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Rare Bird Alert: October 26, 2012

Strong westerly winds over the last week, particularly in the Great Lakes region eastward, have seen a great number of interesting western vagrants turn up all over the right third of the continent from the Maritimes southward.  This annual reshuffling is one of the most exciting parts of the late fall birding season, and while peak migration time is certainly waning, peak rarity time is just heating up.  But there’s an added bonus this fall in the southward movement of winter finches.

Let the wild irrumpus begin!  We in the ABA are especially keen to see this week’s big push of our Bird of the Year, the Evening Grosbeak. Evebeaks were noted as far south as Gates, North Carolina this week, with the mid-Atlantic seeing the largest concentration of the birds in decades.  Delaware had it’s first (and second and third…) in several years with a small flock near Newark, and several were seen in nearby Maryland as well.  This may be the year for birders in the east, and they’re definitely coming.  Make sure you’ve budgeted for sunflower seeds.

GTTA MAThe most incredible bird of the period was undoubtedly the first for Massachusetts, as well as the entire eastern side of the continent, Gray-tailed Tattler (photo at left by Peter Trimble) in the harbor at Nantucket. But the super-rare shorebird wasn’t the only thing going on in the Bay State.  On Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes, both a Bell’s Vireo and a Black-throated Gray Warbler were found earlier in the week.  And if that wasn’t enough, the season’s first Pink-footed Goose (ABA Code 4) was on a reservoir in Essex, while a Townsend’s Solitaire was discovered in Barnstable.  For such a small state, it hardly seems fair.

Up in the Atlantic provinces, a Western Kingbird near Bedford, Nova Scotia is a nice find.

And a Townsend’s Warbler near Bear Cove Point in Newfoundland is that province’s 15th.

In Quebec, a Swainson’s Hawk at Capitale-Nationale is notable both for range and season, and a Purple Gallinule at Bas-Saint-Laurent is certainly unexpected.

A Hudsonian Godwit was photographed in that rarity trap of Scarborough, York, Maine.

A Barnacle Goose (4) was reported from near Windsor, Connecticut.

The Wood Sandpiper continues in Rhode Island, and has been joined in the state by a Ruff (3) near Barrington.

Always good in the east, a Franklin’s Gull was discovered in Oswego, New York, and a Barnacle Goose (4), with all the attendant provenance discussions taking place, was seen in Kings.

In New Jersey, a Hooded Crow*, almost certainly the same one that excited and vexed birders last year, was seen in Atlantic, and a Townsend’s Solitaire report comes from Cape May.

*UPDATE: The Hooded Crow was apparently an erroneous report. 

A Cinnamon Teal was found at Bombay Hook, Delaware, and in Maryland, a Franklin’s Gull in Baltimore.

Reported from the ABA Rally in Northampton, Virginia, last week, an “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler was just the state’s 6th.

In North Carolina, an apparent “Gambel’s” White-crowned Sparrow was well-photographed in Dare, and a Western Kingbird was a one-day wonder in Cumberland.

A Western Kingbird was also in South Carolina this week, on Folly Island.

A Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3) was seen this week on Big Pine Key, Monroe, Florida, and both an Elegant Tern and a “Cayenne” Sandwich Tern are present near Sarasota.

Back up north to Ontario, where a Tufted Duck (3) showed up near Ottawa, and a Glossy Ibis was seen in the vicinity of Brighton.

Northern Ohio was slammed this week, with a Western Grebe in Trumbull, a Bohemian Waxwing in Harrison, and both a Say’s Phoebe and a Western Kingbird in Cuyahoga.

Several Cave Swallows were seen from Whitefish Point, in Chippewa, Michigan.

An unexpected and long-traveling Golden-crowned Sparrow turned up in Wayne, Illinois.

In Minnesota, a Townsend’s Solitaire report comes from Sherburne.

Still a very good bird in the interior of the continent, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was in Pottawattamie, Iowa.

In North Dakota, a Pacific Loon was reported from Upper Souris NWR.

In South Dakota, a Golden-crowned Sparrow was attending a feeder in Sioux Falls.

Up to four Steller’s Jay have been seen this week in the vicnity of Gering, Nebraska. One was banded.

A good bird for Kansas, particularly in the east, was a Rock Wren in Osage.

Perhaps a sign of things to come for the midwest, a small flock of Bohemian Waxwing were seen on the campus of Northern Oklahoma Univeristy, in Ponca City, Osage, Oklahoma.

Good birds in Texas include a Varied Thrush visiting a feeder in the Christmas Mountains near Big Bend, and a Shiny Cowbird on the Bolivar Penninsula.

Arizona’s 15th Philadelphia Vireo was well-photographed in Santa Cruz.  Also in the state, a Black Scoter in Navajo and a Rufous-capped Warbler (3) in Cochise.

Colorado’s 4th record of Nelson’s Sparrow has been present in Pueblo for several days.

A Harris’s Hawk, a potential first for Montana, was seen well in Lake, but has been plagued by questions of provenance, as extralimital records of this species often are.  Also, a Black Scoter was recorded near Great Falls.

A Harlequin Duck was reported on the Antelope Island Causeway, near Salt-Lake City, Utah.

Good birds in California include a Magnificent Frigatebird in Los Angeles and a Yellow-throated Warbler in Humboldt.

Washington’s third Common Eider, along with a Bar-tailed Godwit were reported in Grays Harbor, along with a Tropical Kingbird in nearby Pacific.

Good birding to be had on the coast of British Columbia, with the report of a Rustic Bunting (3) and several Brambling (3) on Haida Gwaii, and a Tropical Kingbird at Crescent Beach.

Mentioned on a #ABArare post this week, Alaska’s first mainland record of Skylark (3) came from Kenai, and a Clay-colored Sparrow was reported from Ketchikan.


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 <>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.  Place names written in italics refer to counties/parishes/districts.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
Nate Swick

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