Last May you may recall that we posted photos of a tiny flock of three Wilson’s Plovers (Charadrius wilsonia) that were spotted at Good Harbor Beach. The fog was dense and I was on my way to work, so I only captured a few fleeting moments of footage and several photographs.Compare Wilson’s Plover (top of page) to Piping Plover (above).
I was contacted by Sean Williams, secretary of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee with a request to use my photos. Wilson’s Plovers are a southern species; it is quite rare to see them as far north as the New Jersey shore, let alone in Massachusetts. There is no previously known sighting ever of two or more Wilson’s Plovers ever seen before in Massachusetts history.
And to think this rare bird sighting happened on our Good Harbor Beach!
The Wilson’s Plovers were foraging by Boardwalk #3 in our Mama and Papa Piping Plover territory. There were a few minor skirmishes between Wilson’s and Piping but they all continued to go about their respective ways. The Wilson’s foraged at the wrack line, preened on the beach, and one took a bath in the shallow water of the incoming time.
You can see in the clip, Papa Plover giving brief chase to one of the Wilson’s Plovers.
Here is a copy of the report that MARC requested be filled out in the case of rare bird sightings.
Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC)
Review List Species Report Form
Please answer each question with as much thought and detail possible. These details will help the MARC determine whether your review list species is sufficiently supported for acceptance. It is fine if you do not have all the details to complete the form; complete as much as possible.
Once completed, email this form to Sean Williams: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Species or subspecies: Wilson’s Plovers (3)
- Date, time, and location (please be specific, i.e. 17:40 on 30 Oct 2015, GPS coordinates or street address):
Approximately 8-9:00am on May 9th at Good Harbor Beach, 99 Thacher Road, Gloucester, MA
Number of individuals: 3 birds, two persons, myself and Essex County Greenbelt’s Dave Rimmer
- Situational details of the sighting—e.g., “I was walking down Race Point Beach when suddenly…”, or “I got a call from Ludlow Griscom and went to investigate a…”
I was walking on Good Harbor Beach checking on our Piping Plover pair and saw the three birds in the fog, plus one sandpiper. The birds were foraging in the wrack line. One went higher up on the beach to preen, another took a bath in the shallow water. The WP were in the PiPl’s nesting territory and there were several skirmishes between the PiPl, and one Wilson’s chased another Wilson’s. After a bit, all three flew further down the beach and out of sight. I stopped by later in the day, after the fog had burned off, to see if they were still there and they were not.
- Physical description. This is perhaps the most important part of the form. Include all observed physical details of the bird, including plumage, bill, feet, eyes, bare skin, shape, and size relative to nearby birds:
Pale pink legs, thick bill and overall black, plumage similar to PiPl, but a little darker, but not as dark as Semi-palmated Plover, tiny bit larger than Piping Plover.
- Vocal description. If the bird vocalized, describe the sound to the best of your ability, e.g. trill, buzz, high-pitched, “kser”, quavering, length of call, etc.
The waves were drowning out their vocalizing.
- Behavioral description. What behaviors did you observe?
Foraging, preening, bathing, territorial dispute with PiPl, and flying.
Good Harbor beach is a sandy beach, with the beach greatly narrowed this year because the beach dropped about six feet and the tide now comes right up to the dune during periods of high tides. The beach abuts a dune, large parking lot, and marsh.
- Total length of time and number of times bird was seen and/or heard:
Half an hour to an hour.
- How did you rule out other similar species?
Behavior and photos.
- Distance from the bird:
Twenty to thirty feet or so.
- Optics used to view the bird:
Eyes and cameras. I may have film footage. Will check on that.
Lighting—e.g. sunny or cloudy, was the bird sunlit or backlit:
Sunny at first, then dense fog came rolling in.
Wilson’s Plover Range Map