Salem Birds 2015: Numbers & Highlights

Well 2015 turned out to be our best year for the local patch to date here in Salem. Since we began keeping records in late 2011, Amanda and I have seen 195 different species of birds within the borders of Salem, NH.

This year we have tallied 173 species, beating our previous best of 162 which was reached the year before. This year we added 13 new species that we had never recorded in town – all of which were all pretty awesome birds.  Not only was the year good number-wise, we had some cool rare sightings and perhaps some first records for Salem ever…

New birds this year included:

  • Common Redpoll
  • Redhead
  • Bohemian Waxwing
  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Long-tailed Duck
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Bobolink
  • Short-billed Dowitcher
  • American Golden-Plover
  • White-rumped Sandpiper
  • Golden Eagle
  • Northern Shoveler

With this addition of 13 species, Amanda and I have collectively seen 195 birds in Salem. As far as the total species ever seen in Salem, if I have combed records correctly there have been a total of 199 birds recorded. What will be #200?

Top 10 Highlights of 2015

The ‘Top 10’ list of highlights we’ve compiled below includes some of the more notable birds and sightings from throughout the year. The order follows whatever we thought was coolest…

10. Nesting Osprey


A pair of Osprey chose an interesting nest location in the middle of the Rockingham Park parking lot during the Spring of 2015 and successfully raised 2 young birds. The old lighting structure made for a perfect nest platform and the adults could be seen hunting over the small pond inside the racetrack, as well as the wetlands across the street. This may have been the first record for breeding Osprey in Salem…


9. Bohemian Waxwings & Common Redpolls

Bohemian Waxwing

The extreme winter weather at the beginning of the year seemed to have pushed some northern birds south and the result was our first record for BOHEMIAN WAXWING and COMMON REDPOLL for town. Both species were found in basically the same location on Veteran’s Memorial Parkway, and there was also a flock of Bohemian’s in North Salem.


8. Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

One of the highlights of the year (especially for Kyle) was a VESPER SPARROW found by Scott Heron at Hawkin’s Farm. We happened to run into him as we were getting off of World End Pond one morning and asked us to take a look at a photo of a suspect sparrow he had at Hawkin’s….after looking at the photos we ran over there and had great looks at this not-so-common visitor in town. This was a long-awaited bird for my Salem list. We have been to Hawkin’s Farm literally hundreds of times and have never had a Vesper, so it just goes to show the more eyes the better!

7. Gulls of Rockingham Park

Iceland Gull

Rockingham Park continues to be the spot to find roosting gulls during winter and migration. Most notably has been the adult ICELAND GULL that returns to winter in the area every year. This gull whom we’ve dubbed ‘Rocky’ has been returning for the last 4 years straight. We often see several more Iceland Gulls that stop in at the parking lot every year, but none seem to stick around like Rocky.

Other notable gulls include LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, serveral Iceland (Kumlien’s) Gulls, and Herring Gull K148 (wing-tagged gull banded in Revere, MA). The real attraction to the wintering gulls in the area seem to be a landfill on Lowell Rd. next to Hedgehog Pond.  Before the ice freezes over the gulls sometimes congregate in the pond or on the roof of the Icenter across the street.


6. American Golden-Plover and new shorebirds

American Golden-Plover

It was a good year for shorebirds at World End Pond and we recorded 3 new species. Most notable was an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER that made a very brief appearance on September 20. Other additions included SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER (5/17) and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (10/06). The flats here during Spring and even more so in the Fall make for excellent habitat for migrating shorebirds. A total of 13 species have been recorded here and seems to be one of the better locations in the state to consistently host Pectoral Sandpipers during Fall migration.


5. Breeding Sora

young Sora

We have always suspected that SORA might be breeding at World End Pond though we have never been able to confirm it.  This year however, we were fortunate enough to identify a fresh young Sora in the company of an adult while on a Least Bittern search with Becky Suomala and Zeke Cornell.


4. Redhead and other waterfowl


It was a great spring season for waterfowl this year and along with the expected species, we had a number of firsts for us in town. A couple of our favorite highlights were a REDHEAD at World End Pond in April and a LONG-TAILED DUCK on May 2.

Other notable birds in the spring were a pair of GADWALL, a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER, and a few NORTHERN PINTAIL.  During the fall months the best highlight was a group of 7 NORTHERN SHOVELERS – another long-awaited bird for us at the pond. There was also an impressive showing of both BLUE-WINGED TEAL and GREEN-WINGED TEAL.


3. Least Bitterns return

Least Bittern

Chalk up another successful year for the LEAST BITTERN pair at World End Pond. Although a nest was not found, evidence of breeding came in the form of a fresh young bittern that was still showing down feathers on the head. This presumed same pair represents the only documented breeding pair in New Hampshire, which was first documented in 2014.

Bittern search party

On August 2, a group of birders including Amanda, Becky Suomala, Zeke Cornell, Scott Heron and myself embarked on an early morning ‘Bittern search’. It was a success and we had great looks at the male Bittern, and at that same time, both an adult and young Sora as well as a young Virginia rail put on a nice show for us.

2. Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

An incredible highlight to end Fall migration, and one of the more notable birds of 2015 was a GOLDEN EAGLE at…you guessed it….World End Pond. This was one of our final paddles of the year and just when we thought the pond could not produce anything cooler, the Golden Eagle tops most of the birds we’ve ever seen there.

Which leaves us with the final #1 Highlight of the year….

1. World End Pond really is a gem…

World End Pond

For those of you who know us then you know that we go birding at World End Pond…a lot!

Well there is a good reason for this and that reason is because nearly 89% of all the species that we have recorded in town have been seen at World End Pond. Of which 26 species including both Bitterns and a number of shorebirds have ONLY been seen at World End Pond and not anywhere else in Salem. Since late 2012, Amanda and I have recorded 168 species at the pond and among those are birds not often seen in New Hampshire.

This is truly a birding hotspot. For both migrating and breeding birds, this pond has had some uncommon and impressive sightings which prompted us to officially nominate the pond to become a New Hampshire Important Bird Area. With the discovery of breeding Least Bitterns, Sora, Virginia Rail, Marsh Wren, good counts of migrating Rusty Blackbirds, and the large numbers of migratory waterfowl that are seen from year to year – this pond most certainly fits the criteria to be an Important Bird Area. We also believe that without additional layers of conservation that this area could soon be overrun by surrounding development (like much of the rest of Salem and southern NH) and is essential for maintaining a healthy and thriving habitat for species who use this pond year after year.


Thanks for reading! We are looking forward to finding more and getting to that 200 mark!

Now let’s see what 2016 will bring…

3 Responses

  1. Jeanne-Marie Maher says:

    Fabulous review by two spectacular birders at a stunningly underutilized location.!

  2. Roger Frieden says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this and we will definitely have to check out world End Pond this year. Loved the photos.

  3. Bob Quinn says:

    Amanda and Kyle- A great summary and strong argument for local birding! I’ll share some inland water bird information and thoughts on town lists too, via email. Bob Quinn (who still is looking for my first local Mockingbird after eight years in Webster!)

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