2004 Statistical and Year-End Report

By Bob Stymiest, Club Statistician

During 2004, the Brookline Bird Club listed 311 species of birds on 243 reported trips, 17 species more than last year. To put this in perspective, birders throughout the state recorded a total of 360 species during the year: thus the BBC total of 311 is an astonishing 86% of all the species seen in 2004! A total of 261 trips were scheduled, six trips fewer than last year and 17 fewer than the all-time high of 290 for the Club during 2000. There were 69 all-day, 162 morning, and 29 afternoon or evening trips. Also, there were three weekend trips compared with just one weekend trip the previous year. Twenty-eight trips were not reported, 16 of which were cancelled by weather, leaving just 12 unreported, a big improvement over 2001 when 44 trips went unreported. In Massachusetts the Club reported a total of 302 species, 14 more than last year, on 234 trips.

One new species was added to the overall Brookline Bird Club list of birds. A Red-footed Falcon, the first confirmed record for Massachusetts, as well as for North America, was seen on a diverted and extended South Beach trip on August 14 led by Eddie Giles and Mark Burns. Vernon Laux, birder extraordinaire from Martha’s Vineyard, first noticed this bird on August 8 and was puzzled by this hovering raptor over the fields of Katama Airport. Originally, he thought it was an immature Mississippi Kite, a first “live” sighting for the Vineyard, as Vernon had found a dead Mississippi Kite on the island in May 1985. He alerted some of the island birders to come take a look, but he continued to be puzzled. Fortunately, Sally Anderson, a birder who lives on the island, was able to get some pictures. The pictures were sent to Jeremiah Trimble in the Ornithology Department at Harvard. Jeremiah immediately thought that it was a Red-footed Falcon and not knowing if the bird was still there, he dropped everything and prepared to head for the Vineyard. l was lucky to be at the Museum and so joined him along with Peter Trimble and Peter Alden to go search for the bird. On our way down, Vernon called our cell phone and told us that the bird was still at Katama and that he would meet us at the ferry. Jeremiah was able to get some incredible shots and I took a lot of video. His photos were on the Internet on August 11 and on the front page of the New York Times and other major newspapers by August 12. On Saturday, the first weekend day after the discovery, an army of birders stormed the island. Complete with cameras and telescopes, birders lined the roads along the fields of the small Katama airfield to see this beautiful vagrant. Over 1000 birders were on the island by noontime, including our BBC group led by Eddie Giles, who was to be leading the Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari on South Beach. We were certainly the most colorful of all the observers. The original South Beach trip was not cancelled, as Mark Bums led 11 other members over to the beach and recorded 42 species including 29 American Oystercatchers, 65 Willets, 67 Hudsonian Godwits, a Caspian Tern, and 15 Black Skimmers. After the trip, Mark and many of the participants headed over to the Vineyard and added the falcon to the list at 6:20 p.m. that evening!

In 2004, the Club scheduled six pelagic trips, up from just two the previous year but down from 13 in 2000. Pelagics can be unpredictable and only 25 species were tallied on the four reported trips. A scheduled trip to Hydrographer Canyon on August 28 was a smashing success. The “Extreme Pelagic”, as it was called, was a remarkable adventure for the eighty birders who departed Hyannis Harbor in the dark at 4 a.m. The trip never made it to the original destination, as satellite images revealed lower water temperatures at Hydrographer; however, just west at Veatch’s Canyon the water temperatures were almost 80 degrees, so the Club headed there. It was a great day on the open sea, clear with seas running 2-4 feet, and the birding was fantastic! Everyone enjoyed the extraordinary views of some of the least-observed pelagics, such as Audubon’s Shearwater, Band-Rumped Storm-Petrel, Great and South Polar Skuas and Bridled Tern both flying alongside the boat and perched on floating wood. Not only were there great birds but several Basking Sharks, two Hammerhead and one Blue Shark and hundreds of flying fish were there to watch as well.

The second Annual Winter Meeting was held at Bedford High School on January 30, 2004. Wayne Petersen gave a lively talk entitled “A World of Seabirds”. At our Spring Meeting at Harvard, Andrew Farnsworth of Cornell gave an interesting program on radar ornithology and on the different nocturnal calls the migrants use on migration.

The Club continued to conduct a workshop on waterfowl in November and a Nature Journaling trip in July focused on sharpening observation skills and practicing field sketching. The fifth annual Grand Slam Owl Prowl started out at 4 a.m. on February 28. The intent of this trip is to locate, either by hearing or sight, all eight species of owls that are regularly found in Massachusetts. The severe winter had a devastating effect on the state’s Barn Owl population so the leaders opted out of a trip to Martha’s Vineyard; thus the hope was for seven owl species in 18 hours. The highlight was a Northern Saw-whet Owl found at Bradley Palmer State Park. This little owl buzzed the group twice, nearly missing one member’s head by a foot! He then went into a pine tree and began calling and scolding us for disturbing his day. The trip ended up seeing four species. The Club also scheduled Woodcock walks in Reading, the Blue Hills, Concord, Magnolia and the Great Meadows in Lexington. The Club continued co-sponsoring the TASL (Take a Second Look) surveys of waterfowl of Boston Harbor and a Spring Hawk watch at Plum Island. Expanding out from birds, Dave Small conducted a Breeding Bird and Biodiversity day in the wilds of Royalton. Teaming up with Eddie Giles, Dave also led a Birds, Butterflies and Dragonflies trip in August. Laura de la Flor led us through the seasons with a Vernal Equinox walk on March 20 and a Summer Solstice Saunter on June 19.

A special thank you goes out to the 74 leaders who guided our members throughout the year. Several leaders deserve special mention. Steve Grinley led the most with 28 trips, Bill Drummond led 21 trips, Ida Giriunas, the Energizer Bunny, led 22 trips, and Linda Ferraresso led 11 trips. Soheil Zendeh was listed as a leader 17 times. Another 15 dedicated leaders accounted for five or more trips each.

The Club visited Essex County most often, with a total of 128 trips: 71 to Newburyport and Plum Island area, 24 to Cape Ann, 18 to other spots in the county, and 15 trips to the Marblehead Neck Sanctuary and areas nearby. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge was a distant second with 39 trips. There were also 35 scheduled trips in the Metropolitan Boston area; 20 trips in the extended Sudbury River Valley, which includes Oxbow NWR, Bolton Flats, and Devens RFTA; 25 trips to the South Shore and to areas on Cape Cod; and 14 trips to areas in Western Massachusetts. Out of state trips included weekend trips to the Machias area and to Rangeley Lakes in Maine, and two trips in New Hampshire.

The Massachusetts Audubon Society (MAS) Checklist (10/2000) now includes all the species that have been identified in the state as determined by the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC). The Club recorded the following species that are listed on the new list as rare or as accidental species:

  • Pacific Loon                           Cape Ann                                February 29
  • Eared Grebe                            Gloucester                               January 3
  • Audubon’s Shearwater            at sea                                       August 28
  • Leach’s Storm-Petrel              at sea                                       August 28
  • Band-rumped Storm-Petrel    at sea                                       August 28
  • White Ibis                               Mashpee                                  May 29
  • Great Skua                              at sea                                       August 28
  • South Polar Skua                    at sea                                       August 28
  • Sabine’s Gull                           South Beach                            July 31
  • Bridled Tern                           at sea                                       August 28
  • Red-footed Falcon                  Katama, Martha’s Vineyard    August 14
  • American Avocet                    East Boston                             September 26
  • Chuck-will’s-widow               Wellfleet                                 May 30
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher         Rockport                                 November 27
  • Western Tanager                     Brewster                                  February 15

The following species occur with some regularity in Massachusetts but were missed by the Club during 2004: Redhead, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Clapper Rail, Marbled Godwit, Little Gull, Arctic Tern (recorded on Maine trip), Black Tern, Cape May Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Lark Sparrow, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and Seaside Sparrow. Also missing this year were Greater White-fronted Goose, Tufted Duck, Northern Fulmar, Ruff, Red Phalarope, Common Murre, Thick-billed Murre, Common Barn Owl, Western Kingbird, Red and White-winged Crossbills (both recorded on Maine trips).

The biggest trip list this year was Bill Drummond’s trip around Essex County, recording 103 species on May 15. In Bill’s notes he states “we probably would have had more birds if we hadn’t spent the first and last hour of the trip looking for the elusive Golden-Winged Warbler”. Bill recorded 11 species of shorebirds, and 18 species of warblers, including a Kentucky. The most species for the least amount of travel was a trip totally within the town of Wellfleet that recorded a total of 85 species on September 14. In the following table you can see which trip in each month recorded the most species; this may help in planning for a big year of birding.

 Date               Location                                 # species         Leader  

January 1         Plum Island-Salisbury            63 species       Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns

February 8       Scituate-Plymouth                  64 species       Glenn d’Entremont

March 20         Newburyport -Cape Ann        53 species       Laura de la Flor and Mark Bums

April 17           lRWS-Newburyport                62 species        Peter and Fay Vale

May 15            Newburyport area                   103 species      Bill Drummond

June 19            Essex County                          89 species       Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns

July 5              Plum Island                             62 species       Tom Young

August 29       Newburyport area                   70 species       Bill Drummond

September 11 Wellfleet                                 85 species       Bob Stymeist

October 3        Boston                                     85 species       Bob Stymeist

November 15 Marshfield-Plymouth               7I species        Glenn d’Entremont

December 11   Cape Ann                                41 species       Bob Petersen

The Club recorded nearly 86% of all the birds that were noted during 2004 – pretty impressive! A total of at least 360 species, two less than the previous year, was observed and reported by birders across the state during 2004. Other noteworthy species seen during the year were: Ross’s Goose, Barnacle Goose, Tundra Swan. Trumpeter Swan (not accepted by MARC – origin unknown). White-faced Storm-Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, White Pelican, Mississippi Kite, Rufous Hummingbird, Townsend’s Solitaire and Painted Bunting, to name a few.