2006 STATISTICAL AND YEAR END REPORT
By Robert H. Stymeist, Statistician
During 2006, the Brookline Bird Club listed 306 species of birds on 208 reported trips, one species more than last year. A total of 256 trips were scheduled, seven trips less than last year. The all time high number of scheduled trips was 290 in 2000. There were 67 all-day, 147 mornings, 30 afternoons or evening, five pelagic, and two weekend trips. Forty-eight trips were not reported, 36 were cancelled by weather and 12 went unreported, the record-breaking rain during May and June was the major factor this year. In Massachusetts the Club reported a total of 301 species, four more than last year on 206 trips. To put this in perspective, birders throughout the state recorded a total of 373 species during the year, thus the BBC total of 301 is an astonishing 81% of all the species seen in 2006!
Three new species were added to the overall Brookline Bird Club list of birds. The Club recorded White-faced Storm Petrel on the Hydrographer Canyon trip August 26 A Bell’s Vireo on November 25 in Wood’s Hole and the Western Reef Heron in New Hampshire on September 3.
For the birder the weather in 2006 was a mixed bag. January was unusually mild with below normal snow; February had wide temperature swings and a big snowstorm on the 12th; March came in like a Lion but was very dry; April was warm and dry with exceptionally warm temperatures at the end of the month advancing the foliage by two weeks; May was WET with nearly 13 inches of rain in the Boston area. The songbird migration was awful but the storm driven birds were awesome. June continued the extremely wet pattern setting a new high for a two consecutive month total rainfall. July was hot, August was cool and September through December was near normal to above normal in temperature as well as dry.
The fourth Annual Winter Meeting was held at Bedford High School on January 20, 2006. Phillip Hoose, a widely-acclaimed author gave a lively talk on his multi award winning book The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, a story on the extinction of the Ivory billed Woodpecker. At our Spring Meeting at Harvard, David Bird, Professor of Wildlife Biology at McGill University of Montreal gave an entertaining program entitled “How Bird’s Do It”. And our Fall Meeting featured our own Norman Smith of Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum who presented a program on Snowy Owls and Saw whet Owls that featured his assistants growing up with owls.
Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns opened up the start of 2006 by leading their TENTH annual New Year’s Day birding trip. Nineteen members enjoyed an almost perfect winter day with a dusting of new snow, no wind and an overcast sky that added some drama to the landscape. The trip tallied 61 species from Newburyport to finishing up at Dunback Meadow in Lexington. Laura and Mark also led us through the seasons with a Vernal Equinox walk on March 18, a Summer Solstice Saunter on June 24 and a Autumn Equinox walk on September 23.
The fifth annual Grand Slam Owl Prowl started out at 4AM on February 18. The goal of this trip is to locate, either by hearing or sight, all seven species of owls that are regularly found in Massachusetts in one day. Reports of Long-eared and Short-eared owls had been few and in the end those two species eluded the group. All five owls seen were photographed! The Club also scheduled Woodcock walks in Reading, and the Blue Hills. The Club continued co-sponsoring the TASL (Take a Second Look) surveys of the waterfowl of Boston Harbor and a Dawn Heron Census at Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston. On going was a series of mid-week trips on Cape Ann in search for alcids led by Barbara Volke; Breeding Bird Surveys at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Salem Woods, Woburn and Dartmouth. On August 5 Mark Burns and Laura de la Flor led the now annual Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari, 16 members in tropical attire tallied 51 species, which included 74 oystercatchers, 230 Willets, over 3000 Semipalmated Plovers and two Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
Fall Hawk watch locations included Mt Wachusett, Mt Watatic and Mt Tom, which had a very impressive flight of over 1200 Broad-winged Hawks as well as five Bald Eagles. On November 25 Glenn d’Entremont found a Bell’s Vireo on the grounds of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on a trip that was co sponsored with the Cape Cod Birding Club. This was just the third record for the state and the first record not from Manomet Bird Observatory. This needless to say was a first for the Club as well as the throngs of birders that descended on the site the following day! New this year was a visit to the Wing Island Banding Station in Brewster, it was a slow day, and the leader wishing it was one day later when two Connecticut Warblers were netted! At the end of the year the Club suspends scheduled trips so that our members can participate in the Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). There are thirty-four count circles within Massachusetts.
This year, the Club scheduled five pelagic trips. A scheduled trip to Hydrographer’s Canyon on August 26 was AGAIN a smashing success. The EXTREME PELAGIC as it has been called now for the third year in a row was again a most memorable trip for the 75 birders who departed Hyannis Harbor in the dark. We cruised the length of Hydrographer Canyon into water more than 4000 feet deep with the water temperature at 74F along the shelf edge. The trip followed the shelf edge for nearly twenty miles before setting course back across Nantucket Shoals and back to Hyannis arriving in the dark. Three WHITE-FACED STORM-PETRELS were found and the Captain followed them maneuvering the boat allowing fantastic views, a life bird for most of the birders on board. Another highlight was a distinctly smaller and slender shearwater that was readily picked out and observed from a roosting flock of Cory’s and Greater shearwaters. Many photos were taken and sent around to seabird experts with the possibility that the bird could be a Cape Verde Shearwater for which there is one record from off Cape Hatteras. The November pelagic, again organized by Ida Giriunas and led by Rick Heil and Steve Mirick was about as placid as could be for early winter. Sixty-five members enjoyed almost continuous groups of shearwaters, gannets, and kittiwakes. Before the boat left the dock there was a very early morning migration of loons; in about 30 minutes the group tallied over 130 Common and nearly 300 Red-throated Loons. At the edge of the shoals a spectacular flock of thousands of Greater Shearwaters, about 20 Northern Fulmars, Gannets and hundreds of Black-legged Kittiwakes were feeding along with Minke and lob-tailing and breaching Humback Whales!
A special thank-you to the 62 leaders who guided our members throughout the year; several leaders deserve special mention. Bill Drummond led the most with 26 trips followed by Steve Grinley with 18 trips, Ida Giriunas led 17 trips despite falling on the ice and snow in February at Dunback Meadow which put her in a cast for several weeks, Soheil Zendeh was listed as leader 16 times, Linda Ferreresso with 13, Glenn d’Entremont led 12 trips mostly on the south shore and Cape Cod and Bob Stymeist and Jonathan Center each led 11 trips. Laura de la Flor and Bob Petersen each led 10 trips. Another 11 dedicated leaders accounted for five or more trips each
The Club visited Essex County most often, with a total of 100 scheduled trips (60 to Newburyport/ Plum Island area, 20 to Cape Ann and 20 other spots in the County, including eight trips to the Marblehead Neck Sanctuary.) Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge was a distant second with 27 trips which recorded 105 species There were also 40 scheduled trips in the Metropolitan Boston area, 15 trips were scheduled in the extended Sudbury River Valley, which included trips at Great Meadows NWR, Oxbow NWR, Bolton Flats and the new Assabet NWR. 20 trips to the South Shore and to areas on Cape Cod including three trips to the hot birding spot at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham. and 10 trips to areas in Western Mass. Out of state trips included a weekend trip to the Machias area and to Rangely Lakes in Maine. The combined total number of species on the Maine trips was 143 and included some Boreal birds such as Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee. Both Ida Giriunas and Eddie Giles have been leading these great trips for many years affording Club members the opportunity to see some northern forest and ocean birds that don’t nest in Massachusetts. There were just two trips in New Hampshire with one trip especially targeted for the Bicknell’s Thrush that unfortunately was cancelled due to heavy rain. An extension of Bill Drummond’s September 3 to Portsmouth NH was successful in adding the Western Reef Heron to the Club list and yet another trip from Cape Ann on November 19 led by Bill extended up to Odiorne State Park and added Fork-tailed Flycatcher which put on quite a show as it fed in the bittersweet.
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 Cathedral Ledge, Rockport January 7
Pacific Loon Hull (TASL trip) January 29
Eared Grebe Gloucester January 7
Northern Fulmar at sea July 8
Audubon’s Shearwater at sea August 26
Leach’s Storm-Petrel at sea August 26
White-faced Storm-Petrel at sea August 26
King Rail Plum Island May 31
Sandhill Crane Cumberland Farms October 8
Black-tailed Godwit Plum Island July 17
Ash-throated Flycatcher Halibut Point, Rockport December 13
Bell’s Vireo Woods Hole November 25
Bohemian Waxwing Halibut Point January 7
Kentucky Warbler MNWS May 7
The following species occur with some regularity in Massachusetts but were missed by the Club during 2006: Least Bittern, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Marbled Godwit, Short-eared Owl, Common Nighthawk, White-eyed Vireo, Golden-winged, Cerulean and Connecticut warblers.
The biggest trip list this year was Bill Drummond’s trip around Essex County, recording 110 species on May 27. In Bill’s notes he states “It was a fine day at Plum Island with some of the best birding in the thickets opposite the salt panes. It took over an hour to get the 50 participants on the Mourning Warbler at that location with everyone getting to see ALL the birds including a Philadelphia Vireo and a Mourning Warbler”. Bill was able to show the fifty participants 10 species of shorebirds, and 17species of warblers. The most species for the least amount of travel was a trip totally within the town of Wellfleet that recorded a total of 80 species on September 16. 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.
January 7 Westport 77 species Bob Stymeist, leader
February 19 Cape Ann 55 species Linda Pivacek, leader
March 26 Western Mass 47 species Ida Giriunas, leader
April 15 Newburyport area 62 species Steve Grinley, leader
May 27 Newburyport area 110 species Bill Drummond, leader
June 4 Newburyport area 88species Steve Grinley, leader
July 1 Quabbin Gate 10 51 species Glenn d’Entremont, leader
August 20 Newburyport area 69 species Steve Grinley, leader
September 17 Provincetown-Truro 87 species Bob Stymeist, leader
October 29 Newburyport-PI 60 species Steve Grinley, leader
November 4 Bourne 77 species Bob Stymeist, leader
December 10 Newburyport-PI 65 species Steve Grinley, leader
The Club recorded nearly 81% of all the birds that were noted during 2006-pretty impressive! A total of at least 373 species, 13 more than last year were observed and reported by birders across the state during 2006. Other noteworthy species seen during the year but not on the BBC list were: Greater White-fronted Goose, Cackling Goose, Tundra Swan, Eurasian Wigeon, Western Grebe, Yellow-nosed Albatross, White and Brown pelicans, Magnificent Frigatebird, White Ibis, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed and Mississippi kites, Golden Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt (Bill Drummond extended his Plum Island trip but missed it), Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Royal Tern, Dovekie, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Green-tailed Towhee to name a few.
The Yellow Rail that was discovered in the marshes known as Plum Bush by Ron Lockwood on October 9 was the top vote getter of five birders who sent in their lists. This was truly amazing that the bird was even re-found and that it was seen so well and photographed. The birders slogged through waist high water, some tripping, falling, getting their binos wet but all were most satisfied seeing this truly elusive bird. Ida Giriunas, the Energizer Bunny as I like to call her managed to get out there with the aid of two ski poles and see this bird through Chris Floyd’s scope. Chris was ecstatic with this bird, which he never dreamed of seeing in Massachusetts and his greatest experience was re-finding it for so many birders. It always is exciting when you find a good bird and then being able to share it with everyone; the Bell’s Vireo located by Glenn d’Entremont in Woods Hole was his most memorable find and on a Club trip no less. Spotting the first Northern Fulmar on a Club pelagic was especially rewarding for another birder. Finding my own Sandhill Crane at Bolton Flats after missing others. One birder heard the song of a Bicknell’s Thrush on Mt Greylock in July; this bird used to be standard fare when Lee Jameson ran the Greylock camping weekend thirty plus years ago, it has been absent now for as many years there. The White-faced Storm-Petrel gathered several votes as a favorite and no wonder- three of these were seen on the extreme pelagic at close range on a calm sea! A quick trip to Martha’s Vineyard for a Gray Kingbird that spent only two days on the island was mentioned as their best bird. Rare among warblers a Cape May in top plumage was present for several days affording “killer looks at eye level at the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan. Another spring nor’easter brought a great tern show at Sandy Point on Plum Island. Other birds that made folks smile were Black-tailed Godwit, Black-necked Stilt, Rufous Hummingbird, Bell’s Vireo, LeConte’s Sparrow, Green-tailed Towhee and the White-tailed Hawk even if it was an escape were also mentioned.
The Western Reef Heron also got a few votes even though it was in New Hampshire.
It always is interesting to see what the top listers miss; just like on a Big Day or a Christmas Bird Count there is often some bird that is common but completely missed. One birder missed Eastern Screech Owl, another Ruffed Grouse- both common breeding birds in the right areas. Cape May warbler was on several lists; this bird used to be common but has been in steady decline for a number of years. Another warbler, the Golden-winged has become extremely rare and now is almost thought as likely as a Townsend’s or Hermit warbler. Other misses include Long-eared Owl, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Goshawk (3 lists), Olive-sided Flycatcher, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Connecticut and Mourning warblers, LeConte’s Sparrow. Of course many birders lamented not being at Plum Bush to tell their story about getting very wet to see a Yellow Rail!
John Hoye, Wayland 325
Audrey McCarthy, Wayland 321
Oakes Spalding, Cambridge 319
Herman D’Entremont, Somerville 311
Glenn d’Entremont, Stoughton 308
Chris Floyd, Lexington 308
Steve Grinley, Newburyport 307
Linda Ferraresso, Watertown 304
Karsten Hartel, Arlington 298
Davis Noble, Marblehead 290
Bob Stymeist, Arlington 276
Jonathan Center, Chelmsford 275
Fred Bouchard, Belmont 269
Laura delaFlor, Salem 234
Ida Giriunas, Reading 196