Saturday, January 20, 2018

Annual Plymouth County Waterfowl Survey Results

These are the results of the 2017 Duck Count. 


  • Excellent coverage of Plymouth lakes and ponds. With four strong teams we found 79 (!) bodies of water that produced checklists for eBird, i.e. 79 bodies of water with ducks on them. 
  • My compliments to the team captains, who went after all those ponds and organized the day so well. 
  • Record total number of ducks - 4,820 ducks, vs 8 year average of 3,985. All that extra effort to cover all the ponds paid off. 
  • First Duck Count record of a Tufted Duck, first record of a Cackling Goose, first record of a Black Scoter. 
  • Record High counts for Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, and Common Goldeneye. 
  • Low count vs average for both species of Scaup, low count for Common Mergansers, low count for Ruddy Ducks.
  • Other Notable Birds included a Rufous Hummingbird in Hingham, an American White Pelican in Marshfield, and 31 golden-crowned kinglets in the Southwest.
  • Best contributions by birders who had to miss this year: Jim Sweeney for finding the Tufted Duck, Steven Whitebread for identifying all the potential ponds and lakes in Plymouth county, with locations and histories. 
  • Record number of free beers provided for showing Duck Stamps at the tally. 
  • Record number of disabled ponds, covered in a thin sheet of ice and empty of ducks. I think the Northeast was most affected by the ice. 
Inside the Numbers 

There are two attachments, one that shows the number of each species for every year back to the start, and the other that shows this year's results in each section. 
"Ducks" is as it says. Waterfowl is Ducks plus Coot, Geese, Swans, Grebes, and Loons. This is somewhat arbitrary since it does not include cormorants, herons, gulls, or, this year, pelicans! The saving grace is that we've counted these the same way each year so we can compare on a consistent basis. 
An interesting development this year is the increased number of Hybrids being reported. In the NW section we had what we believe is a cross between a Goldeneye and a Hooded Merganser. Of course mallard hybridization is widespread, particularly with Black Ducks. You might find this quote interesting from Ducks Unlimited:

"Waterfowl crossbreed more often than any other family of birds. Scientists have recorded more than 400 hybrid combinations among waterfowl species. Mallards and wood ducks in particular have demonstrated the capability of hybridizing with a surprisingly wide range of other species. However, most waterfowl hybrid offspring are infertile."

Thank you for coming out for the Duck Count. I hope to see you all again next year.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Marion and Mattapoisett, 10 December 2017

On 10 December 2017, five birders set out to explore the area of Marion and Mattapoisett.

Starting the day we took a longer-than-intended pit stop at the boat ramp on Mattapoisett Neck Rd,which proved to be incredibly birdy, with lots of goldfinches, House Finches, robins, and a few waxwings. Most interesting was seeing a bunch of Ring-billed Gulls in trees (?????).

Ring-billed Gulls in trees

Moving on we went to Nasketucket Bay State Reservation, where we had a rapid-fire smattering of winter specialties. We walked to the edge of the thicket on the Meadow Trail, hearing a catbird immediately before getting to my favorite spot. Once we stopped a chat was spotted, then a Fox Sparrow, then a thrasher, then a Hermit Thrush and audio of a Winter Wren, all in the span of about ten minutes. As has been said on this blog before, some days you just get lucky.

Yellow-breasted Chat, Nasketucket Bay State Reservation

After a quick stop at Aucoot Rd seeing the usual winterers, we made our way to the Marion WTP. This spot is an absolute magnet for dabbling ducks, and we were treated to many. Several Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, and Mallard were here, and 4 Northern Shovelers were present as well. The landscape has changed and the old spot which held sparrows was no more, but viewing the shrubby growth along the retention pond from atop the compost pile yielded 7 sparrow species at once, including Field, American Tree, and Chipping.

From here we made a quick stop at Osprey Marsh on Point Rd before making our way to the Kitansett Club. Scoter and eider numbers were lower here relative to usual but we were treated to nice close looks of Horned Grebe, Razorbill, and Red-necked Grebe, the ladder two being pretty unusual at this location.

After taking a quick stop at a cedar tree on Delano Rd that seemed to contain infinite robins, we ended the day at the fields off of Vaughan Hill Rd in Rochester where we managed to locate the Cackling Goose which has lingered here for the past several winters.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Outer Cape Cod, 19 November 2017

On November 19th 2017, three determined birders met in the howling wind and rain to begin a day of true adventure. One which- despite the adverse conditions- teemed with potential, waiting for those adventurous enough to take the plunge to grasp it. The day proved to be just that, and with a stroke of luck or two a great day of birding was had.

Heading out toward the Cape, the forecast determined that we would not be starting at Race Point, rather flipping the initial plan and starting low on the National Seashore and working our way up, ending the day there.

On the way out, we decided to make a quick pit stop at Marston's Mills Pond and were lucky enough to have a male Northern Shoveler point blank in front of us, affording great looks of the bird's massive bill, brilliant green head, and chestnut sides.

We began our ocean birding venture visiting Nauset Beach, which was recommended to us by a fellow SSBC member because there had been a lot of birds moving there recently. This is where we hit a stroke of luck; there was a gazebo which provided us with shelter from the rain. Peeking over the dunes we were able to tune up for the day to come, with species such as Baccaloo (Razorbill), Coddy Moddy (Black-legged Kittiwake), Bauk (Great Shearwater), and Gran Fou (Northern Gannet) all making appearances. Since this was such a prime location to be in the rain, we spent quite a bit of time there before continuing on our journey. Rain was forecast until about noon, so we took our time working our way up to Provincetown, making several stops along the National Seashore along the way. Along our drive the skies cleared and the sun made an appearance, giving promise that the rain was coming to an end.

Arriving in Provincetown, we grabbed some lunch to go and ate at Macmillan Wharf where five Razorbills were feeding right off the piers along with several eiders and a lone White-eye (White-winged Scoter). Turning around to the car, the weather suddenly turned what I referred to as "apocalyptic". Dark clouds filled the sky, and the winds howled. Luckily, this was merely a front passing through and the sun shone again shortly after.

Refuelled, we made our way to Race Point. Our first stop here was Race Point Beach parking lot, where we stood from atop the entrance of the beach and saw many Common Shearwaters (Manx Shearwaters), several Sea Swallows (Common Terns), and a Boatswain (Parasitic Jaeger) fly by. 

The crew hiking the long haul out to the rip

Gulls over Race Point Light

After this we drove to and walked the fire road. Along the way we saw several White Martins (Tree Swallows) flying over, huge flocks of Arctic Sparrows (Snow Buntings), and hundreds upon hundreds of gulls taking shelter in the dunes. Arriving at the rip, the ferocity of the surf had us in awe. Huge whitecaps lined the proximity of the beach, shearwaters swiftly wheeling through them and gannets plunge-diving into them. Although there were not huge numbers of birds here and what was sitting on the water was difficult to see due to the massive waves, we felt as one usually does when at this beach; that we were witnessing a true spectacle of nature. As we walked the fire road back to our car, the sunset over the dunes bode us farewell.

Waves at Race Point Beach


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Plum Island and vicinity

Three hardy birders braved the season's first cold blast, with temperatures in the 20's & 30's.
(Only six more months until the warblers are back!)

This trip focuses on ducks, as they head south for the season. But with the sudden freeze just the night before, a couple traditional puddle spots were naturally empty.
The ocean was painful to view as the biting easterly wind, left us teary eye. The ocean was actually quiet duck wise, with only a few species and individuals. The species that have big numbers was Red-throated loon. Most certainly under counted we had forty at parking lot 1 alone.
We found a Harlequin Duck associating with one of the few Common Eider and White-winged Scoters in the area.

Heading down the island, we found Mallards, Black Ducks, Buffleheads, Common Goldeneye and good numbers of Northern Pintail. In between the duck stops we birded the area for land birds.
Most of the birds, got the message to head south as it was generally quiet. Although the habitat certainly comes into play on Plum, we missed chickadee, nuthatch and titmouse for the trip. Even traveling inland to West Newbury!

However, we did manage to find a few notable birds. While heading back north on Plum, we can across another birder who had found a late Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. We had only a fleeting look as the bird flew off just as we brought our binoculars up to look at it. And just before reaching parking lot One, a lone Purple Finch, crossed the road to land in a small evergreen.

At Salisbury, David Ludlow found a very far and high immature Bald Eagle. Again, the area was quiet land bird wise. Only a few loons, eider and a couple of Brant were near the mouth of the river.
A very cooperative female Cooper's Hawk flew low and slow from tree to tree, affording us very  nice looks.

Heading over to West Newbury, we stopped along Scotland road, finding a Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, Hairy woodpecker and a Great Blue Heron, admiring itself while standing on a patch of ice.

Cherry Hill Reservoir and artichoke were our last stops of the day. Cherry Hill seem to be its ol' self again after noticeably low numbers of birds last year. Ring-necked ducks were in full force with the highest number of birds, Ruddy ducks followed and diminishing numbers of Hoody and Common Mergansers, and a pair of Lesser Scaup in attendance.

Below is a list for the day.


Brant                                 2                                           
Canada Goose              644                                         
Gadwall                            7                                           
Eurasian Wigeon              1                                           
American Black Duck  271                                         
Mallard                         141                                       
Northern Pintail              53                                          
Green-winged Teal         36                                          
Ring-necked Duck        725                                         
Lesser Scaup                    2                                           
Common Eider             112                                         
Harlequin Duck                1                                           
White-winged Scoter     18                                          
Long-tailed Duck             8                                           
Bufflehead                      23                                        
Common Goldeneye        4                                           
Hooded Merganser         35                                          
Common Merganser        2                                           
Ruddy Duck                 140                                         
Red-throated Loon         82                          
Common Loon                 3                                           
Red-necked Grebe            1                                           
Double-crested Cormorant  82                                          
Great Blue Heron             3                                           
Turkey Vulture                 1                                           
Northern Harrier              3                             
Cooper's Hawk                 1                                           
Bald Eagle                        1                               
Red-tailed Hawk              4                                           
American Coot                 2                                           
Black-bellied Plover        6                                           
Dunlin                          524                                         
Greater Yellowlegs          3                                           
Ring-billed Gull              x                                     
Herring Gull                    x                                     
Great Black-backed Gull x                                        
Rock Pigeon                  20                                          
Mourning Dove             11                                          
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1                                           
Hairy Woodpecker          1                                           
Northern Flicker             1                                           
Merlin                             1      
Peregrine Falcon             1                                   
Blue Jay                          2                                           
American Crow            10                                          
Common Raven              1                             
Horned Lark                    3                                           
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1                                           
Eastern Bluebird             3                                           
American Robin           16                                          
Northern Mockingbird   4                                           
European Starling       500                                         
Cedar Waxwing            12                                          
Yellow-rumped Warbler     3                                           
American Tree Sparrow     2                                           
Dark-eyed Junco                7                                         
White-throated Sparrow     2                                           
Song Sparrow                    3                                           
Northern Cardinal             3                                        
Red-winged Blackbird      1        
House Finch                      7                                           
Purple Finch                     1                                           
American Goldfinch         3

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Atwood Reservoir, 15 October 2017

On the 15th of October 2017, twelve adventurous birders spent the morning exploring a recently acquired Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game property, the Atwood Reservoir in Carver. Armed with a member that works in land acquisition for DFG, we were all delighted to hear about the history of the property and how DFG came to acquire this land for public use.

For those who do not know, if coming from Route 58 in Carver, there is a small, nondescript parking area 0.9 miles down Meadow Street on the left hand side that can be used to access this area.

The morning started foggy, and the drive to the meetup spot made it questionable on how productive birding at this large reservoir which was mostly birded by scoping the reservoir itself would be. At the meetup location at Sampson Pond, the fog slowly lifted over time, giving promise that the conditions would improve.

When we arrived at the parking area, we went across the street to quickly check the small, marshy reservoir. There wasn't much going on so we quickly moved on and took the main trail toward Atwood Reservoir. Starting at the north end of the res, we encountered lots of skulky Savannah, Song, and Swamp Sparrows, as well as a few Wood Ducks. We also briefly saw an Osprey hunting, as well as a Merlin dashing to chase some crows.

The group, taking a moment to shoot the breeze
Doubling back and tracing the western perimeter, it seemed each time our group stopped to check the pond someone would sight something interesting. First, a Pied-billed Grebe. Next stop, two American Coot, a species which I have never observed at this location. Next, someone saw a distant buteo which we spent time trying to identify, and while looking we noticed that a Bald Eagle was resting in a tree, remaining so still that it was largely unnoticed by our group initially. As we walked to the southernmost point of the reservoir, we encountered two more Pied-billed Grebes and several bunches of Tree Swallows migrating overhead. At this point we decided to turn back and headed back to the parking area.

Almost at the parking area, twice the group heard calls which sounded like Dickcissel flight calls, and after searching we were unable to locate the bird. We also heard lots of blackbirds, so we decided to again check the small reservoir. While there we heard a Rusty Blackbird calling, and were all surprised to find a spectacular male Black-throated Blue Warbler. After getting to observe this bird for a while we all decided to call it a day, and ended our trip with 42 species.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Turkey Hill/Weir River Farm/Whitney Thayer Woods: September 9, 2017

Eight birders gathered for a gorgeous walk atop Turkey Hill and surrounding properties this morning. Poison ivy, Virginia creeper, and Burning bush provided pockets of red color throughout the properties while snails and slugs kept us entertained when the birding was rather slow.  Migration was not happening today, so our birding thrills came from the usual suspects found along woodland trails on an early autumn day.  A red tail harassing four turkey vultures provided some amusement.  Four species of woodpeckers all calling and flitting along a trail near the Weir River and numerous phoebes flipping their tails from tree branches and fences kept us punching the numbers into ebird.  Anticipating Fall Roundup next week, we were imagining the trees dripping with warblers and the shrubs and grasslands hosting countless sparrows!

Sally Avery

Turkey Hill/Weir River Farm/WhitneyThayer Woods, Norfolk, Massachusetts, US
Sep 9, 2017 7:59 AM - 12:13 PM
Protocol: Traveling
4.0 mile(s)
Comments:     Sunny in 60's with light winds. A South Shore Bird Club trip. No sign of migrants. 
30 species

Turkey Vulture  4
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Mourning Dove  30
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  4
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Eastern Phoebe  11     Phoebes were found throughout the property often  by the twos and most of them were first year birds with the yellowish cast to the breast  
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Blue Jay  14
American Crow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  15
Tufted Titmouse  9
White-breasted Nuthatch  8
House Wren  3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  8
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  83
Cedar Waxwing  15
Chipping Sparrow  3
Eastern Towhee  3
Northern Cardinal  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
House Finch  6
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  12

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Newburyport & vicinity - August 5, 2017

This annual trip, run a little bit earlier in the month this year, produced a fair variety of shorebirds albeit in lower numbers than one might expect later on.

Starting off with mixed weather, fog and clouds, we had no trouble making our way down to the southern end of the island and Sandy Point State Reservation Beach. We only had a few fishermen to contend with opposed to the hoards of beach goers expected this time of year. (This is one of the reasons I start the trip so early. Otherwise, we often will get boxed out.)

We made our way out to the beach, passing the roped nesting areas for Piping Plovers. We scanned these areas, but none were found. At this point, I think nesting has been completed, so young and old alike were out roaming the open beach.

One, then two, then four then six Piping Plovers were found all within one or two scope fields apart. Later on we found a flock of five, apparently different birds, then a handful of others, totaling fourteen birds.

As we were on the beach during a rising tide, a lot of the shorebirds had departed for their loafing areas. However, there were still Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers and two Ruddy Turnstones to be found. It is not surprising, but still remarkable how the beach changes year over year. What was once a long and wide expanse of mudflats was now an abrupt cut off sand shelf.

We got information that there were lots of birds at Bill Forward Pool so we headed in that direction, only briefly stopping at the nearly barren Stage Island Pool.

Upon arrival at the blind at Bill Forward Pool, we found what would be spot of the day. Several thousand birds of all shape and sizes we actively feeding, resting and a little of both. A parade of Snowy Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants and Greater Yellowlegs followed one another chasing and feeding on trapped prey.

The majority of the birds were Semi Semis (Plovers and Sandpipers), but we also found single Hudsonian Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher (there might have been a second), Dunlin and Western Sandpiper.

While we traveled on the island, there were the flocks on Tree Swallows and European Starlings, just starting to amass into pre-migration flocks. A stop at Parking lot 1 to pick up cars and look out at the ocean, found forty or so Northern Gannets all heading south. Little else was seen.

The plan was to head over to the other side of the river and visit Nelson Island to wrap up the trip. However, as we starting off the island, a weather front opened up on us. Not knowing the duration, I cut the trip short.

Below is a list of what I recorded for birds.


Canada Goose              15                          
Gadwall                   1                           
Mallard                   9                           
Wild Turkey               1                           
Northern Gannet           40                          
Double-crested Cormorant  15                          
Great Blue Heron          2                           
Snowy Egret               15                          
Turkey Vulture            2                           
Osprey                    4                           
Black-bellied Plover      50                          
Semipalmated Plover       1187                        
Piping Plover             14                          
Killdeer                  1                           
Hudsonian Godwit          1                           
Ruddy Turnstone           2                           
Sanderling                100                         
Dunlin                    1                           
Least Sandpiper           5                           
White-rumped Sandpiper    4                           
Semipalmated Sandpiper    840                         
Western Sandpiper         1                           
Short-billed Dowitcher    62                          
Long-billed Dowitcher     1                           
Greater Yellowlegs        10                          
Willet                    2                           
Lesser Yellowlegs         15                          
Parasitic Jaeger          1                           
Bonaparte's Gull          3                           
Ring-billed Gull          27                          
Herring Gull              1                           
Great Black-backed Gull   5                           
Least Tern                10                          
Common Tern               30                          
Eastern Kingbird          20                          
American Crow             1                           
Purple Martin             18                          
Tree Swallow              3000                        
Bank Swallow              2                           
Barn Swallow              2                           
Marsh Wren                4                           
American Robin            30                          
Gray Catbird              5                           
Brown Thrasher            1                           
Northern Mockingbird      2                           
European Starling         1000                        
Cedar Waxwing             10                          
Common Yellowthroat       2                           
Yellow Warbler            1                           
Saltmarsh Sparrow         1                           
Field Sparrow             1                           
Savannah Sparrow          1                           
Song Sparrow              1                           
Eastern Towhee            5                           
Northern Cardinal         3                           
Red-winged Blackbird      5                           
Common Grackle            2                           
Baltimore Oriole          1                           
American Goldfinch        2