Rare Bird Alert: April 20, 2012
by Nate Swick
Things have certainly picked up as we well and truly head into spring migration. Not only are FOYs popping up like lawn dandelions across the continent, but less expected species are moving around as well. Strong southerly air pushed into continental airspace following the passage of a large storm system in the middle of the week and brought birds with them. The middle of the continent offered the best birding of the period, not only because of the onrush of migrants waiting for just these conditions, but there are lots of unusual records too, headlined by a certain flycatcher in Illinois.
That aforementioned flycatcher is not only a first state record, but either a first or second ABA area record (depending on its still as-yet-to-be-determined identification). It's an Elaenia sp (photo at left by Aaron Gyllenhaal) discovered in a smallish park in Cook, Illinois, on 4/17 and refound two days later. Discussion now centers around whether the bird can be identified to species with the two leading contenders being White-crowned Elaenia, of which there is a previous ABA record from Texas (November 2008), or Small-billed Elaenia, a possible first ABA-area record.
Birders should know that elaenia identification is perilous business and that, at the time of writing, the bird has NOT been conclusively identified. One hopes that, given the fact that it has persisted for two days, something more determinative can be attained.
Not in the ABA-area, but worth mentioning here, are two first state records in the last couple weeks for the Hawaiian Islands. An Elegant Tern was discovered near Kona, Hawaii, on the big island and a Surfbird was found on Oahu, Honolulu. Both are still present.
A couple exciting records from California both come from the northern half of the state. A Crested Caracara has been present for the last few days in Del Norte, and a Smith's Longspur was just discovered yesterday in Humboldt.
Always excellent south of Alaska, an Arctic Loon was photographed offshore near Jordan River, British Columbia, on the south end of Vancouver Island.
In Saskatchewan, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported near Regina.
Good for Wyoming is a Glossy Ibis from Laramie, and just south in Colorado come reports of a Great Black-backed Gull in Bent and a Red-throated Loon in Denver.
A Glossy Ibis also made an appearance in New Mexico, this time in Dona Ana.
In Texas, a Black-whiskered Vireo has been around most of the week in Sabine Woods, Jefferson.
Continuing last week's spate of Ruff (ABA Code 3) records comes one from Olmstead, Minnesota.
There's also a Ruff (3) in Clinton, Illinois, but it's overshadowed by a dull little flycatcher at the moment.
Practically passé in the northeast of the continent anymore is a Barnacle Goose (4) near Nestleton, Ontario. A bit more exiciting in the province, however, is a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher well-photographed in Prince Edward.
A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was also reported this week in Marshall, Indiana, as well as a Say's Phoebe in Elkhart.
Ohio also has a Say's Phoebe in Lake, as well as a White-winged Dove in Cuyahoga.
Another province with a lingering Barnacle Goose (4) is Quebec, with an individual near Baie-du-Febvre.
Scarborough Marsh in Cumberland, Maine, strikes again this spring with a White-faced Ibis.
The seventh reported Ruff (3) in the last two weeks comes from Anne Arundel, Maryland, a remarkable insurgeance of this species on the continent.
And in Georgia, a Pacific Loon was discovered in Forsyth.
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.