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    Rare Bird Alert: December 6, 2013

    The early part of this year’s winter has been all about Snowy Owls, and why not? They’re big. They’re flashy. And they’re practically the embodiment of winter. Aside from the owls, the rest of the winter avifauna is MIA this year, not that this was completely unexpected given Ron Pittaway’s thin finch report.

    But winter birding scene received a big jolt this week with the arrival of a Ross’s Gull to Lake Red Rock in Marion, Iowa, this week, the state’s 4th record. Interestingly enough, 2 out of those previous 3 came from very lake. The bird has been seen by birders every day this week, so perhaps it will hang around for a while.

    Ross's Gull

    Ross’s Gull at Lake Red Rock, Iowa – photo by Aaron Brees

    Snowy Owls are still piling into the Midwest and East coast and there are too many records to note them all individually. The bird on North Carolina’s Outer Banks persists, but two additional Snowy Owl records were made public in that state, one in Hyde and another well inland in Wake. Neither were publicly accessible though.

    We have a new southernmost record for Snowy Owl though, one was seen at Cape Romain in Charleston, South Carolina, this week.

    A Black-legged Kittiwake was seen on Lake Hartwell in Georgia, where there are fewer than 5 inland records of the species. That lake lies on the South Carolina border but there has been no word that the bird has crossed over the state line.

    Tis the season for vagrant flycatchers in the east, and a Say’s Phoebe in Fauquier, Virginia, is right on time.

    New Jersey hosted a Barnacle Goose (ABA Code 4) among a flock of Canada Geese and various geese hybrids in Bergen.

    Always a nice find in the east, New York has a Pacific Loon in Suffolk.

    A Fork-tailed Flycatcher (3) has been exceptionally photogenic in Lyme, Connecticut.

    Notable for Massachusetts is a Harris’s Sparrow in Wenham.

    A good candidate for Thayer’s Gull was photographed in Rye, New Hampshire.

    Western vagrants in Nova Scotia this week include a Bullock’s Oriole in Kentville and a Western Tanager in Cape Breton.

    In Quebec, a Black-throated Gray Warbler has been present for several days in Outaouais.

    Ontario’s 3rd Thick-billed Murre since the 1950s was well-photographed by many in Kingston. An Anna’s Hummingbird in Thunder Bay is a first for northern Ontario and one of only a few records for the province.

    Across the lake, a Harlequin Duck was seen in Cuyahoga, Ohio.

    In Alabama, a Vermilion Flycatcher turned up near Daphne.

    Nice inland, a Red-throated Loon was seen in Pulaski.

    A “Western” Flycatcher, apparently on-vocalizing, was seen in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

    Good for Texas, a Mew Gull was seen in Hudspeth.

    Socorro, New Mexico, hosted a pair of great birds in a Eurasian Wigeon and a Black-legged Kittiwake.

    A pair of nice gulls were seen in Utah this week, a Glaucous-winged Gull in Salt Lake and a Slaty-backed Gull (3) at Lee Kay.

    Nevada had a Eurasian Wigeon near Reno.

    Not a full species (yet), a  “Vega” Herring Gull was well-photographed in San Mateo, California, and the state’s 2nd Gray Hawk was seen in Santa Barbara, very possibly the same bird that was the state’s first last year.

    In Montana, a Harris’s Sparrow was photographed in Sanders and a Glaucous Gull was seen near Flathead.

    Always exciting, a Northern Hawk-Owl was discovered near Moscow, Idaho.

    Oregon’s 11th or so Yellow-throated Warbler was seen on private property near Ankney NWR.

    In British Columbia, a Hooded Oriole is visiting a feeder in Port McNeill.


    Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT aba.org and I’ll try to fix them as soon as possible. This post is meant to be an account of the most recently reported birds. Continuing birds not mentioned are likely included in previous editions listed here. Place names written in italics refer to counties/parishes.

    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.

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    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick

    Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog. A long-time member of the bird blogosphere, Nate has been writing about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird since 2007, but can also be found writing regularly at 10,000 Birds. In the non-digital world, he's an environmental educator and interpretive naturalist. Nate lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children, who are not yet aware that they are being groomed to be birders.
    Nate Swick

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    • Mike Patterson

      The Yellow-throated Warbler was originally seen on the refuge and most folks who’ve seen is saw it there or in other very public spaces. However, it is also using a suet feeder at a home in a community of homes near the refuge. Some members of that community have been less than enthusiastic about all the attention and, while most birders (based on multiple accounts) have been very respectful of private property issues, there was at least one incident which ended in a property owner making a phone call to Jeff Gordon (that’s right he/she went all the way to the top).

      The local network of folks who frequent Ankeny NWR are on the case and I have every confidence they will continue to be scrupulously respectful of private property issues and will help visitors from out of town define the boundaries between public and private spaces.

    • Rodney McCollum

      Are you sure South Carolina is the southernmost record for Snowy Owl? Didn’t Georgia have one on the coast just last winter?

      • Mike Patterson
      • http://blog.aba.org/ Nate Swick

        Sorry, I meant in the ABA Area this year.

        • Rodney McCollum

          I can’t wait for some to show up in Alabama.

          • http://blog.aba.org/ Nate Swick

            At this rate, you may not have to wait too long!

    • Judy

      FYI we had a spotted owl in our back yard for a few minutes Dec 2, we live in Roswell, GA and saw him perched on a post in our yard. Judy…

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