June 2019

Vol. 47, No. 3

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for January-February

Neil Hayward


January–February 2014

A Golden Eagle spent the second half of February at the south end of Quabbin Reservoir. Elsewhere, the story was of lingering birds: a Mew Gull on Nantucket stayed until January 1, the Harris’s Sparrow in Wenham lasted until January 11, and the long-staying Bullock’s Oriole first discovered visiting feeders in Chelmsford on November 15 was last seen on January 25. A Yellow-headed Blackbird was reliable throughout the period in the Cumberland Farm fields, and Western Tanagers were reported from Gloucester and Truro.

Best sighting: The Ross’s Goose found in Ipswich on Christmas Day 2013 stayed until New Year’s Day, making it onto many birders’ 2014 year lists.


January–February 2009

A Pink-footed Goose present at Sider’s Pond in Falmouth from January 12–15 was the second record for the state, coming 10 years after the first in Dennis. Pacific Loons were one-day wonders at Wellfleet and Race Point. An Eared Grebe in Falmouth continued until January 16. A Slaty-backed Gull present at Turners Falls for a week in February was the first inland record for the state. White-winged Crossbills seemed to be everywhere, including more than 150 birds on Plum Island. Feeder birds included a continuing Summer Tanager in Orleans, and a Yellow-headed Blackbird in Salisbury.

Best sighting: an adult Ivory Gull was found on January 17 at Eastern Point, the first record since 1985. Three days later, a second adult was found at Plymouth.


January–February 1999

A Pink-footed Goose discovered on a golf course in Dennis in mid-January was retroactively accepted almost 20 years later—making it the state first—after it was clear that these winter occurrences were almost certainly genuine vagrants not escapes. A Greater White-fronted Goose in Hadley was the second record for Western Massachusetts. Tundra Swans were reported from Westport, Worcester, and Lakeville and a Tufted Duck was at Wachusett Reservoir on January 1. Also seen on New Year’s Day was the Logan Airport Gyrfalcon originally found at the end of December. A Crested Caracara spent a week in Middleboro in early January. At the time the bird was assumed to be an escape. Since then a clear pattern of extralimital wandering has been established and this bird was later accepted as the state first. Seven Red-headed Woodpeckers wintered around the state. 

Best sighting: an Ancient Murrelet at Rockport on February 5 was the third record for the state (the first and second coming in 1992 and 1998). Since then, there have been no further records. 


January–February 1979

An adult Tundra Swan (or “Whistling Swan” as it was then called) continued in the Plum Island–Ipswich area until January 10. Four–five days after a report of a “purple bird with yellow legs” was received from Chatham, an adult Purple Gallinule was captured on Morris Island and later released at Felix Neck, Martha’s Vineyard. Also from Chatham was a Black Vulture found on December 19. An immature male Black-headed Grosbeak visited a feeder in Lexington during February. 

Best sighting: the biggest Great Gray Owl incursion ever witnessed in the northeast (and the only one since the winter of 1890-91) continued with at least 15 individuals present in February.

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