Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Memorable Birding Events of 2022
January 06, 2023
By Steve Grinley
After another year of birding has past, we tally our year lists and often take a look back at those moments that stand out in our memory. Doug Chickering of Newbury takes a look at the events that highlighted his birding year in 2022:
“Three days before the New Year, I was on Plum Island, as usual. As I stopped and paused to look over the marshes just south of the pans I was startled when the vast marsh in front and beside me burst into frantic energy. As if choreographed the air was suddenly filled with Black Ducks. I had been scanning the marshes and saw occasional little ponds with a few ducks in them, and quite a few Black Ducks at the pans, but this show that suddenly burst forth was spectacular: breathtaking. I quickly looked around and saw the source of the anxiety. A pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, just gliding over the marsh. Separating the fiery from the feint I suppose. It was not only a memorable event, but it was also indicative of the past year.
“In retrospect I have to admit this was my 43rd year of birding and last year was one of the best. To my memory and impression, it was an above average birding year that was punctuated by three or four truly spectacular and memorable events. Not including the Black Duck- Eagle scene I had described.
“There was the first fallout of spring. The Woodpecker fallout of mid-April. I had never even heard of a Flicker fallout, not to mention witnessing one. But on April 14 on Plum Island, I counted 114.
“Then there was the big fallout in the middle of May. There was a mist in the air when I arrived at parking lot One on the Parker River Refuge and immediately, I saw a half dozen or so people standing at the edge of the road looking into the first middens. I walked over to them and then saw the middens swarming with birds. There were a few times that day that it seemed as if one of two things had occurred. Either I had walked into the biggest spring fallout of my forty plus years, or that I had died peacefully in my bed, and this was my first day in paradise.
“That morning the most numerous birds on my sheet were Northern Parula Warblers followed by Magnolia warblers. In one tree I counted more Bay-breasted Warblers than I had ever seen in my life: cumulatively. Seventeen species of Warbler and a good supporting cast of Orioles and tanagers and sparrows. It was an exceptionally good spring migration.
“The third spectacular event is more prosaic than the first two and is of less excitement, partially because it is an annual event. Some might not think it special, and this year was average to slightly above average and barely noticed by others. I never tire of it. The Tree Swallow Staging. It can be overwhelming with carpets of Tree Swallows spread across the road. They come to feed on the Bay Berries before heading south on their migration.
“The fourth spectacular event took place at the end of the year. Early in the morning. My usual birding pals were looking for the usual ocean birds: the Scoter and ducks and grebes. What we encountered was one of those unexpected triumphs of good luck. I consider myself fortunate if I see a Dovekie each year, and admittedly they don’t appear on my years list often. That morning we had Dovekies, flying less than a foot from the surface of a fairly calm sea, in groups small and large. They appeared in groups all the way to the horizon. They flew south with an almost desperate quality to their flight. Small, streamlined and precise, they were on some compelling mission that was unknowable to us. We were transfixed.”