What is Quadding?

Quadding is a variation on county or town birding: in this case, I use a topographic map of my area to define the area in which I concentrrate my birding efforts. Because there is no coast in my "quad," one of the tricks is to work on getting birds that are primarily coastal. I've given up trying to keep my yearly list up to date, but I have updated my list of the last thirteen years of quadding.

Birds in bold face on the list are birds I would never have expected to see in my quad, either because of rarity in Massachusetts or because they don't wander inland. They include:

Common Eider - In the fall of 2003 I called Renee and Alan to report a small flock of Black Scoters on Mystic Lake. This is not a terribly uncommon inland migrant, but while we were watching Alan said "Hey, there's an eider too!" - for only the ninth inland record for this species.

American White Pelican - On December 9, 2004 Renee and I were birding Horn Pond when I caught a big white bird in flight out of the corner of my eye. I hadn't even identified it, but I knew it was something different and as I raised my binoculars I yelled to Renee to get on it. A pelican. Go figure.

Tricolored Heron - While it has bred in Massachusetts they are still pretty rare, rarer still inland. Seen at Arlington Reservoir.

Gyrfalcon - How could I ever forget this experience. April 21 is my birthday is, only three days before Richard Forster's, a man famous for his birthday birds. It was a year after his death, and as a memorial to Dick I had planned to go out alone to find something spectacular, but I had a call from a friend who was in town for the day, and I couldn't say no. We were watching kestrels on a hill overlooking Hanscom Field when a huge, lumbering falcon flew by, perhaps 300 yards away. His path took him curving around the hill at eye level, and at our vantage we had him in view for 180 degrees. Neither of us could speak for at least a minute after he disappeared. Cool.

Hudsonian Godwit - Simon Perkins said let's go look for storm-tossed birds following a hurricane. Glad I went. There are only a handful of inland records for this species, but Great Meadows was definitely the place to look.

Black-legged Kittiwake - the birds that almost got away. When I saw a flock of eleven small  "black-hooded" gulls on Arlington Reservoir, kittiwake wasn't even on the radar. I assumed they must be Bonaparte's Gulls, which do venture inland, except something was nagging at me, and I resolved to check my field guide when I got back to the car. I completely forgot to check till three hours later when I was a Great Meadows, and when I looked I couldn't believe it! They were kittiwakes! I raced back to the Res. but only a single bird remained, but I was able to photograph it for documentation - since it was only the third inland record and the only inland record of multiple birds in Massachusetts.

Laughing Gull - a nor'easter in August 2010 landed a number of atypical birds on inland lakes, but the highlight was when Karsten Hartel knocked at my door to alert me to the Laughing Gull almost outside my door. They are common enough breeders along the coast, but not inland.

Ash-throated Flycatcher - Although this species is increasing in frequency in Massachusetts (well over a dozen records), most of these sightings are in November and December, so I had to convince myself over and over when I discovered one at Belmont's Rock Meadow on August 30, 2000.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - I got a phone call from Norman Levey that he had a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Lincoln, and after calls to Renee and Alan I was in the car in less than five minutes. We got beautiful views of the spectacular bird.

Mountain Bluebird - I found this guy at the Concord water treatment plant at the end of October, 2000, and he obligingly hung around for others to enjoy. Only the fifth Massachusetts Record.

MacGillivray's Warbler - I was alone at Dunback Meadow when I heard an unfamiliar chip note. It took a while, but finally I spished it out, and was astonished to be looking at a male MacGillivray's Warbler, but unfortunately it was a really brief view. I made notes on what I had seen and heard, and when I got home, was pleased to see that the description of the call note ("Tyip") was identical to the description of one I had heard and seen in Boston several years before.

Golden-crowned Sparrow - I didn't find this guy - he was hanging out at a feeder in Weston, but still pretty cool.

Western Tanager - Alan had come to Medford to bird with Renee and me, and we went to the Middlesex Fells and were having a lovely time, despite heavy overcast. Glimpsing a flash of orange high in a tree Alan called "Blackburnian" but as we all got on the bird there was a silence as we realized it wasn't even a warbler - Western Tanager!

Yellow-headed Blackbird - Hanging with a flock of Red-wings at Waltham Street Conservation Land in Lexington.

Common Chaffinch - On December 1, 2009 I got an email from Jason Forbes that he had a chaffinch in his yard! The next day I went over and saw it, and was lucky enough to see it several times in the following three months. Unfortunately the setup was impossible to make it a "public" bird, but Jason and his family issued invitations to birders all over the northeast and by the time it had left it had been seen by well over a hundred people.