Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Birding Community Newsletter

Issue 2017-05 | Tuesday, March 21, 2017 | 712 Subscribers
Those Who Seek
Seasonally cool temperatures and building winds are the signs of a narrow miss by a passing coastal storm south of the Cape 
Keeping tight ranks on a decided march, those who seek, traverse the last remaining grasslands in the Rumney Marshes ACEC.  While the white owl maintains an ever watchful eye on the seekers, contrasting colored visitors with talons too small for their leggings, boldly kite the grassy slopes of the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary. 
  March 19, 2017 TRIP REPORT
Bear Creek Sanctuary
(restricted access) , Essex, Massachusetts, US

March 19, 2017
8:33 AM - 12:13 PM

Protocol: Traveling

2.1 Mile(s)

39 Bird Species

Snow Goose   4     3 adults; 1 immature; continuing;

Canada Goose  312

American Black Duck   3

Mallard   10

Bufflehead   4

Red-breasted Merganser   8

Northern Harrier   1

Sharp-shinned Hawk   1

Red-tailed Hawk   3

Rough-legged Hawk   2     Unusual: one lighter bird; one dark; photos; light bird tussled with SEOW for a few minutes.

Killdeer   3

Ring-billed Gull   20

Herring Gull   196

Great Black-backed Gull   27

Rock Pigeon   32

Mourning Dove   14

Snowy Owl   1     Perched on top of landfill

Short-eared Owl   1     One fighting with RLHA;

Downy Woodpecker   2

American Kestrel   1

Blue Jay   7

American Crow   8

Horned Lark   39

Black-capped Chickadee   6

White-breasted Nuthatch   1

American Robin   12

Northern Mockingbird   1

European Starling   125

Smith's Longspur   1     Mega; originally found Wednesday and photographed very well on Thursday for confirmation by Geoff Wilson; audio and images obtained today; fed very secretively in short grass along roadsides though originally encountered today on upper part of cap in shorter grass areas;

American Tree Sparrow   36

Dark-eyed Junco   2

White-throated Sparrow   5

Savannah Sparrow   6

Song Sparrow   18

Northern Cardinal   5

Red-winged Blackbird   360

Common Grackle   146

House Finch   4

House Sparrow   65

View this checklist online at

On a more personal note, there were so many great trip reports submitted for this week's walk.   It is worth taking a few minutes to read each 19 Mar 2017 report on the recent visits page.

What struck me most was how the combined reports offered a much wider perspective on the trip.  The sheer size of the party, with 54 participants, created a more spread out spatial relationship between observers to their subjects.  Each individual's view was then reflected in their insightful comments and stunning photographs.  Reading the multiple reports offered a much richer and more fulfilling experience.  It was beautiful, thank you.
The Smith's Longspur

The March

Acting as one, a group 54 strong, traverses the grassland of the Rumney Marshes ACEC.  With an unwavering focus and dedication, the leading edge of the procession take no notice of the white owl perched prominently on the crest of a ridge.

The Search

During the time for which that they seek remained unfound, a growing concern builds in the hearts of those present.  A faint ‘Trill’ carrying across the grassland, alerts one seeker of that for which they search, still remains.


The Find

The sharp ear, and the keen eye, of the one who finds, rewards the many with a view of a treasure rarely found in Massachusetts.

The warmth of the climbing March sun melts back the snow, uncovering fresh grasslands to create additional foraging areas for spring migrating passer-byers to seek respite.

Expanding their search back and forth across the exposed slopes, 'would be viewers' search for the Smith’s Longspur that has returned to the last remaining grasslands of the Rumney Marsh ACEC by the favorable winds of the preceding week's Nor'easter.

Betrayed by its call, the younger of the Trimbles pivots the search towards a melody caught drifting by in the breeze.  Inching forward, a half step at a time, the group narrows the gap.   With sharp skills honed over a lifetime, the ‘searched for’ becomes found, as the ‘would be’ become viewers.

Our Apology

Our sincerest apology goes out to long time friend of the Sanctuary, Alan.  In a past issue we referred to the Smith's Longspur spotted at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in January of 2016 as the first Smith's Longspur spotted in Massachusetts in over 40 years.  It took less than three minutes for the first of many subscribers to point out that Alan spotted a Smith's Longspur in Nahant in November of 2014.  Alan's sighting appears to be the first sighting of the Smith's Longspur in the State since 1968.  Sorry Alan, please accept our sincerest apology.
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.
  The next scheduled nature walks are:
Wednesday, March 22 at 10 a.m.
Sunday, March 26 at 9 a.m.
Special thanks to Soheil, Alan, Jeremiah, Mara, Ted, Chris, 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!