Rare Bird Alert: September 14, 2012
by Nate Swick
This was a pretty remarkable week for birds. Not only did fall migration ramp up with a vengeance - as it tends to in the first week in September - but birders out and about found a total of four first state/provincial records across the continent, a fantastic haul. Now here's the million dollar question. Was this great run of state firsts just a coincidental run of luck, or the expected result of thousands of additional birder-hours out in the field anticipating this first push of passerine migration of the fall? I know which one I tend towards.
But before we get to this week, I'd like to jump back a month or so to mention a phenomenal record from Saskatchewan that just recently came to light. A feeder watcher near Peesane made public a photo of a male Lucifer Hummingbird that briefly visited her feeders on July 20. This is obviously a first provincial record, but a first for Canada as well, and an incredible record for a species without a strong history of vagrancy. One only wishes the news could have gotten out earlier! UPDATE: The bird in question was not a Lucifer, but apparent a Ruby-throated with a deformed bill.
A first for Canada that was reported in a bit more timely manner was a Kelp Gull (ABA Code 4) discovered at Wheatley Harbour on the northern shore of Lake Erie. Photo at left by Alan Wormington
Another state first in the Great Lakes region was a surprising Great Shearwater found in Benzie on Lake Michigan, almost certainly pushed into the interior of the continent by Hurricane Isaac. The bird, however, was in poor health and died the next day. The specimen was collected and will reside at the University of Michigan.
Out west, a Tyrannus flycatcher, tentatively identified as a Tropical Kingbird was discovered in Provo, Utah. This is another state first, as would be Couch's Kingbird too should the evidence point that way instead.
And the last state first of the period was an exciting Crested Caracara in Mercer, New Jersey. There have been other reports of the species in the state, but the provenance of those is unclear. Also notable in Jersey are a Magnificent Frigatebird, which perched on a channel marker in Cape May, and a Franklin's Gull in Cumberland.
Elsewhere in the northeast, a Ruff (3) - not rare anymore but still notable - was in St. John's.
In Maine, a White-winged Dove was present near the town of Auburn, in Androscoggin.
Annual in the northeast but an exciting bird nonetheless was a Northern Wheatear near Andover, Essex, Massachusetts.
A Lark Sparrow in Gaspé, Quebec, is a nice bird east of the Mississippi.
A fascinating bird in Richmond, New York, has been identified as a possible Bell's Vireo, a potential 3rd state record, though there is some talk now that the bird in question is an abnormal juvi White-eyed Vireo.
Fun western birds from the west in Ohio include a Townsend's Warbler in Ottawa and a Cinnamon Teal in Lorain.
Good birds in Florida this week include a Western Tanager in Franklin and a Brown Booby (3) in St. Lucie.
Returning wintering hummingbirds in Lousiana include a Calliope Hummingbird in Homer, Claiborne.
Following a great record from the Lower Valley, a second Short-tailed Hawk was found in Texas, this time from a hawkwatch in Corpus Christi, Nueces.A Broad-tailed Hummingbird in extreme southwestern Morton, Kansas, is a good bird for the state.
In Colorado, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was found in Larimer, along with a Connecticut Warbler in El Paso and an Arctic Tern in Pueblo.
Idaho's 8th record of Band-tailed Pigeon was phtoographed this week in Ada.
A Prairie Warbler in Washoe, Nevada, is a nice bird for the Great Basin.
In California, birders wait for fall with unapolgetic excitement. Notable birds this week include a Prothonotary Warbler in Los Angeles, a Bar-tailed Godwit in San Louis Obispo, and a Smith's Longspur in Humboldt.
Sharp-tailed Sandpipers (3) are annual on the Pacific Coast, but rarely in the numbers seen so far this fall. In Oregon, at least two individual Sharp-tailed Sandpipers were present in both Lane and Marion.
But perhaps the most remarkable report comes from British Columbia, where a flock of 15(!) Sharp-tailed Sandpiper were found in Penicton.
In Alaska, Saint Paul Island and Gambell seem to be competing hard for the best fall 2012, with the former weighing in with a Rufous-tailed Robin (5) and a Jack Snipe (4), and the latter reporting a Pechora Pipit (4) and a Cape May Warbler, which doesn't sound hot until you realize it's only Alaska's 8th. Not to be forgotten, Adak hosted a Baikal Teal (4).
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.