June 2020

Vol. 48, No. 3

Bygone Birds: Historical Highlights for January-February

Neil Hayward


January–February 2015

A pair of Barnacle Geese were present in Northampton from January 2–11. An Eared Grebe was back at Mashpee on January 20, possibly the same bird seen in November. An immature Purple Gallinule was found in distress in Weston on January 19 but died before rehabilitators arrived the following day. Nantucket hosted a flyby Brown Pelican on New Year's Day and a Royal Tern on January 16, the first winter record for the state. A Prairie Falcon was a nice surprise on Plum Island for the first day of 2015. What would have been a state first ended up being rejected based on photographs that showed falconer's gear attached to one of the bird's legs. A Spotted Towhee was in Chilmark and a Painted Bunting in Wellfleet. Continuing birds from December included the Townsend's Solitaire in Marion, the Townsend's Warbler in Marblehead, and the Audubon's Warbler in Hingham.

Best sighting: Black-backed Woodpecker at the Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain, January 6. This bird stayed for over four months and was seen by many local birders.


January–February 2010

Rare geese included the continuing Greater White-fronted Goose in Sharon and a Barnacle Goose in South Egremont. The pair of Tundra Swans continued on Nantucket. An Eared Grebe spent four days at Marstons Mills in January. A Wood Stork was a one-day wonder in Cotuit on January 20. Another one-day surprise was a Slaty-backed Gull photographed at Eastern Point, Gloucester, on January 25. Ivory Gulls were more obliging, with an adult at Race Point, January 14–17, and a second bird at Westport on January 23. The White-winged Dove first found on the Sturbridge Christmas Bird Count continued into January at the feeders of the Bird Store and More in Sturbridge. The Allen's Hummingbird first discovered in October at a feeder in Harwich survived until January 19. A Townsend's Solitaire spent more than three weeks in Yarmouthport, while a Summer Tanager and a Painted Bunting visited feeders within three blocks of each other in Orleans.

Best sighting: Sage Thrasher at Salisbury State Park, January 11–March 28. This represents the third state record for the species, the two previous records coming from Plum Island in October 1965 and November 2005.


January–February 2000

The Eared Grebe at East Gloucester continued for its fifth consecutive winter. Up to two Greater White-fronted Geese were on the north shore with another in Fairhaven. Tufted Ducks were found in Plymouth and at Wachusett Reservoir. A Mew Gull was present in South Boston for most of the period. Passerine highlights included a Boreal Chickadee in West Newbury, a Western Tanager in Orleans, an Oregon Junco in Easthampton, a Spotted Towhee in Hadley, and Hoary Redpolls in Easthampton and Halibut Point.

Best sighting: Brown Pelican in Westfield, January 1–4. This was a first for western Massachusetts. It was eventually captured, rehabilitated and relocated to Florida.


January–February 1980

A Western Grebe continued at Plum Island for the second half of January. Two Gyrfalcons—one gray and one dark—were reported from the Newburyport area marshes from late January through mid-February. Varied Thrushes were found at Harvard and South Orleans in February. Rare icterids included a Yellow-headed Blackbird in Hingham on January 1, and one or two Brewer's Blackbirds on Martha's Vineyard through the end of February. Other passerine highlights included Western Tanagers at Framingham and Dover and a Lincoln's Sparrow at Eastern Point, Gloucester, on New Year's Day.

Best sighting: After an absence off nearly twenty-five years, Bald Eagles were reported back at their former wintering haunts along the Merrimack River. As many as five immatures were present during February.

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