SEVENTEENTH REPORT OF THE MASSACHUSETTS AVIAN RECORDS COMMITTEE
The the seventeenth report of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (hereafter MARC or the committee) covers the evaluation of 79 records involving 57 species or subspecies. Sixty-nine records were accepted, an acceptance rate of 87%. All accepted records in this report were accepted unanimously on the first round of voting unless noted otherwise.
We present few details in this report. Much more narrative, evidence, and detail will be available on the MARC website: www.maavianrecords.com. We ultimately endeavor to have full accounts by species of every record we’ve treated. Don’t hold your breath—we’ve been working on that for a while! But we are making progress, and shorter annual reports enable us to focus our attention on the website and on dealing with the rich trove of historical records. Our long-term goal is to consistently provide robust and current information on each of Massachusetts’s rarity records.
To this end, the committee has taken a small but relatively dramatic step to address a widespread “problem”: how can volunteer records committees keep up with the pace of current records, not to mention make headway treating historic ones, when records of rare birds are increasing? MARC considered the increase in records (which we attribute in part to our policy of proactively seeking records to review), the stellar photos that accompany most records, and the recent rise of eBird and its sound structure for expeditious reviewing of records. The committee agreed that certain records will be presumed accepted by MARC once they are accepted in eBird—which means the regional eBird reviewer has accepted them—so long as such records are accompanied by a photograph. The committee will maintain a list of species that are particularly rare or difficult to identify. Records of these species and sight-only submissions will continue to go through the traditional review.
For each record presumed accepted under the new procedure, any member can require full review prior to the publication of the committee’s next annual report. Even after publication, a member can request that any record accepted by the eBird procedure be reopened for full committee review as a first circulation by submitting a written statement as to why re-review is needed. Prior to publication of the annual report, the member need only state that full review is desired. The committee amended MARC’s bylaws to accommodate the new procedure by adding the following to the “Voting” part of the bylaws: “The committee may have a process for expedited review using a compatible bird record review system (e.g., eBird) for judging certain records such that they are presumed accepted if they have passed that process. However, prior to publication in the annual report any committee member can require a record to go through the full voting procedure…”
With that bit of committee arcana behind us, let’s focus on the records reviewed this past year. Two new species have been added to the State List. One was a doozy—a Gray-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes) that Jeremiah Trimble and Simon Perkins found on October 18, 2012, just in time for the Nantucket Birding Festival. The discovery was dramatic. The bird was first located by call and then identified as a tattler as it flew away in the evening, with fears it would not reappear. Peter Trimble, Jeremiah’s dad, finally documented the bird photographically the next day a good five miles away at Sesachacha Pond. While a good number of festival participants and quick-on-the draw chasers were able to catch up with this mind-numbingly unexpected “Sibe” shorebird the following day, it was not refound after the noon high tide on its third day. Hordes of twitchers arriving Sunday went home disappointed. Amazingly, a more obliging Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) in Rhode Island arrived the previous weekend and stayed through these dates, so was a nice consolation prize for some. With Gray-tailed, Massachusetts now has two tattlers on the State List, which is two more than any other state on the East Coast!
The second species to become a first state record was unfortunately not chaseable, a Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata) that was a two-day wonder at a private yard in Brewster. Fortunately, stellar photographs were obtained to document this first accepted record. Reports from Deerfield on November 4,1959, and from Amherst on April 12,1963, may well have been correct but lacked convincing details and were not accepted by MARC (Petersen 1995). The latter individual occurred during an apparent incursion of the species to the eastern United States (Veit and Petersen 1993).
An additional interesting record was the Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula) that was discussed by Wright (1909). The account of the bird overwintering at the Boston Public Garden convinced the committee that the identification was correct, but the committee concurred with Wright that this was most likely an escapee. Nonetheless, this European thrush is migratory and has reached Quebec and Newfoundland, with the latter bird accepted as being of natural provenance.
Also notable in this report was the acceptance of two records of Sooty Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca [unalaschensis group]), both from Cape Cod. Greg Hirth and Fred Atwood found the first in 2010; John Young found the other in 2012. This subspecies may one day gain full species status and is a taxon heretofore unrecorded in Massachusetts, with only two prior records reported on the East Coast.
A similar “new taxon” was Massachusetts’s first Western Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis calurus), a dark morph found in Hadley by keen Hampshire student Jacob Drucker. Additional, twitchable headline-grabbers were the second state record of Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and third state record of Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena).
This report also includes a deletion from the State List. Jim Berry and Wayne Petersen unearthed Ludlow Griscom’s field notes for Massachusetts’s two records of White-tailed Eagle: one from the Merrimack River in the winter of 1935 and the other from the Merrimack nine winters later. (See Rines 2009 for MARC’s rejection of a third record.) The views were distant and notes were brief, failing to rule out an immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and Griscom himself expressed the view that more support should be needed for such an incredible record (Griscom and Snyder 1955). The committee agreed not to accept the two records. With the gain of Gray-tailed Tattler and Black-throated Sparrow and the loss of White-tailed Eagle, the State List only moves up a single notch to 499, perching just below an historic milestone. East of the Mississippi River, only Florida has an official state list above 500.
The White-tailed Eagle records did present an important reminder on the importance of keeping and archiving records. Thankfully, the Griscom notes allowed evaluation of the original merits of the record decades after the original sightings. The committee strives to provide future researchers and ornithologists—who will need to make their own determinations on what occurred where—with access to the primary evidence used to support each record. MARC’s role is not simply to stamp something accepted or not; its more important function is to preserve the evidence so that sound decisions can be made based on evolving knowledge and standards.
The 2012–13 roster of MARC voting members was Marshall J. Iliff (chair), Ian Davies, Trevor Lloyd-Evans, Mark Faherty, Blair Nikula, Wayne R. Petersen, Scott Surner, Jeremiah R. Trimble, and Richard R. Veit. Veit has since resigned from the committee and has been replaced by Tim Spahr, who has hit the ground running as one of the primary authors of our new species accounts. Matt Garvey continues as secretary and Ryan Doherty continues as Webmaster.
In this truncated report, for each record of each species or taxon covered, we present basic statistics: the record number and where, when, and who submitted evidence. We also indicate whether the evidence provided was photographic (ph.), video (v.), audio (au.), or a written submission (†). As always, the committee strongly encourages written submissions even where photographs exist. When known, we try to credit the discoverer with an asterisk (*), especially if he or she has supplied evidence. The statistics in brackets for each species or taxon show the number of MARC-accepted records in this report, followed by the total number of MARC-accepted records for that species, followed by our estimate of total known records, often supplemented with a plus sign (+) where we know there are additional records but are not sure how many. We do not count or use a plus sign for 2011–2013 records that are currently in review. For a subspecies, the statistics refer to the species unless noted otherwise. Species not on the Review List do not receive a count.
Species taxonomy and nomenclature follow the seventh edition of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) Check-list of North American Birds (AOU 1998) and supplements (Chesser et al. 2009, Chesser et al. 2010, Chesser et al. 2011, Chesser et al. 2012, Chesser et al. 2013). Subspecies nomenclature follows taxonomy of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World (Version 6.8), available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist.
The list of species reviewed by the MARC (the Review List) is available at www.maavianrecords.com. Since well-documented records of Bicknell’s Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) are so rare (easily fewer than one every two years), the committee voted to add it to the review list. Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) was also added to the supplemental list, based on the 2009 record (Garvey and Iliff 2011) that narrowly missed full acceptance. Please check out the full Review List and send us any evidence of new or old records you may have. We are particularly interested in records of the three species for which the committee has no physical supporting evidence: Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus), and Painted Redstart (Myioborus pictus).
The MARC website has much more information, including the MARC bylaws, past annual reports, and the State List. We are slowly but surely adding species accounts for all species on the Review List. We hope that birders in Massachusetts and beyond will use the list to help them understand the status and occurrence patterns of rarities in Massachusetts, which is what we’re all about. Please help us by sending us your evidence of rare birds, whether you saw the bird today or years ago. Photos and notes in an attic or a personal journal are great, but please get a copy to us so we can share it with fellow enthusiasts in an organized, comprehensive, and easy-to-find manner.
ACCEPTED RECORDS (full narratives at www.maavianrecords.com)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) [3,5,5]
2012-135: 1 at North Pool, PRNWR, Plum Island, Essex, 8/4/2012 [ph. Brian Harris*]. Second record for Essex County.
2012-63: 2 at Fenway War Memorials, Boston, Suffolk, 7/22/2012 [ph. A. Baker*]. First record for Suffolk County.
2012-64: 1 adult at Great Meadows NWR—Concord Unit, Middlesex, 7/3/2012 to 9/1/2012 [ph. R. Doherty*, ph. J. Forbes, ph. R. Schain]. Second record for Middlesex County.
2011-48: 1 adult at Bear Creek Sanctuary and Barry Park, Saugus, to Hood Playground, Lynn, Essex, 12/11/2011 to 12/14/2011 [ph. M. Iliff, ph. J. Offermann, P. Peterson*, ph. R. Schain]. First record for Essex County.
2011-50: 1 adult at Rogers Street to Upper Artichoke Reservoir, West Newbury, Essex, 11/6/11 to 1/3/12 [ph. P. Brown*, ph. R. Schain].
2011-51: 1 adult male at Manchester Reservoir and Lake Hiawatha/Falls Pond, Attleboro and North Attleboro, Bristol, 10/22/2011 to 2/29/2012 [ph. S. Glynn, J. Sweeney*, ph. R. Schain, ph. J. Trimble].
2012-073: 1 at mouth of Merrimack River, Salisbury, and Newburyport, Essex, 3/4/2012 to 3/17/2012 [ph. †E. Labato*, ph. R. Schain]; accepted on second ballot (8-0).
2012-113: 1 at Pochet Island, Orleans, Barnstable, 11/11/2012 [ph. C. Goodrich*]; accepted on second ballot (8-0).
2012-84: 1 ad. off Martha’s Vineyard (40 52.8092° N, 70 43.0115° W), Dukes, 12/2/2012 [ph. B. Gervalis*]. Photos clearly show it to be the expected subspecies: T. m. melanophris. First photo-documented record for Massachusetts and first record for Dukes County.
2012-132: 1 picked up alive at Springfield, Hampden, 12/13/2012 [ph. unknown]. Third inland record (see Veit and Petersen 1993) and new for Hampden County.
2006-63: 1 at Hydrographer Canyon, approximately 80 miles southeast of Nantucket, 7/6/2006 [†Tom Auer*]. Rejected as Black-capped on a third-round vote, (2-6), but accepted (7-1) as Black-capped Petrel/Bermuda Petrel.
Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasitata) [2,5,6]
2012-62: 1 of the ‘white-faced’ form off Nantucket, 39.998322° N, 70.770526° W, Dukes, 7/21/2012 [ph. J. P. Smith, ph. J. Trimble].
2012-107: 1 adult about 60 miles east of Nantucket, 6/13/2012, [H. Goyert*, † T. Johnson].
Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) [1,3,5]
2012-131: 1 subadult, initially 40.3805° N, 70.7995° W, sallied forth and returned to ship periodically to Martha’s Vineyard Sound, Dukes, 7/26/2012 to 7/28/2012 [ph. † M. Schrimpf *]. First for Dukes County.
2011-54: 1 at Morris Island Causeway, Barnstable, 10/28/2011 [M. Faherty*, ph. † R. Schain, ph. P. Trimble].
2011-55: 1 at Cuttyhunk Harbor, Gosnold, Dukes, 8/30/2011 to 9/12/2011 [ph. E. Hierta, † B. Slade, ph. B. Weir].
2012-66: 1 at Lobster Cove, Annisquam, to Gloucester Harbor, Gloucester, Essex, 6/5/2012, [ph. † J. Barber*, ph. R. Stymeist].
2012-102: 1 juvenile at Morris Island Causeway, Chatham, Barnstable, 8/29/2012 [ph. D. Manchester*].
2012-61: 2 adults at Kettle Island, Manchester, Essex, 5/19/2012 to 5/27/2012 [ph. J. Offermann, ph. S. Perkins, ph. † R. Schain*, ph. J. Trimble].
2012-74: 1 at Nantucket, 5/31/2012 [S. Ainsworth*, K. Griswold, ph. V. Laux].
2012-04: 1 immature dark morph at Hampshire College Farm and South Maple St., Hadley, Hampshire, 2/17/2012 to 3/12/2012 [ph. I. Davies, † J. Drucker*, ph. R. Schain, ph. L. Therrien]; accepted on second round (8-0). First state record of subspecies calurus.
2012-75: 1 female at private beach on south side of Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, 5/18/2012 to 5/19/2012 [L. Johnson*, ph. L. McDowell].
2012-116: 1 at Nantucket Harbor Creeks and Quaise Marsh, UMass Field Station, Nantucket, 10/18/2012 to 10/20/2012 [ph. au. T. Johnson, † S. Perkins, ph. au. v. † J. Trimble*, ph. P. Trimble]. First record for Massachusetts and first record for Lower 48 states away from immediate Pacific coast.
2012-81: 1 adult at South Beach, Chatham, Barnstable, 7/21/2012 to 7/22/2012 [ph. M. Iliff, ph. † B. Nikula*].
2012-60: 1 adult at Tern Island/South Beach, Chatham, Barnstable, 8/24/2012 to 9/3/2012 [ph. D. Anderson, ph. E. Orcutt*, ph. R. Schain].
2011-97: 1 at Herring River Conservation Area, Bells Neck Road, West Harwich, Barnstable, 12/31/2011 (or earlier) to 3/6/2012 [ph. R. Heil, ph. B. Nikula*]. First overwintering record for Massachusetts.
2012-59: 1 adult at Indian Neck, Wellfleet Harbor, Barnstable, 1/22/2012 [ph. M. Iliff, ph. B. Nikula*, ph. J. Trimble]. Second record for Barnstable and first photographed.
2011-96: 1 at Long Point Wildlife Refuge, Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, 8/31/2011 [† T. Spahr*]; accepted on second round (7-1).
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) [1,12,29+]
2012-76: 1 at Gooseberry Neck, Westport, Bristol, 8/23/2012 [ph. † M. Iliff*].
2012-133: 1 at Marblehead Neck, Essex, 11/7/2012 [ph. anonymous].
2012-138: 1 adult male at Mt. Pleasant Square, Randolph, Norfolk, 7/25/2012 to 7/29/2012 [ph. † L. Buchanan*].
2012-123: 1 juvenile at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge maintenance buildings (“The Warden’s”), Plum Island, Newbury, Essex, 10/4/2012 to 10/5/2012 [† J. Berry, ph. M. Iliff, ph. E. Labato*, ph. R. Schain].
2011-77: 1 juvenile at Fort Hill, Eastham, Barnstable, 11/11/2011 to 12/30/2011 [ph. J. Trimble*].
2012-115: 1 at Gay Head Cliffs, Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, 10/23/2012 [ph. L. McDowell*]. First record for Dukes County.
2012-126: 1 at Phillips Andover Academy, Andover, Essex, 9/11/2012 [† Bob Muldoon*].
Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) [2,15,15+]
2011-69: 1 at Morris Island Causeway, Chatham, Barnstable, 10/25/2011 to 10/28/2011 [D. Manchester*, ph. R. Schain, ph. P. Trimble].
2013-10: 1 at Greenough Conservation Land, Carlisle, Middlesex, 3/17/2013 to 3/23/2013 [A. Ankers*, ph. I. Davies, ph. M. Iliff, ph. J. Lawson, ph. J. Trimble]. Second record for state and for Middlesex County.
Fieldfare and robin by I. Davies, 17 Mar 2013. Carlisle, MA.
Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) [1,10,10+]
2013-08: 1 at paved road between Herring Cove and Province Lands Visitor Center, Provincetown, Barnstable, 2/18/2013 [ph. J. Taylor*].
2012-104: 1 at Richardi Reservoir, Braintree, Norfolk, 12/16/2012 to 12/22/2012 [G. d’Entremont*, ph. M. Iliff, A. O’Neill*, J. Young]. First December record for Massachusetts.
2012-136: 1 at Estabrook Road, Carlisle, Middlesex, 12/26/2012 to 1/22/2013 [ph. † K. Harte*]. Unusually late.
1883-01: 1 at Readville, Suffolk, 5/24/1883 [D. Blaney*, ph. J. Trimble (MCZ specimen)]. Only physically documented record for spring (cf. Garvey and Iliff 2012).
2011-70: 1 female at Rocky Point Road, Bourne, Barnstable, 12/17/2011 to 1/8/2012 [† M. Iliff*, ph. J. Trimble].
2012-121: 1 apparent immature male at South Monomoy Lighthouse Banding Station, Chatham, Barnstable, 10/6/2012 [N. Ernst*, ph. J. Junda*].
2011-71: 1 at County Road, Ipswich, Essex, 12/24/2011 to 3/27/2012 [ph. † J. Berry*, ph. N. Berry, ph. P. Brown, ph. J. Offermann, ph. R. Schain, ph. B. Zaremba].
2012-01: 1 at Eden and Lucia Roads, Loblolly Cove, Rockport, Essex, 1/26/2012 to 3/7/2012 [v. M. Garvey, ph. M. Iliff, ph. J. Trimble, † F. Vale*, † P. Vale*].
2012-65: 1 at Brewster, Barnstable, 4/20/2012 to 4/21/2012 [ph. J. Trimble]. First accepted record for Massachusetts.
2013-06: 1 at Shadyside Road, Concord, Middlesex, 2/12/2013 to 2/15/2013 [v. Bruce deGraaf, † M. Gilmore*, ph. J. Trimble].
2010-84: 1 at Indian Trail Road, Barnstable, Barnstable, 12/28/2010 [† F. Atwood*, † G. Hirth*]; accepted on second round (8-0). First record for Massachusetts of Sooty group.
2012-02: 1 at Bound Island Brook Road, Wellfleet, Barnstable, 1/15/2012 to 2/5/2012 [ph. M. Iliff, ph. R. Schain, ph. J. Trimble, ph. P. Trimble, † J. Young*]; accepted on second round (8-0). Second record for Massachusetts of Sooty group.
2013-07: 1 at Periwinkle Lane, Ipswich, Essex, 1/2/2012 to 1/4/2012 [† ph. B. Flemer*].
2012-03: 1 hatch-year male at Emer and Littlefield Lanes, Marlboro, Middlesex, 1/3/2012 to 1/11/2012 [D. Ely*, ph. M. Iliff, ph. R. Schain, ph. T. Spahr*].
2011-72: 1 at Nonquit Road, Falmouth, Barnstable, 12/17/2011 to 12/30/2011 [C. Dalton*, ph. R. Schain, ph. J. Trimble].
2012-77: 1 immature male at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet, Barnstable, 2/4/2012 to 3/2/2012 [ph. M. Faherty*, ph. R. Schain].
2012-129: 1 female at Administration Building, Thompson Island, Suffolk, 12/16/2012 [v. M. Garvey*, ph. M. Iliff, † ph. N. Yusuff*]. First record for Suffolk County.
2012-90: 1 female at Marblehead, Essex, 12/12/2012 to 12/28/2012 [† Jim Berry, ph. B. Graves*, ph. R. Heil].
2013-09— “Greater” Common Redpoll (rostrata)—1 at Andrew’s Point, Rockport, Essex, 2/5/2013 [ph. † Tim Spahr]; accepted on second round (7-1).
2013-05: 1 at The Campus, Marlboro, Middlesex, 1/8/2013 [ph. † Tim Spahr*]; accepted on second round (7-1).
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)
2012-134: 1 at MacMillan Wharf, Provincetown, Barnstable, 12/8/2012. Rejected on third round (0-8).
Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis)
2011-068: 1 at Harding’s Beach, Chatham, Barnstable, 3/26/2011. Rejected on third round (3-5).
White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pelagodroma marina)
2012-80: 1 at Oceanographer Canyon, 8/26/2012. Rejected on third round (1-7).
White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
1935-01: 1 at Newburyport Harbor, Essex, 2/10/1935. Rejected on first round (0-8)
1944-01: 1 at Carr’s Island, Merrimack River, Essex, 1/15/1944 to 1/30/1944. Rejected on first round (0-8).
Thayer’s Gull (Larus thayeri)
2011-98: 1 at Niles Pond, E. Gloucester, Essex, 12/3/2011. Rejected on a third round (0-8).
Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni)
2013-01: 1 at Westboro WMA, Westboro, Worcester, 1/2/2013. Rejected on third round (3-5).
2013-02: 1 at Westboro WMA, Westboro, Worcester, 1/4/2013. Rejected on third round (2-6).
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED DUE TO QUESTIONABLE NATURAL ORIGIN
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
1998-32: 1 at South Elm Street Fields, West Bridgewater, Plymouth, 4/4/1998. Identification accepted; rejected on provenance issues on third round (6-2).
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)
1908-01: 1 male at Boston Public Garden, Boston, Suffolk, 10/4/1908 to at least 3/25/1909 (See Wright 1909). Identification accepted; rejected on provenance issues on first round (0-8).
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