18th Annual Report


by Matthew P. Garvey, Jeremiah R. Trimble, and Marshall J. Iliff

originally published in Bird Observer 42(6): 347-357 (2014)


The eighteenth report of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (hereafter MARC or the committee) covers the evaluation of 85 records involving 36 species or subspecies. Seventy-eight records were accepted, an acceptance rate of 92%. 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, but for the first time we include links to the full packet of evidence for each record accepted by the committee; just click on the record numbers to be taken to the evidence. While still a work in progress, our ultimate goal is a website with detailed species accounts including key facts and evidence for every record we’ve treated. So when you find that Virginia’s Warbler, you can go to our website and determine right away that yours is the first—and if not, hopefully you can find all the details of prior accepted records. As we discussed in last year’s report, the committee agreed in 2013 that MARC will consider certain records accepted once they are accepted in eBird—which means the eBird regional reviewer has reviewed and accepted the record—so long as such records are accompanied by a photograph, audio recording, or video (Garvey and Iliff 2013). The committee accepted 43 of the records in this report through the new procedure, each of which is noted with an “eB” below. In general the committee was pleased with the new procedure, including the secretary’s reduced workload for record processing and vote tabulation. At the 2014 annual meeting the MARC expanded the list of species that can go through the procedure. As one MARC member quipped, it may be the perfect marriage of two of the state’s most hated birding institutions.

While this year’s report features no state firsts in terms of species, there was a first subspecies record, a European Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis sandvicensis). Some authorities recognize European and American Sandwich Terns as separate species, e.g., Sangster et al. (2011). When split, the North American species is typically known as Cabot’s Tern (T. acuflavida) and includes two subspecies: northern birds (subspecies acuflavida) with a black bill and yellow tip; and a southern form, Cayenne Tern (subspecies eurygnatha) with a yellow bill. Separation of acuflavida and sandvicensis is difficult, especially in adult plumage, and best addressed by Garner et al. (2007). Fortunately, Jeff Spendelow was able to read “British Trust” and the band number. He inquired, and it turns out the bird was banded as a chick on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England, in 2002. Characteristics such as crown pattern, bill size, and shape of the outer primary tips further supported the identification (Iliff 2013). Given that the British Ornithologists Union, along with most other similar committees, treats European Sandwich Tern as a separate species from our Cabot’s, it’s certainly possible the American Ornithologists Union will follow course and retroactively add a species to the Massachusetts list. Indeed, this would be the first accepted record of the European sibling for North America, although there was a suggestive bird found in Chicago, Illinois in September 2010 (Neise 2011).

Additionally, there was a significant second record, a Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) that popped onto Plymouth Beach late in the evening of July 20, 2013, just long enough to be photographed and filmed before winging its way south toward parts unknown. Other notable plovers covered in this report are the state’s third Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula), just one of many great finds by Suzanne Sullivan on Plum Island of late, and a Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) at First Encounter Beach in Eastham on October 20, 2012, which finder Mark Faherty dubbed “the most quickly forgotten mega rarity in Massachusetts ornithological history.” While the lapwing marked only the third state record when it was found, several more chaseable but as yet unreviewed lapwings followed quickly on its heels, including two found nearly simultaneously on Nantucket. Most if not all of these lapwings were likely part of a major weather event, the interaction of Hurricane Sandy marching northeast with a rex block of high pressure over the north Atlantic blowing winds from east to west. This event brought at least 11 lapwings to northeast North America and 8 to the Azores in the weeks immediately after Hurricane Sandy (Farnsworth et al. 2012).

This report also treats the Commonwealth’s fourth Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) and third Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis). Perhaps most significantly, we’ve finally tried to put some numbers and critical analysis behind the truly remarkable spate of western hummingbird records in recent decades, especially Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin). As this report shows, it’s certainly not tenable to presume a fall Selasphorus in the Northeast is a Rufous (S. rufus)—no fewer than six Allen’s, five of which are treated here, have been banded and measured to confirm identity. An additional five birds in the report were accepted as Rufous/Allen’s based on inconclusive evidence—even stellar photos don’t always do the trick with that pair (see the accepted Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird #2012-112).

Other notable actions by the MARC include the addition of Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus) to the Supplemental List, based on a fall 1995 record in Brighton that was reviewed but not accepted due to questionable provenance (Petersen 1997). A handful of records outside of this species’s lone North American stronghold in the greater St. Louis area, including one in Cape May in March 2014 (Crewe 2014), convinced the Committee that it’s at least plausible that the Brighton bird arrived by natural means.

The MARC also voted to re-review a number of MARC-accepted records—many of which were supported only by written submissions—based on additional knowledge that has accumulated over time suggesting that additional species or characters should be considered in evaluating these records. While the state list currently sits at 499—and could go higher if the Sandwich Tern is split and recent reports of Fea’s Petrel (Pterodroma feae), Trinidade Petrel (Pterodroma arminjoniana) or Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus) are accepted—there’s a good possibility of some subtractions coming, too. Stay tuned.

The 2013­–14 roster of MARC voting members included Marshall J. Iliff (chair), Ian Davies, Trevor Lloyd-Evans, Mark Faherty, Blair Nikula, Wayne R. Petersen, Tim Spahr, Scott Surner, and Jeremiah R. Trimble. Iliff has completed his six-year term, much of which was served as chair. Iliff was a truly transformative leader who initiated and led many innovative efforts including additions to make the database and website more robust, a new way to work more efficiently by using eBird to review certain records, and urging more critical analysis and recognition of Massachusetts’s vast historical record. His hard work and enthusiasm were a great inspiration to most members as well. (The authors note that only two of them are responsible for this expression of gratitude.) The committee elected Trimble to replace Iliff as chair and Ryan Schain to fill the vacated committee slot. 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 (+) when we know there are additional records but are not sure how many. We do not count or use a plus sign for 2012–2014 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, Chesser et al. 2014). Subspecies group nomenclature follows taxonomy of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World (Version 6.8), available athttp://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist (Clements et al. 2013).

The list of species reviewed by the MARC (the Review List) is available at www.maavianrecords.com. Please check out the full Review List and send us any evidence of new or old records you may have—we’re never too busy or distracted to appreciate photos or stories of the birds that keep surprising and delighting.


Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) [1,20,20+]

2013-033: 1 adult at Beech Forest, Provincetown, Barnstable, 3/2/2013 to 3/11/2013 [ph. J. Offermann*]. eB.

Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus) [1,2,3+]

2012-108: 1 just w. of Oceanographer Canyon, 40.425, -68.25, 8/26/2013 [S. N. G. Howell*, ph. T. B. Johnson*, † ph. M. J. Iliff].

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) [1,11,20+]

2013-024 and 2013-026 (considered same bird): 1 at Lake Massapoag, Sharon, Norfolk, 5/30/2013 to 5/31/2013 [V. White*, ph. V. Zollo) and Spot Pond, Stoneham, Middlesex, 6/1/2013 (J. Restivo*). eB. Note that one seen on Martha’s Vineyard, 5/27/2013 (ph. L. McDowell), has yet to be reviewed and may also pertain to the same individual before it moved north.

White Ibis (Eudocimus albus) [1,4,20+]

2012-141: 1 immature at Allen’s Pond, Westport, Bristol, 11/14/2012 to 11/15/2012 [ph. P. Champlin*, ph. D. Logan]. eB.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) [20,25,52+]

2011-056: 9 at Brievogel Ponds, East Falmouth, Barnstable, 5/29/2011 to 6/3/2011 [B. Porter*, ph. I. Davies, ph. B. Nikula, † M. Malin, † M. J. Iliff, †R. Schain]. eB.

2013-42: 2 at Pilgrim Heights, Truro, Barnstable, 5/27/2013 [ph. B. Nikula]. eB.

2013-43: 1 at Provincelands Visitors Center, Provincetown, Barnstable, 5/27/2013 [ph. B. Nikula]. eB.

2013-40: 7 at Pilgrim Heights, Truro, Barnstable, 6/1/2013 [ph. B. Nikula*, ph. J. Trimble*]. eB.

2013-41: 1 at Provincelands Visitors Center, Provincetown, Barnstable, 6/1/2013 [ph. B. Nikula*, ph. J. Trimble*]. eB.

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus) [2,7,53+]

2013-44: 1 immature at Devil’s Dishful Pond, Peabody, Essex, 9/16/2013 to 10/14/2014 [ph. J. Lawson, ph. J. Offermann, P. Ruvido*]. eB.

2012-120: 1 immature at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk, Norfolk, 10/7/2012 to 10/12/2012 [ph. J. Baur*, ph. M. J. Iliff, ph. R. Stymeist, ph. V. Zollo]. eB.

Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) [1,2,2]

2013-013: 1 adult at Plymouth Beach, Plymouth, 7/20/2013 [ph. I. Davies, ph. M. J. Iliff*, ph. L. Seitz*, † au. T. Spahr*, ph. v. J. Trimble*]. Second state record and first for Plymouth; previous record from Plum Island, Essex.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) [1,3,9]

2012-100: 1 at First Encounter Beach, Eastham, Barnstable, 10/30/2012 [†M. Faherty*, ph. J. Trimble]. First Barnstable record.

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula) [1,3,3]

2013-015: 1 at Sandy Point, Ipswich, Essex, 5/20/2013 to 5/23/2013 [† ph. Suzanne Sullivan*, au. ph. J. Trimble]. Third state record and first for Essex (two previous records both from South Beach/Monomoy, Barnstable).

Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) [1,13,13]

2013-014: 1 at Sandy Point, Ipswich, Essex, 6/27/2013 to 6/28/2013 [ph. M. Brengle, † ph. Suzanne Sullivan*].

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) [1,12,28+]

2013-029: 1 adult at Bolton Flats, Bolton, Worcester, 5/29/2013 [ph. J. Lawson*, J. Johnson*]. eB.

Bridled Tern (Onychoprion anaethetus) [1,4,17+]

2012-034: 1 at Continental Shelf, west of Oceanographer Canyon (40.151599,-68.379176), 8/25/2013 [S. N. G. Howell*, ph. M. J. Iliff, ph. T. B. Johnson]. eB.

Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

2013-032: 1 adult at Pontoosuc Lake, Pittsfield, Berkshire, 5/25/2013 [ph. M. Iliff]. First Berkshire record. eB.

Sandwich Tern (Eurasian) (Thalasseus sandvicensis sandvicensis) [1,1,1]

2013-011: 1 adult at Chatham Beaches and Nauset Marsh, Eastham, Barnstable, 7/31/2013 to 9/5/2013 [ph. M. Faherty, ph. B. Nikula*, ph. J. Spendelow, ph. P. Trimble, ph. K. Yakola]. Banded as a chick on Coquet Island, Northumberland, England, in 2002. First state record for subspecies. A second Sandwich Tern with the same bird was unbanded and the subspecies identity was uncertain.

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) [1,13,30+]

2013-036: 1 at John F. Kennnedy Presidential Library and Museum, South Boston, Suffolk, 12/21/2013 [M. Garvey*, ph. R. Schain]. First Suffolk record. eB.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)

2012-143: 1 at Alder Ln., Falmouth, Barnstable, 10/31/2012 to 1/2/2013 [† ph. S. Finnegan, † I. Nisbet*].

2012-144: 1 at Haywood Ln., East Orleans, Barnstable, 12/16/2012 to 1/26/2013 [† ph. S. Finnegan].

These records represent the first confirmed January records for Massachusetts (an additional record from Falmouth (11/29/2012 – 1/18/2013) has not yet been reviewed).

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) [6,25,25+]

2011-101: 1 at Little Harbor Rd., Wareham, Plymouth, 11/19/2011 to 11/24/2011 [† ph. S. Finnegan]. Hatch-year female.

2012-139: 1 at Thorne Rd., Eastham, Barnstable, 11/15/2012 [† ph. S. Finnegan]. Hatch-year male.

2012-137: 1 at Freeman Ave., Wellfleet, Barnstable, 12/20/2012 to 1/5/2013 [ph. D. Berard (eBird 1/5/13), † ph. S. Finnegan]. Hatch-year female.

2013-016: 1 at Blueberry Pond Dr., Brewster, Barnstable, 10/30/2013 to 12/19/2013 [† ph. S. Finnegan*]. Hatch-year male.

2012-109: 1 at Nimrod St., Concord, Middlesex, 11/1/2013 to 1/24/2013 [† ph. S. Finnegan, ph. M. Rines]. Adult female.

2012-142: 1 at Thayer Ave., West Bridgewater, Plymouth, late Oct. 2012 to 12/15/2014 [ph. J. & P. Bennett*, † ph. S. Finnegan ]. Adult female.

Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) [5,6,6]

2009-58: 1 at Nehoiden St., Harwichport, Barnstable, 10/1/2009 to 1/19/2010 [† ph. S. Finnegan, C. Omar*, ph. J. Trimble]. Second-year male. First record for Barnstable.

2009-57: 1 at Gilson Rd., Scituate, Plymouth, 10/23/2009 to 12/29/2009 [† ph. S. Finnegan, ph. J. Trimble] (3rd round, 8-1). Adult female. First record for Plymouth.

2010-85: 1 at Shay’s St., Amherst, Hampshire, 12/16/2010 to 5/1/2011 [B. Doyle*, M. Doyle*, † ph. S. Surner]. Adult male. First record for Hampshire.

2012-110: 1 adult male at Airline Dr., Dennis, Barnstable, 3/24/2012 to 3/26/2012 [ph. C. McGibbons, ph. S. McGibbons*, † ph. S. Finnegan, ph. (specimen) J. Trimble]. Adult male. Second record for Barnstable and first spring record.

2012-111: 1 at Castle Hill Rd., Great Barrington, Berkshire, 10/25/2012 to 11/19/2012 [† ph. A. Hill, † G. Ward*]. Hatch-year male. First record for Berkshire.

Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus/sasin)

2012-145: 1 at Pochet, East Orleans, Barnstable, 8/14/2012 to 8/15/2012 [ph. C. Itzler].

2012-096: 3 at Padanarum, Dartmouth, Bristol, 10/11/2012 (third bird noticed 11/10/2012) to 12/10/2012 [† ph. G. Dennis].

2012-112: 1 at Pilot Hill, Vineyard Town, Dukes, 11/29/2012 to 1/24/2013 [ph. L. McDowell, S. Stevens*, P. Uhlendorf*]. Based on apparent width and shape of rectrices evident in a superb suite of photos, five committee members voted to accept as Allen’s on a third round ballot.

Calliope Hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) [1,6,6]

2013-019: 1 at Hummuck Pond Rd. Community Gardens, Madaket, Nantucket, 10/19/2013 to 10/22/2013 [ph. V. Laux*, S. Perkins*, R. Prum*, ph. E. Savetsky, ph. J. Trimble, P. Trimble*]. First Nantucket record.

Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) [1,2,3]

2013-018: 1 at Arbor St., Lunenberg, Worcester, 5/27/2013 [ph. J. & R. Mills]. Third state record and first for Worcester.

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) [4,18,26]

2011-075: 1 at Cuttyhunk Island, Dukes, 10/16/2011 [ph. M. Sylvia*]. eB

2011-076: 1 at Salisbury Beach State Park, Salisbury, Essex, 10/28/2011 to 11/4/2011 [ph. J. Fenton]. eB.

2011-078: 1 at King Farm, South Dartmouth, Bristol, 11/28/2011 to 1/11/2012 [ph. M. Boucher, ph. G. Dennis, B. King*, ph. Alice Morgan*]. eB.

These 2011 records were part of a massive diaspora from the drought-stricken Southwest, which featured record-breaking numbers of Ash-throateds among other species in the Northeast (Iliff et al. 2011).

2012-146: 1 at Squaw Rock Park, Squantum, Norfolk, 11/3/2012 to 11/5/2012 [ph. R. Doherty, ph. M. Iliff, M. McWade*, ph. L. Waters, ph. V. Zollo]. eB.

Cassin’s Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) [1,4,4]

2011-99: 1 at Cherry Hill Reservoir, West Newbury, Essex, 11/25/2011 to 1/10/2012 [† J. Berry, ph. E. Nielsen, ph. J. Offermann, ph. B. Zaremba]. First record for Essex.

“yellow-bellied” Kingbird (Tyrannus sp.)

2013-028: 1 at North Sheep Pond Rd., Madaket, Nantucket, 5/17/2013 [† E. & G. Andrews*]. Any kingbird with a yellow belly is notable, especially in spring, but this couldn’t be pinned down to species.

Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva) [1,18,18+]

2013-023: 1 at Great Meadows, Concord, Middlesex, 5/27/2013 to 5/28/2013 [ph. C. and J. Winstanley*]. eB. Third spring record and first record for Middlesex County.

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides) [1,8,8]

2013-012: 1 male at Field Farm, Williamstown, Berkshire, 4/28/2013 to 5/2/2013 [† ph. I. Davies, G. Hurley*]. First record for Berkshire.

Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) [2,17,17+]

2011-068: 1 at Jackson Point, Madaket, Nantucket, 10/21/2011 to 10/22/2011 [ph. P. Trimble*, ph. V. Laux]. eB.

2012-147: 1 at Old Dewline Rd., Truro, Barnstable, 10/20/2012 to 10/21/2012 [P. Brown*, ph. J. Hoye, ph. R. Stymeist]. eB.

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) [1,11,11+]

2013-031: 1 at Randall Rd., Rochester, Plymouth, 2/17/2013 to 2/18/2013 [ph. Jennifer Kingman]. eB.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni) [3,6,6+]

2012-095: 1 at High Head, Truro, Barnstable, 11/4/2012 to 11/12/2012 [ph. B. Nikula*, ph. J. Trimble]. eB.

2012-148: 1 at Cuttyhunk Island, Dukes, 11/25/2012 [ph. I. Davies*]. eB.

2012-094: 1 at Boston Public Garden, Boston, Suffolk, 11/29/2012 to 12/6/2012 [v. M. Garvey, G. Fabbri*, ph. M. Iliff, ph. R. Schain., ph. R. Stymeist*, ph. J. Trimble]. eB. First record of subspecies for Suffolk.

Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi) [2,15,17]

2013-027: 1 at Squam and Wauwinet Rd., Wauwinet, Nantucket, 5/5/2013 [ph. K. Blackshaw*]. eB.

2013-036: 1 at Valley View Circle, Amherst, Hampshire, 11/21/2013 [ph. B. Brooks*, † S. Surner]. First record for Hampshire.

Harris’s Sparrow (Zonotrichia querula) [1,7,17+]

2013-021: 1 at Maple St., Wenham, Essex, 11/28/2013 to 3/16/2014 [† ph. B. Busby*]. eB.

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) [3,11,11+]

2011-100: 1 female/immature at Fort Hill, Eastham, Barnstable, 11/26/2011 to 11/27/2011 [† ph. E. Labato*]. eB.

2011-093: 1 female/immature at Shore Drive, Eastham, Barnstable, 12/18/2011 to 2/20/2012 [J. Sweeney*, V. Zollo*, ph. R. Schain, ph. J. Trimble]. eB.

2013-035: 1 at Pine Hills, Plymouth, Plymouth, 5/15/2013 to 5/16/2013 [ph. K. Doyon]. eB.

Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii) [1,7,15+]

2013-038: 1 male at Carriage Dr., Chelmsford, 12/16/2013 to 1/20/2014 [ph. R. Schain, J. Smith*].


Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)

2013-017: 1 at Hanscom Field, Concord, Middlesex, 5/18/2013 (2nd round, 0-9). Committee members cited both the failure to rule out some even rarer species (e.g., Short-tailed Hawk) and some inconsistencies among the multiple reports that gave them pause accepting it, even if many agreed it probably was a Swainson’s. Very rare in spring in the Northeast, although there are a handful of well-documented records from April-June.

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)

2012-145: 1 adult male at Pochet, East Orleans, Barnstable, 8/14/2012 to 8/15/2012 (3rd round, 5-4). Accepted as Rufous/Allen’s (see accepted Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbirds above 2012-145)

Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin)

2012-112: 1 adult male at Pilot Hill, Vineyard Haven, Dukes, 11/29/2012 to 1/24/2013 (3rd round, 5-4). Accepted as Rufous/Allen’s (see accepted Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbirds above 2012-112).

Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)

2013-028: 1 at North Sheep Pond Rd., Madaket, Nantucket, 5/17/2013 (2nd round, 0-9). Accepted as “yellow-bellied” Kingbird.

Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus)

2013-022: 1 at Nauset Heights, East Orleans, Barnstable, 6/15/2013 (3rd round, 5-4). A forthright submission that had the committee looking at specimens from 20 feet, sans binoculars, to mimic the observer’s experience. Enough committee members felt uncomfortable that a Lapland Longspur (Calcarius lapponica) or perhaps even a Bobolink (Doliochonyx orizivorus) could be ruled out given the distance, although the description and date were strongly suggestive of Chestnut-collared.

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

2013-037: 1 at Indian Hill Rd., Chatham, Barnstable, 10/9/2013 (2nd round, 0-9). Committee members agreed the photos revealed a Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea), albeit a rare individual with faint wing bars.

Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena)

2013-020: 1 at Honey Pot, Hadley, Hampshire, 10/2/2013 (2nd round, 4-5). A great excuse for the committee to study lots of skins, solicit expert opinions, and realize how difficult it can be to separate some Lazulis from Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea). Although well-photographed, the Committee felt the photos were inconclusive.


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