Fourteenth ARCC Report
Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
In the Thirteenth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (see January 2008 Vol. 28 No.1), mention was made of advancements in digital photography. This relatively new technology has provided birders with all levels of expertise an opportunity to make significant contributions to Connecticut ornithology.
A fine example was the discovery of a striking male Broad-billed Hummingbird that appeared last summer at a Montville feeder but for a single day. A quick thinking member of the household, recognizing an unusual hummingbird, was able to document its occurrence, providing a first Connecticut record for this species of the American Southwest. In past years, this sighting might have been received as a single observer report by a beginning birder without the benefit of photo documentation.
A second addition to the Connecticut State List was the discovery of not one, but two, Slaty-backed Gulls at the Windsor-Bloomfield Landfill this past winter. Both were seen by more than a handful of birders, and both were well-described through written and photographic documentation. Again, photographs played a role, enabling the Committee to differentiate between these two individuals.
The third addition to the state list detailed in this report, “Western” Flycatcher, was separated in large measure from other look-alike members of the Empidonax genus through a series of sharp, full-frame digital images.
For future reference, please note that photographs do not have to be of the quality that one might find in Audubon or Birder’s World magazines. Birds simply need to be recognizable, and any and all photographs should be accompanied by reports that include, minimally, the name of the bird, the observer, the date observed, and the location where the bird was found. A full-written description is always sought by the Committee, because in some cases photos alone may not prove sufficient.
At this time, there are some changes to the composition of the Avian Records Committee. Buzz Devine, a long-standing member, has resigned effective this spring. The Committee thanks Buzz for his years of service. A new member of the Committee is Nick Bonomo of Orange. Nick has made his presence known to the Connecticut birding community with his thoughtful posts on the CTBirds listserv. Nick has provided numerous well-documented review-list records over the past several years, including the aforementioned first record for Slaty-backed Gull. Members who evaluated and voted upon these reports, in addition to the authors, are Buzz Devine, Frank Gallo, Ed Hagen, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik, Janet Mehmel, Nick Bonomo, Dave Provencher, Mark Szantyr and Dave Tripp.
As mentioned in the Thirteenth Report, if an ARCC member believes that new information may have some bearing on a record that has already been decided, the member may request the record be re-opened for additional discussion. This occurred at the Committee’s last meeting as old records for Barnacle Goose, Mew Gull and Eurasian Jackdaw will be re-opened at the request of various current Committee members. These records will be discussed at a future meeting.
This report, as well as this entire issue of The Connecticut Warbler, is dedicated to the memory of Betty Kleiner. Betty was the long-time editor of “The Warbler,” and it was through her efforts that these reports first became part of this publication.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The state list now stands at 423. 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).
The committee periodically revises the Review List to reflect the latest information on the status of the state’s birds. After keeping the list intact in the Thirteenth Report, the Committee decided this time to return Tufted Duck and Black-throated Gray Warbler. Both were removed in the past because of an increase in records, but that trend has now reversed itself for both species. These actions are in addition to adding any first state records to the list.
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. 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.
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) A juvenile was found on 19 Aug 2008 at Fourteen Acre Pond in Norwalk (08-20 Larry Flynn*‡, Bruce Finnan‡, Greg Hanisek). It remained until at least 13 Sep, providing excellent viewing opportunities for many observers.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) One appeared on 6 Jun 2008 at Barn Island, Stonington (08-12 Skyler Streich *‡). One appeared on 17 Jun 2008 at Plum Bank Marsh in Old Saybrook (08-25 John Ogren*, Noble Proctor‡). The latter was seen by many observers through at least 19 Jun. These are the fourth and fifth accepted records since 2003 for what appears to be an increasing visitor.
THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) The state’s second adult was found on 12 Dec 2008 at Windsor-Bloomfield landfill in Windsor (08-26 Nick Bonomo*‡). The observer obtained a series of digital images that showed the bird in direct comparison to Herring Gulls and illustrated key features such as the dark eye, bright yellow bill with yellow-green base and bright pink legs. He also provided a sketch of the wing tip pattern based on observation of the bird in flight. The same landfill produced records of two different first-cycle Thayer’s Gulls, one on 23 Dec 2008 (08-29 Nick Bonomo*‡, Julian Hough‡, James P. Smith‡) and one on 20 Feb 2009 (08-28 Patrick Comins*‡). Multiple digital images of each bird confirmed the difficult identification and showed that different individuals were involved. A detailed account of identifying this age-class appeared in Vol. 18 No. 4 (October 1998) in an article by Julian Hough on the state’s first photo-documented Thayer’s Gull. The three accepted in this report bring the state total to six.
SLATY-BACKED GULL (Larus schistisagus) The state’s first was found on 28 Nov 2008 at Windsor-Bloomfield landfill in Windsor (08-22 Nick Bonomo*‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Sam Fried‡). It was also seen on 29 Nov and 1 Dec. This ranks as probably the most thoroughly documented first-state record for Connecticut. NB provided a model for detailed description and investigation in his report to ARCC, which included images illustrating all aspects of the individual by MS and NB. He also thoroughly analyzed the possibility of hybrid origin. The depth of scrutiny took on international dimensions when a discussion of the bird’s mantle color, and then a more wide-ranging exchange on the extent of mantle color variation shown by this species, emerged on the Frontiers of Identification listserv. NB elicited the critical information favoring the Slaty-backed identification from the Japanese researchers most familiar with this eastern Asian species on its breeding grounds.
Remarkably, the state’s second appeared at the same landfill less than two months later, when a sub-adult bird was found and well-photographed on 9 Feb 2009 (09-01 Patrick Dugan*, Frank Mantlik*‡, Frank Gallo*‡). It was seen through at least 13 Feb, and what appeared to be the same bird showed up along the Connecticut River in Massachusetts later in the month.
GULL-BILLED TERN (Sterna nilotica) Two were seen on 7-8 Jun 2008 at Greenwich Point on the Greenwich-Stamford June Bird Count for a fourth documented state record, although there are also several uncorroborated sight records. (08-27 Tom Baptist‡). This follows one on 24 Jun 2006 at Milford Point, which was the first in a decade.
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis) One appeared on gravel bars at Milford Point on 9-10 Jul 2008 (08-17 Nick Bonomo*‡, Frank Mantlik‡). This is a fourth state record but the second in as many years at this general location. (A photo appeared in Vol. 29 No.1 January 2009).
DOVEKIE (Alle alle) One was found by two observers on the ramp to Interstate 395 in Putnam on 16 Dec 2007. It was taken to Tufts University’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Massachusetts where, despite care, it died on 20 Dec 2007 (07-17 Robin Shearer‡, Julian Hough).
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) The second of two birds observed at a feeder in Branford made a half-hour appearance on 20 May 2008 (07-10 Donna Lorello*‡). For details on the committee’s deliberations on both birds, please see the account later in this report of the second bird, a long-stayer, under the category Records Accepted, Origin Uncertain.
CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Stellula calliope) The second state record of this little jewel involved a long-staying individual from mid-Oct until at least 21 Dec 2008 at the Battos feeder in Simsbury (08-21 Suzanne Battos*, Jay Kaplan‡, Sam Fried‡, Bruce Finnan‡, Mark Szantyr‡). It was identified to species in mid- Nov after JK investigated the homeowner’s report of a lingering hummingbird at her feeder. The first record had occurred less than two years earlier.
BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRD (Cynanthus latirostris) One was seen for one day only on 13 Aug 2008 at the Seddon feeder in the Oakdale section of Montville (08-19 Kathleen S*, Samantha Seddon‡). This stunning first state record owes its presence on the state list to a digital camera and the quick-thinking daughter of the feeder’s owner. Despite its brief presence, the bird was beautifully documented in color images. For the record, a single Broad-billed Hummingbird appeared at a feeder on Cape Cod, Mass., shortly after this observation and remained for several months.
“WESTERN” FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis/occidentalis) An individual of the species pair Pacific-slope/Cordilleran Flycatcher was found on 1 Dec 2007 at Osbornedale State Park in Derby. It was very cooperative through at least 7 Dec (08-10 Roy Harvey*, Mark Szantyr‡, Bruce Finnan‡, Julian Hough‡, Paul Fusco‡, Greg Hanisek, Brian O’Toole). A series of very detailed photographs along with call notes heard on a few occasions allowed for elimination of other Empidonax species, but the species-distinctive male positional call was not heard. For a more detailed account of this first state record, see a color-illustrated article by Frank Gallo in Vol. 28 No. 3 (July 2008).
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus) One bird was seen briefly on 10 June 2008 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks (08-24 Rollin Tebbetts *‡). The adult bird could not be relocated despite intense searching by numerous observers, but the finder got a clearly identifiable photo. (See Vol. 29 No. 1 January 2009). The occurrence falls in the typical spring-early summer time frame for this species in the Northeast.
BOHEMIAN WAXWING (Bombycilla garrulus) Two were viewed briefly but both photographed on 22 Dec 2007 on Housatonic River Road in Falls Village. The description included a rendering of the calls in comparison to Cedar Waxwings (08-15 Nick Bonomo*‡). One was found with a flock of 12 Cedar Waxwings on 14 Mar 2008 in Harwinton (08-05 Paul Carrier*‡). One was photographed brilliantly on 13 Apr 2008 on the UConn-Storrs campus (08-08 Mark Szantyr‡). Although this report was the only one received for this species from the Storrs campus, up to six were seen there 9-19 Apr 2008 (m.ob.). One was seen briefly but well-described from a scope view obtained while it perched with a flock of Cedar Waxwings on 31 Oct 2008 at Lighthouse Point, New Haven (08 23 Dana Campbell*).
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) One was seen briefly on 16 Jan 2008 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. It was relocated on 21 Jan and was seen by many observers through 15 Feb (08-13 Carole Harrington*, Greg Hanisek, Noble Proctor‡, Ryan Sayers‡, Tom Sayers‡, Julian Hough‡). A photo appeared in Vol. 28 No. 3 July 2008. An adult male visited a feeder in Hampton on 3-8 Jun 2008 (08-30 Marilyn Higgins*, Steve Morytko *‡).
LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys) A female was seen briefly and photographed 22 May 2008 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (08-14 Nick Bonomo*‡, Dori Sosensky). This is the second fully documented record, following one banded and photographed in Oct 1978. The image was obtained by “digibinning” – using a digital camera through binoculars. (See Vol. 28 No. 4 October 2008).
BULLOCK’S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii) One cooperated for many observers 25 Mar-7 May 2008 at the feeders of the Schaefer residence in Cannan village, North Canaan (08-09 Ingrid Schaefer*, Tom Schaefer*, Mark Szantyr‡, Jim Dugan‡, Nick Bonomo‡). Bullock’s Oriole is once again on the increase in the East. This oriole, a beautiful bright plumaged bird, was thought by many West Coast birders to be too orange over most of its plumage to be a normal Bullock’s. While the bird appeared to be a young male, this extreme amount of orange led some to consider that it might be an older female of the species, as this age/sex class often takes on male characters as estrogen levels fall. The plumage anomalies and the lack of conclusive age/sex determination gave rise to speculation that the bird was a hybrid. The next question was a hybrid with what. Observers from the mid-continent contact zone between Bullock’s and Baltimore Oriole advised the committee that the Canaan oriole looked similar to some adult female hybrids between these two species. The closest species to Bullock’s Oriole is not Baltimore Oriole, however, but Streak-backed Oriole, Icterus pustulatus, a bird from the extreme Southwest and Mexico that has been recorded in several Western states and as far east as Wisconsin. Several characters on the Canaan bird, including dorsal streaking that to some appeared extreme for Bullock’s and similar to the symmetrical, orderly streaking of Streak-backed, were not inconsistent with Streak-backed Oriole. This bird caused extensive discussion from coast to coast. Ultimately, after conferring with several experts including plumage authority Peter Pyle, and critically analyzing all aspects of the bird’s structure and plumage, the committee judged the bird to be within the range of Bullock’s Oriole, and likely a young male, though age / sex is still in question. Mark Szantyr
HOARY REDPOLL (Carduelis hornemanni) The winter of 2007-08 saw a major irruption of Common Redpolls into the state, primarily in the northern tier. Unlike most of these events, this one included a flurry of Hoary Redpolls. Online discussion groups and identification sites helped facilitate the identification challenges presented by the species pair. The increased use of digital photography also played a key roll in the acceptance of the following records:
An adult male on 22 Dec 2007 in Barkhamsted, on the Barkhamsted Christmas Bird Count, (08-31 Russ Naylor*). One first-winter bird on 3-6 Jan 2008 at a feeder in Coventry, where it was seen by a number of observers (08-07 Don Morgan*, Glenn Williams, Mark Szantyr‡). One male on 4 Jan 2008 at a feeder at Woodridge Lake, Goshen (08-02 Kevin Finnan). One female on 6 Jan 2008 at a feeder in Canton (08-01 Paul Cianfaglione*, Jay Kaplan). One on 6 Jan 2008 at a feeder in Barkhamsted (08-03 Fran Zygmont*, Dave Tripp). One male on 20 Feb 2008 at a feeder in Harwinton (08-04 Paul Carrier*‡). A color-illustrated article on redpoll identification by Julian Hough appeared in Vol. 28 No. 1 (January 2008). All appear to be of the smaller and less frosty North American subspecies C. h. exilipes, rather than the nominate subspecies from Greenland.
RECORD ACCEPTED, Origin uncertain
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) A bird showing damage to its bill and toes appeared at a Branford feeder on 20 Feb 2007 (07-02 Donna Lorello*‡, Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr‡, Bruce Finnan‡). It has visited the feeder sporadically since then, up to and including winter 2008-09. Acceptance in this category represents full acceptance. The category was created to deal with those species, primarily waterfowl, where evidence points strongly to wild origin but the possibility of captive origin cannot be absolutely ruled out. The bill and foot abnormalities were interpreted by some experts consulted as evidence of time spent in a cage. However, in general, this species has undergone such a strong and widespread northward range expansion, with numerous records at latitudes north of Connecticut, that barring the abnormalities the record would probably be accepted with minimal debate. In fact, the second White-winged Dove, (noted as Accepted earlier in this report), was seen in photographs to have a normal bill and feet. It appeared at a time when the homeowner had heard the long-staying bird calling, suggesting the second bird might have been attracted by the vocalizations. In the end key factors in acceptance of the long-staying bird were: the species’ recent history of strong northward expansion; reports from experts that White-winged Doves are not popular among dove fanciers; and photos of individual White-winged Doves found at latitudes north of Connecticut that show bill and foot damage attributed to frostbite, rather than cage wear. The bird’s willingness to stay in the area was not out of keeping with a species undergoing a rapid range expansion.
NOT ACCEPTED, Origin uncertain
BLACK-BELLIED WHISTLING-DUCK (Dendrocygna autumnalis) One appeared in mid- Jun 2008 outside flight cages containing this species at the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary in Litchfield (08-16 Ian Gereg*, Mark Szantyr‡). The free-flying bird appeared healthy, and its appearance coincided with a flurry of reports of presumably wild Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in the Northeast. The species overall is in the midst of a northward range expansion. However, on 20 June MS was able to obtain photos that clearly show a yellow plastic leg band of the type affixed by keepers of wildfowl. At about the same time it was reported that two individuals of this species escaped from an aviculturist in New York state. Nonetheless the owner of this duck was never determined, and it was eventually taken into the pens at the Ripley facility (fide MS).
MANDARIN DUCK (Aix galericulata) A stunning male was seen 20-21 Mar 2008 in a stream in West Hartford (08-06 Terri O’Connell*). This handsome Asian species is often held in captivity. It has been recorded a number of times in Connecticut and always considered an escape or release. It has not been recorded as naturally occurring in North America.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) The problems with documentation of this species have been spelled out in detail in past reports. As has usually been the case, this report from Sherwood I. State Park, Westport, on 20 Oct 2007 (07-16), involved a single observer and no photographs. In two rounds of discussion it was noted that some features described could be attributed to Arctic Loon, a possibility the observer himself had entertained. An illustrated article on loon identification by Julian Hough appeared in Vol. 28 No. 1 (January 2008).
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucurus) A single bird was seen by three observers on 1 Oct 2008 as it flew by at Cove Island Park in Stamford (08-18). One observer submitted a good account but was unable to see some critical field marks from his vantage point. Lacking reports from the other observers, the committee believed the short observation was insufficient to document a first state record. There is also a report on file of two White-tailed Kites from 26 April 2002 in East Hartford. This was not accepted in large part because of the brevity of the observation. It should be noted that multiple reports are greatly desired in cases where more than one observer is involved. Cases on point include a fly-by Anhinga at Quaker Ridge in Greenwich (three reports submitted) and the first state record of Sooty Shearwater (three reports submitted). Both involve difficult identifications that were solidified by the depth of detail provided by multiple observers.
BLACK-BACKED WOODPECKER (Picoides arcticus) Two were reported from a yard in East Haven on 24 Jun 2007 (07-14). The date and the presence of two birds both were outside expectations for this species, which has not been documented in the state for more than 20 years. The description provided was scant, but the one plumage detail offered – “black backs with white specks” -was not consistent with this species.
The committee thanks the following for expert commentary on several records: Louis Bevier, Alvaro Jaramillo, Paul Lehman, Curtis Marantz, Steve Mlodinow, Sebastian Patti, O&M Ujihara. Also see acknowledgments in the previous Connecticut Warbler articles cited in the species accounts for Pacific Loon and Hoary Redpoll.
Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1
Gallo, Frank. 2008. A “Western Flycatcher Makes It to Connecticut. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 28 No. 3
Hough, Julian. 2008. Hoary Redpoll: Identification Problems and Pitfalls. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 28 No. 1
Hough, Julian. 2008. Pacific Loon: Problems and Pitfalls. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 28 No. 1
Howell, Steve N. G. & Dunn J. Gulls of the Americas. New York, NY: T. & A. D. Poyser, 2007.
King, Jon R. and Carey, Geoff. 1999. “Slaty-backed Gull hybridization and variation in adult upper parts colour.” Birder’s Journal 8(2):88-93.
Olsen, Klaus Malling. Gulls Of North America, Europe, and Asia . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Sibley, D.A. 2000. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Smith, James P.. “Murky shades of ‘slaty’.” Pioneer Birding. 2 Dec 2008. <http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/2008/12/murky-shades-of-slaty.html>.
Ujihara, O & M. Japanese Gull Site. 2009. <http://larus.hp.infoseek.co.jp/gullidentifi_.htm>.
Veit, Richard R., and Wayne R. Peterson. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Mass.
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Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Jay Kaplan, 71 Gracey Road, Canton, CT 06019