2013 Boston Christmas Bird Count- Jamaica Plain Sector

This year’s Boston Christmas Bird Count (BCBC)  was origionaly scheduled for Sunday December 15, but a wet and heavy snowstorm was considered too hazardous for road and foot traffic so it was postponed to Saturday the 21st.  The weather was warmer, but the birding was not so hot.

This was the 41st Greater Boston Christmas Bird Count (actually some local areas, including Jamaica Plain, have been covered since the very first CBC in 1900).  For those who are not familiar with the CBC, groups of dedicated birders cover sections of territory within a 15 mile diameter circle, counting every bird seen or heard well enough to be identified.  Our local group of seven covered the Emerald Necklace from the Riverway through Leverett Pond, Olmsted Park, Jamaica Pond, the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.  In addition Forest Hills Cemetery and the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan were canvased.

Many of the local ponds were nearly frozen over but we did manage to find some ducks in Jamaica Pond and areas downstream along the Muddy River.  There were ten species of waterfowl on the big pond, all amassed in an area of open water off Perkins Street.  Among them were two female Northern Pintails, subtle beauties blending in with the many Mallards:


Female Northern Pintail
Photo: Bob Mayer

We moved on to Leverett Pond where I had seen two males of the same species on a scouting trip the day before.  One of the mysteries of following ducks in winter is when and where they arrive and then move on – and why.   When a pond freezes over completely the waterfowl obviously must move.  But lots of movement from one pond to another takes place for reasons only the birds know.  A week earlier there were at least 40 Ruddy Ducks on Jamaica Pond; on count day only two.  Of the 40+ Wood Ducks on Leverett Pond two weeks ago, half vanished and the rest showed up on Jamaica Pond when  the former pond iced up. Today there were none on either pond (but two on tiny Willow Pond in between).  “My” pintails on Leverett Pond were gone; too bad, because they are a truly spectacular bird:


Male Northern Pintail
Photo: Bob Mayer

We picked up two more species on this narrow pond-  Common Merganser and Ring-necked Duck.  Here is a shot of some of the ring-necks:


Three male Ring-necked ducks. Note the prominent ring pattern on their bills.
Photo: Bob Mayer


While we were counting the more common waterfowl, the six Common Mergansers suddenly took flight.  I wonder where they will next show up?

The rest of the day- another four hours- was spent looking for land birds.  We divided into smaller groups and everyone searched intently. Nonetheless the overall numbers and species diversity was below average for a Boston count.  Our group had lots of European Starlings, American Robins, and some of the commoner sparrows were ticked off as well. We had five woodpecker species, mostly Downy Woodpeckers:


Downy Woodpecker, a male showing his gender specific red crown
Photo: Bob Mayer

Some of us had started the hunt before daybreak seeking owls.  That quest was minimally successful when they found only two Eastern Screech-0wls, both in Franklin Park.  Another was heard calling in the Arboretum mid-day.

By mid-afternoon we had covered our territory and most of us headed home.  Our chief compiler joined a meeting of reporters from other Boston sectors to draw up the final tally.  All of that information will then be added to the overall numbers as other states and countries complete their counts; then comparisons can be made to past years. Some species will have declined, others may have increased, and area maps will need to be modified to reflect shifts in the avian population.

I will be leading a walk in the Arnold Arboretum on Sunday January 12th beginning at the main gate at 8:30, weather permitting.

Happy New Year and good birding in 2014!


The GBCBC report has just been sent out, here it is:

The Greater Boston CBC was held on Saturday postponed from last Sunday , 83 participants tallied 108 species, slightly less than the average of 116 over the last ten years. The count also recorded Eurasian Green-winged Teal and Ipswich Sparrow and one exotic- a Mandarin Duck in Saugus (not sure if it is the same one from Leverett Pond which was not seen). So far there was an additional six species seen during count period. The cold weather froze up many of the ponds and  some dabbling ducks were missed and in low numbers. The cold weather also had an effect on passerines that are often noted in a milder winter. Highlights included the White-winged Dove, a second record for the Boston count, a Lark Sparrow, also just the second record.  Others were Snow Goose, Eastern Phoebe, Marsh Wren, Chipping Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark and Rusty Blackbird. Note the record number of Snowy Owls-28, previous high was 21. Norman Smith counted 18 at Logan Airport.  So far this year he has banded 42 Snowies, 32 from Logan Airport!!
Finally the gull extravaganza at Revere Beach  is a sight to see, thousands of sea clams washed ashore during last weeks storm and a feeding frenzy is underway, the Boston CBC recorded a recorded  number of 20 Iceland and 3 Glaucous and one or two possible Thayer’s to be determined.

SNOW GOOSE  1  -Saugus
Canada Goose   3360
Brant   178
Mute Swan    91
Wood Duck 4
(Mandarin Duck)  1- Saugus
American Wigeon  3
American Black Duck  346
Mallard  2405
Northern Pintail  3
Green-winged Teal  5
Eurasian Green-winged Teal  1- Newton
Canvasback  7
Ring-necked Duck  41
Greater Scaup  89
Lesser Scaup  4
Common Eider  1215
Surf Scoter  99
White-winged Scoter  462
Black Scoter  1
Long-tailed Duck  10
Bufflehead  349
Common Goldeneye 150
(Barrow’s Goldeneye)  Count Week- S. Boston
Hooded Merganser  201
Common Merganser  226
Red-breasted Merganser 217
Ruddy Duck  6
Wild Turkey  83  New High Count
Red-throated Loon  6
Common Loon  13
Pied-billed Grebe  9
Horned Grebe  80
Red-necked Grebe  6
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Great Cormorant  3
Great Blue Heron  26
Bald Eagle  2
Northern Harrier  13  New High Count
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper’s Hawk  16
(Red-shouldered Hawk)  Count Week
Red-tailed Hawk  94
Rough-legged Hawk  2- Saugus
American Kestrel  3
(Merlin)   Count Week
Peregrine Falcon  8
American Coot  38
Ruddy Turnstone  6
Sanderling  32
Dunlin   32
Wilson’s Snipe  1
Ring-billed Gull  1821
Herring Gull  7492
Iceland Gull  20  New High Count
(Lesser Black-backed Gull)  Count Week
GLAUCOUS GULL 3  Revere Beach  New High Count
Great Black-backed Gull  405
Rock Pigeon  859
Mourning Dove  723
Eastern Screech Owl  27
Great Horned Owl  12
Snowy Owl   28  New High Count
Barred Owl  1  Fenway
(Short-eared Owl)  Count Week
Belted Kingfisher  5
Red-bellied Woodpecker  53
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  7  New High Count
Downy Woodpecker  271
Hairy Woodpecker  24
Northern Flicker  27
Blue Jay  796
American Crow  401
Fish Crow  173
Horned Lark  30
Black-capped Chickadee  965
Tufted Titmouse  398
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch 299
Brown Creeper  12
Carolina Wren  109  New High Count
Winter Wren  3
MARSH WREN  1   Neponset
Golden-crowned Kinglet  44
Eastern Bluebird  2
Hermit Thrush  7
American Robin   3080
Northern Mockingbird  102
Brown Thrasher  1  Thompson I.
European Starling  6211
Cedar Waxwing   46
Yellow-rumped Warbler  12
Eastern Towhee 1  Thompson I.
American Tree Sparrow  106
(Clay-colored Sparrow)  1  Medford- Count Week
LARK SPARROW  1  Medford
Savannah Sparrow  11
(Ipswich Sparrow)  1
Fox Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  390
Swamp Sparrow  10
White-throated Sparrow  363
Dark-eyed Junco  1027
Snow Bunting  119
Northern Cardinal  441
Red-winged Blackbird  95
RUSTY BLACKBIRD  7  Brookline and Belmont
Common Grackle  95
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
House Finch  383
American Goldfinch  346
House Sparrow  3493

108 species plus  Eurasian Green-winged Teal, Ipswich Sparrow and exotic Mandarin Duck, in addition there were six Count Week birds not seen on count day

Bob Stymeist, compiler
Arlington, MA











Jamaica Pond BBC Walk with side trip to Leverett Pond

The weather forecast called for the first frozen precipitation in Boston, but by the time our  walk began the skies were clear.  Six birders joined me for this Brookline Bird Club sponsored walk which focused on waterfowl.  There were no surprises but we had good looks at the usual avian visitors for this time of year.  The Hooded Mergansers stole the show with the male’s flashy finery and the subtle but equally lovely plumage of the females.


Male And female Hooded Mergansers
Photo: Bob Mayer


We also saw a good number of “stifftails”, or Ruddy Ducks, as they bobbed up and down in the water or cruised around in rafts, apparently asleep.


A pair of Ruddy Ducks, showing the upright tails that give them their nickname. The male, on the right, shows the ruddy coloration on the breast and the distinctive white patch on his cheek.
Photo: Bob Mayer

We observed a large number of American Coots that are reliable on Jamaica Pond every winter unless it ices over; and also located a couple of Pied-billed Grebes.

Here is the complete list of birds seen on or around the pond (some numbers are approximate):

Jamaica Pond, Suffolk, US-MA
Dec 7, 2013 8:30 AM – 9:20 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments:    BBC walk, 7 participants, temp 36, clouds and sun
19 species

Canada Goose  150
Mallard  80
Hooded Merganser  22
Ruddy Duck  37
Pied-billed Grebe  2
American Coot  48
Ring-billed Gull  45
Herring Gull  25
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Rock Pigeon  6
Downy Woodpecker  1
American Crow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Tufted Titmouse  2
American Robin  15
European Starling  20
Dark-eyed Junco  5
American Goldfinch  6
House Sparrow  12

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15882657

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

Following our scheduled walk, the group decided to go farther down the Muddy River to Leverett Pond to see a Mandarin Duck that had been seen regularly there for the last several weeks.  This duck almost certainly escaped from a zoo or private collector as wild specimens do not exist in this country.  We had no luck finding it.  Many of the Wood Ducks that this exotic escape was hanging out with were gone, and he apparently went with them. Here is an image of the duck taken about a week ago:


Male Mandarin Duck,  Aix galericulata, with female Wood Duck on left
Photo: Bob Mayer

About a dozen Wood Ducks remained and we had good looks at them as well as two Ring-necked ducks and a lovely Great Blue Heron.


A group of Wood Ducks on Leverett Pond. The Mandarin Duck escape and two male Mallards are also in this image, taken in late November.
Photo: Bob Mayer


Here is the list from Leverett Pond-Olmsted Park:

Olmsted Park–Leverett Pond, Suffolk, US-MA
Dec 7, 2013 9:45 AM – 10:10 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
Comments:     36, sunny
14 species

Canada Goose  40
Wood Duck  13
American Black Duck  10
Mallard  30
Ring-necked Duck  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Ring-billed Gull  15
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  3
Tufted Titmouse  2
American Robin  5
Northern Cardinal  1
House Sparrow  4

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S15882735

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

There have been many other species of waterfowl seen over the years on these two ponds; to read about them see my posts from last year at Jamaica Pond Ducks and Rare Birds & Odd Ducks at Jamaica Pond.

My next BBC walk will kick off the 2014 season  on Sunday January 12, 2014 at 8:30AM beginning from the main gate in the Arnold Arboretum (see the Arboretum website or the BBC Blue Guide for more details).

Good Birding!