December 2021

Vol. 49, No. 6

Bird Sightings: July-August 2021

Neil Hayward and Robert H. Stymeist

A Note on Taxonomy

Bird Observer follows the taxonomy published by the American Ornithological Society (AOS). The AOS was previously known as the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) before its merger with the Cooper Ornithological Society in October 2016. Each summer the AOS’s Committee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds (NACC) publishes an annual supplement to its bird checklist. This summer the AOS published their 62nd update (Chesser, R. T. et al.).

The biggest change for Massachusetts birders in the 62nd update is the addition of one species to the state list; Mew Gull was split into Common Gull and Short-billed Gull, both of which have been recorded in the state. The genus Phalacrocorax, which previously served as an umbrella genus for Old and New World cormorants, has been split. Phalacrocorax (sensu strictu) is now an Old World genus, although retains our Great Cormorant. Our Double-crested Cormorant is now Nannopterum auritum, sitting in the same genus as the extralimital Neotropic Cormorant. Within the kinglet family, Regulidae, Ruby-crowned Kinglet is now recognized as being sufficiently different from Golden-crowned as to warrant its own genus, Corthylio, and now appears before Golden-crowned Kinglet in the linear sequence order.


Statistically, July is one of the sunniest months of the year, but not this year. Boston, like many municipalities in New England, set a record for most July days with measurable rain. A total of 10.07 inches of precipitation fell over 19 days during the month, Boston’s second wettest July since 1872. July was also unusually cold; a high temperature of 60 degrees in Boston on July 3 set a new historical record for the coldest high temperature for the city for July. Worcester logged a high of only 57 degrees that day, setting its own record for lowest high temperature for the city on that date. For only the third time in Boston since 1872, July was colder than June. The month ended with no heat wave nor even a prolonged stretch of warm weather. Boston’s average temperature for the month was 1.7 degrees below normal. On July 9, Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall at Watch Hill, Rhode Island, the first tropical storm to hit New England directly since Tropical Storm Beryl in 2006. Elsa brought extensive flooding to most of eastern Massachusetts. Boston picked up 2.04 inches of rain from Elsa, while other towns to the west and south reported nearly four inches. Elsa, however, was a dud for bringing in any significant pelagic birds along the coast.


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Fig. 1. July and August high counts of Red Knot in Massachusetts, 2000–2021. Data from


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