Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Duck Count - November 20, 2021

 The 12th Annual Plymouth County Waterfowl Survey (better known as the duck count) was held on November 20, 2021. This was my first year leading this event, which had previously been run by Joe Scott. Many thanks to Joe for setting up this event and for all your hard work over the last several years!

We had 35 participants who split up into teams to cover all of the major freshwater ponds in Plymouth County. Thank you to everyone who participated and thanks to Pete, Lisa, Kathy, and Nate for your help recruiting and organizing the teams.

We had a clear, calm day with a high of 44°F. We’ve had very few cold days so far this year, so none of the ponds have frozen over yet. This can sometimes lead to lower numbers for the count, as freezing temperatures in northern New England or further inland can push ducks into our milder area. However, overall numbers for many species this year were pretty close to our long-term averages since the count began in 2010.

In addition to the usual species, we also had a few uncommon sightings this year. The Northwest team found 3 Northern Shovelers on Furnace Pond. This species was a lifer for Bonnie and also a first for me in my hometown of Pembroke. We also found a Common Goldeneye X Hooded Merganser on Great Sandy Bottom Pond. This makes 5 years in a row that this beautiful and unusual hybrid has been in the area.

Northern Shovelers by Bonnie Tate

The Marion Water Treatment Plant is under construction currently, but Carol got special permission to visit and found a Blue-winged Teal. Hank and Jill found a Greater White-fronted Goose at the Vaughan Hill Rd fields in Rochester. They credited a pair of Bald Eagles with scaring it into the water so it could be included in our official tally. A Cackling Goose had also been reported in that area recently, but it was absent on the day of the count.

Greater White-fronted Goose by Hank Levesque

Glenn and Ernie found a White-winged Scoter on Assawompsett Pond. Any sea ducks are unusual for this event, as we only cover freshwater ponds, but we do occasionally get a scoter or Long-tailed Duck on some of the largest ponds.

The tally was held virtually this year via Zoom. Several participants dialed in to go over the highlights for each team, review the final numbers, and swap stories. Hopefully we can get back to doing an in-person tally next year.

The full list of waterfowl species for this year is below:

Greater White-fronted Goose


Canada Goose


Mute Swan


Wood Duck




American Wigeon


American Black Duck




Blue-winged Teal


Northern Shoveler


Northern Pintail


Green-winged Teal


Ring-necked Duck


Greater Scaup


Lesser Scaup


Scaup sp




Common Goldeneye


Hooded Merganser


Common Merganser


Ruddy Duck


White-winged Scoter


Common Loon


Pied-billed Grebe


Horned Grebe


American Coot


Total Ducks


Total Waterfowl


Thanks again to all participants and the team captains!

Brian Vigorito

Thursday, October 21, 2021

SSBC's "75-a-thon"

 On Saturday October 16th, 2021, South Shore Bird Club held a "75-a-thon", akin to a century run but with the goal of seeing 75 species of birds. What better a way to celebrate SSBC's anniversary but with an all-day trip hitting many of the South Shore's hotspots that the club has been visiting for decades!

The trip was advertised from 7 AM to 5 PM, a little play on numbers to sneak in another instance of "75", but immediately when the trip started began spurred an ethical dilemma on when to actually start counting birds.

The meetup time was 7AM at the Hawks Ave entrance of Burrage. 12 birders (two more met later) stood in the parking lot chit-chatting while waiting for the trip to start, when at 6:59 AM three Sandhill Cranes flew over bugling, flying away from Burrage over the treeline. Herein lies the dilemma. When to start counting birds? Sandhill Crane was a target here unlikely to be observed anywhere else... and there they went. After a bit of back and forth between everyone we hesitantly decided that we would probably count them, but never formed a concrete decision. Regardless, the clock stuck 7 so we did introductions and went on our way.

Sandhill Cranes. All photos by Lisa

The morning  had that nice fall chill in the air, with a breeze that was forecast to increase throughout the day. This proved to be a challenge, with songbirds being few and far between and when things were found they were often quite skulky. We thought that even if we'd skunked out here on songbirds we'd make up for it with ducks. We reach the northern reservoir and some ducks in the water. Decoys. Alas, today is the first day of duck season and we saw more decoys than ducks. 

The crew working hard to spot new species (not!)

While ducks were incredibly few and far between (with only some Wood Ducks and an unidentified dabbling duck) we did manage to see a Pied-billed Grebe, which would prove to be the only one for the day. While scoping a few blackbirds flew over, giving suspicious "kip" calls. We'd hoped for a better look, but the birds didn't seem to be going far. We decided to check the southern reservoir, and along the way we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an immature White-Crowned Sparrow. The southern reservoir proved to be even more devoid of ducks so we decided to cut left toward triangle bog to see if we could catch up with some more passerines, and hopefully those blackbirds. This ended up paying off in a big way; on our trek over the Sandhill Cranes flew back over, concretely ending our ethical dilemma, and we heard Rusty Blackbirds singing at Stump Brook before flying over again. From here we worked our way back to the car, ending at Burrage around 10 AM with 37 species towards our goal. Lots of holes with common species but we did do well on raptors with 5 species, which tends to be the opposite on big days. A decent count but low enough to keep the nerves pumping about whether we'd reach 75 or not!

Bogs at Burrage

Our next stop was Great Sandy Bottom Pond. This was a great stop for some of the hopefuls at this location, and we were able to see both species of scaup, Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, and we saw our first Mallards of the day (can you believe we missed them at Burrage?). While scanning we also were lucky to see an adult Bald Eagle, and shortly after an immature. We also picked up a big miss from Burrage, American Goldfinch!

Daniel Webster was next on our list and was scheduled to be our last hurrah for songbirds for the day, as it was almost noon when we arrived and winds were steady. At the parking lot another hole in our list was filled, Mourning Dove! We walked to the blind to the east of the panne first only to find a wall of phragmites. As we scanned we thought we heard a "pip" coming from the reeds, and lo and behold not one but two Sora were heard within them! The rest of the trip was quiet for birds but noisy with rustling phragmites, which has overtaken a bunch of the sanctuary. Fortunately though, we were able to fill in some of our missing species like Hairy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and House Finch.

Our next stop was Duxbury Bogs, a place that can be overridden with both dogs and ducks. Surprisingly for such a nice day there were very few people walking their dogs, but the pond did not disappoint with quite a few dabblers hanging around and some nice pickups like Gadwall and Green-winged Teal. A Chipping Sparrow on our way back to the cars was icing on the cake.

Though not a bird, we spent some time admiring this Northern Watersnake at Duxbury Bogs

Now it was time to transition from inland to coastal in our search quest to 75 species. First stop: Plymouth Beach. As opposed to Duxbury Bogs, the amount of people here did correlate with the weather with many walking the beach and soaking up sun. Though it was low tide, we did manage to pick up a nice array of diving ducks with eiders, two scoter species, and a Common Loon. After Scanning from the beach we walked to the flats and were able to find a nice array of shorebirds, including an American Golden-Plover spotted by Lisa. We noticed a huge, distant feeding frenzy including some terns out by the breakwater, but everything was unfortunately too far to identify. As we walked back we had still been missing Sanderling, so Vin, Brian, and I climbed up on the rocks to see if we could spot one on the beach side. We weren't able to find a Sanderling, but did have an odd flyover flock of Lesser Yellowlegs that came off the ocean and flew inland. When we got back to the cars we spent a second tallying our results: 75 species, and only 3:45 PM! Not bad for a day with somewhat unfavorable conditions and not being crazy hardcore in our ventures.

Did we call it a day from there? Of course not, we're South Shore Bird Club!

American Golden-Plover (left) with Black-bellied Plover (right)

The route as planned was to continue following the coast and to head to Manomet Point from here, but the feeding frenzy was just too tempting so we headed to Nelson Beach and the town wharf. This paid off bigtime; we found our Sanderlings accompanied by a couple Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a huge number of gulls roosting on the flats right in front of the breakwater that included no less than 30 Forster's Terns and two Bonaparte's Gulls. As if this wasn't sweet enough we were in awe of two massive clouds terns in the distance, each consisting of hundreds. Quite the sight for mid-October!

Forster's Terns with Laughing Gulls

It was rough, but we finally managed to peel ourselves away from the town wharf to continue on our route and headed to Manomet Point. The combination of southerly winds and low tide made for some quiet waters, but we did manage to see Northern Gannets (one adult which was fairly close) and a Great Cormorant roosting with all of the DC's. It was at this stop that the time passed 5 PM, the advertised end time for the trip.

But did we call it a day from there? Of course not, we're South Shore Bird Club!

With what little daylight we had left we headed to Manomet (Bird Observatory), which shares a rich history intermingled with South Shore Bird Club. We checked the farm, then the dell, then the garden, then the bluff, then walked the road with no new species. The anxiety was building, would our last stop be the first where we didn't add a new species to our list? Fortunately not, as when we were walking back to our cars at deep dusk we were bid farewell by the tremolo of a screech-owl.

All said and done we ended our day with 85 species, beating our goal by 10. It was great to see and get out with everyone, and was definitely a fun little challenge to try to break 75 species. Our full species list in order of location below.



Species                                                     Location
1 Canada Goose                                     Burrage Pond WMA
2 Mute Swan
3 Wood Duck
4 Pied-billed Grebe
5 Sandhill Crane
6 Killdeer
7 Double-crested Cormorant
8 Great Egret
9 Northern Harrier
10 Sharp-shinned Hawk
11 Cooper's Hawk
12 Red-shouldered Hawk
13 Red-tailed Hawk
14 Downy Woodpecker
15 Northern Flicker
16 Blue Jay
17 American Crow
18 Black-capped Chickadee
19 Tufted Titmouse
20 Tree Swallow
21 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
22 Golden-crowned Kinglet
23 Carolina Wren
24 European Starling
25 Gray Catbird
26 Northern Mockingbird
27 American Robin
28 White-crowned Sparrow
29 White-throated Sparrow
30 Savannah Sparrow
31 Song Sparrow
32 Swamp Sparrow
33 Red-winged Blackbird
34 Rusty Blackbird
35 Common Grackle
36 Yellow-rumped Warbler
37 Northern Cardinal
38 Mallard                                                Great Sandy Bottom Pond, Pembroke
39 Ring-necked Duck
40 Greater Scaup
41 Lesser Scaup
42 Ruddy Duck
43 Ring-billed Gull
44 Bald Eagle
45 Red-bellied Woodpecker
46 American Goldfinch
47 Dark-eyed Junco
48 Mourning Dove                                Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary (Mass Audubon)
49 Sora
50 Herring Gull
51 Turkey Vulture
52 Belted Kingfisher
53 Hairy Woodpecker
54 White-breasted Nuthatch
55 House Finch
56 Blackpoll Warbler
57 House Sparrow
58 Gadwall                                                Duxbury Bogs Conservation Area
59 American Black Duck
60 Green-winged Teal
61 Chipping Sparrow
62 Rock Pigeon                                        Incidental (Driving) Rt. 3 @ Samoset St.
63 Common Eider                                Plymouth Beach
64 Surf Scoter
65 White-winged Scoter
66 Black-bellied Plover
67 American Golden-Plover
68 Semipalmated Plover
69 Dunlin
70 Greater Yellowlegs
71 Lesser Yellowlegs
72 Laughing Gull
73 Great Black-backed Gull
74 Common Loon
75 Great Blue Heron
76 Sanderling                                        Plymouth Town Wharf
77 Semipalmated Sandpiper
78 Bonaparte's Gull
79 Common Tern
80 Forster's Tern
81 Red-throated Loon
82 Merlin                                                Incidental (Driving) Manomet near CVS
83 Northern Gannet                                Manomet Point
84 Great Cormorant
85 Eastern Screech-Owl                        Manomet Bird Observatory

Friday, August 20, 2021

SSBC Wompatuck State Park Breeding Bird Survey, July 3-4th 2021

     The Wompatuck State Park breeding bird survey was our third and final survey for the year, being held on July 3rd, with one participant completing their route on the 4th. This survey had a total of 7 participants that each split up to cover their own sections, and spent a collective total of 35 hours 9 minutes, covering 44.02 miles. The park had almost complete coverage, car troubles cursed one group and as a result it was not covered.

Areas covered for Wompatuck BBS

    The weather was unfortunately not as cooperative as it had been for the previous two, with chilly temperatures in the high 50's, drizzle, and moderate winds throughout. Between the cold and the precipitation bird song was much reduced, but we were still able to count a total of 64 species. Pileated Woodpeckers had a nice showing, with a total of 4 individuals counted, which is nice to see in one of the only reliable locations for them in Plymouth County. Most surprising for me were the large numbers of Veeries, with 133 counted... nearly keeping pace with Ovenbirds (160)!

    Along with those a few of the more known, but notable, breeders at Wompatuck were observed, with 1 each of Winter Wren and Worm-eating Warblers. I expect there are several more to be found, but the weather kept many of these skulkers quiet. A somewhat high number of Black-throated Green Warblers were counted, with 11 total.

Wildcat pond, Wompatuck SP

Though it may seem like just a morning of birding, the importance of these surveys cannot be understated. If carried on over time, they can show trends of increases or reductions in populations of species. Additionally, unless data is collected, it disappears. For example, (with the exception of an impromptu BBS I conducted at Haskell Swamp WMA) the Hockomock Swamp and Wompatuck State Park were the only places where Winter Wren and Black-throated Green Warblers were documented in southeastern Massachusetts during the breeding season, despite them being known elsewhere such as the Freetown State Forest. And, there's also the possibility of finding something even more notable, such as Canada Warblers and Alder Flycatchers, both very unusual breeders in southeastern Mass. Regardless, what could be better than not just going birding, but going birding for the purpose of collecting valuable breeding bird data?





Canada Goose


Wood Duck


Mourning Dove


Yellow-billed Cuckoo


Ruby-throated Hummingbird


Herring Gull


Great Black-backed Gull


Double-crested Cormorant


Great Blue Heron


Turkey Vulture




Barred Owl


Red-bellied Woodpecker


Downy Woodpecker


Hairy Woodpecker


Pileated Woodpecker


Northern Flicker


Eastern Wood-Pewee


Eastern Phoebe


Great Crested Flycatcher


Eastern Kingbird


Warbling Vireo


Red-eyed Vireo


Blue Jay


American Crow


Fish Crow


crow sp.


Common Raven


Black-capped Chickadee


Tufted Titmouse


White-breasted Nuthatch


Brown Creeper


Blue-gray Gnatcatcher


House Wren


Winter Wren


Carolina Wren


Gray Catbird




Hermit Thrush


Wood Thrush


American Robin


Cedar Waxwing


House Finch


American Goldfinch


Chipping Sparrow


Song Sparrow


Eastern Towhee


Baltimore Oriole


Red-winged Blackbird


Brown-headed Cowbird


Common Grackle




Worm-eating Warbler


Northern Waterthrush


Blue-winged Warbler


Black-and-white Warbler


Common Yellowthroat


American Redstart


Yellow Warbler


Pine Warbler


Black-throated Green Warbler


Scarlet Tanager


Northern Cardinal


Rose-breasted Grosbeak


Indigo Bunting


Total # of Individuals