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October 2022

Vol. 50, No. 5

Bird Sightings: May-June 2022

Neil Hayward and Robert H. Stymeist


The month of May—the height of spring migration—is often the most anticipated birding season of the year. The dry weather in April this year continued into May, in which precipitation fell on only five days. Boston recorded just 1.32 inches of rain, nearly two inches below the average. The high for the month in Boston was 89 degrees on May 22. A warm front came through during the day on Friday, May 13, resulting in a fallout—just in time for Mass Audubon’s annual Bird-a-thon. The mercury rose 26 degrees from 60 degrees on Thursday, May 12, to 86 degrees on Saturday. The fallout also coincided with Global Big Day, an event sponsored by BirdLife International and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Nearly 54,000 participants tallied an amazing 7,738 species from over 200 countries. This year, Cornell was celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Another major fallout occurred overnight on May 20 and conditions were perfect for birders at Plum Island on Saturday, May 21, when overnight rain and early morning fog dropped hundreds of birds on the island.


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A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck found on June 16 was the first record for Berkshire County. Populations of this duck have been expanding in the southern United States with vagrants appearing more frequently in the north. The species has now been recorded in 10 counties in Massachusetts, missing only from Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, and Norfolk counties.


Numbers of raptors this spring were up for some species but down for others. Fourteen Mississippi Kites were noted during the period, an increase from seven birds observed in 2021 and only two birds in the spring of 2020. Five Swallow-tailed Kites were reported—the same number as last year, although this year’s sightings were all one-day wonders, unlike the four birds last year that lingered for several days. An immature Golden Eagle was photographed on Mount Greylock on May 7. Spring records of this raptor are rare in Massachusetts; in the past ten years only one other report of a Golden Eagle has been recorded in the spring—last year in Deerfield and on the same date of May 7. On the downside, it was not a good year at the spring hawkwatch site on Plum Island. The total number of American Kestrels was just 28 compared with 332 in 2021 and 222 in 2020. Only 12 Merlins were noted this year compared with 80 last spring. The last date for Snowy Owl on Plum Island was May 7, and the Snowy Owl first noted at the end of April at Jeremy Point in Wellfleet was last seen on May 31.

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