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Rare Bird Alert: September 15, 2017

What a week, highlighted by the vagrant floodgates opening in western Alaska and Hurricane Irma bringing heavy winds and seabirds to many places throughout the southeast. Between those two events, this is the biggest RBA of the fall, both in quality and quantity.

First, a quick rundown of continuing birds. The Swallow-tailed Gull (ABA Code 5) in Washington hung around into the beginning of the week but has not been seen in several days at this point. The California Blue-footed Booby (4) has been sticking around. In Florida, a Bahama Mockingbird (4) persists, and the Tufted Flycatcher (5) in  Arizona was still seen this week.

Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, Alaska had quite a week this week, with a parade of east Asian vagrants entertaining birders on the island. The most incredible was the ABA and Alaska 1st Thick-billed Warbler, which ended up sticking around for a few days showing very well. This species doesn’t breed closer to the ABA Area than southeast Russia, so its presence was a very exciting surprise.

This Thick-billed Warbler is one only the third representative of the family Acrocephalidae to occur as a vagrant in the ABA Area, though the endemic Millerbird of Hawaii represents this family as a breeder. Photo: Greg Scyphers/Macaulay Library

The Thick-billed Warbler was only the highlight of a remarkable week on Gambell that also included 3 Dusky Warblers (4), a Siberian Rubythroat (4), a Taiga Flycatcher  (4), a “Siberian” Chiffchaff (5), a Willow Warbler (5), multiple Little Buntings  (4), and a Wood Warbler (5).

Gambell hosted the bulk of vagrants, but the rest of western Alaska was not shut out. On the Pribilofs, a Red-flanked Bluetail (4), and a continuing White-tailed Eagle (4) were on St. Paul, and a Gray-streaked Flycatcher (4) on St. George. In the Aleutians, a Common Cuckoo (4) was found on Unalaska, and an Olive-backed Pipit (3) in Nome.

On the very same day that the Thick-billed Warbler was found, a Kermadec Petrel was photographed circling Southeast Farallon Island in San Francisco. This is a 1st California record and the 1st for the ABA Continental Area, as the species has been recorded before in Hawaii. 

Hurricane Irma pushed a bunch of seabirds around throughout the southeast, the full rundown can be found here. Tennessee had the most impressive list, particularly since the storm had weakened significantly by the time it crossed its border, with two state 1sts coming as a result of the storm, a crazy Black-capped Petrel and a Brown Noddy, both in Hardin. At the same lake, Royal Tern and Sooty Tern were also seen.

Also related to Irma, Kentucky had a few Sooty Terns at Kentucky Dam.

Brown Noddies, likely storm blown, were seen on both Carolina, one in Georgetown, South Carolina, and another in Brunswick, North Carolina.

Good for Florida, but reported pre-storm, was an Inca Dove in Escambia.

Up in New Jersey, a pair of good birds, a Roseate Spoonbill in Cumberland, and a Northern Wheatear near Wyckoff.

Very nice for Massachusetts, a Common Ringed Plover was well documented near Westport.

In Nova Scotia, a good candidate for Western Wood-Pewee was discovered near Cape Breton.

Good birds for Quebec this week include a Black-billed Magpie in Lanaudière, a Yellow-throated Warbler in Montérégie, and a Swallow-tailed Kite in Lanaudière.

Illinois’s 3rd record of Broad-billed Hummingbird was visiting a feeder in Springfield.

In Michigan, an Anhinga was spotted soaring among Broad-winged Hawks in Delta.

A Golden-winged Warbler was banded this week in Ouray, Colorado.

Utah had a Red-eyed Vireo on Antelope Island, in Davis.

In Nevada, a Baltimore Oriole was photographed in Clark.

Idaho’s 2nd record of White-eyed Vireo was photographed in Jefferson, at Camas NWR, where the state’s 1st Great Crested Flycatcher was seen last week.

And in British Columbia, the province’s 6th record of Red-headed Woodpecker, a pair, were in Revelstoke, a Curlew Sandpiper (3) was in Delta, a White-winged Dove in Richmond, and a pair of Scripp’s Murrelets seen from an NOAA vessel in BC waters.


Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT and I will 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 <>, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.

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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.
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