Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Birding Community Newsletter

Issue 2017-04 | Friday, March 18, 2017 | 568 Subscribers
A Heavy Price To Pay
Punishing, cold knocks New England back into the deep freeze, setting the stage for an approaching Nor'easter
Contrasting the warm glow of the Worm Moon, a thin blanket of fresh snow muffles the sound of a burning cold wind that whistles through the Rumney Marshes. The wide open plains of the ACEC's last remaining grassland is once again left to the hardy winter visitors who dawdle anxiously in wait for the sirens call back north.  Driven into the marshes for a forgotten winter clam-worm migration, the 'chattering plovers' are paying a heavy price to be here first. 
  March 12, 2017 TRIP REPORT
Bear Creek Sanctuary
(restricted access) , Essex, Massachusetts, US

March 12, 2017
9:00 AM - 11:34 PM

Protocol: Traveling

3.25 Mile(s)

26 Bird Species
Canada Goose   60

American Black Duck   30

White-winged Scoter   2

Bufflehead   1

Wild Turkey   3    
One male got a bit agressive with a member of our party. Geoff "displayed," and backed him off!

Northern Harrier   1

Sharp-shinned Hawk   1
    Patrolling the feeders at the shack.

Bald Eagle   1    
Scared up a bunch of ducks & geese out of the marshes on the north side of the property. Chased on black duck, unsuccessfully, and flew south.

Red-tailed Hawk   1

Herring Gull   12

Great Black-backed Gull   2

Rock Pigeon   4

Mourning Dove  2

Short-eared Owl   2    
Kicked up separately as we walked the property. Each floated over the ridges, hunted for a bit, and dropped back down.

Blue Jay   2

Horned Lark   60    
Moving about in small flocks, usually settling down on one of the gravel roads.

Black-capped Chickadee   6

American Robin   2

Northern Mockingbird   1

European Starling   6

American Tree Sparrow   12

White-throated Sparrow   1

Song Sparrow   3

Northern Cardinal   6

Red-winged Blackbird   60

Eastern Meadowlark   2    
Like most of today's birds, these 2 were kicked up by our presence, flew about a bit in the heavy wind, and settled back down into the grasses.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk
This week's bird of the week is the Sharp-shinned Hawk spotted by Paul while it was patrolling the thickets.  This fierce little accipiter is North America's smallest Hawk, and he's been keeping the songbirds near the training center on their toes for a few weeks now.  Like the Peregrine Falcon featured in last weeks newsletter, the Sharp-shinned Hawk population is also recovering from the devastating effects of the widespread use of the pesticide DDT.

Runner-up this week goes to the pair of Eastern Meadowlarks spotted by Rick in the Queen Anne's Lace.  A mere stones throw away from where Patrick spotted them last week, and yet again, less than 100 yards away from two Short-eared Owls.  It has been fun watching this reoccurring pattern unfold this season.  Is the Queen Anne's Lace another clue?
The Smith's Longspur has returned to the grasslands of the Rumney Marsh ACEC
The Smith's Longspur,  Calcarius pictus, was first recorded at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in January of 2016. This was the first time a Smith's had been observed in Massachusetts in over 40 years.

At that time, the bird was believed to be a young bird that had gotten 'lost' on its first migration south.  Two weeks after confirming the identity, the bird continued on its way.

On Wednesday March 15, the Ides of March, a Smith's Longspur was once again spotted at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.  Given the date, and the weather, it is believed that this bird is traveling north.  

There is no real way to confirm that this is the same bird from 2016.  But considering how rare the Smith's Longspur is in Massachusetts, and that it is stopping at the Sanctuary while heading back to its breeding grounds on the subarctic tundra, it is hard to believe its not.  

Welcome back young bird

In celebration of the return of our 'prodigal son' we will be hosting additional tours on Wednesdays starting at 10 a.m.  If you are interested in attending the Wednesday, March 22 tour please let us know you will be attending here.

We are currently planning our spring and summer
workshop schedule at the Sanctuary
Salt Marsh Resiliency - *Updated*
This season we will be taking a special interest in salt marshes.  Lately, it is difficult to go through a day without hearing a news story on sea level rise or global climate change.  For salt marshes, the threat of sea level rise is of great concern.  Existing in a narrow band between mean sea level and extreme high tide, marshes need to migrate inland or increase in elevation to survive. 

Introduction to Coastal Wetlands - Saturday, May 13
Information and a sign-up sheet will be posted on a separate web page soon.
Salt Marsh Sparrow
Salt Marsh Sparrows are solely dependent on salt marshes, and because they are, this sparrow is predicted to be the first vertebrate species in this region to become extinct due to sea level rise.   Based on the eBird database, the Rumney Marshes ACEC has a stable Salt Marsh Sparrow population. This season we would like to establish a population baseline for use in future restoration efforts.  

Innovative Invasive Species Control
Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary has nearly two decades of experience controlling Phragmites australis without the use of harsh chemicals.   With increasing health concerns about the use of herbicides and dwindling management budgets, methodologies that focus on trajectory stabilization are returning to the forefront of resource management.
What does the Sanctuary do to manage the salt marshes?
Thank you,
Thank you for your question and interest in our salt marsh management plan.  The greatest amount of management effort in the salt marsh areas of the Sanctuary occurred during the construction phases from 1998-2004.  During this period, we restored 3 acres of salt marsh  while creating a 1.5 mile living shoreline that surrounds the upland portions of the Sanctuary.

Since that time, we have monitored our restored salt marsh and the marshes throughout the  estuary.  Some of the observations we have made are not unusual for estuaries that have intensively developed contributing watersheds.  In the future we will be sharing our observations to raise awareness and potentially help develop interest in addressing the impacts of storm-water runoff, excessive nutrients, subsidence, and sea level rise.  
  The next scheduled nature walks are:
Sunday, March 19 at 9 a.m.
Wednesday, March 22 at 10 a.m.
Special thanks to Soheil, Mara, Patrick, Paul, Rick and everyone else who contributed pictures and support this week.  Without your help, this publication could not be produced.

Additional pictures from this week's walk:
The Wheelabrator Saugus Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is a 370-acre property abutting a 2,274-acre estuary on the outskirts of Boston, located in the heart of the Rumney Marshes ACEC. Maintained and managed grasslands, salt marshes, shrublands and maturing woodlands combine as one of the largest bird migration staging areas on the North Shore and a habitat for nearly 200 bird species, as well as other wildlife such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons and snakes. Visitors can enjoy the more than 14,000 feet of walking trails that permeate the site, a half-acre exhibit garden, and meeting and lecture areas, which are scattered throughout nine of the restored ecosystems. Situated directly behind Wheelabrator Saugus, the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is maintained and managed by Geoff Wilson of Northeast Wetland Restoration. Follow along with us as the birds change with each passing season!