Eleventh ARCC Report

Connecticut Warbler 22: 97-109. 2002
Greg Hanisek and Mark Szantyr

The eleventh report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) of the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) continues the ongoing effort of the state’s resident and visiting birders to maintain an accurate record and historical archive of the state’s birdlife. Current ARCC members, in addition to the authors, are Frank Mantlik, Frank Gallo, Dave Tripp, Chris Wood, John Gaskell, Dave Provencher, Jay Kaplan, and Ed Hagen. Also voting on records in this report were Buzz Devine and Julian Hough. In its assessment of reports, the committee places special emphasis on original field notes, and urges birders to carefully detail as many points as possible regarding a bird’s physical appearance, behavior, vocalizations, and habitat. The committee continues to get some reports, which it cannot accept, that contain detailed accounts of the circumstances surrounding a sighting, but no description of the bird. Because reports become part of a historic archive, they are only acceptable if they contain a description that would allow someone examining them many years hence to come to the same conclusion as the committee on the bird’s identity. The committee thanks the many birders who have taken the time to submit reports and, in many cases, photos, sketches, or tape recordings. All submissions become part of the state’s permanent ornithological record and can be re-opened at any time to consider significant new information, such as an additional observer’s report or a newly recognized field character. The committee provides a judgment on the adequacy of the evidence submitted but can neither verify nor invalidate an individual record. All reports, along with members’ comments on each record, are archived at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. For a review of the committee and its operation, see Bevier (1996).

HIGHLIGHTS

This report contains 35 records of 26 species reviewed by the committee. The committee accepted 77 percent of records reported here, most of them from 2000 and 2001. Three new species have been added to the State List — Barnacle Goose, Black-tailed God-wit, and MacGillivray’s Warbler. Other notable occurrences were a third state record for Thayer’s Gull; fourth state records for White-faced Ibis and Mississippi Kite; a third spring record for Northern Wheatear; and a continuation of the recent flurry of Selasphorus hummingbird discoveries.

STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST

The State List now stands at 408. The most recently published state list contains 406 species and is available from COA (314 Unquowa Road, 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. The most recent State List and Review List can be viewed on the COA Website. Submit written reports, along with any documentary material, to the 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 original finder listed first followed by an asterisk. Observers who submitted a photo are acknowledged with ‡ after their names. Hyphenated numbers (e.g., 02-01) following the observers are ARCC file numbers. The species are listed in order according to the AOU Check-list. Records of particular species are listed chronologically. Months of the year are shortened to their first three letters.

ACCEPTED RECORDS

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) One was at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme 30 Dec 2000 through Jan 2001. (Hanisek, Szantyr‡, Meyers, Provencher‡, 01-13). This individual in basic plumage was discovered by Robert Dewire on the New London CBC.
A bird in nearly full alternate plumage was present 9-17 Apr 2001 at West Hartford Reservoir No. 6 in West Hartford. (Jamie Meyers, Don Crocket‡}: 02-20). This spring discovery by Anne Shapiro was unusual; most recent state occurrences have been during two periods — mid-winter (i.e., 01-13) and early autumn.

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One was present 27 May 2001 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. (Julian Hough*, Mark Szantyr, Dori Sosensky 02-16). The bird, an adult in nearly full alternate plumage, represents a fourth state record.

KING EIDER (Somateria spectabilis) A female was seen 20 Nov 2000 off Meigs Point at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. (Hanisek* 01-08). The bird was present from late fall through most of the winter and seen by many observers.

MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis) An immature was seen 24 Jun 2002 in Middlebury and Oxford. (Bruce Finnan,* Kevin Finnan* 02-17). The observers provided sketches of the bird, which was followed in a car as it cruised through two towns. The observation occurred during the typical late spring-early summer period when overshooting kites appear in the Northeast. It is a fourth state record.

SWAINSON’S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni) One was seen in flight 30 Sep 2000 in Naugatuck (Mark Szantyr* 01-03). The date falls into the typical autumn migration range in which most eastern records occur. The finder provided sketches.

AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana) One appeared at Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, from 28 Oct to 11 Nov 2001. (Mark Szantyr, Bruce Finnan‡ 02-18). The extended stay was unusual for this species, which typically makes one-day appearances in the state. Because sightings have now become annual, or nearly so, the committee has removed this species from the Review List and no longer solicits documentation.

BLACK-TAILED GODWIT (Limosa limosa) An adult in alternate plumage was discovered 19 Apr 2001 at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point and seen by a few observers that day only, providing a first state record. What was certainly the same bird was re-identified 29 May 2001 at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford (Greg Hanisek, Chris Elphick, Mark Szantyr, Spencer Bullis‡ 02-19). Evidence suggests this was the same bird present for an extended period at a site on Long Island, N.Y. The bird was last seen there just before it appeared at Milford Point, where Katie Hubbard discovered it. The bird re-appeared 26 April at Harkness but was first identified as a Hudsonian Godwit by a novice birder. It was not seen after 29 April, when it was properly identified by Robert Dewire. Several field characters, especially the extensive rich red wash on the under-parts and the heavily barred flanks, suggest it was of the race islandica. However, separating and sexing the three races of L. limosa present a variety of difficulties. For an extensive discussion, see the New York rarities section of the Web site www.oceanwanderers.com.

RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) One was seen 3 Aug 2000 at Milford Point (Dave Provencher* 02-11). This bird, described as being in worn alternate plumage, was observed in conjunction with intense searches for the state’s first Red-necked Stint, which was seen by a number of observers at Milford Point on 29 July (see ARCC’s 10th Annual Report). The extensive details provided by the observer convinced the committee of the identification. The observer believed certain plumage details suggested this was a different individual than the bird found on 29 July, and the sighting occurred at a time when other stints were being reported from nearby Long Island. However, the committee did not make a determination on the number of individuals involved.

RUFF (Philomachus pugnax) An alternate plumaged male was present 7-13 May 2001 at Barn Island in Stonington (Greg Hanisek,* Andy Griswold 02-14). Most state records occur in spring.

RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) One was seen 13 Aug 1998 in Pomfret (Robert Dixon* 99-09). Because sightings of the species have become almost annual, the committee no longer solicits documentation.

THAYER’S GULL (Lams thayeri) One was found on 29 Dec 2000 on the Housatonic River below Shepaug Dam in Southbury (Mark Szantyr*, Greg Hanisek* 01-09). This first-year bird, representing a third state record, was in a large group of gulls feeding on fish stunned by the dam’s turbines. It was sketched in detail by Szantyr.

RAZORBILL (Alca torda) Among a flurry of recent reports was one on 15 Mar 2000 off Mystic (Fred Norton* 00-06). Multiple sightings of this species have been reported in recent years, mostly from the eastern end of Long Island Sound, but also as far west as Stamford. Razorbill remains a Review Species on the most recent COA checklist but is a candidate for removal.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus) Single birds were: a hatch-year female 30 Oct to 22 Nov 2000 at the Zeisz feeder in Avon (Betty Kleiner, Jay Kaplan, Mark Szantyr‡ 01-05); an after hatch-year female 22 Nov to 12 Dec at the Norwell feeder in Cheshire (Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr‡, Jim Zipp‡ 01-06); and a hatch-year female 28 Nov to 7 Dec at the Barron feeder in Stratford (Mark Szantyr‡ 01-07). All three birds were trapped and banded, allowing determination of age and sex through in-hand measurements and tail patterns.

HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus sp.) A hummingbird identifiable only to this western genus visited a feeder in West Hartford 12-14 October 2000 (Kaplan, Szantyr 01-04).
One was seen in a community garden at University of Connecticut’s W Lot in Storrs on 17 Sep 2001. (Mark Szantyr* 02-24).
Another Selasphorus visited a Southington yard, feeding at flowers but ignoring well-stocked feeders, 6-10 Oct 2001. (Jayne Amico*, Mark Szantyr‡ 02-23).
These sightings, along with those of the Rufous Hummingbirds, continue the state’s recent increase in sightings of Selasphorus hummingbirds. This is part of a larger trend of increased sightings of western hummingbirds throughout the East, primarily from mid-fall to early winter.

SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus) One was seen on 7 Oct 1999 in New Canaan (S. Zimmerman 00-23). The single observer provided a sketch along with plumage and behavioral details. This species has been expanding its range eastward and has a history of autumn vagrancy to the East Coast.

BOREAL CHICKADEE (Poecile hudsonica) One was seen on 8 Nov 99 in Greenwich (Donna Rose Manwaring*‡ 01-01). The bird spent most of the day at the hawk watch site at Quaker Ridge, where it was photographed.

SEDGE WREN (Cistothorus platensis) One was found on 12 May 2001 at Station 43 in South Windsor. (Paul Cianfaglione,* Dori Sosensky, Bruce Finnan‡ 02-09). The bird appeared in unusual habitat, a grain field, and remained there along with a number of Marsh Wrens through 16 May, when they all apparently left. This seemed to be a migratory group downed by inclement weather and oblivious to territorial Marsh Wrens a short distance away.
Up to four were present in July and August 2001 on private property in Old Lyme (Hank Golet,* Mark Szantyr 02-12),where they were sound-recorded by the finder. The birds were present in good breeding habitat, and food carrying was observed. However, a search for nests was unsuccessful.
A fall migrant appeared 23 Sep 2001 in a cemetery in Wethersfield (Paul Cianfaglione,* Roy Zartarian 02-10).

NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) One was seen on 26 May 2001 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. (Len Kendall* 02-02). A great majority of northeastern records fall in September, but Connecticut has two previous May records that fall in the period 17-31 May (Zeranski & Baptist). In spring 2001, a major flight brought at least 42 storm-driven birds to eastern Newfoundland in late May; two were reported from Massachusetts (16-17 May in Petersham, 19 May in Provincetown). As a result of this movement, a pair fledged young on the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland, in summer 2001, some 700 km south of previous known nesting sites in North America. (North American Birds, 55:3).

MacGILLIVRAY’S WARBLER (Oporornis tolmiei) One was found on 15 Dec 2001 in New Milford. (Dave Tripp,* Jay Kaplan, Mark Szantyr 02-04). The bird was found on the New Milford CBC and seen by the finder with much difficulty as it skulked in thick vegetation. It was seen briefly by a few observers that day and on 16 Dec. It also was heard by a number of others as it at times, called persistently. The call notes, combined with the finder’s careful notation of key fieldmarks, allowed for separation from the most likely confusion species, Mourning Warbler. Although Mourning Warbler is regular in Connecticut in migration, it is unrecorded in winter. Conversely, MacGillivray’s Warbler records in the East occur mostly in late fall and winter. This is the state’s first unambiguous record. A single specimen attributed to this species is considered inadequate by the committee because of ambiguous labeling information.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) An adult male visited a feeder in Woodbury 14 Dec 2000 and remarkably appeared again from late Feb to 2 Mar 2001 after being absent all winter (Whitey Frew,* Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr‡ 01-15).

ACCEPT – ORIGIN UNCERTAIN

BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) An apparent adult was located on the Stearn’s Farm property in Mansfield, Tolland County, 4 December 2001 and stayed through the first part of January 2002 (Mark Szantyr*‡, Curtis Marantz, Chris Elphick, Don Crockett‡ 02-02). The Avian Records Committee of Connecticut has had the dubious pleasure of evaluating several reports of this species and until now has always judged that the origin of this fairly popular avicultural species is difficult to ascertain. This bird is common in captivity and the “old school” common logic was to be better safe than sorry and reject this easily identified bird, nearly out of hand, simply because the committee could not be sure that any individual was truly wild. Why then are we accepting this individual to the official state list?

The evidence: The bird appeared wild, was un-banded and had all its toes intact.

The bird occurred at the proper time for its species to be migrating and at a location that has, in the past, held other migrant waterfowl from essentially the same source location as B. leucopsis. A Pink-footed Goose, Anser brachyrhynchus, was located in this same field with an apparent Greater White-fronted Goose, Anser albifrons, of the Greenland race flavirostris on 21 March 1998 and several additional flavirostris White-fronted Geese have been there noted in each season since.

The goose was in the company of several thousand Canada Geese, Branta canadensis, including birds that had been neck-banded as migrants or as nesting birds, and the bands indicate that at least part of this migrant flock had origins in or near Greenland. This was in fact similar to evidence that allowed the committee to accept the Pink-footed Goose to the state list, the first for the Lower 48 states (see Ninth Report).

According to experts in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as well as their counterparts in Canada and Greenland, Barnacle Goose numbers are exploding on their Arctic breeding grounds, as are most other Arctic nesting geese.

According to experts in the field of aviculture, the numbers of Barnacle Geese in captivity has probably been declining through the past decade, a consequence of economic and legislative factors.

The 2002 Connecticut Barnacle Goose was part of a seemingly small invasion of the species in New England and in the Mid-Atlantic states, with several birds located in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and even a bit farther south.

Even in the face of this voluminous circumstantial evidence, the committee acted carefully and worked diligently to not act in haste. The ARCC has at its disposal a voting category that allows us to accept a species even though we cannot definitely prove that the individual in question is wild. When the bird has been properly identified and the preponderance of the evidence seems to indicate a wild origin and there is little or no evidence to the contrary, we believe it is responsible to accept the record under our voting category, Accept – Origin Uncertain. Species accepted under this category are fully accepted onto the state list and enjoy the same status as any other bona fide vagrant. We believe that the disclaimer simply reflects the truth in a situation that is essentially unknowable.

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, identification questionable.

ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) One was reported on 30 Aug 2001 from Lake Waramaug in New Preston (02-07). Historically, reports of Anhingas have been hard to pin down in the state because of their elusive nature and the difficulty of separating them from Double-crested Cormorants under some circumstances. In this case the report lacked any descriptive detail that would confirm the presence of an Anhinga.

GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) One was reported 6 Nov 01 from Milford (02-08). Gyrfalcon is another species that has proven hard to document sufficiently. It lacks distinctive fieldmarks, often passes through an area quickly and carries with it the knotty problem of recognizing hybrid falcons used in falconry. In this case a careful and alert observer’s attention was drawn to gulls driven into a frenzy behavior not usually elicited by the regular raptors in the area. A large raptor came into view, but passed by quickly. The committee felt that the descriptive detail the observer was able to glean from this brief encounter was insufficient to positively identify the visitor as a Gyrfalcon.

WHITE-WINGED TERN (Chlidonias leucopterus) One was reported from Milford Point on 20 May 1999 (99-26). The committee previously voted not to accept this report, but considered it again because some additional information was provided. After reviewing all of the evidence, the committee again was of the opinion that the observation was too brief and distant for positive identification of a continent-level rarity that would also represent a first state record.

GRAY JAY (Perisoreus canadensis) One was reported in Dec 2001 from Watertown (02-22). This report, which would have represented a first state record, was especially tantalizing because Gray Jays were in the midst of one of their extremely rare incursions south of their boreal breeding areas (i.e., two or three were present in Massachusetts during winter 2001-02). This individual was seen briefly at a feeder, and while some descriptive detail was provided, the committee felt the information was insufficient to confirm the identification.

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) One or more were reported from Redding in December 2001 (02-13). The committee was unable to accept the report, in part, because of a lack of cohesion. It was difficult to determine exactly how many birds, of which sex, were being reported from at least two different areas. This, combined with scanty descriptive detail, left the committee unable to act positively on the report.

BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major) Up to three pairs with at least one juvenile were reported 24-27 Jun 01 from Desmond’s Pond in South Windsor (02-22). The report contained minimal description, with no characters noted that would clearly distinguish Boat-tailed Grackle from the similar and more expected Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula). At least one character mentioned, tail length, seemed better for Common Grackle. There was no mention of voice, which also is significant in separating these species. Away from peninsular Florida, Boat-tailed Grackles occur virtually exclusively on the immediate coast, and the presence of a breeding colony on an inland pond would be unprecedented here. It is worth noting that adult male Common Grackles, during breeding season, display deeply keeled tails that sometimes confuse inexperienced observers. It also should be noted that Great-tailed Grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus), a species that does occur inland, has been expanding its range northward. However, none of the details in this report suggested that species. Because Boat-tailed Grackles have established a small breeding population on the Fairfield County coast, the committee no longer solicits documentation of birds in typical habitat. However, reports are sought of any large inland grackles that might prove to be mexicanus.

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, origin questionable.

TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) An immature bird was on Bantam Lake in Dec 00 and Jan 01 (Dave Tripp, Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr‡ 01-12). Separation of immature (and in some cases adult) Trumpeter and Tundra Swans presents one of North America’s most difficult and under-appreciated identification problems. This bird’s continued presence allowed careful scrutiny of plumage, along with critical study of bare parts, size and shape. This facilitated confident identification as to species, but additional detective work by Tripp determined that the bird had escaped from a waterfowl fancier elsewhere in Litchfield County. Since Trumpeter Swans are the subject of re-introduction schemes in several places on the continent, the possibility of a vagrant reaching Connecticut cannot be dismissed, but each case will have to be considered on its own merits.

GREAT TIT (Parus major) One visited a feeder in Sharon during the winter of 2000-01 (Mark Szantyr‡ 01-14). The proprietor, Fritz Mueller, was astounded to look out one morning and see a bird he remembered from his childhood in Germany. The identification of this well-marked and active bird was straight forward, but there was little reason to entertain the idea of naturally occurring vagrancy. Great Tits are sedentary throughout most of their Old World range and are kept as cage birds, factors pointing to escape as the most likely origin.

LITERATURE CITED

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

Perkins, Simon. 2001. Spring Migration Report: New England. North American Birds. 55:276.

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


Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Mark Szantyr, 145 Farmington Ave., Waterbury, CT 06710