Rare Bird Alert: August 24, 2012
by Nate Swick
As we come upon the first part of September, shorebird migration wanes in favor of the passerines. Fall is heating up, and several classic hotspots across the continent are beginning to see increases in numbers and diversity of migratory birds. For some of us, fall is even more exciting than spring because instead of a hormone fuled race northward, the comparatively lackadaisical rhythms of this time of year spread that period of excellent birding over months rather than weeks. Sure, it may not have the flashy colors or the myriad songs, but spring is about the return of what you know. Fall is all about surprises.
The biggest surprise of the week had to be the jaw-dropping report of FOUR Barolo Shearwaters (ABA Code 5), from an NOAA vessel in Nova Scotia waters, effectively doubling the number of records in the ABA Area in one fell swoop, and obviously a first provincial record as well.
This is the second year in which birders monitoring seabirds on these boats have turned up remarkable records, notably South Carolina's first Herald Petrel last year, as well as incredible numbers of other rare Pterodromas and Tropicbirds. This part of the ABA area is well beyond where many day pelagics are able to survey, and so is largely unknown. But the last two years have shown that there's some exciting stuff out there.
On the other side of the continent, Alaska has been white hot lately, and guides on St Paul Island are making a strong case for the little landmass in the middle of the Bering Sea to become the latest destination for euro stray chasers. This week alone saw a Dark-sided (Formerly Siberian) Flycatcher (4) (photo at left by Doug Gochfeld)and shorebirds including Terek Sandpiper (3) and Little Stint (4).
Moving down the coast, a Black-headed Gull was discovered and well-photographed near Sechelt, British Columbia.
Good eastern vagrants in Colorado include an Eastern Wood-Pewee in Sedgwick and a Least Bittern in Fremont. A Curlew Sandpiper was also reported just yesterday in Morgan, the third record for the state.
Really exciting for Texas is a possible White-winged Tern (4) photographed at Lake Balmorhea in Reeves. The bird is not confirmed, but several field marks are suggestive of the European species. Head over to Martin Reid's website to check it out for yourself.
The Brown Booby (3) in Arkansas, reported last week, was present throug much of the week but has recently left. It was last seen attempting to join a passing flock of Canada Geese.
A White Ibis in Boone, Missouri, is a good bird for the state, particularly away from the Mississippi River.
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks are increasingly regular summer visitors to the upper Midwest anymore, but a small flock in Sheboyghan, Wisconsin, is still worth noting.
An apparant Ash-throated Flycatcher was reported in Lee, Illinois.
A couple good birds were reported in Indiana this week, including a Curlew Sandpiper (3) in Greene, and a Royal Tern near Indianapolis.
Not nearly as prevelent this year compared to last, a Neotropic Cormorant was seen near Memphis, Tennessee.
Alabama's 4th Inca Dove, reported two weeks ago, was joined this week by the state's 5th Inca Dove, IN Baldwin.
A Baird's Sandpiper in Brevard, Florida, is a nice bird so far southeast.
A Gray Kingbird was photographed this week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Dare.
A nice bird for New Jersey was a subadult Reddish Egret found in the marsh at Brigantine NWR, Atlantic.
Increasingly found up the east coast, but still notable for New England, was a White-winged Dove, reported from Bristol, Massachusetts.
A Wilson's Phalarope is a nice bird for Rhode Island, this one seen near Charlestown.
And in Quebec, a Royal Tern, maybe the farthest afield this season, at Bas-Saint-Laurent.
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. Place names written in italics refer to counties/parishes/districts.