Massachusetts Mid-winter Survey Beats the Blizzards

Written by Mark Koneff
Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Photo of Mark Koneff.My observer Steve Earsom (another Service pilot-biologist) and I completed the Massachusetts Mid-winter Waterfowl Survey in the nick of time. The day after Steve and I parted ways in Providence, RI (Steve to return home to VA, me to ferry the plane back to ME), Massachusetts was hit with the first of a series of severe winter storms. That one dropped over 30 inches of snow in places, and it really hasn’t stopped snowing for long in New England since then. We enjoyed fairly nice weather for the survey and you’ll note an absence of snow and ice in the accompanying photos! Counts of most species of ducks and geese were near normal levels for the past few years. Counts of American eiders were down somewhat in MA, but counts farther north in ME had been higher than in recent years so the total count in New England was right around levels observed over the past 5 years or so. Eiders were well distributed throughout the state and seemed to be present near every island, point, and rock ledge in the state. This is in contrast to some years when we’ll find 80% of the wintering eiders in MA congregated into a single raft (often mixed with scoters) near, Chatham, Monomoy, or on the shoals between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard.

Cape Cod, Provincetown and the Pilgrim Monument (site of first landing) in background.

Cape Cod, Provincetown and the Pilgrim Monument (site of first landing) in background. Photo by Steve Earsom, US FWS

Bluffs on the eastern shore of Cape Cod within the National Seashore.

Bluffs on the eastern shore of Cape Cod within the National Seashore. Photo by Steve Earsom, US FWS

Elizabeth Islands separate Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound.

Elizabeth Islands separate Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound. Photo by Steve Earsom, US FWS

Nantucket from Nantucket Harbor.

Nantucket from Nantucket Harbor. Photo by Steve Earsom, US FWS

Graves Light, Boston Harbor, Boston in the background.

Graves Light, Boston Harbor, Boston in the background. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS

Boston from 9,000 ft on the ferry home to Maine.

Boston from 9,000 ft on the ferry home to Maine. Photo by Mark Koneff, US FWS