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#ABArare – Eurasian Bittern – Alaska

Ronan Dugan and Michelle Goh, biologists working for the Seabird Ecology Research Group at Memorial University, discovered a Eurasian Bittern (no previous North American records) at South Marsh, Buldir Island, AK on June 14. I heard of the sighting on June 15, but due to the difficulty of communicating with people on the island, it took awhile for me to learn the details of the sighting.

Ian Jones, head of the Seabird Ecology Research Group, reported that it was seen and well-described by Dugan and Goh, but no photos were obtained. Jones paraphrases the description: “huge (larger that the GWGUs [Glaucous-winged Gulls] attacking it), wings uniformly coloured, streaked tan upperparts with heavily streaked creamy-buff underparts, obviously a huge bittern and totally unlike American Bittern.” When it was last seen on the 14th, it was being vigorously harassed by Glaucous-winged Gulls. Jones reported then that the research team was continuing to search for it.

The news today was that it was refound at the orginal spot on June 25, and Dugan obtained photographs:

ABArare Eurasian Bittern_1_dugan

ABArare Eurasian Bittern_2_dugan
photos by Ronan Dugan

The location where it was seen is a small stream in a sheltered valley, and it is a bit of a magnet for members of the Ardeidae family. The bittern was within a few meters of where an Intermediate Egret (first North American record), two Great Egrets, and four Black-crowned Night-Herons were found dead in 2006 and two living Black-crowned Night-Herons have been seen over the years. Alaska’s first Little Egret was found dead elsewhere on Buldir in 2000. Whether these photographs are sufficient for the Alaska Records Committee and ABA to accept what would be a first North American and ABA Area record remains to be seen, but the researchers will continue looking for the bird and will try to obtain more photos. But given the unfortunate outcome for many herons and egrets on the island, they’ll also be keeping an eye out for a carcass.

Other than this bittern and the previously-reported Eurasian Oystercatcher (which continued at least as late as June 14), things have been a little slow for vagrants this spring, as it was at some of the other Bering Sea outposts. Highlights include Common Sandpiper (Code 3) and Gray-tailed Tattler (Code 3) on May 28, 2 Wood Sandpipers (Code 2) May 25-28, Common Snipe (Code 3) May 25-27, 2 Barn Swallows (pale-bellied Asian form) on June 20, Oriental Greenfinch (Code 4) on June 1 and 21, and a Hawfinch (Code 4) on June 5.


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John Puschock

John Puschock

John Puschock reports ABA rare bird alerts and manages #ABArare for the American Birding Association. John is a frequent participant in rare bird forums around the web and has knack for gathering details necessary to relocate birds. He has been a birder since 1984 and now leads tours for Bird Treks, as well as for his own company Zugunruhe Birding Tours. He has led tours to locations across North America, from Newfoundland to New Mexico and from Costa Rica to Alaska. He specializes in leading tours to Adak in the Aleutian Islands.
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