New England: Spring 2022

Spring 2022: 1 Mar–31 May

Greg Hanisek
Recommended citation:

Hanisek, G. 2022. Spring 2022: New England. <> North American Birds.

Shorebirds were noteworthy among a variety of early arrivals. In Massachusetts only two species, American Oystercatcher and Whimbrel, were later than the average arrival date for this century.  An April 11–12 cold front produced what veteran observer Rick Heil considered one of the best April fallouts he’s seen on Plum Island.

Sub-regional Compilers
Louis Bevier (Maine), Kent MacFarland (Vermont), Steve Mirick (New Hampshire), Bob Stymeist, Neil Heyward (Massachusetts), Rachel Farrell (Rhode Island), Frank Mantlik (Connecticut).

Abbreviations  L. Champlain (Vermont side of L. Champlain); Hammonasset (Hammonasset Beach S.P., Madison, New Haven Co, CT); Manomet (Manomet Center for Conservation Studies, Plymouth, Plymouth Co, MA.); Monhegan (Monhegan I., Lincoln Co, ME); Nantucket (Nantucket I., MA); Plum I. (Newburyport, Newbury, Rowley, Ipswich, including Parker River N.W.R., Essex Co, MA).

Despite the recent surge in Black-bellied Whistling-Duck sightings, a flock of 11 near Camden, Knox Co, ME, on 27 Apr–13 May was a stunning local event (E. Obercian, m.ob., ph.).  The only Ross’s Goose was in Longmeadow, Hampden Co, MA, on 9 Mar (Joseph Wojtanowski). Pink-footed Geese, now widespread and annual, were reported from six locations with a United States high of four in both Northampton, Hampshire Co, MA and Longmeadow, Hampden Co, MA, in early March (m.ob., ph.). A Barnacle Goose in Rockland, Knox Co, ME, carried over from winter into mid-May (m.ob., ph.). A very late one and a county first was at Errol, Coos Co, NH, on 18–20 Apr (Lori Charron et al., ph.). A wintering pair of Tundra Swans remained at Goodwin Conservation Center in Windham Co, CT, through 15 Mar (Steve Mayo, m.ob. ph,). These were likely the two seen by many on 16 Mar at Odonta Lake, Pittsfield, Berkshire Co, MA (Gael Hurley et al., ph.). Two also continued from winter on Nantucket, and two were present 14–20 Mar at scattered locations near Lake Champlain in Addison Co, VT (Annette Kalinoski et al., ph.).

A Trumpeter Swan was at Scarborough Marsh, Cumberland Co, ME, on 30 Mar (Brad Woodward et al., ph.), and one at Sesachacha Pond, Nantucket until 27 Mar was an island first (G. Andrews, ph.). The latest were two that stayed until at least 29 May at Fairfield Swamp WMA, Franklin Co, VT (Charlotte Bill et al., ph.). Eurasian Wigeon lingered well into March in all six states, with the latest reported on 13 Apr in Stratford, Fairfield Co, CT (Linda Olsen) and in Addison Co, VT (James Osborn).  A Tufted Duck was present throughout March and April on Nantucket (Trish Pastuszak, ph.).

In a season that produced an eagle from Siberia, there’s really nothing that would compare, but in most years a Willow Ptarmigan would get the bold headline. One was both exciting and disheartening on one day only—30 Apr in Charlton, Worcester Co, MA (Meaghan Keefe, ph.). Just as interesting and disappointing, it later emerged on Facebook that one (most likely the same) had been seen two days earlier less than 20 miles away in West Boyleston. According to Heyward, this is the most southerly record for North America, but not the first for the Bay State. The previous record was on 10 May 1859.  Since 2000 there are single spring records from New York State and Maine and two from Vermont.

Two Eared Grebes lingered into the season, one staying to 5 Mar at Stonington Point, New London Co, CT (Pat Tamborra et al., ph.) and the other until 25 Apr in Marblehead, Essex Co, MA, (A. Damiano et al., ph.). The only Western Grebe was present one day only on 23 May at Pulpit Rocks, Rye, Rockingham Co, NH (Tom Kemp, Stuart Varney, et al., ph.). The only White-winged Dove was found near Orleans, Barnstable Co, MA, on 20 May (Mark Faherty, ph.). A Yellow-billed Cuckoo on 9 Apr on Martha’s Vineyard was the third earliest for Massachusetts (J. Bernier). In addition to now-regular territorial birds in Rhode Island and coastal Massachusetts, single Chuck-will’s-widows were reported from Odiorne Point SP in Rye, Rockingham Co, NH, on 16 May (Steve Mirick, m.ob., ph.) and recorded on 19 May at Rockland, Knox Co, ME (David Jickling). The once-rare Sandhill Crane is now so widespread that the colorful stickpins on the eBird map look like a “blue wave” washing over New England.

Single Black-necked Stilts were on Nantucket on 20–22 May (Chris Duffy et al., ph.),  and 21–27 May at Rocky Neck SP, East Lyme, New London Co, CT (Glenn Williams, m.ob., ph.). A Wilson’s Plover was found on 26 May at Monomoy NWR, Barnstable Co, MA (Joey Negreann, ph.). Seasonal highlights included Northern Lapwings found 7–9 Mar in Greenland, Rockingham Co, NH (Steve Mirick, m.ob., ph) and on 2 Apr in Addison, Washington Co, ME (Thomas Gonye, Izabelle Grimm, Tess Moore, ph.).  A Curlew Sandpiper found on 24 May at Rye Harbor, Rockingham Co, NH, was relocated nearby the next day (Diana Stephens, Katie Towler et al., ph.). A Western Willet last seen on 14 Mar in West Dennis, Barnstable Co, MA, apparently overwintered (v.o.). The season’s most exciting tubenose was a South Polar Skua on a pelagic trip to Cox’s Ledge, Washington Co, RI, on 26 May (Paul L’Etoile, ph.).

Two Little Gulls were at Seabrook, Rockingham Co, NH, on 19 Apr (Steve Mirick et al. ph.). The Granite State had another one, a first-year bird, on 27 May in New Castle, Rockingham Co (Steve Mirick, ph.), and a first-year bird was present on 27 May at Short Beach Park, Stratford, Fairfield Co, CT (Frank Mantlik, ph.). A Franklin’s Gull on the beach at the incomparable Race Point, Barnstable Co, MA, on 28 May was present for only a few minutes (Blair Nikula, ph.).  Also departing quickly was one found on 22 May at Sabattus Pond, Androscoggin Co, ME (Edward Jenkins, Nick Lund, ph.). Single (European) Common Gulls were in Narragansett, Washington Co, RI, on 11 Mar (Alan Kneidel, Sam Miller, Sue Palmer et al., ph.) and in Eastport, Washington Co, ME, from 6–21 Mar (Cameron Cox, ph.).  A Common (Kamchatka) Gull found in February in Stamford, Fairfield Co, CT, remained to at least 5 Mar (Christopher Veale et al., ph.). Connecticut’s second Short-billed Gull cooperated for many observers on 20 Mar at Long Beach in Stratford, Fairfield Co, CT, then moved to a nearby seawall where it also offered good viewing opportunities. The latest report was from 1 Apr at Long Beach (Aidan Kiley, m.ob., ph.). Adding to the excitement of this find was its occurrence two days after Connecticut’s third Slaty-backed Gull was found on 30 Mar at the same location (Jeremy Nance, m.ob., ph.). This was believed to be the same bird present in Central Park, New York City, a few weeks earlier. A third cycle Slaty-backed was found at North Hampton State Beach, Rockingham Co, NH, on 8 Apr (Steve Mirick, ph.).

An unprecedented inland fallout of Arctic Terns, centering on 13 May, produced a total of 66 at six lakes and ponds in CT, including 27 on Bantam Lake in Litchfield, Litchfield Co (Dave Tripp, Dave Mathieu et al., ph). In RI, observers at Worden Pond, Washington Co, had a high count of 30 (Jan St. Jean, Julian Ventres et al., ph). The top Bay State numbers, from 10 counties, were at least 18 at Quabbin Reservoir (Larry Therrien) and 17 flying down the Connecticut River at Hadley on 15 May (Jeremiah Trimble). A single bird was seen on 14 May from opposite sides of the Connecticut River at Hinsdale Setbacks, Cheshire Co, NH (Cory Ross et al. ph) and Windham Co, VT (Colleen Lawlor, Chad Witko), ph.). So the inland event touched all of the region’s states except ME.

A state record-early Caspian Tern was found on 26 Mar at Race Point, Provincetown, Barnstable Co, MA (Peter Flood). Wintering Pacific Loons at Race Point, Provincetown, Barnstable Co, MA, topped out at four on 30 Apr (Peter Flood, m.ob., ph.). A Little Egret x Snowy Egret hybrid was reported on 15 Apr in Rye, Rockingham Co, NH (Steve Mirick, Stuart Varney), and two were at Gisland Farm, Cumberland Co, ME, on April 28 (Doug Hitchcox, et al., ph.).  A state record-early Tricolored Heron appeared on 27 Mar in Westport, Bristol Co, MA (V. Burdette). After an extraordinary surge of Cattle Egret sightings in Fall 2021, there were reports from six locations—three in Massachusetts, two in Connecticut and one each in Rhode Island and Maine. An April surge of White Ibis into the upper Middle Atlantic States presented itself only in the Bay State, but it was quite a flurry: one adult at Wellfleet Bay, Barnstable Co on 11–18 Apr (Josh Jones et al., ph.); one adult at Duxbury, Plymouth Co, on 16–18 Apr (Brian Vigotito et al., ph.), one adult at Ellisville Harbor SP on 17 Apr (Joy Burns, ph.), two adults at Fort Hill, Barnstable Co on 20–23 Apr (Sina Mohammadi et al., ph.), and an immature in Cambridge/Boston, Middlesex/Suffolk Cos on 26–27 Apr (Sam Bloch, m.ob., ph.). There was a final report on 13 May from Scituate Harbor, Plymouth Co (Emma Fowler, ph.). White-faced Ibis made the expected April arrivals at the expected places—Madison, New Haven Co, CT; Newport Co, RI; Rowley, Essex Co, MA; and Scarborough Marsh, Cumberland Co, ME.

There were five Swallow-tailed Kite records from Massachusetts, one in April and four in May, and one from Connecticut in April. Mississippi Kites, away from breeding areas in Connecticut and New Hampshire, were widespread in the southern tier. Seasonally unexpected was a Swainson’s Hawk near Race Point, Barnstable Co, MA, on 13 Apr (Josh Jones, ph.). Outside of Florida it was the season’s only record east of the Detroit area. Winter’s most spectacular bird, the wide-ranging Steller’s Sea-Eagle, was last seen on 5 March at Back River, Sagadahoc Co, ME (Debra Ferguson, John Loz, ph.).

The season’s four Red-headed Woodpeckers, all in the southern tier, comprised two in Rhode Island and one each in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Connecticut hosted its fourth Say’s Phoebe from 19 Mar–2 Apr at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford, Fairfield Co (Tom Murray, m.ob., ph). A Violet-green Swallow, a Connecticut first if accepted, was observed on 8 May in Avon, Hartford Co, CT (Dave Lawton). Now regular in late fall under specific weather conditions, Cave Swallows remain very rare in spring. So of special note were single birds, perhaps one individual, on 14 and 18 Apr in the vicinity of Trustom Pond in Washington Co, RI (Sam Miller et al.). A striking hybrid, an apparent Barn Swallow x Cave Swallow, was at the same Ocean State location on 28 Apr (Bill Thompson, ph.). A Townsend’s Solitaire visited a feeder near Lexington, Middlesex Co, MA, on 1–2 Mar (Henrietta Yelle, ph.). A Varied Thrush was found 13 Apr in South Kingstown, Washington Co, RI (April Alix).

The season’s only Harris’s Sparrow visited feeders in Addison, Addison Co, VT, on 5–6 Mar (John Peckham et al., ph.). A Lark Sparrow was in Pembroke, Washington Co, ME, on 16–17 Mar (Woody Gillies), and at Hammonasset on 22 May (Lisa and Steve Peterson, m.ob., ph.).  A Bullock’s Oriole visited feeders in Northbridge, Worcester Co, MA, on 5–6 Mar (Mary Ess-Why, ph.). Golden-winged Warblers are now restricted to a narrow breeding corridor along Lake Champlain; there were only three reports of May migrants elsewhere in the region. The parulid highlight was a Swainson’s Warbler seen by throngs on 6 May at Middlesex Fells Reservation in Middlesex Co, MA (Jonah Levy, m.ob., ph.). Massachusetts produced two very early Prothonotary Warblers, on 25 Mar at South Cape Beach State Park, Barnstable Co (Mike Tucker, Mary Keleher, ph.) and on 28 Mar on Nantucket (Massachusetts Records, ph.). The farthest north were one found dead at Vinalhaven, Knox Co, ME, on 10 Apr (Banner Moffat, ph.) and live ones on 12 May at Freeport, Cumberland Co, ME (Derek Lovitch et al., ph.) and 15 May at Warren, Knox Co, ME (Susan Keefer et al., ph.). The latest was at Bonnet Shores, Washington Co, RI, on 18 May (Jess Bishop et al., ph.). An unusually large haul of Yellow-throated Warblers included eight each in CT and MA. There were two each in RI and ME. Dates ranged from 17 Apr to 29 May, all singles. A wintering Wilson’s Warbler in Brookline, Suffolk Co, MA, continued to 12 Apr (Bob Stymeist et al.).

Summer Tanagers, in keeping with the recent steep spring increases, were reported from all six states, with a remarkable high of at least 15 locations in Massachusetts. A large majority were coastal as far north as Bar Harbor, Hancock Co, ME, on 23 May (Levi Sheridan, ph.). The northwestern extreme was at South Burlington, Chittenden Co, VT, of 29 Apr (Patricia Folsom, ph.). The single record of Black-headed Grosbeak, an adult male, came from a feeder near Manomet, Plymouth Co, MA, on 20 May (Lisa Schibley et al., ph.). Blue Grosbeak fit the distribution pattern of Summer Tanager, but in lower numbers. They were reported from all states except Vermont, and Massachusetts also led the way with reports from seven locations. The only March Indigo Buntings were in Massachusetts, on 1–4 Mar in Harwich (Mark Faherty, ph.) and on 11 Mar in Nahant (Marshall J. Iliff, ph.). An adult male Painted Bunting visited a private residence at Ocean Bluff, Plymouth Co, MA, on 28 Apr (Bonnie Morrissey, ph.). Three May records consisted of an adult male 2–5 May in Plymouth, Grafton Co, NH (NH Bird Records, ph.); an adult male photographed 3 May in Kennebunk, York Co, ME (Nichole Orchard); and a female type at a yard in Hiram Village was a first for Oxford Co, ME (Sean Smith, ph.).

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 6 Jan 2023.

Photos–New England: Spring 2022

A Willow Ptarmigan, a second for Massachusetts following a 19th Century record, was seen on 30 Apr 2022 at Charlton, Worcester Co. It is believed to be the southernmost sighting for North America. Photo © Meaghan Keefe.

This Common (European) Gull found on 11 Mar 2022 at Narragansett, Washington Co, was one of two found in New England in Spring 2022. Photo © Sue Palmer.

A Curlew Sandpiper found on 24 May 2022 at Rye Beach, Rockingham Co, New Hampshire was relocated the next day in nearby Hampton. Photo © Diana Stephens.

Connecticut’s second Short-billed Gull, found on 20 Mar 2022 at Long Beach in Stratford, Fairfield Co, was relocated briefly on 1 Apr. Photo © Frank Mantlik.

Mostly resembling a Barn Swallow, but with a buffy rump and shallow tail forks, this apparent Barn Swallow x Cave Swallow was quite a surprise for Rhode Island on 28 Apr 2022 at Trustom Pond SP in Washington Co. Photo © Bill Thompson.

A fourth for Connecticut, this Say’s Phoebe, shown here on 21 Mar 2022 in Stratford, Fairfield Co, was present 19 Mar–2 Apr at Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Photo © Bruce Finnan.