Monday, December 31, 2012

A Bit of Bay State Big Year Strategery

Yes, I know "strategery" is not a word, but I like the way it sounds do I decided to use it in the title of this blog post about my plan for birding across massachusetts in 2013. In this post I would like to share my general plan for my 2013 Bay State big year, and I would definitely welcome any feedback or suggestions from fellow birds and/or nature enthusiasts, both in terms of interesting places to see in the Commonwealth and potential birding spots. I have no doubt that life (and the weather) will intervene and change the course of my plans, so I guess we'll just call this a rough draft and see where I end up.


I'm still keeping an eye on weather reports for January 1 and where I go will probably depend, in part, on whether there is any open water around. My goal for the fist day of my big year is to get 20 species of birds, ideally a mix of ducks, common "feeder" birds and if I'm lucky, some of the key winter species.

In general, in the early part of the year I plan to make regular trips to some of my favorite local suburban locations in the Newton/Brookline area, including the Chestnut Hill Reservoir which is usually a pretty good bet for wintering ducks, including mergansers and Ruddy Duck, and to the Newton City Hall park where I have recorded close to 70 different species in the last few years. These locations are not far from where I live, and with limited daylight they are spots I can check with some frequency. I also plan to try and add whatever species of grosbeak, cross bill and siskin that I can, to both my life and year lists, so I will likely head to some of the more heavily forested areas I know well, such as Moose Hill and Broadmoor wildlife sanctuaries. I'd also like to get in at least one or two trips to Plum Island, again, for wintering ducks, and I'll be keeping a sharpy eye out for reports of snowy owls.


As much as I can, I plan to get outside and look for migrants in parks and cemeteries. No doubt seasonal allergies will put a damper on some of my planned birding, but I also intend to hit Stony Brook wildlife sanctuary, a place I've had good success in the past with warblers and early returning swallows and blackbird species.


Unfortunately my allergies tend to stick around into May, but I plan to still be on the lookout for late migrants, and by June I will be heading to Moose Hill Farm in Sharon to look for grassland and forest birds. This is a terrific spot to see Bobolinks and Grosbeaks in the wide open fields, orioles along the forest edge and woodpeckers and forest birds in the thickly shaded woods. I also plan to return to the north shore in June,  head out to the middle part of the state to revisit Wachusett Meadow wildlife sanctuary and hopefully go a bit further west and finally get to Arcadia wildlife sanctuary. As the days get longer and there is more daylight after work hours I plan to also start chasing rarity listings on the e-bird alert list.


As the weather heats up I will likely try to get more birding in toward the start and the end of the day, and I'll probably use my kayak more often to look for waterfowl and wading birds at places like Lake Cochituate State Park and on the Charles River. I'm also hoping to squeeze in a pelagic trip or two, something which will probably be crucial in my attempt to hit 300 species this year. I'd also like to get out to the Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and to Nantucket over the summer.


Fall migration will probably be my focus as the summer winds down and we move into Autumn. During this period I would like to get back out to western Massachusetts again, maybe to the Berkshires. Hawk migration is also something I would like to make a point of seeing - every year I notice announcements for various hawk watching programs and I have yet to actually join one.


I imagine I'll spend the last two months of the year chasing after rarities and species that have eluded me up that point. If I can make myself get up early enough I'd also like to do another pelagic trip, and I would love to get back to World's End on the south shore to look for ducks.

So that's the basic idea -subject (and very likely) to change - I would love to hear from anyone else out there who has attempted a big year in Massachusetts and has some thoughts/advice to offer.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

1 comment:

  1. Very excited for your Big Year plans and look forward to hearing what you find (and to even join in on some excursions!)!