2008 STATISTICAL AND YEAR END REPORT
By Robert H. Stymeist, Statistician
During 2008, the Brookline Bird Club listed 306 species of birds on 190 reported trips, three species less than last year. A total of 249 trips were scheduled, 4 trips more than last year, but 41 trips less than the all time high number of 290 in 2000. There were 70 all-day, 152 mornings, 25 afternoons or evening, and two weekend trips. FIFTY-NINE trips were not reported, 20 were cancelled by weather and THIRTY-NINE went unreported. In Massachusetts the Club listed a total of 296 species, two less than last year on 186 reported trips. To put this in perspective, birders throughout the state recorded a total of 364 species during the year, thus the BBC total of 296 is 81% of all the species seen in 2008!
Three new species were added to the overall Brookline Bird Club list of birds. The Club recorded SLATY-BACKED GULL from Gloucester. This bird, along with another sighting from Cape Cod showed up in December of 2007 and remained in the area through at least February 24 and was seen on several Cape Ann trips beginning January 12.The Club added the BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD in September in East Dennis This adult male arrived on August 24 and remained until December 13 and was a first state record. A pre Machias Maine weekend trip to Newmarket, New Hampshire added MISSISSIPPI KITE to the overall BBC Club list. Three birds, two of which SUCCESSFULLY bred constituted the northern most breeding record for the species. Mississippi Kites also bred for the first time in Connecticut; hopefully they will start breeding in Massachusetts soon.
For the birder the weather in 2008 was for the most part-unremarkable with no ocean storms or massive fallouts noted during migration. January and February were unseasonably warm, the temperature rose to a balmy 67 on January 7 and for the third winter in a row the temperature never reached zero or below in the Boston area. Rainfall was just a bit above average and snowfall for the winter season reached 24.3 inches in Boston just four inches above normal. March began rather lamb-like but soon heavy rains caused floods in eastern Mass and heavy snows in the north and western parts of the state. April brought samples of summer with the mercury hitting into the eighties causing the trees to leaf out making\ it harder to see the first migrants. May on the other hand was on the cool side with a lot of east and northeast winds during the first half of the month hampering migration for many of us in eastern Massachusetts. The last half of the month saw many more days with a southwesterly direction providing us with happier birding. The summer months were busy for many birders searching for breeding birds with the start of the Mass Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas. The temperature averaged out at nearly 72 in Boston for the summer months of June, July and August. The start of the fall migration begins in earnest in August with the first shorebirds returning and helped by a good number of days in August with northwest winds. The fall season was a bit cool with a lot rain especially with Hurricane Hanna in September which did not produce any major flight of storm related birds. The first freeze hit the Boston suburbs well into October, but the first hard freeze did not occur in Boston until November 18th.December was a bit on the mild side but was very wet and snowy. Many of the Christmas Bird Counts had to be rescheduled due to a major snow storm. Boston recorded 7.10 inches of rain, 3.37 inches over normal and a near record 25.3 inches of snow, 18.4 inches more than normal for December.
The sixth Annual Winter Meeting was held at Bedford Middle School on February 29, 2008. This was the Club’s FIRST Members Night. So many members of our Club travel all over the world as well as our own backyards and take excellent photographs. Peter and Fay Vale shared some of their best photos from a trip to South Africa in October 2007 and Paul Ippolito and Diana Fruguglieti took us on their adventure to Uganda, the pearl of Africa. Eddie Giles entertained the Club with his multi-media show on the annual BBC Rangley Lake trip which prompted a quick sign-up for the summer of 2009. Helen Bailey with a little help from her friends as well as strangers gave an interesting presentation followed by Joe Paluzzi with a fun show on bird lists and Shawn Carey closed the evening with fabulous photos of the birds and other wildlife he has taken in Massachusetts. The Spring Meeting at the Harvard Museum of Natural History featured Alison O’Hare who shared with us the results of a two year study of the Purple Martins of Plum Island and the fall meeting at Harvard featured members Paul Ippolito and his wife Diana Fruguglieti on their trip to the Galapagos Islands. This famous group of islands that Charles Darwin explored is a photographer’s utmost dream.
Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns opened up the start of 2008 by leading their twelfth annual New Year’s Day birding trip. A small army of THIRTY-THREE members came out on a warm but wet day to begin a New Year of birding. The trip tallied 49 species from Newburyport to Gloucester and finishing up at the Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary in Topsfield. There were many highlights including the only Hoary Redpolls of the year. Laura and Mark also led us through the seasons with a Vernal Equinox walk on March 22, a Summer Solstice hike on June 21and an Autumnal Equinox walk on September 20th. Jane Zanichkowsky led a Leap Day Lark trip on February 29 where mergansers and goldeneyes were in heavy courtship mode.
The annual Grand Slam Owl Prowl had to be cancelled this year due to weather, but Eddie Giles carried out a Cape Cod Waterfowl Prowl with Mary Kelleher. The intent of this trip is to cover as many ponds on Cape Cod as possible in hopes of seeing the 29 species of ducks (geese and swans don’t count). The leaders tallied 61 species but came up with 27 of the 29 duck species! The Club scheduled Woodcock walks in Stoughton, 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. Ongoing was a series of mid-week trips on Cape Ann in search for alcids led by Barbara Volke; Breeding Bird Surveys were conducted in Woburn and in Moose Brook Valley, Hardwick.
Again this year was a three day Cape Cod Blitz, starting on Friday September 12 at the feeder in East Dennis to add the Club’s first record of Broad-billed Hummingbird., the weather went downhill from there with gusty winds on South Beach and off and on rain, sometimes heavy though the trip recorded 113 species which included 4 Yellow-crowned Night Herons and absolute killer looks at a Baird’s Sandpiper just a few feet away.
This year, the Club scheduled five pelagic trips; the trip scheduled for waters off Chatham in November was cancelled because of weather and high seas. These Extreme Pelagics as they are called are 18 hour marathons to the Continental Shelf waters about 100 miles south of Muskeget Island. The super rarities found on these trips included Audubon’s Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Long-tailed Jaeger and Bridled Tern. The mammal show wasn’t too shabby, on the June 30th trip a staggering count of over 1100 Common or Saddleback Dolphins charged the boat to come and investigate us and to ride the bow waves and wake.
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 34 count circles in Massachusetts and this year stormy weather forced some counts to reschedule.
A special thank-you to the 72 leaders who guided our members throughout the year, this was the second highest number of leaders ever- in 1988 there were 78 leaders. There are several leaders deserving special mention. Bill Drummond and Ida Giriunas, two of our long term members led the most with 19 trips each followed by Soheil Zendeh with 15 trips, Bob Stymeist with 14, Jane Zanichkowsky and Glenn D’Entremont each with 13, Jonathan Center led 12 and Linda Ferreresso and Bob Petersen each led 10. Another twelve dedicated leaders accounted for five or more trips each.
The Club visited Essex County most often, with a total of 86 scheduled trips seeing 232 species on 74 reported trips. Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge was a distant second with 36 trips which recorded 108 species. There were also 34 scheduled trips in the Metropolitan Boston area, 19 trips were scheduled in the extended Sudbury River Valley, which included Great Meadows NWR, Oxbow NWR, and the Assabet NWR, and one visit to Bolton Flats. Thirty-three trips to the South Shore and to areas on Cape Cod including four trips to the hot birding spot at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham. and seven 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 137 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 three trips scheduled in New Hampshire plus one diversion to Newmarket for the Mississippi Kites. Highlights among the 94 species included Rufous Hummingbird, Gray Jay Boreal Chickadee plus the only report of Ipswich Sparrow.
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.
Eared Grebe Gloucester January 5
Scopoli’s Shearwater Atlantis Canyon trip June 28
Audubon’s Shearwater Atlantis Canyon trip June 28
Leach’s Storm-Petrel Atlantis Canyon trip June 28
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel Atlantis Canyon trip July 19
MISSISSIPPI KITE Newmarket, NH June 13
King Rail Plum Island July 7
Long-tailed Jaeger Atlantis Canyon trip July 19
Thayer’s Gull Gloucester February 17
SLATY-BACKED GULL Gloucester January 12
Bridled Tern Atlantis Canyon trip July 19
BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD East Dennis September 13
Rufous Hummingbird Plaistow, NH November 2
Townsend’s Solitaire Rockport January 5
Bohemian Waxwing Rockport January 12
Summer Tanager Mt. Auburn May 16
The following species occur with some regularity in Massachusetts but were missed by the Club during 2008: Northern Bobwhite, Cattle Egret, Upland Sandpiper, Ruff, Long- billed Dowitcher, Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, Long-eared Owl, Olive-sided Flycatcher (seen in Maine), Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (seen in New Hampshire and Maine), Gray-cheeked Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, and Pine Siskin (seen in Maine)
The biggest trip list this year was Bill Drummond’s trip on May 10 from Rowley to Newburyport and including Plum Island which recorded just 89 species, this is the first year in decades that did not reach the century mark in a single day!
January 26 Somerset-Westport 59 species Bob Stymeist, leader
February 10 Scituate-Plymouth 67species Glenn d’Entremont, leader
March 15 Cape Cod Waterfowl 61 species Eddie Giles, leader
April 27 Boston 85 species Bob Stymeist, leader
May 10 Rowley-Plum Island 89 species Bill Drummond, leader
June 22 October Mountain 85species Glenn d’Entremont, leader
July 7 Plum Island 82 species Tom Young, leader
August 31 Newburyport-PI 65 species Bill Drummond, leaders
September 13 Wellfleet 79 species Bob Stymeist, leader
October 5 Ipswich 70 species Tom Young, leader
November 1 Plum Island-Salisbury 75 species Bill Drummond, leader
December 6 Cape Ann 44 species Bob Petersen, leader
The Club recorded 81% of all the birds that were noted during 2008-pretty impressive! A total of at least 364 species, thirteen less than last year were observed and reported by birders across the state during 2008. Other noteworthy species seen during the year but not on the BBC list were: Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Greater White-fronted Goose, Cackling Goose, Barnacle Goose, Tundra Swan, White Pelican, Black Vulture, Swallow-tailed Kite, Golden Eagle, Gyrfalcon, Yellow Rail, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Franklin’s Black-tailed, and Sabine’s gulls, Calliope Hummingbird, Say’s Phoebe, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Loggerhead Shrike, Sedge Wren, Mountain Bluebird, Varied Thrush, Audubon’s and Prothonotary warblers, and Yellow-headed Blackbird to name a few.
There were a few spirited competitions during the year; the most ambitious one was on Plum Island. Tom Wetmore kept a daily tally of all the birds seen on the Island and generated a friendly contest (though those heavily involved were hesitant to bird anywhere else) and the total number of species seen on the Island was an amazing 292 which was taken from a total of 52, 853 reports. Not to be out down, a group from Boston formed the BIMBO’s (Birding in metro Boston only) to challenge the Plums.
Another competition initiated by the Brits and embraced by a cadre of Boston birders was a BIGBY; this is an acronym for birders doing a Big Green Big Year in which birders attempt to build a long list of species without out once contributing to greenhouse gas emissions though public transportation was allowed.
There was no question among those who sent in their lists, the Broad-billed Hummingbird that spent almost five months coming to a feeder in Dennis was the clear favorite. You have to also believe that the whole scene there in the backyard of Ron and Marge Murphy had a lot to do with it. The Murphy’s opened up their yard to the birding community and totally changed their daily routine to accommodate their visitor. The Fork-tailed Flycatcher which showed up in early April in a small pond in Brighton provided excellent photo opportunities and was listed as a favorite on many lists. Here in their own words are some other favorite memories of 2008.
“A Cape May Warbler feeding in the spruce tree illuminated by a warm October sun”
“Watching Cave Swallows heading to their roost in the northeast corner of the pavilion in Salisbury”
“Seeing a Sandhill Crane flying low over the Bill Forward Pool on Plum Island”
“King Rails at Plum Island, hearing the bellowing male, then seen preening, stretching its wings and making “kik” calls at 20 feet away”
“The Say’s Phoebe popping up on a sprig of goldenrod in the dunes at dawn”
“Watching Chimney Swifts retiring to a chimney in West Newbury one evening”
“Visiting the active tern colony at the end of Plymouth Beach, seeing four species of terns on a gorgeous, cloudless summer day”
Other favorites included personal finds: a Gyrfalcon, a Bicknell’s Thrush, baby Barred Owls, seeing 36 species of Wood warblers.
Rounding out the list of favorites was: White-faced Ibis, Slaty-backed and Black-tailed gulls, Golden Eagle, Clapper Rail, Townsend’s Solitaire, Bohemian Waxwings and Western Tanager.
The Gloucester Eared Grebe it seems, failed to return in the fall and was among the top vote getters for most missed bird, Doug Chickering wrote” Since 1996 it has been my first “write-in” on my Massachusetts list; it seems the era of the Eared Grebe of Gloucester Harbor is over, for over a decade this unlikely visitor could be seen, usually next to a white mooring ball, I’ll miss him”
Most aggravating multi-year miss: “Ruffed Grouse in spite of a serious effort”
Most: disturbing new this year miss: ”Stilt Sandpiper”
Actually, Stilt Sandpiper was listed by many along with Western, Baird’s, Buff-breasted and Upland sandpipers.
Repeated trips in search of a rare bird only to keep coming up empty frustrated some birders, the Black-tailed Gull at Race Point in Provincetown always seemed to be missing on the days they looked and the Tundra Swans in Longmeadow had always just flown away moments after arriving. Cave Swallow and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow garnered votes especially after an extensive search.
Then there are the “should have got that” bird, one respondent listed FORTY species! Owls always seem to make the list and Barred Owls were mentioned most often and still, the Golden-winged Warbler makes the list from veteran birders who remember the days when they outnumbered the Blue-winged Warbler.
All in all it was a very good year, really hard to complain and a great big thank-you to Massbird, the internet and the great group of birders who share their knowledge and their love of birding throughout the year.
THE ANNUAL LISTS
John Hoye, Wayland 326
Audrey McCarthy, Wayland 323
Oakes Spalding, Cambridge 312
Herman D’Entremont, Somerville 311
Glenn d’Entremont, Stoughton 307
Chris Floyd, Lexington 303
Linda Ferraresso, Watertown 300
Ida Giriunas, Reading 293
Margo Goetschkes, Cambridge 293
Mollie Taylor, Danvers 291
Steve Grinley, Newburyport 289
Bev Chiasson, Newton 288
Doug Chickering, Groveland 273
Bob Stymeist, Arlington 272
George Gove, Southboro 272
Karsten Hartel, Arlington 269
Fred Bouchard, Belmont 266
Paul Gurn, Fall River 261
Eileen Synnott, Fall River 260
Tom Wetmore, Newburyport 260*
Steve Grinley, Newburyport 257*
Lois Cooper, Groveland 254
Jonathan Center, Chelmsford 252
Margo Goetschkes, Cambridge 241*
Doug Chickering, Groveland 231*
Sue McGrath, Newburyport 231*
Laura de laFlor, Salem 229
Davis Noble, Marblehead 189**
* Plum Island Only
** Marblehead only