Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Rare Massachusetts Birds
August 22, 2020
By Steve Grinley
Since I have lived in Massachusetts all my life, and have been birding almost that long, a new Massachusetts state bird is few and far between. But last week, Margo and I had the opportunity to add two new birds to our Massachusetts state list.
I had told you how Hurricane Isaias had driven some southern birds up into the western part of the state such a sooty terns, and brown noddy. Jaegers, skuas and phalaropes were also all blown into lakes and reservoirs.
Usually when this happens, these birds are discovered right after the storm and are gone in a day or two. However, we kept reading reports of a single sooty tern that was still being seen several days after the storm at Wachusett Reservoir near Worcester. Birders from all over the state went to see this bird, so we almost felt that we “had to go”.
We haven’t traveled much out of the county, but we made the hour and a half drive to the dike on the north side of the reservoir. . A few birders were there when we arrived, scanning across the reservoir in search of the sooty tern. We took a position on the dike, masked and socially distancing ourselves from the other birders.
The trees on the far shore made it difficult to pick out flying birds. Even the gulls looked small, so we were looking for a smaller and somewhat darker bird. There was a sand bluff on the far shore which we were told was a good landmark to look for the bird when, finally, we spotted it. It was a good distance away, and though we might have picked it up with our binocular, identification would have been impossible without our scopes.
We could see its dark back and wings, white belly and under wing, black cap and white forehead with our scopes. We could see it best against the sky when it flew above the tree line or when it dipped down and touched the water. We often lost it for periods of time against the dense foliage of the trees. It was a long look, but good look through the scopes just the same. And a new Massachusetts bird for both of us.
Also last week, our Rare Bird Alerts texts started early in the morning. A Crested Caracara reported by Max Baber from Folly Point in Gloucester late the previous day was refound. This was a half hour from our house, and a bird that we have not seen in Massachusetts so we made plans to head in that direction.
The crested caracara is an osprey–size raptor of Florida and Texas. There have been less than half a dozen records of sightings in Massachusetts so birders were scrambling for Cape Ann. As we headed there, our friend Linda was already there and reported to us that she was seeing it in her scope on the tip of Folly Point from the overlook at Halibut Point State Park. So we headed to the Park.
As we approached the park, we decided to turn into the Lobster Pool Restaurant parking area and look from there. We set up scopes and with directions from Linda at the overlook, Margo spotted the bird perched on a short pine on the Point! Distant but excellent views in the morning sunlight!
This bird was last seen a half hour later, so we got there just in time. But it was found a couple of days later at Woodsom Farm in Amesbury! Many more birders got to add it to their state list as it stayed a couple days. For us, it was two new state birds in a week!