August 2020

Vol. 48, No. 4

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for March-April

Neil Hayward


March–April 2015

A Ross’s Goose was a one-day wonder at the University of Massachusetts campus in Amherst on April 1. A Black-headed Gull in Amherst on April 6 was a rare inland find. The dark phase Gyrfalcon that had been frequenting New Hampshire, then Maine, then New Hampshire again, finally crossed the border into Massachusetts, making two brief visits to Salisbury on March 4 and 18. The Black-backed Woodpecker, discovered on January 6 at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, moved to nearby Franklin Park where it continued until April 19.

Best sighting: Crested Caracara in Chatham, April 5. This was the third record for the state, after individuals seen at Cumberland Farm fields in Halifax in January 1999 and in West Tisbury in May 2007.


March–April 2010

A Barnacle Goose continued in Egremont into the first week of March. The two Tundra Swans that had been reported on Nantucket in January reappeared there on March 10. A Swallow-tailed Kite was reported from Rehoboth on April 29. A Wilson’s Plover discovered on Nantucket on March 28 set a new early arrival date for the species. On the late side was a Dovekie photographed on Nantucket on the very late date of April 22. A pair of Monk Parakeets survived the winter in East Boston, where they commenced nest building. The nine Common Ravens seen together in Needham set a new record high count for Metro Boston. To the surprise of many, the Sage Thrasher that had been present at Salisbury until January 20 reappeared on March 27. 

Best sighting: Common Chaffinch, which continued in Waltham from the previous period and was last seen on March 15. By then it had begun to sing, and a recording was made.


March–April 2000

A one-eyed American White Pelican was at a pond in Tyngsboro for over two weeks, then disappeared for two weeks, and then reappeared for a few days. Some speculated this may be the same one-eyed pelican that spent several months on Plum Island in the summer and fall of 1997. Seven Greater White-fronted Geese were reported throughout the state, including a single from Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Mew Gulls were reported from South Boston, Newburyport, and Brewster. A Royal Tern in Edgartown on April 24 was the first Massachusetts record for April. Continuing passerine highlights included the Spotted Towhee that overwintered in Hadley, and the Hoary Redpoll at the Arcadia sanctuary in Easthampton. A male Lark Bunting appeared at the end of the period, visiting a feeder in Truro.

Best sighting: Cinnamon Teal, Gloucester, March 18–19. This was the first (and to date only) accepted record of this species for the state. Previous records were on the supplemental list because of concerns of provenance; this species is kept in waterfowl collections.


March–April 1980

A Fulvous Whistling-Duck that was found dead on Nantucket on March 20 was probably one of the two remaining individuals from the flock of four that had been seen on the island the previous December (and of which two were shot). The Barrow's Goldeneye flock at Newburyport peaked on March 23 with twelve birds. In March, an immature Golden Eagle was spotted at West Newbury and a light phase Gyrfalcon was at Salisbury. A Eurasian Whimbrel was at Muskeget Island on April 11. An adult Mew Gull was at Revere on April 13. A long-dead Sooty Tern was found in Chatham, bringing the total to 88 individuals that were relocated here during the previous year’s Hurricane David. A Pileated Woodpecker was a rare sighting for Mount Auburn Cemetery in mid-April. The Great Gray Owl, first found in Oakham on February 7, continued until March 1. Other continuing birds included the Western Tanager in Dover, and a Harris's Sparrow at Bruce Sorrie's feeder in Marshfield. A Golden-crowned Sparrow was present at an Orleans feeder for a week at the end of April.

Best sighting: Mountain Bluebird, aboard a ship 70 miles south-southeast of Nantucket, April 28. This represented the first state record.

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