I was planning to go for the Black-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR in Virginia, but the appearance of the Fieldfare in Carlisle, Massachusetts changed that plan. Fieldfare is a life bird. This is only the second record for Massachusetts and maybe the sixth (not sure on this) for North America. Since my return from British Columbia, I have spent some time planning for a trip to Attu in Alaska in May, and since the report of the Fieldfare, looking for flights to go to Boston and near Virginia. However, I couldn't find a reasonable schedule for flights to Boston and Virginia and back and found that I could drive to Boston in about 13.5 hours, provided that the snowstorm did not delay my driving trip. Driving allows for schedule flexibility if the Fieldfare does not show up right away. I was originally planning to leave Monday night, but was too tired. Therefore, I got a good night's sleep and started driving at about 9:38 am. The shortest trip from Cincinnati is to take I71, I271 to I90. I was hoping to beat the snow storm to Boston. I drove through snow showers in Ohio, and heavy lake effect snow in Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY. I caught the back end of the snow storm in eastern NY state starting near Herkimer and Little Falls, traditional snowy areas (I lived in upstate New York from November, 1977 to early 1994, so I know about snow there.). Road conditions were variable depending upon plowing and salting. I stopped for the night in Springfield, MA and got the last room available at a Motel 6 at 11 pm, a longer trip than planned but delayed by the snow. I saw several cars off the road in eastern NY state. These drivers apparently did not know enough about winter driving to slow down!
I arrived at about 10:30 am at the end of the trail that starts near 528 and 536 Maple street, Carlisle, MA and ends near the private field to see a group of about 50 people waiting for the no show Fieldfare. Only a few American Robins had been seen at the bitter sweet berries, which were not very plentiful at this location. I noticed three American Robins flying over to the west, and after talking to several people, I decided to walk around the area to look in other locations were the Fieldfare had been seen. There were too many birders concentrated in one area and most of them were looking in the same direction. I met Skyler (spelling?) from New Jersey who was pursuing the same strategy. In the fields to the west, there were occasional American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles flying over. In a field near the Piggery barn, there was a Northern Mockingbird and a Red-tailed Hawk with very white under wings and under-parts. I returned to the original location and stayed for a while. A small group of about six American Robins came in to feed on the bitter sweet berries up in the trees. No Fieldfare with them. This was apparently the same group that had visited this location several times on Wednesday. There were occasional small groups of European Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds, small numbers of Blue Jays and a White-breasted Nuthatch. A few Wood Ducks flew over. I returned to my car to eat some lunch. When I returned, Skyler just came back from the Piggery, which he entered from Maple Street rather than from the fields. He reported that the habitat was better there with more bitter sweet berries and more bird activity in general. There had been a report of the Fieldfare sitting in an apple tree Tuesday night at about 6:30 pm in the northwest area of the Piggery. I decided to go there and stay until dusk. It sounded more promising. Dan from MA and I decided to go there.
We walked out the lane, Piggery Road, to the barn seen earlier from the fields. There were several trees covered with bitter sweet vines and berries. We found Rock Pigeons and Song Sparrows at the barn and later a flock of seven American Robins feeding on one of the trees with a lot of bitter sweet berries. There was a sizable flock of Red-winged Blackbirds in the area flying around, as well as the Northern Mockingbird and Red-tailed Hawk previously seen and a small flock of House Finches. A recently arrived group, a man and his son and a woman, decided to leave and go back to Maple Street, because there was not very much activity. They left before we found the seven American Robins. As we were walking out the lane to Maple Street, the man who left earlier, walked up to us and told us that the Fieldfare had just been seen on Maple Street in front of a yellow house. He and his son had seen it. We accelerated our pace back to Maple Street, where we found a small group of birders looking for the bird in the front yard of a yellow house that adjoined the lane, Piggery Road. The bird had been in the front yard but had flown back behind the house and curved to the right behind some pines. Soon a large group of birders congregated in front of the yellow house and along Maple Street. The bird was not found, so birders spread out. Several of us stayed on Piggery Road and looked into the woods behind the yellow house. A second group got permission from the owner of the yellow house to walk to the back of his house. They were playing the recorded call, which startled me until I realized that the group was playing the recording.
Later from the lane in the fields, someone saw a gray backed large thrush-like bird that was white underneath flying away from the woods behind the yellow house and along the woods perpendicular to the woods behind the yellow house. Skyler and two others looked for the bird while the rest of us waited on the road for a wild signal of joy. None followed. As the sun started to set, we joined a small group of birders watching some thawed plowed snow banks near a gray house in the Piggery area. There were 20-30 American Robins coming in to bathe in some puddles and apparently feeding in the thawed earth. Suddenly someone yelled there it is! Bare-eyed without binoculars, I saw a large thrush flying low, streaking from right to left towards the woods in the back where it landed. It was gray above with some reddish brown above (wings) and white below. After landing in a tree along the edge of the woods, it quickly flew back toward the yellow house. I saw it in profile as it was flying against the brighter sky, but could not see any details. Everyone in this later smaller group walked quickly back to the road and searched at several places but did not find the bird again.
At least the Fieldfare is still in the area. I will start early tomorrow morning. Because I drove, I have the flexibility. If I get the Fieldfare, I will try for King Eider and then head south to Virginia to try for the Black-tailed Godwit.
On Wednesday, I met several birders that I know from the past from Delaware, where I lived for about thirteen years during and after graduate school at the University of Delaware--Frank Rohrbacher, Colin Campbell, Joe Swertinski, John Janowski and Andy Urquhart. I met them while birding in Delaware or elsewhere around North America. I met Andy for the first time while birding in Florida. I met Colin for the first time while birding in California looking at a Thick-billed Kingbird. He was with Todd McGrath. I met Joe at Attu in 1989. I met John and Frank while birding in Delaware within the past 10-15 years. I thought that several people in the group looked familiar at the original spot in the morning.