American Birding Podcast



Rare Bird Alert: August 31, 2012

This is the week the whole fall thing blew up.  From coast to coast (and in several cases, beyond) unusual birds were putting themselves in front of binoculars practically begging to be counted.  No fewer than 5 state/provincial firsts were discovered this week, some expected and some completely off the radar of every birder except the lucky few who made the discovery.  At least two states experienced what were referred to post-hoc as “the greatest pelagic trip ever”, and everything from flycatchers to plovers to pelicans made an appearance.  It was a great week to be a birder.  Here’s to a great fall.

TBKIArguably the most exciting record for the week came from the north shore of Lake Ontario, where a Thick-billed Kingbird, a species without a strong history of vagrancy in the west, let alone eastern Canada, was discovered near Brighton, Ontario. The bird has been present for the last three days. (photo at left by David Beadle)

Another possible provincial first also came from eastern Canada, a flyby Crested Caracara reported from near Yamaska, Montérégie, Quebec. With raptors, provenance is obviously an issue, but there has been no additional information, positive or negative, available on this bird since it’s discovery on Wednesday.

Offshore firsts (potentially) came from the first “best pelagic ever” in Maryland waters.  Participants not only found Maryland’s first* Herald Petrel (ABA Code 3) but also 5 Black-capped Petrels representing the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th records, and an amazing total of 144 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, when there had been only 6 confirmed records previously. Also seen were Long-tailed Jaeger and Bridled Tern, seen both in Maryland and Delaware waters.

*last year, an NOAA vessel operating in waters where Maryland is the closest point of land found 3 Herald Petrels, but Maryland defines its ocean boundaries by latitude, so it is unclear whether the DC/MD records committee would accept those records as the first for Maryland. 

Another state first comes from Washington, where a Wilson’s Plover was discovered in Walla Walla.  Interestingly enough, another vagrant plover from the opposite direction, a Lesser Sand-Plover (3) was discovered a few days later in Grays Harbor, on the other side of the state!

The last state first, still unconfirmed at the time of writing this post, comes from Colorado where an apparent Greater Pewee was photographed in Fremont.  Also in the state, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, a no-doubter, was seen in Jefferson.

The second epic pelagic journey was a two-day trip into Massachusetts’s offshore waters, where at least one and possibly two Little “Barolo” Shearwaters (5), along with a Red-billed Tropicbird (3), among others.  Onshore, a Curlew Sandpiper (3) is hanging around in Barnstable.

The first eastern record of a returning wintering Rufous Hummingbird of the fall comes from a returning bird to Trigg, Kentucky.

Arkansas’s amazing Brown Booby of last week has been replaced, perhaps even more amazingly, by a second, separate, Brown Booby (3) at a lake in Garland, not more that 50 miles from the first one. Unfortunately, this birds is not accessible for the public as of yet.

These Brown Boobies are not occuring in a vaccum, as Texas has hosted two as well, one in Comol and the second in Harris.  Also seen in the state, a possible Greater Pewee at Estero Llano Sp in Hidalgo.

Prior to the hurricane, Louisiana hosted a Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher in New Orleans.

A Brown Pelican skirting the border of Carrol and Tuscawara counties, is the state’s 6th.

Good birds in Illinois include a Whimbrel in Macon and a Say’s Phoebe in Lake.

A Swallow-tailed Kite has been present in Tama, Iowa, for the past couple days.

And a couple Swallow-tailed Kites have been seen in the vicinity of Prairie Village, Johnson, Kansas, as well.

One of fewer than 20 records for Arizona is a Purple Gallinule in Maricopa.

The most notable eastern vagrant to get caught in the Roosevelt, New Mexico, traps was a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

Excellent for Utah is a Pacific Golden-Plover found in Salt Lake.

Idaho’s second ever Canada Warbler was well-photographed in Camas NWR, Jefferson, not more than 50 feet from where the first was found several years ago.

Another great pelagic haul came from California, where a Hawaiian Petrel (4) was photographed offshore of San Mateo.

Alaska’s fourth Great Shearwater was seen from Kodiak (perhaps having arrived over the top of the continent via open sea lanes in the Arctic?) and birders on Gambell have found Dusky Warbler (4), Willow Warbler (5), and Temminck’s Stint (3) in the last week.

And in over in Hawaii, the state’s ninth record of Wood Sandpiper was photographed in Kaua’i.


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.