New England: Winter 2021–2022

Winter 2021–2022: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Greg Hanisek

Recommended citation:

Hanisek, G. 2021. Winter 2021–2022: New England. <> North American Birds.

In New England’s human epicenter, Boston, January provided a feel for this winter’s weather diversity. Temperatures hit a high of 54F on New Year’s Day, but the average of 32 degrees was 2.5 degrees colder than normal for the month. Then the closing days brought the Blizzard of 2022, which as noted by Stymeist was the first in four years and buried the city under 23.6 inches of snow. That made it the Hub’s second largest on record for the month.

Sub-regional Compilers
L. Bevier (Maine), R. Stymeist (Massachusetts), S. Mirick (New Hampshire), R. Farrell (Rhode Island), K. MacFarland (Vermont).

Abbreviations L. Champlain (Vermont side of L. Champlain); Hammonasset (Hammonassett 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).

Geese through Shorebirds

Without precedent were five adult Ross’s Geese at Weekapaug Breachway, Washington Co, RI on 13 Dec (Barbara Seith., phs.). Greater White-fronted Geese were widely reported in the southern tier; the only report in the north came from Bremen, Lincoln Co, ME, 17–22 Jan (Don Reimer et al.). A remarkable four Pink-footed Geese were found on 11 Dec in Longmeadow, Hampden Co, MA (Jeremy Spool, Meghadeepa Maity, phs.) and were relocated on 19 Dec in South Windsor, Hartford Co, CT (Dave Lawton et al., phs.). One to two were seen in that bi-state area through 18 Dec (m.ob., phs.). One was in Bristol Co, MA, on 14–21 Dec (Dan MacKinnon et al. phs.). Later two were in Hadley, Hampshire Co, MA, on 4 Jan (Mary McKitrick et al., phs.), with one in nearby Northampton on 11 Jan (Cory Elowe). A Black Brant, the western subspecies, was in New Bedfod, Bristol Co, MA, in late December (Joel & Mark Eckerson, phs.). Far to the east one was in Duxbury, Plymouth Co, MA, 13–30 Jan (Jackson Frost et al.). The only report of a Barnacle Goose came from Rockland Harbor, Knox Co, ME, in December and January (Don Reimer et al., phs.).

The only Trumpeter Swan was an immature bird on Nantucket throughout January (David Bates et al., phs). Nantucket also has two Tundra Swans on 1–3 Jan (David Bates et al., phs.), and two were at Hampton, Windham Co, CT on 8 Dec–6 Jan (Jeff Fengler et al., phs.). Two Tufted Ducks (together on Nantucket) were reported from MA, with singles in CT and RI. The only inland Harlequin Duck was at Chimney Point, Addison Co, VT, on Jan. 1 (Stacey Robinson). In December South Watuppa Pond in Fall River, Bristol Co, MA, hosted 5,900 Ruddy Ducks, an amazing high count by an order of magnitude above normal (Marshall J. Iliff, phs.).

Single Eared Grebes were at Marblehead, Essex Co, MA, on Jan 1–25 (Andy Sanford et al., phs.) and at Stonington Point, New London Co, CT, on 25 Jan through the period (Phil Rusch et al., phs.). A Chuck-will’s-widow was photographed on the record late date of 9 Dec on Martha’s Vineyard (K. Stafford). Rufous Hummingbirds were present to 16 Jan in Coventry, Kent Co, RI (Carlos Pedro et al., phs.); to 3 Jan in Brookline, Norfolk Co, MA (Matthew Garvey et al.) and into January in Hampden Co, MA (A. Hill). A Yellow Rail on 19 Dec at Nauset Beach, Orleans, Barnstable Co, MA, was far north of seasonal expectations (Nick Tepper, phs.). Connecticut’s second Northern Lapwing made a one-day appearance on 16 Dec at the Wheeler Marsh section of the Milford Point Coastal Center, New Haven Co (Tom Murray, m.ob., phs.). Maine’s fourth was present for a few hours on 8 Dec on private property at Crockett Cove, Knox Co (Dalton McCoole, phs.). There were several reports during the month from Newfoundland to Maryland.

Alcids through Raptors

A flight of 1575 Razorbills on 10 Dec at Gooseberry Neck, Westport, Bristol Co was the third highest count for MA away from Cape Cod (Marshall J. Iliff). The only Pacific Loon reports were at Race Point, Barnstable Co, MA, throughout the period with two noted on 22 Jan (Peter Flood et al., phs.). A Magnificent Frigatebird, apparently an adult female, caused a Christmas Bird Count scramble 2 Jan on Nantucket when it conveniently posed on a utility wire (Jeremiah Trimble, m.ob., phs.). A Brown Pelican was photographed on 10 Jan in Dartmouth, Bristol Co, MA (M. Gardner).

New England birders had been on high alert since July, when a Steller’s Sea-Eagle created seismic anticipation with an appearance in Quebec. November sightings in Nova Scotia raised hopes, and then it happened. A report of the bird’s presence in the Somerset area, Bristol Co, MA, led to a successful organized search at first light on 20 Dec, resulting in hundreds of observers descending on the Taunton River to see this spectacular and spectacularly rare raptor from several vantage points that day only (Brian Cassidy, David Ennis and Jonathan, Joel and Matthew Eckerson, et al., phs.). It turned out that the eagle had been present for at least eight days before word reached the birding public. After its brief sojourn to MA, the superstar eagle appeared in coastal Maine, from Harpswell, Cumberland Co, to Pemaquid, Lincoln Co, into February.

Woodpeckers through Sparrows

The broad increase in the region’s Pileated Woodpeckers gets relatively little notice, but a total of 46 on the Concord (MA) CBC was illustrative. The only Western Kingbirds were one on 3 Jan on Nantucket (Jeremiah Trimble, phs.) and a long-stayer at Hammonasset that was found dead on 12 Jan (Gina Nichiol, m.ob., phs.). Maine’s third well-documented Gray Kingbird was found on 3 Dec at Fortunes Rocks, York Co (Loren Merrill et al.). It was present though 15 Dec. A Bell’s Vireo present since 16 Oct remained at Fort Hill, Eastham, Barnstable Co, MA through at least 10 Jan (Nancy Villone et al., phs.). Two Sedge Wrens were found 2 Jan on the Nantucket CBC. Massachusetts had two Townsend’s Solitaires, on 4 Dec at Mount Tom State Reservation, Hampden Co (Derek Allard) and 27–28 Feb at Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield, Berkshire Co (Kylon Hanson et al., phs.). An adult female Varied Thrush was seen on 17 Jan in Fitzwilliam Township, Cheshire Co, NH (Robin Lawler, phs.), and one was at Falmouth, Barnstable Co, MA, from 30 Jan to 3 Feb (J. Hughes, phs.). Lark Sparrows were present at a feeder in Pembroke, Washington Co, ME, during the first half of January (Woody Gillies) and in Shelton, Fairfield Co, CT, of 21 Jan (DT Bowen). There were seven widely scattered reports of Clay-colored Sparrow, now little more than a marginal winter rarity. A Harris’s Sparrow found 14 Jan in Vergennes, Addison Co, VT, was present through at least 30 Jan (Henry Trombley, et al., phs.).

Blackbirds through Buntings

Yellow-headed Blackbirds were in Moosup, Windhan Co, CT, on 10 Jan (Phil Rusch) and Hadley, Hampshire Co, MA, on Feb. 11 (Larry Therrien). The only Western Meadowlark, first seen in November, was in Hadley, Hampshire Co, MA, to 13 Jan (Larry Therrien et al., phs.). A Bullock’s Oriole was in Nobleboro, Lincoln Co, ME, in January (Jeff Cherry et al., phs.). A Northern Waterthrush remained to at least 30 Jan on Nantucket (Burton Balkind). American Restarts were in Clinton, Middlesex Co, CT, 1–3 Jan (Micky Komara, phs.), and on the Nantucket CBC on 2 Jan (Frank Gallo et al., phs.). The only report of a Yellow-throated Warbler came from a feeder in Providence, RI, during a 7 Jan snowstorm (Craig Colson, phs.). The season’s only Townsend’s Warbler visited a feeder in Cape Elizabeth, Cumberland Co, ME, from 8–26 Jan (Debbie Schulz et al.). The latest Prairie Warbler was present to at least 10 Jan in Hampton, Rockingham Co, NH (SM et al., phs.). A Wilson’s Warbler made it to 28 Jan at a wastewater treatment plant in Branford, New Haven Co, CT (Sara Zagorski, m.ob., phs.), and another remained to 27 Jan at McLaugjhlin Woods, Suffolk Co, MA, (Bob Stymeist et al., phs.). A Summer Tanager was present to 25 Jan at Sunderland, Franklin Co, MA (Ernie LeBlanc et al., phs.). Western Tanager reports consisted of six in MA, two in RI and one in CT. An adult male Painted Bunting was at a feeder in Jamestown, Newport Co, RI, through much of January (Jan St. Jean et al.). They also were at three locations on Cape Cod, MA, and at a feeder in Stonington, New London Co, CT, on Feb. 6 (Catherine Cindrich).

Report processed by José Ramírez-Garofalo, 12 Jul 2022.

Photos–New England: Winter 2021–2022

The Christmas Bird Count on Nantucket I., MA, produced a flurry of interesting species on 2 Jan 2022, but every one of them was eclipsed by a Magnificent Frigatebird found perched on a utility wire. It was believed to be an adult female and was the only record north of Florida for the period. Photo © Jeremiah Trimble.

There was no minimizing the impact of the Steller’s Sea-Eagle that descended on the Taunton River in Bristol Co, which was flatly labeled in Bird Observer magazine “the undisputed birding highlight in Massachusetts so far in the twenty-first century.” More than 400 people saw it on 20 Dec 2021, but it apparently arrived in the area as early as 10 Dec. Photo © Justin Lawson.

Maine’s third well-documented Gray Kingbird was present 3-15 Dec 2021 at Fortune’s Rocks, York Co. It gorged on Kelp Flies (possibly Coelopa frigida) during its stay, shown here on 4 Dec. Photo © Weston Barker

Connecticut’s second Northern Lapwing drew a quickly assembled crowd during its one-day say on 16 Dec 2021 in Wheeler Marsh at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center in Milford, New Haven Co. The first record was in 2010. Photo © Paul Fusco.

Barely known in the US in the 20th century, the Pink-footed Goose’s now annual presence in New England took another leap that included a roaming flock of four found on 19 Dec 2021 in South Windsor, Hartford Co, CT. Photo © Jeff Fengler.