get overshadowed on a seabird species by observers on dry land. However, a few weeks after a South Polar Skua put on a nice show for the BBC trip, a nor’easter blowing past Cape Cod generated a real spectacle. A group of observers at First Encounter Beach on October 12 observed no fewer than SEVEN skuas, of which they identified four as definite South Polars! At least one was seen from Race Point, where there was a sighting a day earlier as well. Tim Spahr took the photo above.

An Empidonax flycatcher photographed in Hadley on October 23 by Joe Oliverio, turned out to be a Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, the state’s first record! The bird is still being reported through press time; it is difficult to impossible to detect on some days, especially those which are rainy or windy, but has put on great shows on others, and recorded giving a variety of vocalizations. Some birders have reported seeing it eating Privet berries as the cold has made insects harder to find. (A bird mist-netted at Manomet in November 2006 may have been this species but the closely related Cordilleran Flycatcher could not be ruled out). Photograph © Jeremy Coleman.

Sean Williams almost couldn’t believe his eyes when he glimpsed what appeared to be a Yellow-Green Vireo on Monomoy October 15. After all, the species had only been documented four times on the Atlantic coast north of Florida, though one of those had been on Plum Island in 2011. Fortunately, the bird wound up in the nets of the Momomoy Bird Observatory’s banding team operating nearby, allowing for in-hand photographs confirming its identity! James Junda took the photo above. In most years, a bird this rare would have been the unquestioned highlight of the season.

Joe Battenfeld found the state’s fourth record of Tropical Kingbird in the Rock Meadow Conservation Area of Belmont. The bird spent about a week flycatching around a community garden and sheep pasture, to the admiration of many happy birders. Another bird that might have stood alone as the best bird of the season, if this had been a remotely normal season for birds. Justin Lawson took the photo above.

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