This adult Sooty Tern at Race Point, Provincetown, on 8/5/2020 was one of more than a dozen brought to the state by Tropical Storm Isaias. In contrast to many other storms that have brought Sooties, multiple birds were found up to several days after Isaias’s passage, and a couple of birds at Wachusett Reservoir lingered for almost a week, which is unheard of in New England. Photograph by Max Chalfin-Jacobs.
Eared Grebes, like this one on Jamaica Pond, Boston, 12/24/2020, are often first misidentified as Horned Grebes. Focus on the extensively dark face, the head shape with a peak towards the center of the head rather than the rear of the head, and especially bill color and shape. Horned has a pale tip to the bill and lacks the upward bevel at the tip of the mandible (i.e., lower mandible) that gives the bill of Eared an upturned appearance. Photograph by Ryan Schain.
The state’s second Pacific-slope Flycatcher appeared at Fresh Pond, Cambridge, where it was photographed 11/25/2020. While recordings of the call notes (or genetics) are critical to eliminate Cordilleran Flycatcher, it is also important to eliminate Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Notice the teardrop-shaped eye ring, brownish cast to the wings, more peaked appearance to the head, buffy versus clear yellow tinge to the wing bars in fall, and the fairly narrow extent of the dark gap below the second wing bar (more extensive in Yellow-bellied); the latter is a new field mark published in 2014 that is proving quite helpful. Photo by Jeremiah Trimble.
Cave Swallow has a track record of late fall vagrancy to Massachusetts, but that pattern involves birds from the western population P. f. pallida. The state’s earliest record was established in 2021 at Cherry Hill Reservoir, Newbury. The two populations are field identifiable and the Newbury bird proved to be from the Caribbean population by virtue of its much darker chestnut rump, prominent streaking on the flanks, and infusion of chestnut into the buffy throat and buffy collar, all seen well in this photo from 4/24/2021. Photo by Sam Zhang.