Tuesday, December 6, 2016

7th Annual Plymouth County Waterfowl Survey

22 birders turned out for the 7th annual Waterfowl Survey in Plymouth County. Birders spread out in 4 teams to check on every freshwater lake or pond that could be found. At sundown, the tally was held at Finna's Tavern in Kingston, where both the food and the fellowship was at a high standard. 

Total number of Ducks, and total number of Waterfowl are both at record numbers this year. This is partly due to healthy duck populations but also due to the great effort that was made this year to check out new ponds and lakes in addition to the usual haunts. Start times were earlier, teams split up to cover more bodies of water, and the effort showed in the results. 
  • Record high - Canada Geese in the water
  • Record high - American Wigeon
  • Record high - Mallards
  • Record high - Green Wing Teal
  • Record high - Greater Scaup
  • Record high - Bufflehead
  • 2nd highest on record - American Black Duck
  • 50% lower than average - Lesser Scaup
  • 50% lower than average - Common Merganser
  • Coot are a boom or bust species, and this year was one of the bust years.
  • Notable waterfowl - 11 Pintail, 1 Long-tailed duck, 1 Barrow's Goldeneye, 1 Red-necked Grebe
Other Notable Birds always shows the benefit of "just getting out there", and this year was no exception. The 25 Ceremonial Doves (22 white) seen by the SW team certainly topped the list, and others included a White-winged Crossbill, Red-shouldered Hawk, a late Osprey, Bald Eagle, Fox Sparrows, Common Raven, Marsh Wren and five species of shorebirds. 

Next year's Duck Count will be on Saturday November 18 2017 - join the fun!

Joe Scott

A male Pintail on Triphammer Pond in Hingham and a Red-shouldered Hawk posing at the entrance of Wompatuck State Park were pleasant surprises.
Photos by Steven Whitebread

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Passanegest Park at Broad Meadows in Quincy

This recently restored habitat has proven to be very attractive as a coastal stopover place for many migrating birds. Especially numerous are sparrows; Savannah, Song and Swamp Sparrows can be observed in good numbers. The ebird list for the hotspot now lists 133 species (in just only about 1.5 years of entries)

The easy walking on wide paths helps to make this a favorite place to go birding with a group. We saw a total of 54 species on this gorgeous fall morning.

Below is the list from our morning at this suburban oasis.
Christine Whitebread

Passanageset Park at Broad Meadows Marsh, Norfolk, Massachusetts, US
Oct 12, 2016 8:03 AM - 11:23 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.0 mile(s)
Comments:     SSBC walk.
54 species (+1 other taxa)

Canada Goose  8
American Black Duck  12
Mallard  5
Northern Pintail  1     Female-type flew over at least three times with black ducks and Mallards.
Wild Turkey  7
Double-crested Cormorant  150
Great Blue Heron  3
Great Egret  4
Snowy Egret  2     *In saltmarsh with GREG and GBHE where they have been.
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Greater Yellowlegs  2
Herring Gull  11
Great Black-backed Gull  1
Mourning Dove  19
Belted Kingfisher  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  1     Nice immature working a tree on the edge of the parking lot.
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  3
American Kestrel  2
Merlin (Taiga)  1
Blue Jay  7
American Crow  220
Fish Crow  7
Common Raven  2
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  8
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Marsh Wren  1     **Not an easy bird in the county; in shrub-line out in the saltmarsh.
Carolina Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  15
Northern Mockingbird  4
European Starling  13
American Pipit  1
Nashville Warbler  5
Common Yellowthroat  1
Blackpoll Warbler  10
Palm Warbler (Western)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2
Field Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  2
White-crowned Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  8
Savannah Sparrow (Savannah)  70     *Not unusual numbers for here.
Savannah Sparrow (Ipswich)  1     Dead phragmites berm in the saltmarsh. Looked like the one with the yellowish malar.
Song Sparrow  48
Swamp Sparrow  25
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  1
House Finch  8
American Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  10

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S32011442

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, September 10, 2016

Eight club members met at the sanctuary in hopes of seeing some migration action, but the cold fronts have not moved through yet to bring any warblers, vireos, and the like to the woodlands and edges of the property.  Nevertheless, we did have some endearing sightings like this young Red-tailed Hawk that buzzed us repeatedly during the first part of our walk.  Thanks to Terry MacAskill for the great photos.

With almost no water in the panne, bird sightings from the blinds were limited.  Virtually no shorebirds were present and the main action came from frogs jumping onto the mud from the small pool near the east blind.  At the mud flats along the River loop, Least Sandpipers were seen foraging, but were hard to pick out. Much to our amusement, a Great Blue Heron went strolling down the boardwalk in front of us. Two Northern Harriers were tumbling through the air seen from Fox Hill, and one later was seen cruising over the fields.  Tree Swallows, Grey Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, and Starlings were seen abundantly everywhere.

14 Canada Goose
2 Mute Swan
3 Mallard
2 Wild Turkey
4 Great Blue Heron
2 Great Egret
2 Northern Harrier
3 Red-tailed Hawk
7 Least Sandpiper
24 Mourning Dove
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
7 Eastern Phoebe
11 Blue Jay
30 American Crow
100 Tree Swallow
15 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Tufted Titmouse
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
10 American Robin
22 Gray Catbird
12 Northern Mockingbird
150 European Starling
4 Song Sparrow
3 Northern Cardinal
1 Red-winged Blackbird
15 Common Grackle
30 Brown-headed Cowbird
5 House Finch
16 American Goldfinch
12 House Sparrow

Number of Taxa: 31

Sally Avery

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Squantum section of Quincy - 8/28/2016

Nine of us poked around Squantum during the morning hours and enjoyed some nice weather and a few noteworthy birds. The skies were fair, with bright sunshine on the shorebirds in salt pans along East Quantum Street. Temperatures were comfortable and ranged from 66-79F.

A nice variety of shorebirds were present in these salt pans at high tide including several Greater Yellowlegs and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Also in the mix were Short-billed Dowitchers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, and a few Least Sandpipers. Out of nowhere a Merlin made a quick pass at the shorebirds and was gone in a flash.

As the tide started to wane a bit we checked out some of the sand spits in the area for additional species. Birds of note included a few American Oystercatchers, a Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plovers, and 2 Sanderlings. The highlight of the trip was seeing 5 Caspian Terns together in flight from Squaw Rock Park. We were alerted to their presence by the very unique and loud "grating" call. The birds eventually circled back around and settled on the Thompson Island spit and nice scope views were had by all.

Not much in the way of landbird migrants, although the group heard a Black-billed Cuckoo call a couple of times.

Complete list:
51 species

American Black Duck  6
Double-crested Cormorant  90
Great Blue Heron  8
Great Egret  10
Snowy Egret  20    Estimate
Osprey  5
American Oystercatcher  3
Black-bellied Plover  2
Semipalmated Plover  10
Killdeer  4
Ruddy Turnstone  1    Uncommon; Thompson's Island spit
Sanderling  2    Uncommon here; Thompson's Island spit
Least Sandpiper  4
Semipalmated Sandpiper  150
Short-billed Dowitcher  12
Greater Yellowlegs  55
Lesser Yellowlegs  6
Laughing Gull  120    Estimate; typical numbers for late summer
Ring-billed Gull  35
Herring Gull (American)  150
Great Black-backed Gull  7
Caspian Tern  5    Thompson's Island spit. Local in MA; but regular here during fall migration. All were adults. These bird were quite vocal while in flight. Photo.
Common Tern  2
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  25
Mourning Dove  18
Black-billed Cuckoo  1    Heard only; Squaw Rock Park
Chimney Swift  2
Downy Woodpecker (Eastern)  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Merlin (Taiga)  1    Made a pass at the shorebirds at Squantum salt pans.
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1    Squaw Rock Park
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  4
Tree Swallow  17
Barn Swallow (American)  1
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  1
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird  15
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  300
Cedar Waxwing  6
Yellow Warbler (Northern)  1
Song Sparrow  5
Northern Cardinal  8
Common Grackle  5
Baltimore Oriole  3
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  100

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Vin Zollo

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

South Shore Shorebirding 8/7/2016

      On August 7th, ten club members joined me on a quest for shorebirds in the communities of Scituate, Quincy, and Easton.  A weak cold front passed through  the area overnight  so conditions were optimal for observing southbound migrants from arctic and subarctic latitudes as well as resident species like Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers.

     We started the morning at the mud flat near Judge Cushing Rd. in Scituate and were instantly rewarded with looks at ninety two Semipalmated Sandpipers, four Greater Yellowlegs, six Lesser Yellowlegs, and six Least Sandpipers.  Our group pored over the “peep” (i.e., the word used to describe Least, Semipalmated, Western, White-rumped, and Baird’s sandpipers collectively) hoping to find something uncommon or rare in the mixed flock of birds.  For the uninitiated, this can be a bit like trying to find a Susan B. Anthony dollar in a bucket full of quarters scattered about your feet.  Everyone in our group was up for the challenge as they scoped the muddy flats in earnest.

    Our next stop was the Scituate Reservoir.  The continuing drought has created excellent shorebird foraging habitat at this location.  Muddy areas with shallow pools of water are hard to come by this summer due to the exceptionally dry conditions.  Several small groups of shorebirds were observed on the mucky expanse busily feeding and preening in the increasing heat of the day.  We were able to study a particularly confiding White-rumped Sandpiper as it plunged its head into the water repeatedly in search of prey.
       We noted the long primaries extending beyond the tail tip (an adaptation for long distance migration) on this large and relatively long-billed peep as it continued feeding.  The adult bird exhibited a grayish head and breast (giving it a somewhat hooded appearance), a prominent white supercilium, and fine streaking along the flanks.  Although we were close enough to the bird at times, we were not able to discern the reddish base of the lower mandible that is sometimes visible in better lighting.   The bird even emitted its incredibly high pitched mouse-like call on several occasions.  Lastly, the least conspicuous field mark – the white rump – was noted as the bird made several short distance flights away from us. 

White-rumped Sandpiper

     Subsequently,  we made a brief stop at Musquashicut Pond in Scituate.  The tide was too high at this location, but we still observed eleven Semipalmated Plovers and fifteen Semipalmated Sandpipers.  Our group also enjoyed five Snowy Egrets crowded amongst some Double-crested Cormorants on nearby rocks.  In addition, adult and juvenile Least Terns were flying about the pond and alighting on a stony bar in the vicinity of the egrets.  Despite the forecast for cooler weather, the temperature soared towards the ninety degree mark.  Shorebirding and shade are a rare combination, but we were committed to our search regardless of the heat and glare.

     Continuing, we drove to the pannes near the Kennedy Center in the Squantum section of Quincy.  We timed our visit to correspond with high tide since shorebirds in the immediate area are frequently pushed off any exposed flats available at low tide and concentrated in the salt pannes as the tide rises.  The salt pannes were productive as is typical at this site in the first half of August.  Eighteen Greater Yellowlegs huddled amongst the Spartina grass and Salicornia while their smaller congeners – the Lesser Yellowlegs – gleaned aquatic prey nearby.  Club members were happy to add five Short-billed Dowitchers from this location to the shorebird trip tally.  The dowitchers probed the mud in their characteristic sewing machine manner and provided excellent opportunities for studying shorebird behavior.

    While most of the group opted to end the day in Quincy (home to the majority of participants today), several club members decided to check the wet and muddy flats at Wheaton Farm in Easton.  The water level in the pond that is adjacent to this conservation area has been altered and the recently exposed wet areas, with attendant vegetation and tree stumps, has been a boon for migrant shorebirds in recent weeks.

    Today was no exception and the shorebird show was impressive.  The most interesting observation was an unusually high count of Solitary Sandpipers.  We counted fifteen Solitary Sandpipers in a single scan of the flats.  This close relative of both yellowlegs species prefers freshwater habitat during its migration, but is usually encountered in small numbers that typically do not exceed two or three individuals.  The Solitary Sandpiper breeds in boreal forest habitat and has the unique breeding strategy (among North American shorebirds) of nesting in trees and utilizing remnant songbird nests. 

    In addition to the Solitary Sandpipers, we observed an estimated one hundred and twenty Least Sandpipers darting  in and out of the vegetation for brief scope views.  Killdeer vocalized and flew about the flats nervously as Lesser Yellowlegs and a lone Greater Yellowlegs bobbed and dipped in the wetter sections of the flats.  Occasionally, an unknown source of anxiety startled some of the shorebirds and gave us a better sense of the numbers of individuals we were observing.   The rolling breeps of Least Sandpipers mixed with the softer tu-tus of Lesser Yellowlegs as the emphatic two part cries of the Killdeer echoed throughout the flats whenever the shorebirds were spooked by something. 

   We also observed eleven Great Egrets and a single Snowy Egret foraging in the vicinity of the shorebirds.  Semipalmated Plovers ran and paused repeatedly on the sparsely vegetated section of the flats while Spotted Sandpipers teetered and alighted on some of the tree stumps dotting the mucky landscape.
   Our group had an enjoyable day exploring a number of productive shorebirding sites on the South Shore and beyond.  Some of us will be looking at these shorebird hotspots in the coming weeks to see what drops in for some rest and sustenance before continuing on to an island in the Caribbean, the coast of Brazil, or a final destination at Tierra del Fuego.

Jim Sweeney


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Whale and Seabird Watch July 9, 2016

Twelve hardy birders braved gray skies and choppy seas for the the club's annual Bird and Seabird watch on the Captain John boat out of Plymouth. Despite the conditions, the trip out was worth the wait once we reached Stellwagon bank.

It was decided to not bring the camera this trip, as showers were predicted.

So you will have to imagine as the birds flew from whale pod to whale pod in search food. While several mixed rafts of shearwaters were seen, most were at a distance, with the birds taking off as we approached. With all the activity, it is always challenging (at least for me), to keep some type of tally on the number and species of birds.

We did however get good looks at all four species of shearwater as individuals flew along side the boat at various times.

Here is the best I could come up with for numbers.

Mallard                    3  
Cory's Shearwater          103      
Great Shearwater           129      
Sooty Shearwater           177      
Manx Shearwater            5  
Shearwater Sp.             100-200       
Wilson's Storm-Petrel      171      
Northern Gannet            1 
Double-crested Cormorant   8        
Great Blue Heron           3        
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1        
Piping Plover              1        
Willet                     1
Short_billed Dowitcher     1            
Laughing Gull              10       
Herring Gull               X      
Great Black-backed Gull    X      
Least Tern                 5        
Common Tern                25       
Black Skimmer              2        
Rock Pigeon                10       
Eastern Kingbird           1        
Tree Swallow               X        
Barn Swallow               X      
Red-winged Blackbird       3        
Common Grackle             5  
Mike Emmons

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

SE Bioreserve - Freetown / Fall River State Forest, June 26th 2016

Our leader Lynn Abbey really knows this large area like the back of her hand. Just to give us first time or rare visitors an overview, she showed us a map at the meeting point. We then headed off to some of her favorite spots - or places where she recently had luck with sights or sounds of some of the rarer birds.
Lynn said she had had no luck so far with the Hooded Warbler this year - but our group was in luck! We clearly heard Hooded Warbler singing not far from the "usual" spot. That particular area was very birdy; with 4 species of Thrush, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird and loads of Chickadees (they seem to be done breeding for now). Later stops produced among many others Canada and Prairie Warblers, Redstart, Brown Creeper and a gorgeous male Purple Finch feeding a recently fledged young (and not a cowbird!).

The last stop of the day was at the latest addition to the South Eastern Bioreserve: Mill Brook WMA.
This "Mini-Burrage" has a lot of promise. Among others we saw tons of Savannah Sparrows, Indigo Bunting, two Spotted Sandpipers, Killdeer and observed Prairie Warblers male and female feeding a recently fledged chick. A wonderful way to end a great morning!

Birders at Mill Brook WMA
Below are the lists for Freetown State Forest and Mill Brook WMA.
Again  many thanks to Lynn for leading this trip and keeping the list!
Christine Whitebread

Freetown State Forest & Southeastern MA Bioreserve, Bristol, Massachusetts, US
Jun 26, 2016 6:32 AM - 9:32 AM
Protocol: Traveling, 3.0 mile(s)
Comments:     SSBC trip led by Lynn Abbey.  Focus on Freetown section incl. Payne Rd, Makepeace, Cedar Swamp trail and Edmund House trail.  Sunny, high 50s to mid 60s. <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.1.5 Build 44
40 species

Green Heron  2     Flyover at meeting spot route79
Osprey  2     Nesting Cell tower across from meeting spot
Mourning Dove  3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  2
Chimney Swift  3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3
Eastern Phoebe  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue Jay  2
Black-capped Chickadee  14
Tufted Titmouse  1
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  5
Brown Creeper  1
House Wren  2
Carolina Wren  1
Veery  5
Hermit Thrush  2
Wood Thrush  3
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  5
Cedar Waxwing  1
Ovenbird  8
Northern Waterthrush  3
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  6
Hooded Warbler  1     Heard only
American Redstart  1
Pine Warbler  6
Prairie Warbler  5
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Canada Warbler  1     Heard only
Chipping Sparrow  8
Eastern Towhee  12
Scarlet Tanager  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Purple Finch  4     M&f and 1 fledgling being fed by dad, another male.

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30411971

Mill Brook WMA, Freetown, Bristol, Massachusetts, US
Jun 26, 2016 10:08 AM - 11:38 AM
Protocol: Traveling, 1.5 mile(s)
Comments:     SSBC trip led by Lynn Abbey.  Former cranberry bogs.  Sunny, 70s. <br />Submitted from eBird for iOS, version 1.1.5 Build 44
25 species

Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  3
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Mourning Dove  5
Chimney Swift  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Eastern Kingbird  6
Tree Swallow  16     6 young being feed as loafing on tree tops
Barn Swallow  4
Veery  1
Hermit Thrush  1
Gray Catbird  3
Common Yellowthroat  3
Yellow Warbler  1
Prairie Warbler  3     Observed pair feeding chick
Chipping Sparrow  3
Field Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  8     On territory
Song Sparrow  2
Indigo Bunting  1
Red-winged Blackbird  17
Common Grackle  3
American Goldfinch  2

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S30411969