Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
A Look Back at 2020 Birds
January 09, 2021
By Steve Grinley
Most of us want to forget this past year and are quick to look forward into 2021. Of course the birds are impervious to the pandemic and the past year gave many of us more time to appreciate the birds and nature around us.
Still, it is a challenge birding through Covid. Organized trips are nearly non-existent. We can’t carpool with fellow birders, and we can’t share binoculars or scopes. But birding within our “bubble” is fine, and social distancing is easier in the outdoors. Looking back at the birds and birding experiences of the past year, there were many interesting birds to take our minds offer the pandemic around us.
Two of the best birds of the year for Margo and me required out-of-state road trips – both to Rhode Island. On June 29th we made way down to Napatree Conservation Area in Watch Hill. A Terek Sandpiper, a bird we had only seen before in Thailand, required us to trudge out a beach peninsula while dodging thunderstorms. I detailed that dramatic escapade in a couple of previous columns.
Also in Rhode Island, this time at the Snake Den Farm in Johnston, was the Common Cuckoo, a life bird for both of us It was less dramatic, as it was almost a “drive-up” bird, but still exiting to so many familiar faces (masked of course and socially distancing) appreciate such a rare visitor from Europe.
Near the first of the year, we learned of a Monk Parakeet coming to a feeder on Cape Ann and were invited to see it. We had brief views of this colorful out-of-place bird in the tiny yard. Apparently the parrot had been coming to a feeder since October, and it continued until March. The homeowner requested privacy, as the tiny yard and close neighborhood would have made it impossible for throngs of birders to visit.
For birds we could share, the year started off well with Snow, Cackling, Greater White-fronted and Ross’ Geese among the area’s wintering Canada geese. A rare Eared Grebe was at West Beach in Manchester for a number of days. Patience was needed for a Townsend’s Solitaire that spent much of the winter at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport where a Bohemian Waxwing was a bonus among the wintering catbirds and hermit thrushes there.
The spring warbler migration was one of the better shows in recent years. Two Acadian in our “backyard” in Essex was also one of our spring highlights.
A Sooty Tern from the southern US, had us traveling to Wachusett Reservoir in August. It was a Massachusetts state bird for Margo and me.
A few days later, a crested caracara was spotted on Cape Ann near Folly Cove. Margo and I raced there just in time to see it before it “disappeared.” A couple of days later it reappeared at Woodsom Farm in Amesbury!
Another state bird for us this past year was a Pacific Slope Flycatcher. This western species spent several weeks in November near Fresh Pond in Cambridge and we were lucky enough be among the birders that saw it.
The strong “finch winter” started early with an influx of Red-breasted Nuthatches to eastern Massachusetts in late fall. Evening Grosbeaks, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins and Redpolls have all arrived and a few of these have found our feeders. Crossbills are feeding on area pinecones, and Pine Grosbeaks may not be far behind.
We ended the year with a rare Bullock’s oriole in coming to a feeder in Haverhill. This brilliant orange bird, draped by a few bluebirds that were also at the feeders, made for a colorful ending to 2020.