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#ABArare – Willow Warbler (probably) – Alaska

After a rush of rarities in May, things have slowed down in the Bering Sea region, but on June 6, Paul Lehman found a very dull Phylloscopus warbler in the Near Boneyard at Gambell, Alaska. It was actually first discovered by Kevin Zimmer and his tour group earlier in the day, but at the time, they were only able to see enough to call it an “Arctic Warbler type bird”.

Identification of Phylloscopus warblers can be a challenge, and there was (and is) some uncertainty about this bird. Lehman at first thought it could be a Chiffchaff, which would represent a first North American record, but photos suggest that it is a Willow Warbler (Code 5). There are about 10 previous records of Willow Warbler in the ABA Area (about nine from Gambell and one from St. Paul; Note to ABA Code editors – probably time to change this to a Code 4!), but this would be the first spring record.

ABArare Zimmer Phyllosc 2photo by Kevin Zimmer

Discussions continue behind the scenes. If the consensus turns away from the Willow Warbler identification, I’ll update this post.