Eighteenth ARCC Report

By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek

Over the past two years, seven new species have been added to the Connecticut State List (see the Sixteenth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut, The Connecticut Warbler, Volume 31 No. 2 and the Seventeenth Report, The Connecticut Warbler, Volume 32 No. 2), bringing the total to 431 species.  Several of these were brought to Connecticut courtesy of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.  In late October of 2012, Super Storm Sandy grazed the Connecticut coast, resulting in significant damage to many of our shoreline communities. Sandy sent numerous pelagic birds in our direction, but it did not provide us with any first records.

That is not to say that Connecticut’s State List remains static.  After careful consideration, and in consultation with wildlife biologists from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), the committee has determined that Northern Bobwhite has now been extirpated from Connecticut with respect to a wild, self-sustaining population.  This is the first native species to receive such designation since the extirpation and subsequent extinction of the Passenger Pigeon at the end of the 19th century.  Since that time, numerous species have ceased to breed in Connecticut, but continue to appear as occasional migrants or rare vagrants.  The Northern Bobwhite, a non-migratory species, is not likely to re-appear in Connecticut in the foreseeable future.

Although it remains on the State List, it joins such birds as the Labrador Duck, Heath Hen and the aforementioned Passenger Pigeon in its unfortunate status. Sadly, unless we are successful at maintaining or, in some cases, expanding the critical habitats that certain species require, the Bobwhite will likely not be the last grassland or shrubland specialist to disappear from our state.

At each meeting, the committee takes a careful look at Connecticut’s Review List to determine if certain species might be removed or added. This year, in light of ever increasing reports, Barnacle Goose has been removed from the review list. It seems as though it was only yesterday that any Barnacle Goose sighting in Connecticut was considered to be an escape. An exploding Barnacle Goose population in Greenland has demonstrated how rapidly species status can change within a decade. Following a thorough discussion, the now-annual White-faced Ibis was left on the review list due to questions about potential Glossy X White-faced Ibis hybrids.

Recently, there has been growing discussion of historical records that may be found in old manuscripts, reports or journals. These may include records for which there is some detail, but for which no specimen has been located. One such Connecticut record is a Fieldfare from 1878. A specimen mentioned in the literature had been considered lost until former ARCC member Louis Bevier this year confirmed its presence at the Field Museum in Chicago. Bevier has obtained photos of the specimen and is in the process of writing an account that will appear in a future issue of The Connecticut Warbler. Committee members will continue to study this and other historical records. Birders should bring any such record they may uncover in their research to the attention of the committee.

Finally, the committee has determined that it would be of value to consider “identifiable forms” of certain species. Connecticut birders may note that David Sibley has published an online list of identifiable forms, including subspecies. There is already a precedent for such work by the committee, which has in past years deliberated on such forms as “Black” Brant and “Audubon’s” Warbler. The committee plans to add a list of such forms to be reviewed in a separate section on the checklist.

Members, in addition to the authors, who voted on records in this report were Nick Bonomo, Frank Gallo, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik, Janet Mehmel, Dave Provencher, Mark Szantyr, Dave Tripp and Glenn Williams. The committee thanks Janet Mehmel, who resigned because of a change in residence, for her service.

STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST

The state list now stands at 431. The committee depends on observers to submit their reports of species on the Review List (they are species marked with an asterisk on the COA Checklist plus any species new to the state). The most recent State List and Review List can be viewed on the COA Website. Submit written reports along with documentary material to Jay Kaplan, ARCC chairman, (address below).

FORMAT

This report continues the format of previous reports. In the case of accepted records, only observers who submitted reports are listed, with the original finder listed first followed by an asterisk. Observers who submitted a photo are acknowledged with ‡ following their names. Hyphenated numbers (e.g. 02-01) preceding the observers are the ARCC file numbers. For reopened files, an “R” follows the numbers. The species are listed in order according to the AOU Checklist. Multiple records of a particular species are listed chronologically. Months of the year are shortened to their first three letters.

ACCEPTED RECORDS

CORY’S SHEARWATER (Calonectris diomedea) In the wake of Super Storm Sandy, several reports emerged on 30 Oct 2012 from Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook: One, likely subspecies diomedea (12-33 Nick Bonomo*‡, Frank Gallo); one, likely subspecies borealis (12-34 Nick Bonomo*‡, Frank Gallo); two that were not identified as to subspecies (12-35 Nick Bonomo*, Frank Gallo). The first observer offered the following in his report: “Cory’s Shearwater consists of two subspecies, borealis and diomedea (so-called “Scopoli’s”), both of which breed in the eastern North Atlantic region but disperse to our offshore waters. … The most solid feature used to separate the very similar taxa is underwing pattern.” The photos of 12-33 are indicative of a diomedea pattern. Photos also indicated a borealis pattern on 12-34. The observer noted that recognizing these distinctions “could be of greater significance to the ARCC in the future if these two forms are split by the AOU, which is possible.”

GREAT SHEARWATER (Puffinus gravis) Two were reported from Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook on 30 Oct 2012 in connection with Super Storm Sandy (12-36 and 12-37 Nick Bonomo*, Frank Gallo). This location proved to be ground zero for pelagic sightings during the 2012 storm, with a series of records in this report provided by Bonomo and Gallo. A Great Shearwater was also seen here during Hurricane Irene in August 2011 when Griswold pioneered this site as a prime hurricane watch point.

MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus puffinus) One was seen on 28 Aug 2011 at Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook (11-35 Andy Griswold*). This observation during the surge of pelagic species produced by Hurricane Irene was part of the discovery of this location as a prime hurricane site. The positioning of this site allowed the experienced observer to study the Manx Shearwater at close range. He noted features separating it from the similar Audubon’s Shearwater.

LEACH’S STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) The group conducting the Sandy seawatch on 30 Oct 2012 at Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook recorded a total of seven (12-45 Frank Gallo*). The experienced observer provided descriptions that eliminated similar species such as Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. (Hurricane Irene added the latter to the State List).

BROWN PELICAN(Pelecanus occidentalis) An immature was in flight on 1 Nov 2012 at Sandy Point in West Haven (12-27 Frank Mantlik*‡). An immature was in flight at Stratford Point in Stratford on 2 Nov 2012 (12-17 Scott Kruitbosch*‡). It is impossible to determine if one or two birds were involved. The two hurricanes offered Connecticut birders ample opportunity to see this species, with multiple sightings (of an unknown number of immature birds) in the wake of Irene from 29 Aug to 14 Nov 2011 spanning Old Lyme to Greenwich.

WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) A juvenile was seen and photographed on 6 Sep 2012 at Sandy Point in West Haven and on 17 Sep 2012 in Stratford (12-29 John Oshlick*, Frank Mantlik‡, Ross Allen‡). A juvenile was seen on 29 Sep 2012 in the East River marshes in Guilford (11-31 Samantha Robinson*‡). A juvenile was seen from 13 Dec 2012 through at least 20 Jan 2013, primarily at McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Stratford (12-30 Frank Mantlik*‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Frank Gallo‡). The exact number of birds involved in these sightings is impossible to determine, but plumage differences indicate at least two and timing suggests three. Although all were juveniles, the Guilford bird showed more white plumage molting in on its mantle than the other two. The idea that a bird seen earlier in September could have molted in more white by late September was discussed, but it seemed most likely this was a different bird. The long-staying bird in December-January looked very much like the one seen in early September, meaning it could not have been the more heavily molted Guilford bird. Nothing about its plumage could rule out its being the same bird seen in early September, but the almost three-month gap before its December appearance suggests it was a different individual.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One was found on 15 May 2012 at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport (12-41 Tina Green*, Frank Mantlik‡). The date corresponded with the late spring-early summer period that has produced most sightings. The photographer wrote “… this bird is an adult, based on the brightness and iridescence of the body feathers and the red-wine colored legs. It is even brighter than the nearby Glossy Ibis. It very much fits the illustration by Sibley (p. 66) of a ‘drab adult’.” It lacked intermediate features in either plumage or body parts that would suggest hybridization with Glossy Ibis..

CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) A bird in almost full alternate plumage was found on 15 May 2012 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (12-13 Tina Green*). The bird was seen briefly but described well in its distinctive plumage. The date was typical for appearances by this Eurasian species in the Northeast.

RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicarius) A molting juvenile was seen and well-photographed on 7 Oct 2012 at Rocky Hill Meadows, Rocky Hill (12-21 Richard Gravlin*‡). Hurricane Sandy brought a major fallout on 30 Oct 2012. At Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook, at least 34 were seen in passage by a group of experienced observers (12-44 Frank Gallo‡). At Stratford Point another experienced group saw at least six (12-22 Scott Kruitbosch*). At Great Pond in Simsbury a single bird represented the only significant inland report of a pelagic species delivered by Sandy (12-23 Douglas Beach*‡, Roger Preston*).

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) Super Storm Sandy produced three documented reports on 30 Oct 2012: an adult at Stratford Point in Stratford (12-26 Greg Hanisek*, Scott Kruitbosch, Frank Mantlik); an immature from Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook (12-38 Nick Bonomo*, Frank Gallo); and an adult from Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook (12-39 Nick Bonomo*). Another adult was seen from the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry on 27 Dec 2012 (12-28 Frank Mantlik*‡).

GULL-BILLED TERN (Gelochelidon nilotica) Two were seen by multiple observers on 1 July 2012 at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point (12-15 Sean Murtha*, Charles Barnard, James Dugan‡). This is the first time that multiple individuals of this species have been seen together in Connecticut.

SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis) One was found 26 Aug 2012 at Short Beach in Stratford (12-32 Charles Barnard Jr.*‡). This was a sixth state record but the fourth since 2007. The four recent ones have all been at the mouth of the Housatonic River. An observer familiar with the species first heard and then saw the bird, which was photographed. The photos were not of good quality, but the observer provided an excellent written description that covered all of the key features. With the increasing effective use of digital photography to identify birds, it pays to bear in mind that good notes taken at the time of observation in some cases will prove equally or more useful.

DOVEKIE (Alle alle) One was seen sitting close to shore on 1 Dec 2012 at Stonington Point, Stonington (12-19 Russ Smiley*‡, Nick Bonomo, Frank Gallo). When additional birders arrived to look for this rare visitor to Long Island Sound, a Great Black-backed Gull was observed eating what no doubt was the same Dovekie. It had been seen in proximity to Great Black-backeds when the original observer left.

COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) One was seen and photographed 5 Jan 2013 on a ferry crossing from New London to Orient, N.Y. (13-01 Bill Asteriades‡). After first being documented in the state in January 2011, this species has shown a willingness to enter the eastern end of Long Island Sound. This record followed several sightings in winter 2011-12 on the same ferry route.

CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW (Antrostomus carolinensis) One was flushed during daylight on 4 May 2012 at Stratford Point in Stratford (12-14 Scott Kruitbosch*, Frank Mantlik, Frank Gallo). The bird was refound at 8:15 p.m., when it was observed sitting on a fence. It was then seen both sitting and in flight. It did not sing but repeatedly gave grunting calls typical of this species. Lack of white in the tail, along with the fact it did not sing, suggested it was a female.

SAY’S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya) One was found on 12 Oct 2012 on private property with restricted access in Shelton (12-24 Anthony Zemba*). This represents the first state record since a specimen was collected on 15 Dec 1916 in the Gaylordsville section of New Milford.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) One was found on 12 Nov 2012 during the hawk watch at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven (12-16 Greg Hanisek*, Frank Mantlik‡, Frank Gallo‡, Tim Antanaitis‡). This bird, a fourth state record, appeared during the tight November-December window typical of appearances at our latitude in the East. It spent the afternoon cooperatively posing and flycatching. This allowed for close study and produced excellent photographs that helped eliminate other members of this look-alike genus. The photos show retained rufous rectrices that indicate a bird in its first fall.

VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) One visited a feeder in Milford on 20-22 Feb 2013 (13-02 Richard Jenkins*‡). All previous records of this handsome thrush from the Pacific Northwest have occurred at feeders.

YELLOW-RUMPED “AUDUBON’S” WARBLER (Setophaga coronata auduboni) One was seen by several birders on 11 Nov 2012 at Long Beach in Stratford (12-47 Charles Barnard*, Frank Gallo‡, Nick Bonomo‡); one was seen on 12-13 Nov 2012 at Silver Sands State Park in Milford (12-48 John Oshlick*, Frank Gallo‡); and one was seen at East Shore Park in New Haven on 17-23 Nov 2012 (12-49 Frank Gallo‡, Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr). This western counterpart of our common Yellow-rumped “Myrtle” Warbler is separable in the field on both appearance and call note. Examination of photos suggests three separate birds were involved in this unprecedented incursion.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) One was photographed on 13 Feb 2012 at a feeder in front of the Connecticut Audubon Center in Fairfield (12-11 Mike Carretta*‡). One was photographed on 7 April 2012 along the Far Mill River in Stratford (12-43 Donna Caporaso*‡). In both cases the bird were not immediately identified as to species but the photos allowed for positive identification. This makes four confirmed reports over the past year.

Le CONTE’S SPARROW (Ammodramus leconteii) One was found on 16 Oct 2012 in weedy growth around a town skating pond at Durham Meadows in Durham (12-46 Anthony Zemba*, Julian Hough). Hough provided a detailed sketch. One was a star attraction on the Hartford Christmas Bird Count on 15 Dec 2012 at Bloomfield Community Gardens in Bloomfield (12-20 Jamie Meyers*, David Lawton*, Joseph Cala‡). This brings the number of confirmed state records to eight.

BULLOCK’S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii) A female/immature male visited a feeder in Ellington from 18 Nov 2012 to 21 March 2013 (12-18 Deborah McTigue*‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Greg Hanisek). On 21 March 2013, when the bird appeared to be injured, McTigue was able to capture and deliver it into care by rehabilitator Jayne Neville in Southington.

HOARY REDPOLL (Acanthis hornemanni) One was reported from a feeder in Winchester on 1 Jan 2013 (13-05 Bill Asteriades*‡, Jim Dugan‡, Jamie Meyers‡). One was reported from the same Winchester feeder on 13 Jan 2012 (13-08 Frank Gallo*). One was reported from a feeder in Goshen on 7 Feb 2013 (13-03 Nick Bonomo*‡). All of these birds were believed to belong to the more widespread subspecies A. h. exilipes rather than the larger and generally paler A. h. hornemanni, sometimes known as “Greenland” Redpoll. Redpoll identification is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty, so much so that talk of “lumping” the two species is often in the air. The difficulties hit home with the many birders who were welcomed to visit the Rosgen feeder in Winsted, where at least two Hoary Redpolls were reported over a period of more than a month. Many expressed frustration with the difficult process of getting satisfactory looks at features consistent with a Hoary Redpoll, and few provided documentation to ARCC. The three accepted by the committee came with detailed descriptions and/or photos (See the Photo Challenge on Page xx and additional discussion below under Records Not Accepted.).

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED

SOOTY TERN (Onychoprion fuscatus) One was reported on 2 Sep 2011 at Stratford Point in Stratford (11-30). The sighting came under closer scrutiny than the many Sooty Terns reported during the main surge of Hurricane Irene on 28 Aug 2011 because it was five days after the storm’s passage. The timing, the quick fly-by nature of the observation and lack of some key features in the description contributed to the committee’s decision.

LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys) One was reported on 18 Aug 2012 at Rocky Hill Meadows in Rocky Hill (12-40). Two observers saw the bird in a mixed flock of icterids, but it was somewhat elusive and did not afford extended views. Some features consistent with Lark Bunting were noted but some key points of identification, such as the heavy, triangular bill, were not viewable as the bird moved about, never offering an extended or complete view. There are only two previous records, one of a banded bird and both documented with photographs.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) One was reported from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on 21 Sep 2012 (12-12). The bird was elusive and hard to observe. The observer was able to get a series of photos of marginal quality but they proved sufficient to allow the committee to make a decision. Under magnification they showed several features that were inconsistent with Western Tanager.

HOARY REDPOLL (Acanthis hornemanni) One was reported on 2 Jan 2013 from a Winchester feeder where one or two of this species drew crowds of birders throughout the month. (13-04). The observer provided a thorough report that noted his ability to see some but not all of the features considered in total to provide a sufficient identification of this species. The observer noted that a companion wanted to see additional features before committing to an identification. A large and exceptionally pink bird was well-photographed at the Winchester feeder on 13 Jan 2013 (13-09). The observer was uncertain of its identity, either to species or subspecies. In seeking expert opinions, it became clear that the identification of this bird should probably remain unresolved, a valid and probably necessary conclusion in the case of many difficult redpolls. David Sibley, responding to a query from the observer, wrote: “This is a really interesting redpoll and it fits a pattern. The large size is outside the range of variation of normal Common Redpoll (Acanthis flammea) so it must be a ‘Greater’ Common Redpoll  (Acanthis flammea rostrata) or a ‘Hornemann’s’ (aka Greenland) Hoary Redpoll (Acanthis hornemanni hornemanni) but it’s intermediate in color.” Sibley provided a link to photos of similar birds he’s seen and wrote: “I still don’t know what they are – maybe those Greenland subspecies are more variable than southern ones or maybe these are hybrid Hoary X Common from the Greenland/Baffin area.”

LITERATURE CITED

Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1

Howell, Steve N.G. 2002. Hummingbirds of North America. A Photographic Guide. Academic Press natural World.  San Diego Calif.

Pyle, Peter. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I, Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, Calif.

Sibley, D.A. 2000. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

Veit, Richard R., and Wayne R. Peterson. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Mass.

Zeranski, J.D. and T.R. Baptist. 1990. Connecticut Birds. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H.

Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708

Jay Kaplan, 71 Gracey Road, Canton, CT 06019