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April 2020

Vol. 48, No. 2

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for November-December

Neil Hayward

5 YEARS AGO

November–December 2014

A Ross's Goose was at Turners Falls, December 20–26, and a Tundra Swan spent almost two weeks in the Seekonk and Rehoboth area. Eared Grebes were reported from Mashpee and Quaboag Pond, Brookfield (the first inland record for 35 years). There were six reports of Rufous Hummingbirds on Cape Cod as well as Arlington and Roslindale. A Mew Gull was found on the Nantucket Christmas Bird Count on December 28. Ash-throated Flycatchers were reported from three locations and a Canada Jay (then known as Gray Jay) was at Gate 41, Quabbin, for almost two weeks. John Kirk Townsend had two eponymous species in the state: Townsend's Solitaires at Rockport and Marion, and a Townsend's Warbler at Marblehead Neck. Cape Cod hosted a Yellow-throated Warbler and a LeConte's Sparrow during mid-December.

Best sighting: Smith's Longspur, East Point, Nahant was the second record for the state, after a bird at Salisbury State Park on October 12, 1968.

10 YEARS AGO

November–December 2009

Two Tundra Swans were at Bartlett's Farm on Nantucket in December. A Wood Stork was found in Duxbury on November 3. Mew Gulls were reported from Gloucester and Swampscott. A White-winged Dove spent the end of the year at the Bird Store and More in Sturbridge. The Allen's Hummingbird first found on October 23 in Scituate survived until December 29 when the temperature dropped to the single digits. Two MacGillivray's Warblers were found during the period at the Boston Fenway Victory Gardens and at Wright's Pond in Medford. A Townsend's Warbler was in Brewster for three days. Cumberland Farms hosted the continuing LeConte's Sparrow until November 9 during which it overlapped with a Lark Bunting. A Henslow's Sparrow was in South Dartmouth on November 16. A Common Chaffinch showed up in Waltham at the feeder of Jason Forbes, where over a hundred birders managed to see it during December. There are only two previous records of this Eurasian species in the state.

Best sighting: Common Shelduck at Nahant on December 6–7. At the time, this species was not on the American Birding Association (ABA) checklist. In 2017, the ABA Checklist Committee added the species on the basis of two credible reports from Newfoundland in 2014 and 2009. The latter appeared just three weeks before our bird. Since 2009 there have been records in Nova Scotia and New Hampshire. A growing population in Iceland seems to be responsible. The Massachusetts record has yet to be accepted.

20 YEARS AGO

November–December 1999

There were three reports of Greater White-fronted Geese from Turners Falls, Great Barrington and Hamilton. A Yellow Rail was flushed by a tractor mowing a wet meadow in the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield on November 1. A count of 400 Purple Sandpipers in Boston Harbor on December 4 was exceptional. It was a good winter for Barred Owls, including a cooperative bird in the Boston Public Garden. The owl roost at Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary provided birders with seven Long-ears and two Short-ears that could be seen hunting over the fields each night. This was the second biggest year for Northern Shrikes, with at least 73 reported during the period. Rarities included a Northern Wheatear in Northampton, a MacGillivray's Warbler from the Fenway Gardens, and a Henslow's Sparrow at Great Meadows on December 31. A Boreal Chickadee continued at a feeder in West Newbury throughout the period.

Best sighting: Spotted Towhee in North Hadley from December 29. This was the first record since the species was split from Rufous-sided Towhee in 1995.

40 YEARS AGO

November–December 1979

Plum Island hosted a Western Grebe from November 22, which allowed some observers to approach within 15 feet. A moribund Fulvous Whistling-Duck, found on Nantucket on November 28, was the first record for the island. A pair was seen in Uxbridge, December 8–10. An Ash-throated Flycatcher was in the Cambridge–Belmont area for the first nine days of December. An adult no-tailed Green-tailed Towhee continued in South Peabody until November 4 and another one (this one with a tail) was found in East Orleans on December 16. A Brewer's Blackbird was found at Corn Hill, Truro on November 4 and one or two were on Martha's Vineyard at the end of December. A female Western Tanager was found at Duxbury on November 18.

Best event: an unprecedented warm patch between November 23–28 with temperatures 17 degrees above normal and sustained south to southwest winds produced two state and New England firsts. An immature female Black-chinned Hummingbird visited a Cohasset greenhouse from November 25–December 10. Its demise allowed for positive postmortem identification and represented the second record for the northeast after a bird near Antigonish, Nova Scotia, May 30, 1964. A Lucy's Warbler was found at Clark's Pond on Great Neck, Ipswich on December 1. At the time, the only record "east" of their southwest breeding range, was in Louisiana, December 30, 1959.


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