2009 STATISTICAL AND YEAR END REPORT
By Robert H. Stymeist, Statistician
During 2009, the Brookline Bird Club listed 305 species of birds on 194 reported trips, just one species less than last year. A total of 233 trips were scheduled, 16 trips less than last year, and 57 trips less than the all time high number of 290 in 2000. There were 62 all-day, 144 mornings, 24 afternoons or evening, and 3 weekend trips. THIRTY-NINE trips were not reported, 18 were cancelled by weather and 21 went unreported. In Massachusetts the Club listed a total of 293 species, three less than last year on 190 reported trips. To put this in perspective, birders throughout the state recorded a total of 369 species during the year, thus the BBC total of 293 is 79% of all the species seen in 2009!
Two new species was added to the overall Brookline Bird Club list of birds. On the first day of Spring Laura and Mark’s Vernal Equinox trip recorded a total of seven ROSS’S GOOSE in Ipswich. Prior to this sighting there were only three accepted records of this species in the state. The Club encountered its first Pterodroma petrel, a BLACK-CAPPED PETREL that was around the boat for almost five minutes making two close passes as the Captain pursued and kept the bird visible for all on board to see. Another almost new bird was not one but two IVORY GULLS, the last time the Club recorded this species was in 1976.
The weather in 2009 was typical New England-if you don’t like it- just wait a minute! January was cold, New Years Day saw readings below zero in western Massachusetts and a low of 6 in Boston, February was on the warm side with not much snow. March sprung up like a lion on the first with a major nor’easter complete with heavy snow to all of New England. April was warm and wet-three temperature records were broken with 80’s to readings into the 90’s from April 28-30 which also brought unprecedented fallout of migrants as well as the foliage. May was also warm and dry but June and July were WET and cold with very little sunshine- June was the 7th coldest in 138 years and had the second least amount of sun in 138 years. July was very wet- the 6th wettest July on record and the month continued to be on the cool side. Finally summer arrived in August with very warm temperatures and not much rain. The fall migration was a mixed bag weather-wise-September was sunny but cold; October was quite cold with frequent rains. November was exceptional- unseasonably warm and dry- Thanksgiving Day saw the temperature reach over 50 and there was no frost in Boston until December 7th, a new late record.
The sixth Annual Winter Meeting was held at Bedford Middle School on February 6, 2009. This was the Club’s Second Members Night, many members of our Club travel all over the world as well as in our own backyards taking excellent photographs and sharing their images with us. The Spring Meeting at the Harvard Museum of Natural History featured past BBC President Peter Alden whose talk entitled “The Ups and Downs of Inland Massachusetts Birds and Why” highlighted the changes in bird life in just a short period of time and included a lively discussion on invasive plants and whether to feed birds or not. The fall lecture meeting at Harvard featured Dr. Ian Newton, a population ecologist who discussed factors that have influenced migratory birds showing declines in numbers for several species and how conservation efforts can help.
Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns opened up the start of 2009 by leading their 13th annual New Year’s Day birding trip. Nineteen members came out on a frigid but dry day to begin a New Year of birding. The mercury was only 8 degrees as the bundled participants toasted the new year with apple cider and the temperature never got higher than 18 all day! The trip tallied 58 species from Salisbury to Andrew’s Point. Highlights included a King Eider and a Dovekie at Bass Rocks as well as a Peregrine Falcon on the Gloucester City Hall and a Lapland Longspur in Salisbury.
Eddie Giles and Mark Burns led the Tenth Owl Prowl on the last day of February. The trip is an attempt to find by sight or sound all eight species of owls wintering in the state. It was a rough day with northwest winds and rain and the getting tied up in traffic didn’t help. The group found six species of owls starting with a predawn Barred Owl in Salisbury and ending with a Barn Owl on Martha’s Vineyard; the group missed both Long and Short-eared Owls
Eddie teamed up with Mary Kelleher on Sunday March 15 to lead the Club’s second Cape Cod Waterfowl Prowl. Like the owl prowl, the intent is to locate as many of the 29 species of ducks in one day on Cape Cod ponds .The leaders tallied 69 species and came up with 23 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, Ipswich River Sanctuary in Topsfield and in Moose Brook Valley, Hardwick. A weekend Campout at Wompatuck State Park had to be cancelled because of heavy rain, but three other trips there in the spring added some nice birds: Acadian Flycatcher, Cerulean and Worm-eating warblers and Louisiana Waterthrush. Glenn d’Entremont led the weekend jaunt out in the Berkshires birding Mount Greylock on Saturday and October Mountain on Sunday where the Club recorded its only Olive-sided Flycatcher in Massachusetts for the year.
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 first trip to Atlantis Canyon on July 18 started off with heavy rain and a pretty rough sea that did calm down by afternoon. The highlight of this trip was the Club’s first Black-capped Petrel as mentioned earlier, other highlights included a new state high count of 19 Audubon’s Shearwaters and 58 Leach’s Storm Petrels. The major lowlight was seeing a Right Whale entangled in fishing gear south of Nantucket Shoals. The twice postponed August Extreme Pelagic finally set off midweek with 40 participants on September 3. This trip was a smashing success-smashing the state records for White-faced Storm-Petrel, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Bridled Tern and Long-tailed Jaeger.
Summer trips are highlighted by evening trips to Plum Island searching for early migrating shorebirds and flocks of herons flying to roost as well as the annual Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird trip to South beach. Each summer Jane Lothian and Pam Perry have a Birds and Nature Journaling program at Mount Auburn Cemetery to practice field sketching. The fall migration starts off with a three day Cape Cod Blitz hitting the hot spots on the outer Cape from Chatham to Provincetown, a total of 101 species were seen including 8 Yellow-crowned Night Herons, the only ones reported all year on our trips. Tom Gagnon leads our members on the annual Hawk-watching trip to Mt Tom in Holyoke and Eddie Giles leads a moderate walk through the cornfields and mud of Cumberland Farms and other areas in the Middleboro area in search of all the sparrows
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 66 leaders who guided our members throughout the year. There are several leaders deserving special mention. Ida Giriunas, led the most with 21 trips followed by Bill Drummond with 17 Jane Zanichkowsky with 15 trips, Bob Stymeist with 13, Glenn D’Entremont with 12, Jonathan Center led 11and Linda Ferreresso and Eddie Giles each led 10. Another ten dedicated leaders accounted for five or more trips each.
The Club visited Essex County most often, with a total of 81 scheduled trips seeing 231species-which is 79% of all the birds reported this year! Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge was a distant second with 28 trips, eight trips fewer than last year and recorded 107 species. There were also 47 scheduled trips in the Metropolitan Boston area, 22 trips were scheduled in the extended Sudbury River Valley, which included Great Meadows NWR, Oxbow NWR, the Assabet NWR, and one to Bolton Flats. Twenty-seven 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 nine trips to areas in Western Mass.
Out-of-state trips included a weekend trip to the Machias area and to the Highland Plantation and Rangeley Lakes region in Maine. The combined total number of species on the Maine trips was 149 and included some boreal birds such as Spruce Grouse, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee. These Maine trips also added Northern Fulmar, Northern Goshawk, Sandhill Crane, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Red Crossbill and Evening Grosbeak to the total list of birds seen on Club trips for 2009. Ida Giriunas led her 28th annual Club trip to the Machias area which includes the famous Machias Seal Island and recorded over 4000 Atlantic Puffins! Ida 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 two trips scheduled in New Hampshire; on May 30 Bill Drummond led 13 members in search of Bicknell’s Thrush which was successful with four individuals seen and on November 1 Steve and Jane Mirick led their annual early winter trip along the coast, 15 members got to see a Eurasian Wigeon and a Common Murre along with 67 other species.
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.
Ross’s Goose Ipswich March 21
Cackling Goose Ipswich November 8
Pacific Loon Rockport November 20
Black-capped Petrel Atlantis Canyon trip July 18
Audubon’s Shearwater Atlantis Canyon trip July 18
White-faced Storm-Petrel Hydrographer Canyon September 4
Leach’s Storm-Petrel Atlantis Canyon trip July 18
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel Hydrographer Canyon September 4
Long-tailed Jaeger Hydrographer Canyon September 4
Ivory Gull Eastern Point, Gloucester January 19
Ivory Gull Plymouth Harbor January 25
Bridled Tern Atlantis Canyon trip September 4
Bohemian Waxwing Newburyport January 17
Kentucky Warbler Quabbin Reservoir June 6
MacGillivray’s Warbler Boston Fenway November 21
Yellow-headed Blackbird Salisbury January 19
The following species occur with some regularity in Massachusetts but were missed by the Club during 2009: Redhead, Tricolored Heron, Northern Goshawk (seen in Maine), American Golden Plover, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-legged Kittiwake, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (seen in Maine), Philadelphia Vireo (seen in Maine), Gray-cheeked Thrush and Seaside Sparrow. In addition some other species that also occur each year but in limited time frames was missed: Connecticut Warbler, Clay-colored and Lark sparrows. One very special bird that was not recorded was the Eared Grebe, the first time in SIXTEEN years!
The biggest trip list this year was Bill Drummond’s trip on May 17 from Rowley to Newburyport and including Plum Island which recorded 131 species
January 1 Salisbury-Cape Ann 58 species Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns, leaders
January 4 (tie) Boston 58 species Bob Stymeist, leader
January 10 (tie) Cape Ann 58 species Linda Ferraresso, leader
February 15 Scituate-Plymouth 70 species Glenn d’Entremont, leader
March 15 Cape Cod Waterfowl 69 species Eddie Giles and Mary Kelleher, leaders
April 26 Boston 90 species Bob Stymeist, leader
May 17 Rowley-Plum Island 131 species Bill Drummond, leader
June 21 October Mountain 75 species Glenn d’Entremont, leader
July 13 Plum Island 64 species Tom Young, leader
August 15 South Beach 51 species Laura de la Flor and Mark Burns, leaders
September 12 Wellfleet 80 species Bob Stymeist, leader
October 4 Ipswich-Essex 57 species Tom Young, leader
November 8 Fairhaven 78 species Bob Stymeist, leader
December 13 Plum Island-Salisbury 40 species Ida Giriunas, leader
The Club recorded 79% of all the birds that were noted during 2009-pretty impressive! A total of at least 369 species, five more than last year were observed and reported by birders across the state during 2009. Other noteworthy species seen during the year but not on the BBC list were: Pink-footed Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, Common Shelduck, Tufted Duck, .White Pelican, White-tailed Tropicbird, White-faced Ibis, Wood Stork, Swallow-tailed Kite, Golden Eagle, Eurasian Kestrel, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Curlew Sandpiper, Sabine’s Gull, Mew Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Gull-billed Tern, Great and South Polar skuas, White-winged Dove, Chuck-will’s-widow, Allen’s Hummingbird, Black-backed Woodpecker, Say’s Phoebe, Scissor and Fork-tailed flycatchers, Brown-chested Martin, Varied Thrush, Northern Wheatear, Townsend’s and Prothonotary warblers, Summer and Western tanagers, Henslow’s, LeConte’s and Golden-crowned sparrows, and Common Chaffinch to name a few.
There were so many great birds in 2009 it was difficult for anyone not to name multiple species but the clear choice gathering the most votes in the top three was the Ivory Gull or should we say Ivory Gulls. The last Ivory Gull that was seen in Massachusetts for a period of time was back in 1976.For many of us old-timers it was the first time we saw an ADULT Ivory Gull, the bird in Salisbury 33 years ago was an immature as was another immature they stayed awhile in Portland Maine.
The Brown-chested Martin, discovered in the Cumberland Farm fields on October 12 was another top vote getter. This was only the second state record and only the SIXTH record for all of North America. The fusca race of the Brown chested Martin is an austral migrant that breeds in South America and then migrates north during the austral winter. This bird went a little off course, similar to another austral migrant- the Fork-tailed Flycatcher and landed in Massachusetts and not northern Venezuela!
A two way tie in the sparrow department between the Henslow’s Sparrow of Montague and the LeConte’s Sparrow of Cumberland Farms with the LeConte’s having the edge because it was paired with another favorite at the same time and place- the Lark Bunting. The Chaffinch, only the third ever in Massachusetts was listed by many as their favorite and especially if it’s in your own yard! Another multiple vote getter was the very cooperative Chuck-wills-widow that sat motionless on branches just feet away in Nahant, for some this was the first visual for a bird that previously was only a voice in the dark. The MacGillivray’s Warbler was particularly sweet affording some of the best looks of this elusive and rare western warbler.
Some of the other species that made birders smile included: Tufted Duck, White-faced Storm-Petrel, Purple Gallinule, Atlantic Puffin, Black Vulture, American Avocet, Red-headed Woodpecker and Yellow-breasted Chat to name a few. Memorable days in the field can be quite special as mentioned by our members:
“Having seen all eight owls on the Massachusetts Checklist plus seeing a Northern Hawk Owl and a Great Gray Owl in New Hampshire”
“Watching Chimney Swifts gathering sticks for nest building while in a kayak”
“An Avocet in full fig at Pikuls Pans”
“That perfect May fallout of passerines- in APRIL”
“First time seeing two Red-headed Woodpeckers in the same location”
“Salisbury’s egret roost as my outdoor, long-legged wader classroom”
“The chase for the Lark Bunting and LeConte’s Sparrow on a Saturday-we looking for birds to see, hunters looking for birds to shoot”
“Sharing an autumnal sunset counting waterfowl from the Tower at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary”
“A Fox Sparrow at our ground feed, a Carolina Wren in the snow, memories just stretch on and on”
It always is interesting to see what the top listers miss, most often it is a regular migrant that has a limited time in passage like a Common Nighthawk or an Olive-sided Flycatcher or he or she fails to visit a well-known nesting site like a Roseate or Arctic Tern or an American Oystercatcher. The Brown-chested Martin was one that received a lot of votes. This bird was present for several days but was absent for long periods of time during the day. Some made several trips on all the days but still did not see it while others arrived and it was there.
For some it’s the same birds each year: Northern Goshawk, Ruffed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant, American Bittern, Lincoln’s Sparrow
Shorebirds were mentioned frequently: Buff-breasted and Baird’s Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Upland Sandpiper, Wilson’s Phalarope and Long-billed Dowitcher.
Warblers: Louisiana Waterthrush, Cape May, Hooded Warbler but not Golden-winged-most of the birding community now regards this as super rare and wonders if another will be seen regularly in the state again.
“Missing the Club’s very first Black-capped Petrel- I’d just broken my ankle after being thrown around on deck during the storm, I was in a lot of pain just trying to stand up let alone seeing the bird too”
“The Black-backed Woodpecker on Nantucket, having been there awhile I was confident I might see it, I spent four hours in vain searching in all its known locations. It was an expensive miss with ferries and taxis as well as time and distance”
Other disappointing or embarrassing misses included: Blue-winged Teal, Black Scoter, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ruddy Turnstone, American Woodcock, Forster’s Tern, both Yellow and Black-billed cuckoos, Common Raven, Cliff Swallow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Philadelphia Vireo and Fox Sparrow to mention a few
Finally to quote Neil Hayward “This was my first full year properly birding in the US. Most of the birds were new, and all the locations were exciting new places- and a great way to see a lot of Massachusetts. It was a very memorable year, especially for all the wonderful people I met and who helped me improve my birding skills.” Yes Neil it was another great year and you are right-we have a great birding community who share their knowledge and sightings of birds throughout the year.
THE ANNUAL LISTS
John Hoye, Wayland 323
Audrey McCarthy, Wayland 317
Oakes Spalding, Cambridge 312
Herman D’Entremont, Somerville 308
Glenn d’Entremont, Stoughton 303
Ida Giriunas, Reading 301
Linda Ferraresso, Watertown 300
Bob Stymeist, Arlington 292
Margo Goetschkes, Cambridge 287
Steve Grinley, Newburyport 286
Neil Hayward, Cambridge 284
Bev Chiasson, Newton 282
Fred Bouchard, Belmont 279
Chris Floyd, Lexington 275
Doug Chickering, Groveland 273
Jonathan Center, Chelmsford 264
Tom Wetmore, Newburyport 258*
Doug Chickering, Groveland 228*
Laura de laFlor, Salem 223
Jason Forbes, Waltham 201**
* Plum Island Only, Tom saw 91% of all birds seen on Plum Island in 2009 (283)
** Middlesex County only, Jason saw 82% of all birds reported in Middlesex County in 2009 (246)