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Rare Bird Alert: March 9, 2012

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This weekly look at the reported vagrants across ABA area is not intended to be an official record for any rare bird report.  I see it more as a temperature taking, a snapshot of what people are excited about across the continent.  That said, most records can be taken as is and I try to qualify the questionable reports as such, but occasionally a yawner gets through.

That’s sort of the risk you run when you’re trying to get something like this out every week.  Those reports published in ABA publications under the Sightings heading go through that extra level of quality control, and those that make it to North American Birds are practically iron-clad, but here I consider timeliness to be the most important factor in a decision to publicize a report.

I bring this up in light of a pair of interesting, but as yet unconfirmed, records from the eastern middle of the continent.  More, both are potential state/provincial firsts.

The first, a dark gull reported near Ottawa, Ontario, was initially suspected to be the province’s second record of Heermann’s Gull.  The bird in question settled in a gull roost at the Deschennes Rapids on the Ottawa River, making forays into Quebec, for which Heerman’s Gull would be a first record.  At the time of this post, however, it has been suggested that the bird may, in fact, be a melanistic individual of a more common gull species.

Second, a small diving bird seen in Livingston, Michigan, was reported as an Atlantic Puffic, an infrequent visitor to the eastern Great Lakes but a potential first record for Michigan.  The bird has not been relocated as of the time of publication.

We leave the realm of possibility and enter more steady ground with the report of a subadult Steller’s Sea-Eagle (ABA Code 4) in Juneau, Alaska.  This may or may not be the same bird reported a month previously.

A Costa’s Hummingbird has been visiting a feeder in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Always notable in the ABA area, a Brown Booby (3) was photographed offshore of San Diego, California.

Perhaps forgotten in the hoopla surrounding Arizona’s first state Redpoll in February, a second Common Redpoll, the second for the state, was seen only days later, also in Coconino.  In the same county is a Lapland Longspur, one of fewer than 20 records for the state.

Rare for the Texas Lower Valley is a Painted Redstart at Bentsen State Park in Hidalgo, another group of Brown Jays is also visiting an RV park in Starr.

Well-photographed and excellent for Oklahoma is a Say’s Phoebe in Cleveland.

Shiny Cowbirds (3) were discovered among grackles in Plaquemines, Louisiana.

Both Thayer’s and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were reported from a roost in La Crosse, Wisconisin.

A Virginia’s Warbler in Talbot, Maryland’s first record, is continuing into this week.

Much more accommodating than the record from the end of last year, a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch visiting a feeder in upstate Lewis, is the second for New York, and the second in three months.

In addition to the putative Heermann’s Gull, Ontario boast two records of Smew (3) this week, at Whitby and later at Long Point, of what may be the same bird.

A Townsend’s Solitaire was discovered near Torrington, Connecticut.

A Pacific Loon with a bizarre bill defect in Essex, Massachusetts, this week looks to be he same individual as spent the winter in New Hampshire.

Along the Connecticut River that forms the border of Vermont and New Hampshire, a Barnacle Goose (4) was among a flock of Canadas around Vernon, Vermont, and Hinsdale, New Hampshire.

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Readers should note that none of these reports has yet been vetted by a records committee. All birders are urged to submit documentation of rare sightings to the appropriate state or provincial committees. For full analysis of these and other bird observations, subscribe to North American Birds <aba.org/nab>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
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