aba events

ABA Birding Rally: Plymouth, Massachusetts

plymouth_featureWhen: January 31st-February 3rd, 2014
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Registration: Closed
Hosts: Marshall Iliff, Jeff & Liz Gordon, Wayne Petersen, George Armistead, and more.
For more information, email us at: events@aba.org, or call at (800) 850-2473.

About 20,000 years ago, as the “last ice age” came to a close, the ice sheets receded to the north, leaving behind the now exposed jagged coastline of New England. It would be a while yet before ornithologists would begin to explore the region, but when they did they found a startling array of fascinating birds. It wasn’t so long ago.

Common Eiders with a King Eider

Common Eiders with the rarer King Eider (Photo © Jeremiah Trimble)

When the Pilgrims arrived, at what would become Plymouth, Massachusettes on December 21st of 1620, what did they see? As they came ashore, perhaps Captain Myles Standish paused from his worries to consider the birds. There must have been large numbers of alcids and seaducks offshore. Razorbills, Black Guillemots, and probably murres, and even Great Auks would have been in evidence. Among the numerous scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Common Eiders there would have been some large black-and-white ducks with peculiar bills, that would soon be known as “Labrador Ducks”. Onshore, landbirds would prove numerous as well.

Razorbills work the seas off Massachusetts in winter.

Razorbills work the windy seas off Massachusetts in winter. (Photo © Jeremiah Trimble)

The legendary Ludlow Griscom

The legendary Ludlow Griscom

Things have changed a bit since Captain John Smith’s days, but a lot is still the same too. The folks up there have refined their Clam Chowder over the decades, but we are down a couple bird species since the colonization, having lost the Great Auks and Labrador Ducks among a few others. Yet, the rough rocky shores still harbor lots of birds. The tough and plump Purple Sandpipers still work the tide-line along the rocks, while those Common Eiders and Black Guillemots still drift just offshore, just as they did in 1620 and before. The odd Snowy Owl works the grounds around Logan Airport, and the Cape Cod area continues to be a hotbed for rarities.


American Tree Sparrow (Photo © Jeremiah Trimble)

Here too are the stomping grounds of some of birding’s greatest legends. Primary among them is the namesake for one the ABA’s highest awards. The award for “advancing the state of ornithological knowledge” is named for Ludlow Griscom. Griscom was legendary not only for his numerous publications on birds, but also as a pioneer in field birding, who pushed ornithologists to embrace binoculars rather than shotguns. He, together with his protege Roger Tory Peterson, set the standard for field birding within ornithology. Griscom lived in Massachusetts from 1927 until his death in 1959, inspiring what some might say was the first real generation of American birders.




Iceland Gull (Photo © Jeremiah Trimble)

In 2014, from January 31st to February 3rd, we will re-trace the steps of those that have come before us. We’ll have three days of field trips during which we’ll spend times birding Plymouth hotspots, the Cape Cod area, and we will also make a trip up to Cape Ann and Plum Island. Along the way we’ll keep warm with some chowder, and enjoy some evening lectures by regional and national experts. Join us for a winter birding excursion to legendary Plymouth!

Click here for information on the species we might see at the Plymouth Rally. See the provisional itinerary below.

The recommended airport for this event is Logan International Airport (BOS). Participants requesting ABA transport between BOS and the Radisson Hotel should indicate so on the travel information form with your registration.

Airport pick-up will be between 2:00pm-4:00 p.m. on January 31. Specific instructions for
meeting at BOS will be given later.

Airport drop off services will be available for participants with flights that
depart after 7:00 a.m. on February 4.


The distinctive Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow winters along the coast of Mass. (Photo by G. Armistead)

The distinctive Savannah “Ipswich” Sparrow winters along the coast of Mass. (Photo © G. Armistead)


Dovekie is possible along the Massachusetts coast in winter. (Photo © Jeremiah Trimble)


Provisional Itinerary:

Based at:

The Radisson Hotel – Plymouth Harbor


Friday, January 31, Arrival Day

4:00pm: Rally Orientation

5:00 pm: Informal Happy Hour at the Radisson


Saturday, February 1st, Plymouth Area

6:30 am: Depart for birding Plymouth Area hotspots

11:45am: Restaurant lunch with New England Clam Chowder

4:30pm: Arrive back at the Radisson

5:00 pm: Happy Hour

7:15pm: Evening Program


Sunday, February 2nd, Cape Ann/Plum Island

6:30 am: Depart for Cape Ann

7:30 am: Arrive Cape Ann

11:30 pm: packed/boxed lunch

12:30pm: Arrive at Plum Island

5:30pm: Arrive back at the Radisson (no Happy Hour today)

7:15pm: Evening Program


Monday, February 3rd, Cape Cod

6:00 am: Depart for birding Cape Cod Area

11:30 pm: packed/boxed lunch

5:00 pm: Arrive back at the Radisson

5:00 pm: Happy Hour

7:15pm: Evening Program

9:00pm: Plymouth Rally concludes

Your registration fee includes:

  • lodging for the nights of Jan. 31 through Feb. 3 (check-out on Feb. 4)
  • guiding, transportation and fuel during field trips
  • access to all evening lectures
  • lunches on February 1, 2 and 3
  • snacks and water for field trips
  • entry fees to all sites visited by the group

Excluded from the registration fee are:

  • all breakfasts and dinners
  • drinks with alcohol

Cancellation policy: Full refund, less $150.00 per person administration fee, until December 13th, 2013. No refunds on/after December 13th, 2013.