The parade of state/provincial firsts that overtook the rare bird alert for pretty much the entirety of November was bound to come to an end sometime. But this first week of December, beyond offering the regular mix of vagrants across the continent, is interesting because of the return of three of last year's most exciting rarities. I suppose there's no way to be absolutely certain that they're the same individuals, but as the birds in question have returned to the exact spot as the birds last year the odds seem very much in favor of that happening.
The first of these likely returnees is a stunning male Falcated Duck (ABA Code 4) that turned up at Sacramento NWR, Colusa, California. Access to the auto loop at the refuge is complicated by high water, but the overlook from which the duck has been seen most consistently, is still accessible.
Photo at left by Nicole Perkins.
The other returning rarity is a Nutting's Flycatcher (5), that's apparently come back to Bill Williams River NWR in La Paz, Arizona. Other good birds in the state include a pair of eastern warblers, Yellow-throated Warbler and Pine Warbler, both in Pima.
The third returning rarity comes from Alaska, where the Dusky Thrush (4) present on and off at the end of last year has returned to Anchorage.
Still notable on the west coast, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was reported from Wallula, Washington.
In New Mexico, a Red-bellied Woodpecker was Eddy.
A Red-necked Grebe near Dallas and a Great Black-backed Gull in Surfside are both review species for Texas.
A Glaucous Gull in Orleans and a Tropical Kingbird in Caddo are good birds for Louisiana.
Oklahoma had a Pacific Loon on Lake Tenkiller in Cherokee.
In Arkansas, a Rock Wren was reported from a water treatment facility in Fayetteville, Washington.
A Red-throated Loon has been present for the last few days on a lake in Pawnee, Kansas.
In Colorado, a Little Gull was near Windsor, in Larimer.
A second record east of the Rocky Mountains was a 'Type 5' Red Crossbill recorded in Boone, Missouri.
A Gyrfalcon was reported from Polk, Iowa, the farthest south record of that Arctic falcon this season.
Michigan has a pair of Varied Thrushes in the state, both in Marquette and Barry.
There's a Varied Thrush in Ohio, too, this one in Lorain. Also in the state was a California Gull in Cuyahoga and a pair of Western Grebes in Lake and Cuyahoga.
In Kentucky a Little Gull was in Calloway, and Tennessee's fourth record of Western Grebe (and second this fall) was in Davidson.
A Sprague's Pipit was well-photographed in Tunica, Mississippi.
In Alabama, a White-faced Ibis was seen near Daphne and a Vermilion Flycatcher near Foley.
A young Swainson's Hawk was seen on Eglin AFB, in Okaloosa, Florida.
A Sprague's Pipit in Macon, Georgia, is likely a returning bird from last year, but a Snowy Owl on Sea Island in Glynn was completely unexpected.
North Carolina's third Ash-throated Flycatcher of the season was seen in Carteret, and a Say's Phoebe was reported from the Kiptopeke hawkwatch in Northampton, Virginia.
In West Virginia, a Red-necked Grebe in present in Taylor.
A Western Kingbird was reported from Dorchester, Maryland.
Pennsylvania's 3rd Calliope Hummingbird (and second in as many months) is coming to a feeder in Lancaster, and a Black-headed Gull is in Butler.
An Eared Grebe is a good bird on the Lake Ontario shore in Toronto, Ontario.
Another 'Audubon's' Yellow-rumped Warbler was reported from near Intervale, Vermont.
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.