Saturday, November 20, 2010

19 Tundra Swans at Quabbin

Here is the story of how I found nineteen Tundra Swans at Quabbin this morning. I began the day with a pre dawn trip to Quabbin Park prior to the 7am meeting time of the Hampshire Bird Club trip I was co-leading with Tom Gagnon. I stopped at a few spots in the park and then headed over to Winsor Dam around 6:40 to meet the group. I pulled up in front of the Administration Building and took out my bino's to quick scan the reservoir. I came across a Common Loon and then panned left and saw a group of gulls and below them a group of large white birds that were MUCH larger then the gulls over top of them. I immediately took out my scope and took a look at the birds and I immediately said "swans". I looked over to the parking lot and saw Tom Gagnon's car but I didn't see him. The I thought, 'maybe they already looked and the birds were not what I thought and I missed something'. So I took another look and the birds were certainly swans. I then looked back and saw Tom talking to the first arrival for the club trip and motioned to him. I then walked over and got both his and Ian Davies attention and said "You guys have got to come take a look over here, I think I have something good". I said there are swans, eighteen of them, on the water but I'm not sure what type...maybe Mute or hopefully something much better. We all took looks at them through scopes and the distant made it tough to ID for certain although Ian did say he saw only black on the bills and Tom said the behavior of them pointed away from Mute and toward Tundra. As the rest of the club trip participants showed up they all took looks and we quickly made the decision to deviate from our usual trip route and take a quick side trip to Gate 5 to see them closer up. En route to Gate 5 Tom made a few calls to let some people know we may have some Tundra Swans at Quabbin. Immediately after arriving at the water at Gate 5 we found nineteen Tundra Swans quite close to shore with a few vocalizing. Ian snapped off a few photos (one can be viewed at his flickr site at We spent the next 20 minutes viewing the birds. We finally decided to continue the trip and the birds were still present when we left and the first of many birders were arriving to check out the birds. Throughout the remainder of the trip Ian was able to check Massbird and the birds continued to be seen. After the trip up the east side of Quabbin we returned to the Admin building and the birds were still present. Hopefully the state will not do their usual anti gull patrols with boats tonight and the birds we stay the night.

As a side note Ian Lynch reported he had 29 Tundra Swans on a lake in Brimfield today also so there was a minimum of 48 Tundra Swans present within a relatively small portion of Massachusetts...amazing!

In addition to the swans we had a nice club trip up the east side of Quabbin with some nice waterfowl but not as much as expected due to the strong winds. We did have great looks at a female Surf Scoter as well as Black Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Red breasted Mergansers, Common Mergansers, a Wood Duck, Horned Grebe, ten Common Loons, Ring necked Ducks, Mallards and Canada Geese. We had a couple Fox Sparrows, a few American Tree Sparrows, a close Ruffed Grouse, eighteen Wild Turkeys and others. The phrase of the day was 'it can only be downhill after nineteen Tundra Swans!"


  1. NICE! Glad to see Ian D. got some photos..."stunningly beautiful". I may try for them or Ian Lynch's reported birds tomorrow!


  2. Good luck if you try for them tomorrow. I'm glad Ian was along with the camera...left mine home as I was driving for the day and thought I would have a full car and no always means good birds when I don't have the camera!