Rare bird alert at Manomet! This past Sunday, visiting birder Jim Sweeney found a Western Tanager at Manomet along the newly established Betty Anderson Nature Trail. Jim spotted the bird along the sunny, sheltered edges of the farm as it foraged on juniper berries and bugs. On Monday morning, Manomet staff were able to re-find the bird in the same area. This represents the second record for the property, with the first occurring exactly two years ago on 11/13/2019. To visit our nature trail (and maybe find that rare bird yourself!), park at the kiosk by the farmhouse at 125 Manomet Point Road in Plymouth, MA. (P.S. In this case, it looks like the early bird gets the bee!)
Then, hot on the heels of our first Western Tanager sighting at Manomet HQ last week: bird bander and expert birder Trenton Voytko then found a second Western Tanager, as well as a Townsend’s Solitaire at Manomet!
Of particular interest is that all three of these birds were foraging heavily on eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana), which are producing a bumper crop of berries (modified cones) this year. Juniper berries are a favorite food source for tanagers and solitaires in their normal range in western North America, so they probably felt right at home, despite being thousands of miles off course. (Sidenote to the combo home gardeners/birders: juniper is a great native to plant in your own yard if you want to attract birds since they are producing so much food this year.)
You might be wondering how we knew there were two tanagers? While the two were never seen at the same time, photo comparison showed that one bird was much brighter than the other – perhaps indicating different age or sex classes. The solitaire was the first record for Manomet property, representing our 315th species recorded on site in over a century of ornithological observation. This total is the second highest for any “hotspot” in Massachusetts, behind only Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Essex County.