Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Rare Birds Continue to Delight Birders
November 21, 2015
By Steve Grinley

     A couple of weeks ago, near the beginning of November, I talked about how this month tends to be one of surprises in the bird world. Birds from other areas, particularly the western and southern United States, end up in Massachusetts and New England. This November has been particularly remarkable with many rare birds showing up since the beginning of the month.

     In November 5, Chris Floyd discovered a Macgillivray’s at the Lexington Community Farm. This skulking warbler is from the southwest and it is related to the mourning and Connecticut warblers that migrate through here each year. The Macgillivray’s spends much of its time foraging on or near the ground and is most difficult to even catch a glimpse of this bird. Fortunately this bird was fairly vocal, giving its call notes often enough so that birders could at least hear where the bird was. We stayed late enough in the day when the bird seemed to make more appearances, spending more than a few seconds on a perch for onlookers to see.

     As of this writing, the bird is still being seen in the same area.

     On the 8th of November, Blair Nikula saw a brown booby off First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod. A brown booby has been visiting the cape for the past few years and this one was seen a couple more times on the outer Cape since Blair’s first sighting. 

     A yellow-throated warbler, sometimes a rare visitor in spring, was found in Hingham by Sean Williams on November 10. That bird stayed around for at least a few days. A Townsend’s Solitare was found at Halibut Point on November 12 and is still present there near the quarry, feeding on cedar berries and Virginia creeper. He is also an elusive bird, but his metallic call helps birders track him down.

     Friday the 13th was not an unlucky day for those who discovered several more rarities. A common ground dove is common in the Southwest, but not in Massachusetts, but one was found and photographed at the Waltham Street Fields in Lexington by Guillermo Rodriguez. This was only the second record for the state and those who were lucky enough to have the day off had the best chance to see it. It was seen early on Saturday, but anyone arriving after 7:30am (like yours truly) did not see the bird. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been seen since.

     Also on Friday, a number of Franklin’s gulls were seen in eastern Massachusetts. Rick Heil saw a Franklin’s gull at Niles Pond in Gloucester and others were seen in Plymouth and at Quabbin Reservoir. This mid-western gull certainly got pushed eastward by a front, as more than 350 were counted at Cape May, New Jersey that day. Another was seen at Lynn Beach on Saturday as well as in Westport. 

     Several cave swallows were seen in the Lynn/Nahant area on Saturday and other cave swallows were found at Westport. A Ross’ goose was discovered on Plum Island that same day and a golden eagle was seen flying over Malden!

     Last Sunday, Tim Walker found a tufted duck on Johnson’s Pond in Groveland. Tim had found one there about the same time last year. The tufted duck is associating with scaup and ring-necked ducks. There is also word that a female tufted duck may also be present.

     To keep the November rarity parade going, a white pelican was seen on Niles Pond very early on Monday morning where video was taken of it flying off to the north. A bit later, Andrea Bean of Peabody was surprised to see it swimming around Bill Forward Pool. She photographed the pelican before it flew north again, only to be seen by Tom Wetmore and others as it flew over the North Pool Overlook, the Sub headquarters, and eventually over the Salt Pannes. MaryMargaret Halsey, Paul Roberts, and others watched it circle over the marsh, putting up clouds of ducks and geese. Paul even saw the pelican put up a crane, presumably a sandhill crane, near the Plum Island causeway!

     The bird was last seen heading north toward Salisbury where several birders searched but didn’t relocate it. Phil Brown was one of those birders. He found, instead, a snowy owl to photograph. 

     As Phil stood on the beach with other photographers, shooting the snowy owl in the dunes, Phil turned to see an American avocet land on the beach! This rarity only stayed a few minutes – just long enough for Phil to get a couple of photos before the bird lifted off again and headed south toward Plum Island. Neither the pelican, nor the avocet were heard from again.

There is still more than a week left in the month, so who knows what else may show up on our doorstep! Keep your eyes on those feeders too!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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