Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Birding Community Newsletter

Issue 2017-06 | Friday, March 31, 2017 | 785 Subscribers
The Waiting
Warm sunshine and gentle breezes carry the hint of spring through the grassland of the Rumney Marshes ACEC
The mark etched by the passing equinox offers a glimmer of hope for those held strong by the forlorn grip of winter.  The climbing sun and lengthening days, bathe the vales of the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary in the warmth of the season.  The waiting is over... 
  March 26, 2017 TRIP REPORT
Bear Creek Sanctuary
(restricted access) , Essex, Massachusetts, US

March 26, 2017
9:03 AM - 12:33 PM

Protocol: Traveling

2.3 Mile(s)

37 Bird Species

Comments:     Very large group to see the Smith's Longspur. Sunny and a light breeze.
37 species (+1 other taxa)

Brant   85     Potential undercount

Canada Goose   200

American Black Duck   16

Mallard   2

Surf Scoter   3

White-winged Scoter   2

Bufflehead   8

Red-breasted Merganser   7

Common Loon   2

Northern Harrier   1

Bald Eagle   1     2nd year juvenile flyover

Red-tailed Hawk   3

Killdeer  30     At a minimum

Wilson's Snipe   2

Ring-billed Gull   4

Herring Gull   25

Great Black-backed Gull   3

gull sp.  75

Rock Pigeon   2

Mourning Dove   2

Short-eared Owl   4

American Kestrel   1

Peregrine Falcon   1

American Crow  4

Horned Lark   75     3 large flocks seen

Black-capped Chickadee   3

American Robin   14

European Starling   50

Smith's Longspur   1     Continuing bird. Seen and heard by group. A Lapland Longspur was seen by several other members of the group.

Snow Bunting   12     Seen well by several members of the group.

American Tree Sparrow   4

Chipping Sparrow   1     Seen and heard by several in the group at feeders.

Song Sparrow   11

Northern Cardinal   2

Red-winged Blackbird   15

Eastern Meadowlark   2

Common Grackle   9

House Sparrow   5

View this checklist online at

The pictures contained in this week's newsletter are from two very well attended walks.  On Wednesday, March 22 the Sanctuary greeted 55 visitors.  The next walk on Sunday, March 26 set a new Sanctuary record with 71 visitors.

In a ten day period the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary has hosted 210 friends who came to see the Smith's Longspur.  Thank you, we have enjoyed every minute of it. 
The Smith's Longspur
Very popular indeed.  Many of our friends braved the cold temperatures and fierce winds just to get a few brief glimpses of this subarctic visitor.  

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird database, this is only the fourth time that the Smith's Longspur has been recorded in the state of Massachusetts.

This is the second recording of the Smith's Longspur in the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary.  Our first recording of the Smith's at the Sanctuary was in January of 2016.  

The bird is not banded, so there is really no way to determine if this is a new bird or a returning bird.  But anecdotally, there are more than a few indicators that imply that this may be the same bird.  

Given how rare the Smith's Longspur is in this area, if another Smith's is located at the Sanctuary in the near future, it would strongly imply that this is the same individual.  That would also go on to imply that the bird has imprinted on an alternative migratory path that includes relying on the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary as a stopover location during its journey.   
Other Recent Mega-rarity Species Recorded at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
On June 7th, 2016 a Fork-tailed Flycatcher was recorded in the eastern valley of the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary for the better part of a week.
On December 20th, 2015 a Swainson's Hawk was recorded in the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary for a day before moving further south.
On October 26th, 2014 a Ruff was recorded in the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary for almost two weeks.
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 walk is:
Sunday, April 2 at 9 a.m.
Special thanks to Soheil, Sophia, Alan, Mark, Dennis, Mary, Steven, Devin, BB, Nathan, Cammy, Patrick, and everyone else who contributed pictures and support this week.  Without your help, this publication could not be produced.

Additional pictures from the March 22 and March 26 walks:
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!