25th Annual Report


by by Marshall J. Iliff, Jessica Johnson, and Jeremiah Trimble

originally published in Bird Observer


For its 25th report, the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC) evaluated 140 records involving 62 species. The committee accepted 127 of those records. New records in 2021 added an impressive four species to the state list: European Golden-Plover, Heermann’s Gull, Roseate Spoonbill, and Great-tailed Grackle. Rereview of a 2009 Common Shelduck and the recent split of Short-billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus) from Common Gull (Larus canus) added two more species, bringing the state list to 511 species. In addition, the first formally reviewed Great Auk record was accepted and the state’s first Cave Swallow from the Caribbean population represents a new subspecies group for the state.

Other highlights from this report include the state’s second confirmed Pacific-slope Flycatcher, third Yellow-green Vireo, third accepted Western Meadowlark, fourth Ancient Murrelet, fifth Chestnut-collared Longspur, and two records of Golden-crowned Sparrow that represent the state’s first (from 1990) and sixth (from 2021) accepted records. Additional context is provided for selected species below.

Species taxonomy, nomenclature, and sequence follow the eBird/Clements Checklist (v2021), which closely follows the seventh edition of the American Ornithological Society (AOS, formerly American Ornithologists’ Union) Check-list of North American Birds (AOU 1998) and its 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, Chesser et al. 2015, Chesser et al. 2016, Chesser et al. 2017, Chesser et al. 2018, Chesser et al. 2019, Chesser et al. 2020, Chesser et al. 2021).

Please check the Review List to send evidence of records that are not listed in our Searchable Database—even in this Information Age we often do not receive sufficient information for many records. The committee strongly encourages written submissions even when photographs are available.

The statistics in brackets for each species or taxon show the number of records accepted in this report, followed by the total number of accepted records; note that some species have a large number of reports that the MARC has yet to review (e.g., Scissor-tailed Flycatcher). Below, we present data for all records covered, formatted as follows: Record identification number, count of individuals, location, range of observation dates, original observers, and observers submitting documentation. We credit the discoverer with an asterisk (*). We indicate whether the evidence provided was photographic (ph), video (v), audio (au), or a written description (†). We indicate “v.o.” for various observers; several others also saw the bird and supported the identification. We use “m.ob.” for many observers; many people in addition to the listed observers provided documentation for the bird to eBird/Macaulay Library.


Ross’s Goose (Anser rossii) [1 record accepted in this report, 37 total]

  • 2020-067: 1 at Crooked Lane and LeBaron Hills Country Club, Lakeville, Plymouth and Bristol, 12/1/2020 to 12/16/2020 [Jim Sweeney* (ph), m.ob.], seen also on adjacent Taunton, Bristol, portions of the country club 12/3/2020 to 12/9/2021.
  • 2020-069: 1 at Gifford Road and Pine Hill Road, Westport, Bristol, 12/24/2020 to 1/10/2021 [Nathaniel Brown*, Carol Molander (ph), m.ob.].

These two records were determined by the committee to involve the same individual, which first moved just a couple of miles from Crooked Lane to LeBaron Hills Country Club, Plymouth, but then moved at least 17 miles south-southeast to Bristol, establishing county firsts in both places. Ross’s Goose has now occurred in every Massachusetts county.

Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) [3, 26]

  • 2020-106: 1 at Duck Creek Marsh, Wellfleet, and at Eldredge Park and Boland Pond, Orleans, Barnstable, 11/26/2020 to 12/27/2020 [Peggy Sagan* (ph), Mark Faherty (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2021-025: 1 at Horseneck Road and Bayview Farm, South Dartmouth, Bristol, 1/26/2021 to 4/25/2021 [Arthur Rainville* (ph), Beverly King*, Carol Molander* (ph), Sue Walas*, m.ob.].
  • 2021-028: 1 at Forte Park, Newton, Middlesex, 3/5/2021 to 3/20/2021 [Gary Oines* (ph), Marshall Iliff (ph), m.ob.].

We continue to be amazed by the rapid increase in records of this species in the state; the second state record was in 2010 and the MARC has accepted records in every year since except 2013. The Bristol record established a new late date for the state by a couple weeks, though there are records from late May in Maine and Nova Scotia.

Brant (Black) (Branta bernicla nigricans) [1, 4]

  • 2020-107: 1 at Fort Phoenix State Reservation, Fairhaven, Bristol, 12/4/2020 [Matthew Eckerson* (ph)].

Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) [4, 21]

  • 2020-065: 1 at Quabbin Reservoir, Winsor Dam, Belchertown, Hampshire, 11/23/2020 [Larry Therrien* (ph)].
  • 2020-098: 1 at Tri-Town Beach, Whately, Franklin, and Paradise Pond, Smith College, Northampton, Hampshire, 10/12/2020 to 10/17/2020 [Kevin Barnes*(ph), Sasha Auer*, m.ob.].
  • 2020-099: 1 at Turners Falls Power Canal, Greenfield, Franklin, 11/23/2020 to 12/16/2020 [Edward Lewis* (ph), Sue Lewis*, m.ob.].
  • 2020-100: 1 at Davis Farmland fields, Sterling, Worcester, 11/28/2020 to 12/6/2020 [Nick Newberry*, Bette Robo (ph), m.ob.].

Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) [1, 8 since 2018]

  • 2020-103: 5 at Horse Farm Lookout at Hummock Pond, Nantucket, Nantucket, 11/7/2020 to 12/1/2020 [Lily Morello* (ph), Skyler Kardell* (ph), Jaden Thompson*, m.ob.].

Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) [1, 1]

  • 2009-038: 1 at Nahant, Lynn, and Swampscott beaches, Essex, 12/6/2009 to 12/7/2009 [Jim Malone*, Marshall Iliff (ph), Matthew Garvey (ph), Jeff Offermann, Jeremiah Trimble, v.o.].

Given the recent move by the ABA to accept some Newfoundland records of Common Shelduck as natural provenance, the committee voted to rereview the December 2009 record, which was the same year as one of the accepted Newfoundland birds. With increasing populations in Iceland and some support of a fall vagrancy pattern emerging, the committee reviewed the original documentation with these factors in mind and voted to accept this record as a wild vagrant and moved to add Common Shelduck to the state list.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) [1, 30]

  • 1992-008: 1 at White Island Pond, Plymouth, Plymouth, 4/19/1992 to 4/21/1992 [Steve Arena*].

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) [4, 17]

  • 2020-108: 1 at Jamaica Pond, Boston, Suffolk, 12/6/2020 to 12/26/2020 [Ted Bradford* (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2020-109: 1 at Wellfleet Town Pier, Wellfleet, Barnstable, 12/24/2020 [Mike Jones* (ph)].
  • 2021-022: 1 at the Bridge Causeway, Marblehead, Essex, 1/11/2021 to 4/18/2021 [Lydia Curtis* (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2021-029: 1 off Jerusalem Road, Cohasset, Norfolk, and Forest Avenue, Hull, Plymouth, 3/28/2021 to 4/14/2021 [Vincent Zollo* (ph), m.ob.].

The Jamaica Pond bird provided a first confirmed record for Suffolk and the Cohasset bird a first for Norfolk. As is often the case, a couple of these birds were first identified as Horned Grebes but the identifications were corrected when photos were posted online.

White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica) [2, 28]

  • 2020-078: 1 at Tuckernuck Island, Nantucket, Nantucket, 7/13/2020 to 7/16/2020 [Zoe L’Ecuyer*, William L’Ecuyer*, Skyler Kardell* (ph)].
  • 2020-079: 1 at Cuttyhunk Island, Dukes, 8/20/2020 to 8/31/2020 [Alex Burdo*, Matthew Eckerson* (ph), Preston Lust*].

Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) [3, 43]

  • 2020-057: 1 at Tucker Road, North Dartmouth, Bristol, 10/28/2020 to 10/31/2020 [Patricia Bergandy*, Marshall Iliff (ph), v.o.].
  • 2020-096: 1 at Nipmuc Pond, Mendon, Worcester, 10/5/2020 [Carole Carnovale* (ph)].
  • 2020-097: 1 at South Orleans, Barnstable, 12/2/2020 to 3/30/2021 [Susan Finnegan* (ph)].

Although two of these birds were banded and measured, the committee was ultimately convinced that spread tail photos of the Bristol bird showed sufficiently broad outermost rectrix and a diagnostic emarginate second rectrix, lending hope to field identification of at least some females with good enough photos.

Rufous/Allen’s Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus/sasin) [1, 6]

  • 2020-056: 1 at Pleasant Street, Natick, Middlesex, 10/10/2020 to 10/20/2020 [Dave Epstein* (ph)].

Yellow Rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis) [1, 46]

  • 2021-003: 1 at Hardings Beach, Chatham, Barnstable, 2/5/2021 [Bird Watcher’s General Store].

The bird in this unusual mid-winter record was found dead and photographed.

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus) [8, 10]

  • 2006-064: 1 at Belle Isle Marsh Reservation, Boston, Suffolk, 4/1/2006 to 4/8/2006 [Linda Ferraresso*, Robert Mayer (ph), v.o.].
  • 2008-053: 1 at Pat’s Puddle, Nantucket, Nantucket, 6/1/2008 to 6/2/2008 [Trish Pastuszak (ph)].
  • 2013-065: 1 at Parker River NWR, Plum Island, Essex, 6/7/2013 to 6/15/2013 [Tom Wetmore*, Tom Murray (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2014-080: 1 at Pikul’s Farm, Rowley, Essex, 5/30/2014 to 6/3/2014 [Bob Stymeist*, Jason Forbes* (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2016-052: 1 at Bell’s Neck Conservation Area, West Harwich, Barnstable, 5/17/2016 to 5/23/2016 [Roger Debenham* (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2019-155: 1 at Great Point Lagoon, Nantucket, Nantucket, 6/20/2019 to 7/5/2019 [Morgan Sayle*, Trish Pastuszak (ph)].
  • 2019-156: 1 at Big Station Pond, Monomoy NWR, Chatham, Barnstable, 6/24/2019 [Sean Williams* (ph)].
  • 2020-075: 1 at Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Dartmouth, Bristol, 5/25/2020 [Luis Agosto* (ph), Spencer Lott (ph)].
European Golden-Plover

European Golden-Plover. April 13, 2021. Duxbury Beach, Duxbury. Photograph by Frederick Bowes.

European Golden-Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) [1, 1]

  • 2021-006: 1 at Duxbury Beach, Duxbury, Plymouth, 4/5/2021 to 4/18/2021 [Frederick Bowes* (ph), Marshall Iliff (au), Sean Williams (ph, au), m.ob.].

First suspected as a possible Pacific Golden-Plover, this bird was identified from photos obtained April 13. The bird was refound the next day and enjoyed for almost a week, providing the first documented state record. Also, Bowes had photos of the bird that documented its arrival on April 5 but he initially identified it as a Black-bellied Plover. This record is outside the normal late-April early-May pattern of vagrancy to Newfoundland and winds were unfavorable for a trans-Atlantic crossing, so it probably represents a bird that wintered in the Americas—possibly the one known to have wintered on Bermuda—and was returning north.

Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) [1, 4]

  • 2020-049: 1 at Esther Island, Nantucket, 8/26/2020 [Lee Dunn* (ph)].

This breeding-plumaged bird was the third adult found in the state between July and August, and a county first.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) [7, 8 since 2018]

  • 2017-141: 1 at Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary Beach Loop, Westport, Bristol, 5/10/2017 to 5/16/2017 [Henry Zimberlin (ph), m.ob].
  • 2019-154: 1 at Wet Meadows Viewing Platform, Scotland Road, Newbury, Essex, 3/30/2019 to 3/31/2019 [Marjorie Watson*, Nate Dubrow, Jeffrey Offermann (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2020-071: 1 at Milestone Cranberry Bogs, Nantucket, Nantucket, 4/4/2020 [Skyler Kardell* (ph)].
  • 2020-072: 1 at Navigation Road, West Barnstable, Barnstable, 4/25/2020 [Peter Crosson* (ph), v.o.].
  • 2020-073: 1 at Winsegansett Avenue Marsh, Fairhaven, Bristol, 7/2/2020 to 7/3/2020 [Carol Molander* (ph), Moe Molander*, m.ob.].
  • 2020-074: 1 at Monomoy NWR, Chatham, Barnstable, 7/30/2020 [Ian Davies*, Mike Sylvia* (ph), Nick Bonomo* (ph)].
  • 2021-035: 2 at Parker River NWR, Newbury, Essex, 5/1/2021 [Sean Williams* (ph), Aliyah Coplan*, Jason Erichsen*, Joseph Crowley*, Kathleen Miller*, Nathan Lewis*, Sofia Raimo*, Thomas Huffman*].

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) [1, 6]

  • 2020-086: 1 at Third Cliff, Scituate, Plymouth, 8/2/2020 to 8/6/2020 [Thomas O’Brien*, Bill Lee (ph), m.ob.].

South Polar Skua (Stercorarius maccormicki) [2, 14]

  • 2020-080: 1 at Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Barnstable, 7/17/2020 [Keegan Burke* (ph)].
  • 2020-081: 1 at Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Barnstable, 10/3/2020 [Blair Nikula* (ph)].

Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis) [1, 1]

  • 1602-001: Multiple birds at Chappaquiddick, Dukes, 5/20/1602 [Samuel Purchas*, Bartholomew Gosnold*].

Historical accounts of “Pengwins” from the Martha’s Vineyard area helped the committee add a record from at least one specific date. The species is also known from middens in New England, so historically it surely occurred with some regularity. Alas, we may never know just how regular it once was.


Anciet Murrelet

Ancient Murrelet. November 9, 2020. Race Point, Provincetown. Photograph by Peter Flood.

Ancient Murrelet (Synthliboramphus antiquus) [1, 4]

2020-064: 1 at Race Point, Provincetown, Barnstable, 11/9/2020 [Amy O’Neill*, Peter Flood (ph), v.o.].

With the discovery of this bird by Amy O’Neill, the state’s four records are now evenly split between Race Point on the tip of Cape Cod and the tip of Cape Ann in Essex.

Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea) [1, 6]

  • 2021-001: 1 at Andrews Point, Rockport, Essex, 1/2/2021 [Rick Heil*].

This full adult was a welcome sight at a seawatch at Andrews Point; with continued melting sea ice, its future as a vagrant to Massachusetts is most uncertain.

Franklin’s Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) [4, 34]

  • 2020-082: 1 at Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Barnstable, 7/26/2020 [Nick Bonomo* (ph), David Provencher*, Sarah Dzielski*(ph)].
  • 2020-083: 1 at Andrews Point, Rockport, Essex, 8/4/2020 [Davey Walters* (ph), Nathan Dubrow*].
  • 2020-084: 1 at Sandy Neck, Barnstable, Barnstable, 8/29/2020 [Peter Crosson* (ph)].
  • 2020-085: 1 at the Oxbow, Northampton, Hampshire, 10/26/2020 [Aaron Hulsey*, Larry Therrien (ph), m.ob.].


Heermann's Gull

Heermann’s Gull. May 27, 2021. Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport. Photograph by Joel Eckerson.

Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni) [1, 1]

  • 2021-013: 1 at Horseneck Beach State Reservation, Westport, and Richmond Pond, Acoaxet, Bristol, 5/27/2021 [Nicole Kirkos* (ph), Tyler Tomassone*, Joel Eckerson (ph), v.o.].

First found on Horseneck Beach, it was later relocated first at Richmond Pond and then at Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island, providing state firsts for two states in a single day. From its second-cycle plumage and specific tattered wing coverts, this remarkable bird was identifiable as the same bird that was found in Florida as a first-winter bird on 8/31/2019; it then ranged up and down Florida’s east coast until it went missing on 1/27/2021. This bird visited Georgia from 2/15 through at least 3/2, and was successively seen in Virginia on 5/12, in Massachusetts and Rhode Island on 5/27, and then in Cape May, New Jersey, from 5/30 to 6/4, before it returned to Georgia on 6/18 and appeared in South Carolina on 6/21. By August, the bird had returned to Florida, where it remains as of this writing. Quite the tour for a single rarity, which now has established state firsts in at least four states. Perhaps it will go on another Massachusetts tour in 2022.

Common Gull (Larus canus) [1, 30 for species pair; species-specific totals to be determined]

  • 2021-026: 1 kamtschatschensis at Codfish Park, Siasconset, Nantucket, 2/25/2021 to 3/3/2021 [Skyler Kardell* (ph)].

See the introduction for more on this recent split. At least two subspecies of Common Gull have occurred in Massachusetts: European canus, which has historically been most regular, and east Asian kamtschatschensis, which has multiple recent records possibly involving as few as two to three wide-ranging birds. With the recent split, the MARC has added Common Gull and Short-billed Gull as full review species, with all reports requiring full committee review as opposed to a streamlined eBird-accept procedure.


Short-billed Gull

Short-billed Gull. April 15, 2018. Little Harbor and Sandy Beach, Cohasset. Photo by Marshall Iliff.

Short-billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus) [1, 1]

  • 2018-085: 1 at Sandy Beach, Cohasset, Norfolk, 4/15/2018 to 4/16/2018 [Vin Zollo* (ph), Dan Burton (ph), Marshall Iliff (ph), v.o.].

This record was initially accepted as Mew Gull [2018-020] but was rereviewed and accepted as Short-billed at the MARC 2021 annual meeting. With the 2021 split of Mew Gull (Larus canus) into Common Gull (Larus canus) and Short-billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus), Massachusetts gains one species to the state list because both gulls occur as vagrants. Just one record has been accepted so far and this bird occurred on the same beach at the same time as a banded Common Gull. Two other well-documented photo records (both accepted on eBird) will be reviewed in the coming year, one from Barnstable and one from Bristol.

Sooty Tern (Onychoprion fuscatus) [9, 15]

  • 2020-045: 1 at the Kittansett Club, Marion, Plymouth, 8/4/2020 [Ian Davies* (ph)].
  • 2020-046: 1 at Pocasset, Bourne, Barnstable, 8/4/2020 [Peter Trimble* (ph)].
  • 2020-087: 18 at Lake Onota, Pittsfield, and Lake Pontoosuc, Lanesborough, Berkshire, 8/4/2020, with one individual continuing 8/5/2020 [Kyron Hanson*, Stefan Townsend*, Jean Jew*, Manuel Morales (ph), John Manuel Morales (ph)].
  • 2020-088: 2 at Wachusett Reservoir, Scar Hill Road, Boylston, Worcester, 8/4/2020 to 8/13/2020 [Sean Williams* (ph)].
  • 2020-089: 1 at Longmeadow, Hampden, 8/5/2020 [Mark Donohue* (ph)].
  • 2020-090: 2 at Cuttyhunk Island, Dukes, 8/5/2020 [Mike Sylvia* (ph)].
  • 2020-091: 1 at Tuckernuck Island, Nantucket, Nantucket, 8/5/2020 [Skyler Kardell* (ph)].
  • 2020-092: 2 at Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Barnstable, 8/5/2020 to 8/6/2020 [Max Chalfin-Jacobs* (ph), William von Herff* (ph), Lily Morello* (ph), Oliver Patrick* (ph), Will Schenck* (ph)].
  • 2020-093: 1 at Monomoy NWR, Chatham, Barnstable, 8/8/2020 [Jeremiah Trimble* (ph), Jeffrey Offermann* (ph), Peter Trimble*].

Tropical Storm Isaias made landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, on August 4, 2020, and tracked north along the Hudson River Valley before speeding up and heading into Canada overnight. Although it displaced few other rare seabirds inland, this turned out to be an exceptional storm for Sooty Terns, accounting for all nine records in this report and involving at least 29 individuals. The Wachusett birds defied history by lingering for more than a week; most Sooty Terns clear out within a day of a hurricane’s passage. The Bourne bird was possibly the same adult seen earlier in Marion, but the committee formally considered this possibility and voted to treat these as separate records, in part because of the large number of Sooties documented regionally.

Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica) [1, 31]

  • 2021-036: 1 at Gooseberry Neck, Westport, Bristol, 5/14/2021 [Matthew Eckerson* (ph)].

This well-photographed spring migrant was a second for Bristol and for Gooseberry Neck, following a fall migrant seen there in November 2020.

Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) [4, 32]

  • 2020-047: 1 at Stony Beach, Woods Hole, Falmouth, Barnstable, 8/5/2020 [Nathaniel Marchessault* (ph)].
  • 2020-048: 1 at First Encounter Beach, Eastham, Barnstable, 8/17/2020 [Sean Williams* (ph)].
  • 2020-076: 1 at 40.6867337, -70.4547011, about 46 miles south of Wasque Point, Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, 8/15/2020 [Laurie Dugan* (ph)].
  • 2020-077: 1 at Race Point, Provincetown, Barnstable, 8/17/2020 [Blair Nikula* (ph)].

Brown Boobies continued their strong recent showing with four records in 2020; the state’s third record was in 2005.

White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi) [2, 33]

  • 2021-031: 1 at Egypt Lane Ponds, Fairhaven, Bristol, 4/15/2021 [Sue Walas* (ph)]. Second for Bristol following one in November 2019.
  • 2021-032: 1 at New England Biolabs, Ipswich, Essex, 4/17/2021 to 5/3/2021 [Ava Steenstrup*, Jeff Offermann (ph), m.ob.].


Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill. August 11, 2021. Corbin’s Neck, Sheffield. Photograph by Steve Motyl.

Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) [1, 1]

  • 2021-044: 1 at Corbins Neck and Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield, Berkshire, 8/8/2021 to 8/11/2021 [Pauline Banducci*, Matt Kelly* (ph), m.ob.].

The summer of 2021 was the most remarkable northward invasion ever for Roseate Spoonbills; therefore, a Massachusetts record was anticipated for more than a month before a bird in Canaan, Connecticut, on 8/7 (eBird) was found the next day across the state line in Massachusetts. Because the spoonbill invasion seems to have originated in the western Gulf of Mexico and proceeded north and west primarily west of the Appalachians, it was not surprising that this year’s bird was in the far western part of the state rather than at the coast. This sighting is, apparently, the first new bird that Berkshire has added to the state list since 1900, when the county recorded the state’s first Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) (Parnass 2021).

Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) [5, 21]

  • 2021-015: 1 at 100 Duck Pond Road Extension, South Dennis, Barnstable, 6/1/2021 to 6/8/2021 [Karen Fiske*].
  • 2021-034: 1 at Neck Road, Rochester, Plymouth, 5/1/2021 to 5/3/2021 [Brian Vasa* (ph), Charlie Wade* (ph), Marshall Iliff (†)].
  • 2021-037: 1 at Nemasket Trail, Plympton, Plymouth, 5/15/2021 [Leslie G.* (ph)].
  • 2021-039: 1 at Waquoit Farms Drive, Falmouth, Barnstable, 6/2/2021 to 7/4/2021 [Karen Fiske*, Keelin Miller*, Elizabeth Hill-Gest*, Scott Dresser* (ph), v.o.].
  • 2021-041: 1 at 23 Widow Coombs Walk, Sandwich, Barnstable, 6/6/2021 [Jo-Anna Ghadban* (ph)].

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) [5, 38]

  • 2021-012: 1 at Bachelor Brook/Stony Brook Resource Area, South Hadley, Hampshire, 5/26/2021 [Ted Gilliland* (ph)].
  • 2021-017: 1 at Egypt Lane Ponds, Fairhaven, Bristol, 6/7/2021 [Carolyn Longworth* (ph), Julie R. (†)].
  • 2021-018: 1 at I-495 along Hockomock Swamp, Taunton, Bristol, 6/7/2021 [Alan Kneidel* (†)].
  • 2021-040: 1 at Frances A. Crane WMA, Falmouth, Barnstable, 6/5/2021 to 6/7/2021 [Peter Trimble*, Mark Kasprzyk* (ph)].
  • 2021-043: 1 at Bearberry Hill, Truro, Barnstable, 5/26/2021 [Will Sweet* (ph), Nick Tepper* (ph)].

Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) [1, 7]

  • 1997-035: 1 at Merrimack River, Lowell, Middlesex, 2/1/1997 [Linda Hunnewell* (ph)].

Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis) [1, 2, plus one accepted as Pacific-slope/Cordilleran]

  • 2020-066: 1 at Fresh Pond, Cambridge, Middlesex, 11/24/2020 to 12/16/2020 [Ben Shamgochian* (ph, au), Jeremiah Trimble (ph, au), Marshall Iliff (ph, au), m.ob.].

Shamgochian, a Tufts student, found this bird in the afternoon and was able to get definitive photos to show it as a Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher. Fortunately, the next day he and others were able to secure diagnostic audio recordings for a second state record of Pacific-slope Flycatcher. The bird remained for almost a month to be widely enjoyed by birders.

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) [1, 15]

  • 2020-095: 1 at Aquinnah Circle, Aquinnah, Dukes, 10/3/2020 to 10/4/2020 [Bob Shriber* (ph), Maurice Gilmore*].

Ash-throated Flycatcher (Myiarchus cinerascens) [3, 32]

  • 2020-104: 1 at Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury, Essex, 11/8/2020 [John Keeley*, Suzanne Sullivan* (ph)].
  • 2020-105: 1 at Orleans, Barnstable, 12/20/2020 [Luke Seitz* (ph), Jeremiah Trimble* (ph)].
  • 2021-002: 1 at Savary Avenue, Sagamore Beach, Barnstable, 1/10/2021 to 1/25/2021 [Rob Timberlake*, Susan Finnegan (ph), m.ob.].

Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) [1, 4, plus two Tropical/Couch’s]

  • 2021-010: 1 at Provincetown Airport, Provincetown, Barnstable, 5/15/2021 [Peter Trimble* (ph), Sean Williams (ph, au), Blair Nikula, v.o.].

This Tropical Kingbird was a first record for May. The species complex (Tropical/Couch’s) now has been found in the state in May, June, July, September, October, and November. This bird was unsettled and moved around frequently in the dunes near the airport, but observers were able to get diagnostic audio to confirm the species. Audio recordings are critical to species identification for Tropical and Couch’s kingbirds.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus) [9, 15]

  • 2005-062: 1 at Swampscott Beach Club, Swampscott, Essex, 11/21/2005 to 12/7/2005 [L. Pivacek*, Stephen Mirick (ph)].
  • 2009-061: 1 at Orange Municipal Airport, Franklin, 10/21/2009 to 10/22/2009 [Jeff Johnstone*, James Smith (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2010-088: 1 at Parker River NWR, Plum Island, Essex, 4/29/2010 [Tom Wetmore*, Brian Harris*, Timothy Spahr* (ph)].
  • 2010-089: 1 at Parker River NWR, Plum Island, Essex, 6/13/2010 to 9/18/2010 [Karsten Hartel*, Jeremiah Trimble (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2011-103: 1 at Pat’s Puddle, Nantucket, Nantucket, 10/21/2011 to 11/6/2011 [Edie Ray*, Simon Perkins*, Vernon Laux (ph)].
  • 2013-066: 1 at Great Pond dunes, Edgartown, Dukes, 7/8/2013 [Wendy Elsner* (ph)].
  • 2013-067: 1 at Nantucket Memorial Airport, Nantucket, Nantucket, 11/15/2013 to 11/17/2013 [Edie Ray*, Oliver Burton (ph)].
  • 2017-142: 1 at Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Sharon, Norfolk, 6/4/2017 to 6/5/2017 [Elana Price* (ph), v.o.].
  • 2020-102: 1 at Shore Drive, Plymouth, Plymouth, 11/7/2020 [Tom White*, Manomet Bird Observatory (ph)].

There are many older records yet to be reviewed for this species. If you have observed one, please send documentation.

Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis) [1, 3]

  • 2020-054: 1 at Andrews Point, Rockport, Essex, 10/3/2020 to 10/4/2020 [Brian Harris* (ph), Lauren Grimes*, v.o.].

This species is being found more frequently in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast as a vagrant, with the state’s three records being recent. This sighting was of a hatch-year bird. Unfortunately, it was in a private area on the coast and because of concerns about heavy visitation during the pandemic, the observers chose not to release the location widely.

Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) [1, 6]

  • 2020-101: 1 at Central Street, East Bridgewater, Plymouth, 11/6/2020 to 11/15/2020 [Brian Vigorito* (ph), m.ob.].

Boreal Chickadee (Poecile hudsonicus) [1, 2 since 2017]

2021-023: 1 at North Hoosac Road, Williamstown, Berkshire, 1/11/2021 to 3/22/2021 [Lori van Handel* (ph), Neil Dowlgin (ph), Nick Tepper (ph, au), m.ob.].

Cave Swallow (Caribbean) (Petrochelidon fulva [fulva Group]) [1, 1 subspecies / 20 for species]

  • 2021-008: 1 at Cherry Hill Reservoir, West Newbury, Essex, 4/18/2021 to 5/1/2021 [Andy Sanford* (ph), Ellen Keane*, Marshall Iliff (ph), Stephen Mirick (ph), m.ob.].

Massachusetts has many Cave Swallow records from fall—primarily November—and a couple from May, but all of these have proven to be the subspecies P. f. pallida from northern Mexico, Texas, and New Mexico. This individual was not only the first for April, but showed a cinnamon-colored rump, dark buff cinnamon on the sides coalescing to streaks, and a cinnamon wash on the rear portion of the nape, which led the committee to accept it explicitly as one of the Caribbean forms. Cape May, New Jersey, conclusively documented its first Caribbean Cave Swallow April 4–5, 2021. Other records are mostly from Atlantic Canada, e.g., Sable Island, Nova Scotia, 5/20/1968; Seal Island, Nova Scotia, 5/15/1971; and St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, 5/29/2016.

Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) [1, 5]

  • 2020-113: 1 at Great Pond, Hatfield, Hampshire, 12/13/2020 to 3/11/2021 [Theresa Gessing* (ph), Larry Therrien (ph), m.ob.].

The Hatfield bird, which appears to have successfully overwintered (Sage Thrashers begin migrating north in March), represented a first for the inland portion of the state and for Hampshire, but came in a year with other records nearby in southern Vermont and eastern New York, making for a remarkable inland showing for this very rare vagrant that usually appears coastally.

Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi) [2, 28]

  • 2021-020: 1 at Mill Pond, Orleans, Barnstable, 1/7/2021 [Mike O’Connor* (ph)].
  • 2021-033: 1 at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Middlesex, 4/19/2021 [Robert Parker*, Clara Easter* (ph)].

Unrecorded until 1993, this species continues to be found almost annually. The Mount Auburn bird was a first for that well-watched location and established the second latest date in spring. The latest was a sighting by Maili and Liam Waters on 4/22/2018 of a bird that overwintered at Demarest Lloyd State Park, Dartmouth, Bristol.


Varied Thrush

Varied Thrush. February 17, 2021. Fox Run Road, Sudbury. Photograph by Joe Oliverio.

Varied Thrush (Ixoreus naevius) [2, 20]

  • 2021-030: 1 at Wickaboag Valley Road, West Brookfield, Worcester, 4/5/2021 to 4/6/2021 [Anne Phillips* (ph)].
  • 2021-042: 1 at Fox Run Road, Sudbury, Middlesex, 12/30/2020 to 4/8/2021 [Christine Goddard* (ph), m.ob.].

Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) [1, 14]

  • 2020-094: 1 at Parker River NWR, Ipswich, Essex, 9/21/2020 to 9/22/2020 [Dave Larson* (ph), Sue Carlson*, m.ob.].

Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus) [1, 5]

  • 2020-061: 1 at First Encounter Beach, Eastham, Barnstable, 10/31/2020 to 11/4/2020 [Jason Barcus* (ph), Katherine McGaughey*].

This bird was seen and photographed in flight only, which provided a fun identification challenge for the committee. In the end, the face pattern, wing pattern, and tail pattern were shown well enough to eliminate other longspurs. Jason Barcus is to be congratulated for his repeated efforts to document this bird. The committee notes that audio recordings are also diagnostic in longspurs and can help supplement photos, especially for birds that are not cooperative.

Golden-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia atricapilla) [2, 6]

  • 1990-009: 1 at Smith’s Neck Road, Dartmouth, Bristol, 1/14/1990 to 1/26/1990 [George Gove*, Judy Gordon*, Peter Trimble (ph), v.o.].
  • 2021-009: 1 at Katama Road, Edgartown, Dukes, 4/28/2021 to 5/2/2021 [Brendan Burke* (ph), m.ob.].

The 1990 record, the earliest the committee has reviewed to date and the only record from midwinter, was reviewed in 2020, but was not accepted because there was only a short description from a single date. For 2021, we were able to locate more information on this bird’s two-week stay, including diagnostic photos. With the acceptance of the Dukes record—a county first—five of the state’s six records fall between April 9 and May 6.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) [1, 5]

  • 2020-112: 1 at Allens Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Allens Neck, Westport, Bristol, 11/9/2020 to 3/6/2021 [Matthew Eckerson* (ph, au), Jonathan Eckerson* (ph), Liam Waters (ph), Marshall Iliff (ph, au), m.ob.]. Second for Bristol.

Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta) [1, 3]

  • 2020-060: 1 at Cuttyhunk Island, Dukes, 10/24/2020 [Tim Lenz* (ph), Sean Williams* (ph), v.o.].

This species is challenging to identify because the visual differences are subtle and field marks can overlap with Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna). This individual was well documented through photos and written descriptions by various observers. The members agreed that the details of the plumage markings and coloration were consistent with Western and not supportive of Eastern, establishing a new species for Dukes.

Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii) [3, 13]

  • 2020-062: 1 at Read Street, Seekonk, Bristol, 11/8/2020 [Natalie Gruppuso* (ph)].
  • 2020-063: 1 at Crystal Court, Haverhill, Essex, 12/4/2020 to 12/14/2020 [Amie Holen*, Andy Sanford (ph)].
  • 2020-111: 1 at Howe Road, Cohasset, Norfolk, 11/2/2020 to 3/3/2021 [Steven Magnell* (ph), Ellen Freda* (ph), m.ob.].

For the Bristol record, the observer believed there were two Bullock’s present—which would have been unprecedented—but was able to get photos of only one immature male. These records plus another bird photographed in Marion, Plymouth, (yet to be reviewed) made for a banner winter for the species in the state.

Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus) [2, 5]

  • 2020-058: 1 at Meadow Street, Amherst, Hampshire, 10/11/2020 [Scott Surner* (ph)].
  • 2020-059: 1 at Oak Street, Dighton, Bristol, 12/9/2020 to 12/10/2020 [Joel Eckerson* (ph), m.ob.].

Brewer’s Blackbird has been much less prevalent throughout the East in recent decades. The 2020 records—the first accepted since 2002—represent the second for Hampshire and the first for Bristol, but neither bird stuck around long.


Great-tailed Grackle

Great-tailed Grackle. April 10, 2021. Nelson Field, Plymouth. Photograph by Sean Williams.

Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus) [1, 1]

  • 2021-007: 1 at Spooner Pond and Nelson Field, Plymouth, Plymouth, 4/9/2021 to 4/10/2021 [Leslie G.* (ph, au), Sean Williams* (ph, au)].

Boat-tailed Grackle (Q. major) has long been anticipated as one of the state’s next species, because it breeds as close as Stamford, Connecticut. When a large grackle appeared at Nelson Field on 4/10, Williams initially assumed it would be a Boat-tailed. When photos and audio recordings were shared, Iliff and Trimble helped confirm it as the state’s first Great-tailed Grackle. Unfortunately, it left quickly and could not be refound. Remarkably, on the evening that the record was shared, Leslie G. posted a video of an odd grackle—the same Great-tailed—from the previous day that she had video-recorded singing and displaying at nearby Spooner Pond.

Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera) [2, 12 since 2017]

  • 2020-050: 1 at Mass Audubon’s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Belmont, Middlesex, 8/30/2020 to 8/31/2020 [Jonathan Layman* (ph), Andy Sanford (ph), Lily Morello (ph), m.ob.].
  • 2021-011: 1 at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Watertown, Middlesex, 5/19/2021 [David Hursh*, David Scott*, Ford Avery*, Jan Brandin*, Alan Kneidel (au), Graham Schmidt (ph), v.o.].

The committee continues to struggle with assessing these records, because hybridization with Blue-winged Warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) is hard to eliminate without good photos of the wings and underparts. Photographs of these two individuals helped put the committee’s collective minds at ease.

Townsend’s Warbler (Setophaga townsendi) [2, 27]

  • 2020-115: 1 at Bellevue Street, Fairhaven, Bristol, 12/14/2020 to 4/13/2021 [Jessica Whiteley* (ph), Matthew Eckerson (ph), Marshall Iliff (ph), v.o.]. First county record.
  • 2021-024: 1 at Sagamore Recreation Area, and Savary Avenue, Bourne, Barnstable, 1/11/2021 to 1/26/2021 [Andy Sanford* (ph), Leslie Kramer*, m.ob.].

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) [2, 21]

  • 2020-114: 1 at Timberlane Drive, Brewster, Barnstable, 11/28/2020 to 1/17/2021 [Mark Faherty (ph)].
  • 2021-021: 1 at Harwich Port, Harwich, Barnstable, 1/8/2021 [Jennifer Hutchins* (ph)].

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) [4, 42]

  • 2021-005: 1 at Brookwood Drive, Westport, Bristol, 12/20/2020 (approximately; noted as “about a week before Christmas”) to 4/9/2021 [Ellen Orsi* (ph), Carol Molander (ph), Beverly King, m.ob.].
  • 2021-019: 1 at Monomoy NWR, Morris Island, Chatham, Barnstable, 1/1/2021 [Frederick Atwood* (ph)].
  • 2021-027: 2 at Rock Harbor area, Orleans, Barnstable, 3/3/2021 [Philip Kyle* (ph)].
  • 2021-038: 1 at Pro Drive Wetland, 15 University Road, Canton, Norfolk, 5/20/2021 [Brian Sullivan* (ph), m.ob.].


Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis)

  • 2019-153: 1 at Corporation Beach, Dennis, Barnstable, 12/29/2019.

The committee thought that this description did not adequately address similar species, such as Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) and Red-throated Loon (Gavia stellata).

Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)

  • 2020-052: 1 at Gooseberry Neck, Westport, Bristol, 9/12/2020.

This heard-only bird was noted as a flyby among a flock of small shorebirds. Although there is precedent for the location on that exact date by the same observer, the committee was uncomfortable accepting a seventh state record based on a single call note that was not backed up by visual confirmation.

White-winged Tern (Chlidonias leucopterus)

  • 2021-014: 1 at Race Point, Provincetown, Barnstable, 5/30/2021.

This bird was seen among masses of terns through the scope for a matter of seconds by two observers. Although several key field marks were noted, the committee was uncomfortable accepting a rarity of this magnitude based on such a brief observation.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)

  • 2021-016: 1 at Plymouth Airport, Plymouth, Plymouth, 6/5/2021.

This record was from a plausible location and a perfect date for the species, but the description was a single sentence and failed to eliminate similar raptors that are regularly mistaken for this species, such as Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) and Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius).

Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii)

  • 2020-053: 1 at Northampton, Hampshire, 9/17/2020 to 9/22/2020.

This sighting would be a second state record, but the description received no support from the committee on its second round.

Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri)

  • 2017-140: 1 at Northampton, Hampshire, 5/7/2017.

This sighting would be a second state record, but the description received no support from the committee on its second round.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)

  • 2020-070: 1 at Andrews Point, Rockport, Essex, 12/20/2020.

Although the committee was in unanimous agreement that at least one parent was a Spotted Towhee, enough committee members thought a hybrid was involved, so this record was not accepted. Another bird, reported as a hybrid and documented with photos, was recorded at the John J. Donovan Reservation, Hamilton, Essex, on 11/30/2020 (Andy Sanford [ph.]) but has not been reviewed.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

  • 2009-062: 1 at 11 Miriam Road, Waltham, Middlesex, 12/1/2009 to 3/15/2009.

The committee accepted the identification of this bird, but a majority thought the provenance was questionable—or at least that it needed better information on status in captivity to make an assessment. There are accepted records from April 1, 1961, and April 3–5, 1997. The committee would prefer to compile and review a full dossier including information that might support both natural and human-assisted provenance for its three Common Chaffinch reports.

Golden-winged Warbler (Vermivora chrysoptera)

  • 2020-051: 1 at Brooks Estate, Medford, Middlesex, 9/19/2020.

The MARC has taken a conservative stance in reviews of this species, given the frequent hybridization that is especially prevalent at its range limits that are close to Massachusetts and the annual occurrence of known hybrids. This report did not consider and eliminate a hybrid when the bird was being observed, and, although the underparts were described as whitish, the committee thought more critical observation of the face pattern and underparts was required for acceptance. Note, however, that the committee was comfortable endorsing this bird as either a Golden-winged Warbler or a Blue-winged x Golden-winged warbler hybrid.

Swainson’s Warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii)

  • 2020-110: 1 at Tuckernuck Island, Nantucket, 10/3/2020.

This record was difficult for the committee. In a split vote, the majority of members thought that the three-second views at 15–20 feet without binoculars were too brief and distant to warrant acceptance for a bird this unusual.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (Setophaga coronata auduboni)

  • 2020-055: 1 at Beaver Pond Recreation Area, Franklin, Norfolk, 10/4/2020.

Many members took note of the submitter’s comments on the different call note that was heard. However, the committee thought that the physical description, and other supporting details, were not sufficient to rule out the possibility of a Myrtle Warbler (Setophaga coronata coronata), given that fall plumage can be confusing on hatch-year birds.

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)

  • 2021-004: 1 at 579 Meeting House Road, South Chatham, Barnstable, 1/26/2021.

This description was only a single sentence and did not adequately eliminate the possibility of a Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula).

Literature Cited

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