What’s been seen: We seemed to be in a rush in December, as we all wanted to make these holidays special, and so it seemed as if the month passed quickly, in many ways.
Migration generally came to an end, but that doesn’t mean that birds don’t still move around. Cold winds and Northeast storms, like the one that blew through town a week before Christmas, can cause nonmigratory shifts in bird populations. As with any storm, birds that have the ability to do so will get out of Dodge.
They can be lateral moves on the map, or vertical; northern species not expecting to be in Hull during the winter can find themselves here if the winds say they should be. And in December, Hull had its share of winter-only birds, like a razorbill off the Gut and a black guillemot seen from the same point.
I was lucky enough to witness a merlin, a small falcon, glide from the high school to Peddocks Island on Dec. 4. Fifteen horned larks appeared on the Hull Redevelopment Authority land, last recorded on Dec. 26. Otherwise, Hull has settled into its typical ornithological winter routine.
What to expect this month: Snowy owls look like a no-go for this year, with only one appearing on Duxbury Beach thus far. But, with Logan International Airport as their favorite tundra-like hangout in the region, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one pop over to the peninsula, if any more are around. (The birds that show up on Duxbury and Plymouth beaches and in Newburyport are usually relocated from Logan for their own safety.)
Long-tailed ducks have moved into our surrounding waters, as have all three species of scoters – black, white-winged, and surf – as well as common loons, red-throated loons, horned grebes, red-necked grebes, common eiders, and more. We can expect to see them all for the next month or two.
If you’ve been watching great blue herons in the marshes on the Weir River and Straits Pond, don’t be surprised if they vanish for a month or two. If they migrate, they do it at this point of the year and come back around March 1.
And if we get a warm-up in the third week of January, as we customarily do, listen for the two-note, high-low song of the black-capped chickadee, which gets tricked into thinking that it’s spring.
Stay warm, and enjoy the nature of Hull.
Text and photo by John Galluzzo