Bird-at-home-a-thon, which took place May 15-16, was more than we could have hoped for. Thanks to all of you, we not only had a record number of participants, but raised a record amount of funds ($290,000 and counting) that will support conservation, education, and advocacy across the state.
Our 26 teams recorded an impressive combined total of 242 bird species in Massachusetts. We were amazed at all the different bird species we could see right from our backyards and neighborhoods.
Teams across the state not only got points for birds seen, but for taking part in a variety of nature-themed activities including filling bird feeders, going on scavenger hunts, and even coloring! The Teams that received the most points are:
Eagle Eye Award for most points earned goes to Team Drumlin Farm with 992 points
Home Habitat Award for second place for the most points earned goes to Team Wellfleet Bay with 537 points.
We loved seeing all the amazing posts on social media and our online digital gallery during the event. Here are some of our favorites:
Drawings & Silly Names
Birding on the River
Bird Art in West Boylston
View more Bird-a-thon pictures in the online photo gallery. Feel free to add your own Bird-a-thon pictures as well, and please be sure to include your name in the file name so we know who to credit.
It’s Not Too Late To Get Involved
The birding may be over, but fundraising is open until mid-June! We can’t thank you enough for your generous support.
While this year’s Bird-a-thon has shifted focus to birding closer to home and around your neighborhood, you can still find tons of exciting birds. Some birds are common in many habitats, like Northern Cardinals and American Robins, but here is a list of other feathered friends you are likely to see (or hear!) in habitats across Massachusetts along with some fun facts.
Carolina Wrens (6) are also known to nest in odd places when living in suburban areas, like in an old boot, or in a mailbox.
White-breasted Nuthatches (7), like other nuthatches, can move head-first down tree trunks and are frequently seen in that upside-down pose.
The Gray Catbird’s (8) song may last up to 10 minutes.
Sometimes, Red-bellied Woodpeckers (9) wedge large nuts into bark crevices, then whack them into smaller pieces using their beaks. They also use cracks in trees and fence posts to store food for later in the year.
In 1929, Edward Forbush (MA ornithologist) described the Chipping Sparrow (10) as “the little brown-capped pensioner of the dooryard and lawn, that comes about farmhouse doors to glean crumbs shaken from the tablecloth by thrifty housewives.”
Although they can climb trees and hammer like other woodpeckers, Northern Flickers (11) prefer to find food, like ants, on the ground.
The Eastern Towhee’s (12) song sounds like they are saying “drink-your-tea.”
Wood Thrush (13) can sing two parts at once. In the final trilling phrase of their three-part song, they sing pairs of notes simultaneously, one in each branch of its y-shaped voicebox. The two parts harmonize to produce a haunting, ventriloquial sound.
The scientific name for Black-and-white Warblers (14) is Mniotilta varia meaning “moss-plucking,” after their habit of probing bark and moss for insects.
The yellow patch just above the Yellow-rumped Warbler‘s (15) tail gives them the nickname “butter butts.”
Tree Swallows (16) are one of the best-studied bird species in North America, helping researchers make major advances in several branches of ecology. Despite this, we still know little about their lives during migration and winter.
Eastern Bluebirds (17) typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young born in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over winter.
American Kestrels (18) can see ultraviolet light, which allows them to see the urine trails that voles leave as they run along the ground. These bright paths help kestrels find prey.
Bobolink (19) songs sound like R2D2’s voice from Star Wars.
Male Eastern Meadowlarks (20) can sing several variations of its song. Scientists analyzed one male meadowlark and found he sang more than 100 different song patterns.
Fossils of Belted Kingfishers (21) dated to 600,000 years old have been found in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas.
Wood Ducks (22) nest in trees ranging from directly over water to over a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her but does not help them in any way. Ducklings may jump over 50 feet without injury.
Green Herons (23) are one of the world’s few bird species who use tools. They often create fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to attract small fish.
Unlike most birds, Spotted Sandpiper (24) females establish and defend the territory, arriving to the breeding grounds before males. Males then take the primary role in parental care, incubating the eggs and caring for chicks.
Hooded Mergansers (25) find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refraction properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision. Plus, birds have an extra eyelid called a “nictitating membrane,” which is transparent and helps protect their eyes while swimming, like a pair of goggles.
Piping Plovers (26) will sometime use a foraging method called foot-trembling where they extend one foot out into wet sand and vibrate it to scare up food like marine worms, insects, and crustaceans.
Unlike most shorebirds, American Oystercatcher (27) chicks depend on their parents for food for at least 60 days after hatching.
Double-crested Cormorants (28) often stand in the sun with their wings outstretched to dry. Cormorants have less oil on their feathers so their feathers can get soaked rather than shedding water like a duck. Having wet feathers probably make it easier for cormorant to hunt underwater.
Common Eider (29) mothers and chicks form groups called “creches” that can include over 150 chicks and include non-breeding hens as protection.
During the Great Egrets (30) breeding season, a patch of skin on its face turns neon green and long feathers called aigrettes grow from its back. These feathers were prized for ladies’ hats in the 19th century and inspired Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna B. Hall to form Mass Audubon to protect them.
With an impressive 237 species, the winner of the Brewster Cup (most species recorded statewide) is: Team Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary
This year’s Forbush Award winner (2nd place in species recorded statewide) is back in the winner’s circle with 231 species: Team Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary
And, we are thrilled to welcome our 2018 County Cup winner to the winners’ circle (highest percentage of county par value): Team Arcadia and the Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries (Hampshire County, 152/140, 109%)
Stay tuned for a master list of species recorded during Bird-a-thon 2018. Want to contribute to the Bird-a-thon 2018 photo album? Email us your photos. View the Album→
The Competition Continues
The birding may be over, but you still have time to help your favorite team raise important funds. Fundraising totals, awards, and prizes for teams and individuals are announced in mid-June. Donate→
Thank You to Our Sponsors!
Presenting Sponsor: Camosse Masonry Supply
Lead Sponsor: Eversource
Media Sponsor: 90.9 WBUR Supporting Sponsor: ARE Demo & Excavation, Inc. Community Sponsors: Dune Jewelry, MetLife, Lennox & Harvey, Lauring Construction
Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear heavy binoculars that they “borrowed” from their father 20 years ago–or carry scopes around that are twice their size–or proudly display a well-worn Bird-a-thon t-shirt.
This past weekend, Bird-a-thon teams fanned out across the state to focus their eyes, ears, and lenses on nature. And now that the birding is done, we wanted to take a moment to thank all of our Bird-a-thon participants and supporters.
Bird-a-thon, is not only an opportunity to focus on nature, but also a celebration of the hard work team members have done to raise essential funds for Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries and programs.
The funds raised in conjunction with this one day event will impact the work of Mass Audubon for the coming year and beyond. Bird-a-thon funds are used to:
Provide program materials for campers, students, and aspiring naturalists of all ages–to build communities that value, appreciate, and protect nature.
Support the work of dedicated staff with expertise in community engagement and advocacy–allowing for quick responses to environmental challenges and opportunities.
Manage land and wildlife based on the most current science available–keeping Mass Audubon sanctuaries healthy and vibrant for this and future generations.
And while the birding portion of the event may be over, there is still time to make an impact—with or without a cape.
Presenting Sponsor: Camosse Masonry Supply Lead Sponsor: Eversource Media Sponsor: 90.9 WBUR Supporting Sponsor: ARE Demo & Excavation, Inc. Community Sponsors: Dune Jewelry, MetLife, Lennox & Harvey, Lauring Construction
Back in 2013, Owen Cunningham considered himself pretty knowledgeable about nature. But when he decided to tag along with Moose Hill team during Bird-a-thon he realized how much there was to learn.
Owen and his mother, Kathleen Guilday
“If you would have asked me then how many species of bird I thought were native to our state I might have guessed around 50,” he said. “But Mass Audubon counted 270 different species in 24 hours that year! I could not believe how little I knew of the native wildlife I had spent my whole life around. From that day, on I began keeping my own list to help me appreciate all these species I had been taking for granted.”
This year, he is doing more than just keeping a list. As the new property manager for the Museum of American Bird Art (MABA) in Canton, he inspired the sanctuary to participate in the fundraising and birding competition for the very first time.
The team has a modest goal of raising $3,000 to help support the 121 acres of conservation land for people, birds, and other native Massachusetts species as well as MABA’s expanding art collection and exhibitions, which are wonderful reminders of “how inspiring and beautiful our natural world is so long as we work to protect it.”
Check back after May 13 to see just how many species Owen and his teammates see!
He’s 9 years old and a booster for Arcadia’s Bird-a-thon team. He’s hoping to raise $500 to help Arcadia manage its grassland and forests to help local wildlife like the bobolink, the kestrel, and the eastern meadowlark.
“I feel happy when I feel close to all the different birds chirping, and all this life. Animals are just like people. They have lives, go about their daily business, raise families, and make homes,” he wrote on his fundraising page. “Each needs a special place to do these things. Mass Audubon is helping make that possible, and I am happy to be helping too.”
To help spread the word, Kaiden coded his very own web-app called a Day at Arcadia (click the grass if it gets too tall and a special mower will come to assist you), drew an eastern meadowlark, and starred in a video that explains just what it means to be a Bird-a-thon booster.
The Wellfleet Lame Ducks, part of the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary Bird-a-thon team, are an accomplished fundraising force of beginner and intermediate birders. Hear from team leader, Peggy Sagan (pictured far right), about how the flock formed.
The idea for the Lame Ducks was hatched in 2011. At that time, there were several extraordinary women who were committed to the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary but didn’t consider themselves “real” birders.
Wellfleet Bay’s special events coordinator thought “What if we offer these women the opportunity to become better birders? Would they commit to fundraising for Bird-a-thon?” The answer, she soon found out, was a resounding yes.
Since then, Sanctuary Director Bob Prescott and other sanctuary staff have led the “Lame Ducks” (as the team was named) on a series of birding outings each spring to increase their bird knowledge and identification skills.
In return, what began as a small, laid-back clutch of mixed-ability birders has fledged into a fundraising powerhouse, regularly contributing one-third to one-half of Wellfleet’s Bird-a-thon total. And along the way, the flock has become just as competitive about their birding ability and species counts as they are about their fundraising prowess.
Although the individual lame ducks have come and gone as families relocate and personal situations change, most of the original members are still birding and fundraising for Wellfleet’s Bird-a-thon team and we are so grateful for their participation.
The 2017 Lame Ducks include: Ann Allan*, Josie Anderson, Marie Broudy, Janet Drohan*, Janet Golan, Mary O’Neil, Patty Shannon, Christine Shreves, Janet Sisterson*, & Lynn Southey (*original member)
More than 700 birders on 24 teams participated in Bird-a-thon 2016 this May, recording a total of 270 species of birds. That’s only 1 species away from the Bird-a-thon all-time best total of 271 species in 2009!
Dickcissel via Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren/Flickr
Red-headed Woodpecker by Ken Lee
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
King Rail via Carol Foil/Flickr
Little Gull via Tom Benson/Flickr
The birding may be over, but you can still support Bird-a-thon by making a donation to your favorite team or participant. Bird-a-thon is Mass Audubon’s largest fundraiser, providing important support to wildlife sanctuaries and programs across the state. See Bird-a-thon 2016 results and award winners
Bird-a-thon, Mass Audubon’s annual birding competition takes place on May 13-14. Teams of birders will attempt to see (or hear) the most species in a 24-hour time span. At the same time, birders and “Bird-a-thon Boosters” are raising money to support wildlife sanctuaries and programs.
To kick-off Bird-a-thon and celebrate 100 Years of Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries, we compiled 100 great spots to bird on our wildlife sanctuaries. While we can’t make any promises, we offer a sampling of birds you may see at each location.
Parking lot: Osprey (nest nearby), Turkey Vulture, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Song Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing.
Sassafras Trail on boardwalk over Turtle Pond: Green Heron, Mallard, American Black Duck, Belted Kingfisher
End of Shad Trail on Sengekontacket Pond: American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, Black Skimmer, sandpipers, Laughing Gull, Double-crested Cormorant
Old Farm Road, field leading to opening to Elizabeth’s Pond: Wood Duck, Black-crowned Night-Herons, Common Grackle, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker
Tip of the Red Trail looking out over marsh, Sengekontacket Pond, and Sarson’s Island: Willet, Whimbrel, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, American Oystercatcher, Greater and Lesser yellowleg, Common Tern, Least Tern, Saltmarsh Sparrow
Sacred Way Trail (the back section of the trail separated by Crossover Trail): Great Crested Flycatcher, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Wood Duck, Solitary Sandpiper (migrant), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (migrant).
Carriage Road (along the marsh area and into the hemlock woods): Pine Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, Winter Wren (migrant), Rusty Blackbird (migrant)
On May 13 at 6 pm, teams across the state will begin a 24-hour effort to record the most bird species in Massachusetts as part of Bird-a-thon, an annual fundraiser that raises money to support our sanctuaries and programs.
Last year, Team Drumlin Farm squeaked out a win over Team Moose Hill by just one species. Such close competition makes spotting a rare species all that much more enticing. Enter the Elusive 8, eight species, which due to rarity, nesting behavior, preferred location, and/or being difficult to identify, are the most challenging to spot (or hear) during Bird-a-thon.
Northern Goshawk via USFWS
Most likely to be found in Western Massachusetts, the northern goshawk is very uncommon and nests in the interior forest. The largest and most seldom-seen accipiter in Massachusetts, it is swift, strong, tenacious, and often aggressive near a nest.
King Rail via USFWS
Massachusetts is near the northern limit of the king rail’s breeding range. These rare and local freshwater marsh breeders are more often heard than seen.
Arctic tern via USFWS
Massachusetts represents the southern edge of the breeding range for the Arctic tern, and those few individuals that breed in the Bay State (typically less than 3 nesting pairs annually) are state listed as a Species of Special Concern. Non-breeding Arctic terns are sometimes found adjacent to common tern colonies but are frequently misidentified.
Long-eared owl via Matt Knoth/Flickr
The long-eared owl is a rare breeder in Massachusetts with very few known breeding locations. The species presents a particular challenge by being completely nocturnal and is often much quieter than other owl species. In recent years, the long-eared owl has been the least frequently recorded species during Bird-a-thon.
Olive-sided Flycatcher via Budgora/Flickr
There are only a few places in the Bay State today where the olive-sided flycatcher may be reliably encountered. Plum Island is a good place to look for these late migrants in late May through early June.
Bicknell’s Thrush via Aaron Maizlish/Flickr
Due to its close resemblance to the gray-cheeked thrush, Bicknell’s thrush is a difficult species to identify correctly in the field. It’s also a rare migrant to Massachusetts: In recent years, Bicknell’s thrush has been one of the least recorded species during Bird-a-thon.
Golden-winged Warbler via Kent McFarland/Flickr
Most likely extirpated as a breeder in Massachusetts and a rare migrant, the Golden-winged Warbler is a hard box to check on the Bird-a-thon species checklist; Try looking for it where Blue-winged Warblers nest. In recent years, the Golden-winged Warbler has been one of the least recorded species during Bird-a-thon.
Cerulean Warbler via USFWS
This bird’s fondness for the canopy heights, as well as its rarity in the state, makes it one of the most difficult breeding warblers to find and observe. A local breeder, the cerulean warbler does have several well-known nesting sites and is usually a persistent songster.
A Note on Birding Etiquette
Remember, always bird respectfully, and take special care not to disturb these species! Bird-a-thoners should acquaint themselves with the Bird-a-thon rules, including Bird-a-thon etiquette, prior to the event. Of course, if encountered during your team’s normal birding activity, consider yourselves lucky and proudly check these species off your list!
Join the Flock! Be a part of Bird-a-thon
There’s still time to be part of Bird-a-thon! You can join a team, fundraise for a team, or donate to the event, team, or team member. Get the details >