Eighth ARCC Report

Connecticut Warbler 18: 162-179. 1998
Frank Mantlik, Mark Szantyr, Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough, and Christopher Wood

This eighth report of The Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) of the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) is the result of the cooperative efforts of many volunteer observers/submitters of reports and the committed effort of the committee. Current members are the authors noted above, as well as Polly Brody, Buzz Devine, Richard Soffer, John Gaskell, and Dave Provencher. The ARCC files are now largely current and up to date.

The committee’s principal aim is to provide a complete and accurate record of rare birds reported in Connecticut. A rare records committee can neither verify nor invalidate any records, but can provide a judgment on the adequacy of the evidence presented in support of unusual sightings. In other words, this committee, in its rulings, is not saying that a person did or did not see a particular rare bird. Instead, it is ruling on the adequacy of the written documentation (and other evidence). All reports, including original field notes, photographs, sketches, tape recordings, descriptions, and members’ comments on each record are archived at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. For an overview of the committee and its operation, see Bevier (1996).

HIGHLIGHTS

This report contains 86 records of 49 species, plus 2 subspecies and 1 hybrid, reviewed by the ARCC. This includes one record (of Bohemian Waxwing, 96-24) that was slated for the Seventh Report but was inadvertently omitted. The committee accepted 77% of all records reported here. The records span dates from 1973 to 1998, though most are from 1996-97. Please note that the ARCC does not routinely evaluate reports of subspecies, but does so at its own discretion.

Significant Connecticut records in this report include the following: first record for Pink-footed Goose, and Cinnamon Teal; first and second records for Bullock’s Oriole; second record for Northern Fulmar, Anhinga, Thayer’s Gull, Gull-billed Tern, White-winged Dove, and Bohemian Waxwing; second and third records for White-faced Ibis; third record for Rufous Hummingbird; fourth record for Long-tailed Jaeger.

STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST

This report provides details on 2 additions to the Connecticut state bird list, which now stands at 401. The most recently published (Oct 1997) state list contains 399 species and is available from the COA (314 Unquowa Rd., Fairfield, CT 06430). The committee depends on observers to submit their reports of species on the Review List – these are species marked with an asterisk on the COA Field Checklist – and any species new to the state. Submit written reports along with any photographs or other documentary material to the current ARCC Secretary, Mark Szantyr (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 and followed by an asterisk. Observers who submitted a photograph are acknowledged with † following their names. Hyphenated numbers (e.g., 98-11) following the observers are ARCC file numbers. The species are listed in order according to the A.O.U. Check-list (1983) and supplements. Records of a particular species are listed chronologically.

ABBREVIATIONS are: AB (American Birds), AFN (Audubon Field Notes), CW (The Connecticut Warbler), Hammonasset (Hammonasset Beach State Park), NASFN (National Audubon Society Field Notes), RX (no longer on the Review List), SRO (sight record only). Months of the year are shortened to their first three letters.

ACCEPTED RECORDS

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) An (apparent) adult discovered with a flock of Canada Geese 21 Mar 1998 at Stearns Farm in Mansfield (Steve Morytko *, M. Szantyr †, G. Hanisek, B. Finnan †; 98-11) remained through 25 Mar, allowing dozens of birders to see it. Naturally, as with many vagrant waterfowl, the question of origin (wild vs. escaped captive) arose. The closest the species breeds is Greenland (and Iceland). Szantyr conducted an extensive investigation (contacting authorities worldwide) into this question. The overwhelming evidence clearly pointed to this being of wild origin. Among the strongest evidence was that the species is very rarely kept in captivity (with only about 30 individuals throughout North America) and that the flock also contained two neck-banded Canada Geese previously banded in 1996 as northbound migrants on Prince Edward Island (headed to at least Labrador to breed), as well as a Greater White-fronted Goose of the subspecies flavirostris, which breeds in Greenland. This record constitutes the first documented record for Connecticut, and about the eleventh for North America (the first fully-accepted in the lower 48 states).

NORTHERN FULMAR (Fulmarus glacialis) An adult in Long Island Sound, well described and photographed, about 1.5-2.0 miles off Stamford was observed in flight 14 Sep 1997 (Patrick Dugan *†, et al; 98-10). While in a speedboat, Dugan, A. Collins and M. Moccio pursued this bird at speeds up to 30mph, as far east as Westport, in order to photograph it. A determined and successful bit of documentation, indeed. This was a remarkably early date for this rare pelagic visitor, and only the second Connecticut record, the first a specimen taken off Branford 10 Oct 1909 (Zeranski & Baptist, 1990)

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) An adult was observed and photographed roosting on rocks in eastern Niantic Bay, Waterford on 23 Jul 1996 (Mark Szantyr †; 96-49). A flock of four flew over HBSP on 27 Oct 1996 (Val & Shari Guarino; 96-60). The flock was relocated later that day off Tuxis Is., Madison, and seen by a number of observers both there and at Chaffinch Is., Guilford through 29 Oct (m.o.). There were a number of Am. White Pelicans throughout the east and northeastern U.S. during that time period.

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) A female flew northwest past the Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch site at the Audubon Center in Greenwich on 14 Sep 1996, in clear view by a number of experienced observers (Thomas Burke*; 96-55). The detailed description and sketch effectively eliminated a cormorant. Unfortunately no photograph was obtained for this second accepted state record; thus the species remains in SRO status.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One apparently first-year bird fed with Glossy Ibises in a wet grassy field in Stonington 1-5 May 1996 (Bill Shaffer*, Peg Kern*, Mark Szantyr†, Sherman Suter, Greg Hanisek; 96-33; CW 16:170), and was seen by many observers. One adult, though largely lacking the white facial color (not an uncommon appearance), was at HBSP 5 May – early Jul 1998 (Bruce Finnan *†, G. Hanisek, P. Lehman; 98-13), and was seen by numerous observers. These are the second and third accepted records for Connecticut.

CINNAMON TEAL (Anas cyanoptera) One male in alternate plumage, initially reported 15 Nov 1994 in the salt marsh at Milford Point, Milford, by Tom Koronkiewicz (Russ Naylor, Noble Proctor, M. Szantyr, Robert Muller, Ray Schwartz†; 95-06). It lingered for numerous observers to see before it was shot 9 Jan 1995 by a hunter, with the specimen prepared beautifully as a mount. The committee deliberated on this record for a long time, as new evidence and information trickled in, and as the question of origin was pondered and investigated. Among the issues of disagreement was the fact that the specimen had no fat reserves, as reported by the taxidermist, and whether or not this fact was news for or against the bird’s wild origin. Outside experts aided in this analysis. This constitutes the first accepted record for Connecticut, albeit under the committee’s new voting category of “Accept, origin uncertain”.

TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula) One adult male was at North Cove, Old Saybrook 11 Feb – 22 Mar 1997 (Greg Hanisek, Peg Kern†, Bill Shaffer†, Russ Naylor; 97-05; CW 17:137,189). One adult male was at Bride Lake, East Lyme (Niantic) 9-24 Mar 1998 (George Knoecklein, Dave Provencher+; 98-09).

HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) One first-winter male was seen by 8 observers at HBSP, Madison 2 Jan 1998 (Robert Dewire; 98-06).

KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis) One female was off Neck Road, Madison 1-10 Mar 1995 (Julian Hough; 96-29; CW 15: 105, 143). Two females were off Milford Point, Milford on 18 Dec 1995 (Julian Hough; 92-28). One female (probably) was at Lighthouse Point, New Haven 24-25 Nov 1996 (Tom Kilroy, Greg Hanisek; 97-09). The aging and sexing of eiders can be problematical. Field marks on this individual resulted in disagreement whether it was a female or an immature male. Hanisek’s review of several references pointed out that even expert authors disagree on these ageing/sexing points.

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis) One immature/sub-adult was seen in flight at Station 43 Preserve, South Windsor 5 May 1997 (Mark Szantyr; 97-15).

SWAINSON’S HAWK (Buteo Swainsoni) One immature dark-morph was captured, banded, photographed and released by a hawkbander at HBSP, Madison on 5 Oct 1996 (Scott Roxbrough, Jeff Young †; 97-1), for the 6th accepted CT record. One light-morph immature was well seen in flight by numerous experienced observers while hawkwatching on 1 Oct 1997 at Lighthouse Point, New Haven (Greg Hanisek; 97-44). This species seems to be increasing in the northeast during fall migration.

GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) One white- or pale grey-morph was seen in flight at HBSP, Madison on 16 Dec 1995, and again independently by another observer 23 Dec (Cathi & Ron Pelletier, Tom Harrington; 96-1). Several Gyrfalcons were noted in the northeastern U.S. (MA, NY) that winter.

BLACK RAIL (Laterallus jamaicensis) One was heard calling at Lordship marshes, Stratford, 26-27 May 1996 (D. Abbott*, G. Hanisek; 96-31). Although very vocal, it performed in true Black Rail fashion; calling from just a few feet away, yet remaining frustratingly invisible to its would-be voyeurs! A particularly vocal individual was heard at a small marsh in Woodbury, 8-9 June 1997 (F. Mantlik*, R. Naylor; 97-30). Ironically, it was discovered by the ARCC chairman who stopped to listen for Virginia Rails on his way home from a records meeting.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana) Basic-plumaged individuals were at Sherwood Island, Westport, 13 Aug 1996 (C. Barnard*; 96-51) and Barn Island, Stonington, 2 Oct 1997 (L. Kendall*; 98-07). Both individuals were equally short-stayers seen only by the above observers.

CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) One in alternate plumage frequented the gravel bars at Milford Point, Milford, 20-29 July 1997 (G. Hanisek; 97-37; CW 18:41). Its fairly short bill suggested a male, though it was not possible to conclusively sex this bird. Although sometimes elusive, this summer-garbed Eurasian shorebird attracted many visitors during its stay. The committee was disappointed to receive little documentation on this particularly rare and well-observed individual; the only report submitted was from one of the committee members.

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) A juvenile was along the Bantam River, Litchfield, 24 Aug 1997 (J. Feldman*+; 97-35). This confiding individual was photographed at close range while the observer was out kayaking. This record is unusual in that reports of this species in the state are mostly a result of coastal storms in the autumn.

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus) A light-morph adult passed Camp Harkness, Waterford, 20 Oct 1996 (D. Provencher*; 96-62).

LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus) A well-described adult, seen briefly after a thunderstorm, was at Sandy Point, West Haven, 29 Aug 1997 (J. Mehmel*, A Smith; 97-39). The early date fits the pattern for Long-tailed, which migrates earlier than the other two species. Though typically highly-pelagic species, jaegers often undertake extensive overland migrations. This strategy is essentially used as a ‘short-cut’ to and from their breeding grounds. It is likely that this individual had arrived from such an overland route and was forced to arrest its journey due to a violent thunderstorm which passed northeast along the coast. Whatever its origin, it was an exciting and envious find.

THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) A first-basic bird was discovered among the throng of gulls at Manchester Landfill, Manchester, 13-14 Feb 1998, (M. Szantyr*, G. Hanisek, J. Hough†, D. Provencher†, F. Mantlik†; 98-02). This constitutes only the second state record, the previous record being an adult in Shelton, 25 Jan 1988 (CW 8: 65).

The Manchester bird was fully documented with photographs and even video footage. Although the bird performed superbly to a small crowd on its second day, it was never seen again much to the dismay of many would-be observers. The occurrence of Thayer’s Gulls in the northeast is probably more regular than current records suggest. Nonetheless, the sharp-eyed observers, which included P. Comins and C. Moseley, should be congratulated on the discovery and identification of a difficult and educational record. See elsewhere in this issue for a full account of this occurrence.

LITTLE GULL (Larus minutus) A basic-plumaged adult was at Griswold Point, Old Lyme, 4 April 1994 (D. Provencher*†; 97-27). A first-alternate molting to second-winter plumage bird was along the Poquonock River at Bluff Point, Groton, 25 July 1995 (D. Provencher*; 97-28). The latter individual was also seen off Millstone Point, Waterford, 26 July 1995, (D. Provencher*; 97-28). An adult in basic plumage was at South Cove, Old Saybrook, 22 March 1997, (B. Shaffer*†; 97-22). Often found among the large gatherings of Bonaparte’s Gulls at their traditional spots, Little Gulls are now annual in spring (late March-April). As a result, this species has been removed from the review list, although the committee will consider any previously unsubmitted records.

BLACK-HEADED GULL (Larus ridibundus) An adult in basic plumage was near Pine Creek, Fairfield, 30 Jan 1997 (C. Barnard*; 97-21). A bird in almost full alternate plumage was at South Cove, Old Saybrook, 22 March 1997, (B. Shaffer*†; 97-20). The latter, present with an adult Little Gull, gave the observer a double photo-whammy! This European species is almost annual in the state with several reports involving the same returning individuals. Its occurrences peak in winter and early spring, when they may often be found accompanying Bonaparte’s Gulls. As with Little Gull, this species is no longer considered a review species by the committee, though past reports will be honored.

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) An adult was off Camp Harkness, Waterford, 10 Jan 1997 (D. Provencher*; 97-26).

GULL-BILLED TERN (Chilodnias nitlotica) Two adults were at Sand Island, Greenwich Point, Greenwich, 15 June 1996, (C. Ehlinger*, M. Sampson*†; 96-35). Although the written description was enough to convince the committee, unfortunately the photographic evidence was of little value in adjudicating on this second accepted state record. Photographic or specimen evidence of this species’ occurrence in CT is still needed.

SOOTY TERN (Sterna fuscata) An adult was seen from Griswold Point, Old Lyme, 14 July 1996 (D. Provencher*, D. Sosensky; 96-47). Although distant, most of the salient structural features were described well enough to rule out Bridled Tern. The occurrence was a direct result of the passing of Tropical Storm Bertha, which brought three other Sooty Terns to New York and one to Massachusetts. Interestingly, an exhausted Sooty Tern was picked up (on the same day as the Griswold Point individual) at Caumsett S.P., on the north shore of Long Island, NY. It may or may not have been the same individual.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica). The lone observer was alerted to this unexpected visitor to his Sterling yard when he heard cuckoo-like calls in the early evening of 18 May 1997 (R. Dixon*; 97-14). In failing light he obtained video, which by itself was probably insufficient to confirm the bird’s identity. However, he augmented it with annotated sketches and a written description of the bird and its calls. This is an example of using every means possible to document a rarity. This represents the second state record (Zeranski & Baptist, 1990). The committee discussed the question of this bird’s origin, because doves of all kinds are sometimes kept in captivity. However, this southwestern species shows a strong pattern of vagrancy, and this record falls in a time period when others have been found in the northeastern U.S.

BOREAL OWL (Aegolius funereus) A single bird was found on 1 Nov 1996 in an evergreen grove at Hammonasset, Madison (G. Hanisek, B. MacDonnell†; 96-64). The finders, J. Connolly, C. Taylor and S. Henckel, passed the word, and the owl was seen by many birders that day. It was not relocated the next day despite an extensive search. It was the eighth state record for this secretive visitor from the north, and only the second since the 1940s (Zeranski & Baptist, 1990). Its arrival coincided with a widespread southward incursion that included seasonal totals of four in eastern Massachusetts, 125 banded at Tadoussac, Quebec, and 163 banded at Whitefish Point, MI. (NASFN 51:1).

CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW (Caprimulgus carolinensis) Can a rare bird be confirmed by voice alone? In this case the committee said yes. The bird was first heard at 4:30 a.m. on 1 Jun 1997 at Janie Pierce Park, Southbury, by a participant in the Woodbury-Roxbury June Count (A. Dimmitt*, C. Wood, R. Naylor; 97-25). Additional observers heard it that evening. Chuck-will’s-widow reports have been increasing in the state, along with a northward range extension that has been underway for more than 20 years. This southern species is now regular as close by as Long Island, NY.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) A male, probably an adult, was found in moribund condition in Madison 11 Nov 1997 (I. Ruth, M. Szantyr; 98-04). It was taken to a veterinary clinic and turned over immediately to a rehabilitator, though it died within an hour of retrieval from the clinic. The specimen was photographed and turned over to Yale Peabody Museum for preparation as a study skin. This constitutes the third accepted CT record. The increased discovery of western hummingbirds east of their normal range has been an exciting development in the 1990s. This is the most likely species, but recent confirmation of Black-chinned and Calliope Hummingbirds in New Jersey suggests almost anything is possible. Note that identification of this group is difficult and may require sharp photographs or in-hand examination.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) The state’s second accepted sighting of this southwestern species occurred 30 Nov – 3 Dec 1996 after it was found near White Sands Beach, Old Lyme (B. Devine*, J. Gaskell*, M. Szantyr†, D. Provencher†, G. Hanisek; 97-07). The dates fall within the typical vagrancy window for this species in the northeast U.S.; it would be an extraordinarily late date for the state’s common breeding Myiarchus, the Great Crested Flycatcher.

WESTERN KINGBIRD (Tyrannus verticalis) One was found 7 Oct 1996 by T. Green at Crook Horn Road, Southbury, an unusual location because almost all records are from the immediate coast (G. Hanisek; 96-61). Also unusual was the length of stay. This species usually appears briefly, often for a matter of hours or even minutes, but this one was found the next day. Presumably it was the same bird that was relocated 27-29 Oct at the same spot. The date was typical for this species, but one seen flying by Bluff Point, Groton on 30 Aug 1996 was a bit early (D. Provencher*; 96-63). It passed with a small flock of Eastern Kingbirds. Another fly-by was recorded by four observers at Lighthouse Point, New Haven on 15 Sep 1997 (G. Hanisek*; 97-38).

NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) This Eurasian species appeared 15-19 Sep 1996 at W Lot at the University of Connecticut, Storrs (M. Szantyr*†; 96-54). A detailed sketch accompanied the submission. The inland location and multiple-day stay were both unusual for this species, which is noted for quick stops along the coast. However, another stayed for several days in the Storrs area in 1995.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) A single adult was seen perched with a group of Cedar Waxwings on 28 May 1990 at White Memorial Foundation, Litchfield (R. Berleant*, 96-38). The May date is unusual, but the bird was carefully studied at close range by four observers. A flock of three, with one Cedar Waxwing, was at Hammonasset, Madison, 27 Nov 1995 (P. Comins; 96-24). This is the second accepted CT record, and was to appear in the 7th Report, but was inadvertently omitted. A flock of eight was seen perched and in flight on 12 Feb 1998 on Route 101 in Pomfret, and on 17 Mar 1998 one was seen perched in the same area (M. Szantyr*; 98-03).

YELLOW-RUMPED “AUDUBON’S” WARBLER (Dendroica coronata auduboni) A bird in basic plumage was observed 15 Oct 1996 at Sherwood Island, Westport (R. Soffer*, 96-59). This subspecies is the western counterpart of the eastern “Myrtle” Warbler and has in the past been regarded as a separate species. The committee encourages reports of well-marked subspecies seen out of range. They help broaden the understanding of our state’s avifauna, and today’s distinctive subspecies could become tomorrow’s species.

YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Dendroica dominica) (RX). An adult was seen 19 May 1996 in the observer’s backyard in the Riverside section of Greenwich (J. Wells, Jr.; 96-44). This species is an early migrant, usually arriving in April as an overshoot from the south, but there are a number of May records as well as at least one breeding attempt.

PROTHONOTARY WARBLER (Protonotaria citrea) A male was identified and photographed at Stamford’s Cove Island Park 26 Apr 1996 (M. Moccio†; 96-41). The bird remained the next day to be observed by others. The regularity of spring occurrences of this species in Connecticut has led to its removal from the ARCC review list, except for possible breeding records.

SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) Based on distant but recognizable photographs and a verbal description to a committee member, this record (C. Kobak†; 96-43) from Guilford 24 April 1996 was accepted. Others saw this bird but did not submit reports. The sex of the bird was not conclusively determined. Key identification points included an orange cast to the plumage, lack of black in the wings and tail, and bright orange-red undertail coverts. The likelihood that this was a migrant overshooting its normal breeding range, which extends north into New Jersey (DeGraff and Rappole, 1995), is enhanced by the early date. The earliest CT date recorded for Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) is 23 April; the earliest dates for Summer Tanager are 8, 21, and 27 April (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990).

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) Seen well and photographed by numerous observers, thanks to the hospitality of Peggy Lawrence and Dan Ross, at whose Granby feeder the bird had appeared in mid-Jan 1997, this female was first conclusively identified about 2 weeks later on 23 January 1997 (J. Kaplan*, B. Kliener, M. Szantyr, F. Mantlik†; 97-04; CW 17: 141 (with photo),196). It remained through Mar 30. There are only a handful of reliable records for this species in Connecticut, so this cooperative bird was a special treat for many Connecticut birders; over 100 people got to see it during its stay. See Szantyr’s Identification of Tanagers, elsewhere in this issue, for details on the identification of this and similar species.

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus) This was another reliable feeder bird, and another cooperative and hospitable home owner (Jean Buck), permitted many Connecticut birders, often with the aid of Jim Zipp, to see this species for the first time in CT, in Hamden, 20 Jan – Mar 23 1998 (M. Szantyr*, G. Hanisek, F. Mantlik, J. Hough; 98-01). Plumage characteristics identified the bird as a first-year male. This record is one of only a few over the past 50 years for the state (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990)

BLUE GROSBEAK (Guiraca caerulea) A well-described, first summer male was found at Northwest Park, Windsor, 4 June 1995 by F. Mantlik and remained through 6 June (M. Szantyr*; 97-43). Although no longer a review species for migratory occurrence, possible breeding Blue Grosbeak records are still reviewed, and occurrences this late in migration justify careful field study. An adult male at the same park the following year was found even later in the season, 29 June1996 (L. Brinker*; 96-36). It did in fact result in observations of a mated pair attending 3 young on 15 July (Hanisek, CW 17: 47-48). This species’ nesting range extended into New Jersey in the early 1960’s (Bull 1964), but its preference for early successional shrub habitat (DeGraff and Rappole, 1995), which is ephemeral and limited in Connecticut, may reduce the likelihood of a range consolidation into lower New England. Further justification for delisting of this species came from another record of an immature male 29 May 1996 in Fairfield (C. Harrison*†, M. Bull; 96-42).

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida) An adult was in Hamden 24-27 April 1997, and was seen by several observers (R. Naylor; 97-31). More typically a fall migrant in CT, this record constitutes only about the fifth spring record, all from inland, for the state (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990)

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus) One was at Hammonasset, Madison, 11-14 Sep 1996 (G. Hanisek*, D. Provencher; 96-53). One immature was at Longshore Park, Westport, 26 Oct 1996 (F. Mantlik*, C. Barnard; 97-03). An adult was at Veteran’s Park, Norwalk, 18-19 January 1998 and relocated 19 February – 28 March 1998 (N. Jordan*, G. Hanisek, F.Mantlik†; 98-08). The latter was seen by many, and represents a late winter occurrence, compared to a previous late date of Jan 14, 1987 (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990).

“OREGON” DARK-EYED JUNCO (Junco hyemalis oreganus / ?) A bird showing the characters of an Oregon-type Junco, and controversially determined by experts to possibly indicate the subspecies J. h. mearnsi, or “Pink-sided Junco”, was seen and photographed in Storrs from 9 Jan – 7 Apr 1993 (M. Szantyr†, L. Bevier; 95-05). A bird showing the characters of an adult, probably male Oregon Junco, J. h. oreganus, was photographed at a Fairfield feeder on 4 Feb 1996 (S. Fromm, 96-46). This committee does not as a general rule review subspecies. In these cases, the evidence was either reasonably clear or was important enough ornithologically that exceptions were made. Junco identification is very difficult. Adult males of many subspecies are fairly straight forward but females and immatures can cause quite a problem. Extreme overlap in characteristics and extreme variation in characters within a subspecies make sight records virtually impossible to assign to a subspecies with confidence. Even with photos, this determination is difficult at best. The Fairfield bird seems to be a clear example of a “typical” Oregon Junco, J. h. oreganus. This form breeds from southeast Alaska through California. The Storrs bird, however, is not as easy. Many characters have been interpreted by experts to pertain to the “Pink-sided” Oregon Junco, J. h. mearnsi, that breeds from southeast Alberta to southwest Saskatchewan and south into southeastern Idaho. The color and shape of the hood, the blackish lores, the color of the back, and the width of the pinkish flanks seem to be consistent with this form. While this might be possible, this committee will err on the side of caution and regard it as an “Oregon-type” Junco of undetermined subspecies, at least for the time being.

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major) A territorial male at the Lordship Marshes, Stratford, 1 Jun 1995, was subsequently seen with two females, and were observed exhibiting breeding behavior, including carrying food to a suspected nest site, through early Jul (Mantlik*†, Szantyr†; 97-43; CW 16: 55). This would constitute a first confirmation of breeding in Connecticut, not unexpected given recent range expansion onto Long Island, NY (Zeranski and Baptist, 1990), if accepted as such by the ARCC in future considerations of breeding records. Another adult male at the same Stratford location 22 Apr 1998 (C. Barnard*; 98-12) was accompanied through at least May 1998 by at least one female, and lends further credence to the probability of subsequent breeding.

BULLOCK’S ORIOLE (Icterus bullocki) An adult male reported 20 Jan 1977 visiting a West Hartford feeder (the Morgans) was actually present approximately 6 Jan-6 Feb, and was seen by several local observers (F. Mantlik*†; 97-06). This report, submitted with photographs and a good description, was accepted as the first documented record of this species in Connecticut. Bullock’s Oriole and Baltimore Oriole were formerly considered to be one species, until a fairly recent AOU split . An adult male visiting feeders (J. & L. Lang) in Goshen 31 Oct 1997-mid-Feb 1998 was seen and photographed by many observers and was reported with photos in a local newspaper (W. Haskell*, G. Hanisek, R. Naylor; 97-41). This is the second accepted CT record. This was an unequivocal occurrence, unlike many reports of females that are much more difficult to identify conclusively (see Lee, C. and A. Birch, Birding, XXX#4, 1998). With the re-split of Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles, more reports of the latter are being made. Birders are encouraged to make careful and detailed observations of any possible Bullock’s occurrences.

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, identification questionable.

MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus puffinus) A single bird was reported off of Falkner’s Island, Guilford, in Long Island Sound on 20 Jun1996 (97-40). While possibly this species, the lack of specific details eliminating Audubon’s Shearwater (P. lherminieri) or other small dark and light shearwaters didn’t allow the committee to accept this sighting with confidence.

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) More than one bird was reported from Hammonassett, Madison in “late Feb” 1997 (97-24). While no number was specified in the information submitted to the committee, it is believed that the report refers to three birds seen sporadically in this area during the early months of 1997. The observers chose not to submit descriptions and retracted their reports after learning that more than one species of “white” pelican exists. It is important to carefully, surely, and independently identify suspected rarities. While this report doubtlessly refers to P. erthrorhynchos, it is interesting to note that White Pelican (P. onocrotalus) has occurred in North America and, while of suspect origin, must be eliminated when identifying any extralimital “white” pelican. Another sad aspect to this report is that, in spite of the fact that these birds were repeatedly seen through early 1997 by numerous observers, no other reports were submitted to the ARCC for review.

COMMON EIDER (Somateria mollissima) Two females were reported from Long Island Sound east of Latimer Point, Mystic on 26 Jan and 2 Feb 1996 (97-17). While most likely this species, little to no description of the birds was provided. Observers are reminded that while you may be sure of your identification, without clear and explicit details of description it is impossible for any records committee to know what you’ve seen. A review of the status of Common Eider in Connecticut shows that it is now regular enough to warrant removal from this committee’s review list.

KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis) One sub-adult male and two females were reported over several dates from 12 Jan – 2 Feb 1997 from Long Island Sound east and northeast of Enders Island, Mystic (97-13). The identification of female and sub-adult male eiders is difficult and important details of plumage and structure must be noted to confidently identify individuals to species. Many viewing conditions can make seeing these details near to impossible. The details noted in this report did not definitely eliminate the more expected Common Eider (S. mollissima).

SWAINSON’S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni). An atypical dark morph bird was reported on 29 Sep 1996 from the Hawk Watch at the Greenwich Audubon Sanctuary in Greenwich (97-12). By the observer’s own admission, characters of this bird seemed inconsistent with typical Swainson’s Hawks and, in fact, seemed wrong for any expected raptor species. While some committee members agreed that certain characters of the bird (wing length and shape, size) seemed supportive of the identification, the committee finally decided to err on the side of caution. Under many circumstances, identifying flying buteos is an under-rated identification challenge. As in so many other difficult species, sometimes it is best to take notes, photos, or what have you and file the experience away under “I don’t know!”

CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) A bird described as in first basic plumage was reported from Hammonasset, Madison on 3 Nov 1996 (97-10). The identification of Curlew Sandpiper in definitive alternate plumage is a relatively easy task. Very few other shorebirds share its range of distinctive characters. First basic plumage is another matter. In this plumage, Curlew Sandpiper shares several characters of structure and plumage with a host of similar shorebirds. The observer, by his own admission, states that he is relatively inexperienced with this species and arrived at the identification by process of elimination. While possibly correct, this report was deemed inadequate to document such a rare species in Connecticut. Once again, it is unfortunate that the host of observers in the park that day were not alerted to this bird’s presence so that corroborating information could have been attained.

PARASITIC JAEGER (Stercorarius parasiticus) A bird described as a dark-phase juvenile was reported to be patrolling Griswold Point, Old Lyme on 21 Sep 1996 (96-58). In spite of the observer’s wealth of experience and what seems to have been ample opportunity for study, the details provided to the committee do not conclusively identify this species nor do they eliminate other possible jaeger species. The identification of jaegers in less than adult plumage is difficult even under the best conditions. Careful study and exhaustive descriptions of structure, pattern, and coloration are necessary to convincingly document their occurrence.

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) A bird described as an adult was reported off of Meig’s Point at Hammonasset, Madison on 17 Jul 1996 (96-52). Details of the report do not conclusively eliminate other gull species seen under these conditions, and in fact, certain elements of the report seem to support Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) as a possible candidate. Identifying kittiwakes over Long Island Sound can be a tricky situation with weather, lighting, wind, and distance being key in the appraisal of perceived field marks. For a discussion of this identification challenge, see the Connecticut Warbler, Vol 18, No.3, pages 146-147.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) A bird described as an adult male was reported from New Canaan on 27 Aug 1992 (98-05). The committee only just received this report as it was lost in an intermediary’s files for six years. While the date and the description are highly suggestive of this species, insufficient detail is provided to confidently eliminate other hummingbirds of this genus or to positively eliminate certain “look-alike” moth species.

LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus) A bird of this species was reported from the Guilford Sluice in Guilford on 21 Sep 1996 (96-56). Shrike identification can be difficult. Both Loggerhead Shrike and Northern Shrike, L. excubitor, share many plumage characteristics. Details of head structure and patterning, including close study of the color and structure of the bill are necessary to conclusively identify a shrike to species (Szantyr, The CT. WARBLER ID Series, CW 18: 15-17). While the date is highly suggestive of Loggerhead Shrike, it alone, without adequate description, does not allow for confident acceptance. Loggerhead Shrike is an increasingly rare bird in Connecticut, with far fewer than one sighting per year for some time now. Every effort should be made to carefully document any suspected occurrences.

BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) Approximately fifteen to twenty birds were reported from Groton on 23 May 1996 (96-39). Details in this report do not conclusively identify these birds as Bohemian Waxwings nor do they eliminate the more expected Cedar Waxwing, B. cedrorum. The date would be extraordinary for Bohemian Waxwing in Connecticut.

LARK SPARROW (Chondestes grammacus) A bird of this species was reported from New Canaan on 21 May 1996 (96-32). While probably correct, insufficient descriptive detail was included in this account to conclusively eliminate other sparrow species.

CLAY-COLORED SPARROW (Spizella pallida) One was reported from Ansonia on 15 Oct 1995 (96-2). While probably correct, this report does not conclusively eliminate other possible sparrows, including Chipping Sparrow, S. passerina. Clay-colored Sparrow is becoming increasingly common in our area and a review of recent reports indicate that it is now frequent enough to warrant removal from this committee’s review list.

BREWER’S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus) A bird was reported from the Stratford-Milford CBC on 27 Dec 1990 (96-45). The report does not give a location other than to say it was on the wet, wooded edge of a farm field. While possibly correct, insufficient detail was included to eliminate Rusty Blackbird, E. carolinus, or to positively identify this as a Brewer’s Blackbird. Brewer’s Blackbird can be a truly difficult identification challenge and important characters of plumage and structure must be noted in order to be convincing.

AMERICAN GOLDFINCH X PINE SISKIN (Carduelis tristis X Carduelis pinus) An individual, thought to be the hybrid progeny of these species, was reported from Southbury on 9 Mar 1997 (97-16). As a matter of course, this committee does not evaluate hybrids. In this case, however, substantial descriptive notes were submitted and in light of the observer’s efforts and because of the ornithological significance this record would provide, the committee agreed to review the file. While some characters of this bird suggest what a cross between these species might resemble, the committee could find no previous information on which to base this presumption. If this individual were a hybrid, there is no way of being certain that the parents were in fact those suggested above. Pine Siskin shares a range with all of the North American goldfinches. Characters described for this bird might also indicate this individual was some other non-hybrid species, showed a variation within an expected species, indicated an abnormal molt in an expected species, or varied because of some other factor. Hybridization of any species pair was not conclusively determined. The committee warns of the trouble with identifying hybrids without conclusive proof of parentage. This is a practice best avoided without genetic material from which conclusive proof might be gotten.

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, origin questionable.

BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) A single bird was seen for at least a month after 11 Aug 1997 in Essex (97-36). Barnacle Geese of wild origin undoubtedly make it to North America from their Old World range. Unfortunately, there are so many of them in (and escaped from) captivity in this country that assessing any record becomes a nightmare of uncertainty and supposition. In reviewing the timing of Barnacle Goose occurrence in the east, there seems to be two peaks. These correspond to the April and November migration swells of Canada Geese. This August record, well out of this migration window, suggests a captive origin. The facts that the bird was with a small group of non-migratory Canada Geese and that it stayed for upwards of a month also lend credence to this belief. Sooner or later we will be able to prove the origin of a wild Barnacle Goose. This is not the time.

RUDDY SHELDUCK (Tadorna ferruginea) Three birds were reported from the Lisbon Golf Course in Lisbon on 14 May 1996 (96-66), and single birds were reported from Durham on 18 May 1996 (96-48) and from Mansfield (96-65). This species might well be the “poster bird” for why we need to keep field notes and documentation on rarities, yes, even rarities “undoubtedly” from captivity. This species is widely kept by aviculturalists. It is frequently encountered “in the wild” and just as often ignored as someone’s lost cage bird. Recent information from Europe suggests that this species is greatly increasing in numbers and expanding its range. Birds have been found colonizing the Azores and it has been recorded on Iceland (Julian Hough, pers.com). With so many of these birds turning up in such a short time in Connecticut, the committee believed that investigation was in order. Were we seeing the first wave of a North American colonization attempt by Ruddy Shelduck? Sadly, our investigation turned up a more local source for these handsome ducks. Nonetheless, Ruddy Shelduck, Barnacle Goose, and other exotic fowl seen in Connecticut under “wild-appearing” conditions should be carefully documented. Remember the Pink-footed Goose!

ROSE-RINGED PARAKEET (Psittacula krameri) Two were videotaped at a feeder in Fairfield during Apr and May 1973 (96-50). While these birds are undoubtedly of captive origin, the committee thanks the reporter for the careful documentation provided. As with waterfowl, documentation of any and all exotic birds observed “in the wild” in Connecticut is gladly accepted by this committee.

CONTRIBUTORS

The committee greatly appreciates the time and effort expended by the following people who submitted reports or photographs of rarities: Dennis Abbott, Adrienne Ackerman, James Bair, Charles Barnard, Jr., Riva Berleant, Lysle Brinker, Polly Brody, Milan Bull, Thomas Burke, Dexter Chaffee, Patrick Comins, David Coolidge, Julio De la Torre, Buzz Devine, Robert Dewire, Angela Dimmitt, Patrick Dugan, Cynthia Ehlinger, Jeff Feldman, Bruce Finnan, John Gaskell, Val & Shari Guarino, Greg Hanisek, Tom Harrington, Chris Harrison, Patricia Hatton, Julian Hough, Jay Kaplan, Len Kendall, Peggy Kern, Tom Kilroy, Betty Kleiner, George Knoecklein, Paul Lehman, Bob MacDonnell, Frank Mantlik, Janet Mehmel, Michael Moccio, Steve Morytko, Robert Muller, Russ Naylor, Sherrie Neilson, Drew Panko, Mary Maxey Paul, Cathi & Ron Pelletier, Noble Proctor, David Provencher, Scott Roxbrough, Irene Ruth, Meredith Sampson, Lee Schlesinger, Ray Schwartz, Bill Shaffer, Alice Smith, Richard Soffer, Dori Sosensky, Robert Dixon, Sherman Suter, Mark Szantyr, Jeff Young, John Wells, Jr., Christopher Wood.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Several people helped the committee with its decisions in this report. We offer our appreciation to Paul Lehman, Louis Bevier, Patrick Comins, Jay Kaplan, Paul Merola, Mike O’Leary, Mike Bean, and to any others who we inadvertently overlooked. A special thank you to George Clark for his final editing of this report.

CORRECTIONS TO THE SEVENTH REPORT (CW 17: 97-122)

– Bohemian Waxwing (96-24) was inadvertently omitted, and now appears in this report.
– Date of Mansfield Swainson’s Hawk (95-34) was 25 Oct, (incorrectly reported as 26 Oct).

LITERATURE CITED

AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th Edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Lawrence, Kansas.

AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union). 1985. Thirty-fifth Supplement to the A.O.U. Check-list of North American Birds. Auk 102:680-686.

AOU (American Ornithologists’ Union). 1998. Check-list of North American Birds, 7th Edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Lawrence, Kansas.

Bevier, L. R. 1996. The Connecticut Rare Records Committee: an overview. Connecticut Warbler 16:26-30.

Bull, J., Birds of the New York Area. Dover Publications, 1964.

DeGraff, R.M. and J.H. Rappole, Neotropical Migratory Birds. Cornell University Press, 1995.

Lee, C. and A. Birch. 1998. Field Identification of Female and Immature Bullock’s and Baltimore Orioles. Birding 30:282-295.

Mantlik, F.W., M.S. Szantyr, and D.F. Provencher. 1997. Seventh Report of The Avian Records Committee of Connecticut. Conecticut Warbler 17: 97-122.

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


Frank Mantlik, 10 Arch St., Apt. B, Norwalk, CT 06850
Mark Szantyr, 662 Phoenixville Road, Chaplin, CT 06235
Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Julian Hough, 21 Walnut St., Naugatuck, CT 06770
Christopher Wood, 6 Orton Lane, Woodbury, CT 06798.