Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Birding Community Newsletter

Issue 2017-09 | Friday, April 28, 2017 | 878 Subscribers
The Journeyers 
Favorable winds and warm temperatures increase the momentum of spring migration
Aspiring to be first, hordes of prospective gentlemen alight on the Rumney Marshes ACEC. Keeping bounds by flaring feathers and a bit of a song, short-lived rivals perform dress rehearsals for discerning eyes.  Green once again, the rolling valleys of the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary welcome the return of the season's first precious jewel. 
  April 23, 2017 TRIP REPORT
Bear Creek Sanctuary
(restricted access) , Saugus, Essex County, Massachusetts, US

April 23, 2017
9:00 AM - 1:39 PM

Protocol: Traveling

3.5 Mile(s)

45 Bird Species

Brant  25

Canada Goose  60

American Black Duck  3

Mallard  7

Black Scoter  14

Bufflehead  6

Red-breasted Merganser  26

Wild Turkey  5

Common Loon  3

Double-crested Cormorant  100

Great Egret  3

Osprey  5

Northern Harrier  1

Cooper's Hawk  1

Red-tailed Hawk  4

Killdeer  25

Upland Sandpiper  1   

 Well seen and heard.

Wilson's Snipe  7

Greater Yellowlegs  2

Willet  2

shorebird sp.  1

Ring-billed Gull  1

Herring Gull  75

Great Black-backed Gull  4

Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1

Mourning Dove  1

Downy Woodpecker  4

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1

American Kestrel  6

Blue Jay  2

American Crow  7

Tree Swallow  15

Black-capped Chickadee  2

American Robin  30

Northern Mockingbird  1

European Starling  20

White-throated Sparrow  2

Savannah Sparrow  20

Song Sparrow  5

Swamp Sparrow  1

Northern Cardinal  3

Red-winged Blackbird  15

Common Grackle (Bronzed)  10

Brown-headed Cowbird  5

American Goldfinch  10

House Sparrow  10

The Upland Sandpiper
This week's bird of the week goes to the Upland Sandpiper that popped out of the youngest section of grassland in the sanctuary.  This early successional species is very, very rare in eastern Massachusetts.  A true treasure that we see only a handful of times each spring and fall.

First spotted by Caroline and Sebastian as it flew across the plateau to the next ridge, this beautiful shorebird had everyone scrambling to get a better look.

Runner-up this week goes to the male Osprey for performing a high spiraling aerial courtship display above the grassland.  The display, called a 'sky-dance' or sometimes a 'fish-flight', is performed by males during the breeding season and can go as high as 600 feet.  With three active Osprey nests in the lower estuary of the Pines and Saugus Rivers, these aerial displays are incredible to watch.

To find out more information about the 10 Osprey nesting platforms in the Rumney Marshes ACEC, please visit our friends at the Essex County Greenbelt's Osprey Watch Program.

Each spring a celestial event takes place over the Rumney Marshes ACEC.

Cast out from the second brightest star in the Northern Hemisphere,  the Lyrid Meteor Shower illuminates the night sky in mid to late April.  A celestial wonder that hails the arrival of the purest of grassland species. 

A long ago forgotten prophecy foretelling  of just how special these few weeks would be. For this is the time that the most precious of jewels are beginning to pass through the grassland of the Rumney Marshes ACEC.

A googly-eyed shorebird that sees nary a shore...  How is it that the heavens should come to mark an event such as this?  Long and gangly necked, with a head so bobbly it is a wonder that it doesn't  tip like a kettle. 

Ah-- but for its song.  Gentle bubbly melodies that carry over hill and through the dales.  Building in intensity to end with a ‘wolf-whistle’ that has no doubt, charmed even the heart of Aphrodite herself.

The Upland Sandpiper, Bartramia longicauda, the very embodiment of grassland conservation, is believed by most, to be the holy grail of all grassland birds.  Nearly hunted to extinction by market hunters, the windy whistle that graces the grassy plain, was almost silenced forever.   Forbush (1925) describes the species as “Harmless and eminently useful, it nevertheless is one of the most luscious morsels to delight the epicurean palate.”

The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program identifies only seven locations in the entire state where Upland Sandpipers still breed.  The Massachusetts Action Plan for the Conservation of Obligate Grassland Birds describes the Upland Sandpiper as being part of a group representing one of the fastest declining suites of birds in North America.  The action plan only identifies 46 locations across the entire state of Massachusetts known to harbor a member of this suite of species during the breeding season.  Once brought to the brink of extinction, the grassland habitats that the Upland Sandpiper relies upon are disappearing faster than the species can adapt, and recover from the impacts of the gunners.

The Mass Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas 2 identifies only 1.1 % of Massachusetts Eco-region Blocks as maintaining breeding populations. “Without stabilization of the declining continental population, or at least stabilization on a regional scale, persistence of this species in Massachusetts appears to be tenuous at best.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Upland Sandpiper as once being very abundant in its range.  The 2012 North America Breeding Bird Survey assessment indicates that the overall population is relatively stable with 750,000 individuals.

Starting with the next capping phase at the Wheelabrator Saugus Monofill, the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary will be incorporating a new pilot program to introduce aridisol, or arid soil conditions, to low gradient slopes in the grasslands of the Sanctuary.  The sandy, coarse cobbly type soils will recreate the dry soil habitats that formally existed in the Rumney Marshes ACEC prior to the development of the barrier beach dune habitats.  Because these aridisol conditions will establish plant communities that are naturally limited by soil moisture, there is also the potential to introduce rare wildflowers and rare native pollinators in addition to the areas being attractive to Common Nighthawks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, and Upland Sandpipers.

Special thanks to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, The Massachusetts Audubon Society, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for not only maintaining such wonderful online resources free to the public, but also for the extraordinary efforts these organizations preform each day in the conservation and preservation of our natural resources.   

All of the pictures used in this segment were provided courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.   

The flight song was provided courtesy of the Audubon Guide to North American Birds.    
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 - * Postponed* Rescheduled  for Saturday, June 10 2017
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 30 at 9 a.m.

NOTE: The Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is open to the public for guided tours only.  If you would like to visit the sanctuary, please attend one of our regularly scheduled nature walks, or contact us to arrange a private tour.   Thank you.
Special thanks to Soheil, Pat, Alan, Sebastian, Caroline, Ted, Jarret,  Mara, Pat, Greg 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!