Seventeenth ARCC Report
By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
Last year, in the Sixteenth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (see The Connecticut Warbler, Volume 31 No. 2), three species were accepted to the Connecticut State List, bringing the state total to 427 birds. The additions were White-tailed Kite, Northern Lapwing and Common Murre. This year, in part due to an unprecedented number of records derived from Tropical Storm Irene in late August, four new species have been added. Two of these were the result of Irene. Another provides a first record, not only for Connecticut, but for the lower 48 states. The fourth comes from an old record that was re-opened; the result of new information concerning vagrancy patterns of a species that was previously unheard of away from the coast.
Tropical Storm Irene reached Connecticut on the evening of 27 August 2011. The following day and in spite of what might charitably be described as “inclement” weather conditions, several hardy birders traveled to coastal lookouts and to large inland water bodies. In some cases they were richly rewarded. The committee received at least 15 reports concerning birds that were likely driven to Connecticut by Irene, including two new state records; a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel well documented by two experienced birders on the coast in Milford, and a White-tailed Tropicbird that was, incredibly, picked up in northern Litchfield County. The latter bird was kept for several days and eventually transported to an avian rehabilitation center in Florida.
It should be noted that numerous additional storm-driven birds, reported on the Connecticut Ornithological Association’s CTBirds list-serve, never made it to the Avian Records Committee. Birders should understand that the committee can not consider records appearing only on the list-serve. Full reports must be received in order for the committee to give a potential new record full consideration. It is not too late to submit reports for these or other birds. In certain instances, records have been considered years following a bird’s appearance in Connecticut. It should be noted, however, that it is preferable to evaluate records in a more timely fashion and ideally include information recorded at the time of the observation.
This report includes a new look at a record for Ivory Gull that was originally submitted some 25 years ago. At that time, the record was not accepted. In the ensuing years, however, new patterns of vagrancy have been well documented for the species. The Connecticut sighting was in the vanguard of inland reports, although it was not recognized as such at the time it was received. Old records can always be re-opened by request by any member should significant new information make it pertinent to do so. Graylag Goose, the fourth addition to the state list, gained acceptance after several years of consideration of the origin question.
At each meeting, the committee takes a careful look at Connecticut’s Review List to determine if certain species might be removed or added. No such changes were made this year, although several species are under consideration for the future. One that will invariably come up again is Trumpeter Swan. Several eastern states are now reviewing the status of this introduced species. The committee has also begun a review of two birds whose viability is now in question – Ring-necked Pheasant, an introduced species; and Northern Bobwhite, a native species whose wild populations have likely now been extirpated.
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).
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.
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) One found on 5 Jan 2012 at Somersville Lake, Somers, was seen through at least 16 Jan in the Somers-Ellington-East Windsor area (12-05 Mike O’Leary*, Frank Mantlik‡, Greg Hanisek, Renee Baade). A bird showing a similar bill pattern was found on 20 Feb 2012 in Windsor and is believed to be the same individual (Steve Morytko*, Mark Szantyr‡, Julian Hough‡). One was found on 25 Feb 2012 at Lyman Orchard in Middlefield and was determined to be different from the bird (or birds) in file (12-05) because it showed a distinctively different bill pattern (12-08 Mark Barriger*, Keith Mueller‡). There are two previous records involving a total of three birds.
GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser) One was found on 22 Feb 2009 in a flock of Canada Geese in a corn stubble field on Whirlwind Hill Road in Wallingford, where it wintered (11-03 Greg Hanisek*, Mark Szantyr‡). This constitutes a first state record and the first accepted record for the United States. However, there are several recent records from northeastern Canada, including the first accepted North American record of a bird that landed on an oil rig off Newfoundland in April 2005 (American Birding Association Checklist Committee Record 2008-05). Acceptance in Connecticut involved questions of identification and origin, both of which are complicated by the presence in North America, and more specifically within the general area of this sighting, of domestic Graylag Geese. Detailed photographs of this bird allowed for its identification as a Western Graylag Goose (Anser a. anser), the migratory subspecies nesting commonly from Iceland across northern Europe. Experts consulted by ARCC agreed to this identification and to the fact, based both on structure and other features, that this was a wild form rather than a domestic bird.
Origin raised more questions and resulted in ARCC taking several years of evaluation and solicitation of expert opinions. Key factors in acceptance were: 1/ lack of any of the bands, tags or foot alterations that would prove captive origin; 2/ expert commentary that wild-type western Graylag Geese are seldom held in wildfowl collections; 3/ occurrence in an area of Connecticut where geese known or presumed to originate in Greenland (Greenland race of Greater White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Pink-footed Goose and neck-banded Canada Geese) now occur regularly; and 4/ continued North American sightings of wild-type Graylag Geese since the bird accepted by ABA (Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in 2010; Nova Scotia and Quebec in 2011). ARRC considered it important to wait for additional North American records, because while Graylag Goose has been reported a number of times in Greenland, the most likely point of origin, it has not yet been confirmed nesting there.
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) A string of recent sightings continued with a bird present from 10 Dec 2011 until at least mid-February 2012 among Canada Geese wintering in the Windsor-Bloomfield area (11-18 Paul Desjardins*, Joseph Cala‡, John Marshall‡).
GREAT SHEARWATER (Puffinus gravis) Shearwaters were not a major feature of Tropical Storm Irene’s passage on August 28, 2011, but an experienced observer who traveled farther east than anyone else saw one in a large and varied movement of pelagic species working their way eastward out of Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook (11-34 Andy Griswold*).
LEACH’S STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma leucorhoa) Tropical Storm Irene delivered four on 28 Aug. 2011. One was viewed from Roberts Street in West Haven (11-36 Nick Bonomo*). One was seen at Mansfield Hollow dam in Mansfield (11-37 Phil Rusch*). One that was picked up in a Prospect yard and succumbed was delivered to Yale Peabody Museum as a specimen (11-38 Peter Thiel*‡). One was photographed at Bantam Lake in Litchfield (11-39 Fran Zygmont*‡).
BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma castro) One of two state firsts delivered by Tropical Storm Irene, this bird presented itself along the Milford coast on 28 Aug 2011 to two observers with extensive pelagic experience, including previous observations of this species (11-33 Nick Bonomo*, Julian Hough*). They produced separate reports that included sketches and original field notes that emphasized plumage features, structure and flight style. When there are multiple observers of a review species, more than one report is always desirable.
WHITE-TAILED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon lepturus) This spectacular state first was picked up from the center of a road in Colebrook on 29 Aug 2011, the day after Tropical Storm Irene’s passage, by a motorist who took it home and kept it alive for several days feeding it clams and raw fish while he tried to find somewhere he could take it (11-31 Linda Bowen‡). He eventually found and took the bird to Linda Bowen, a licensed wildlife rehabilitator from Falls Village. She figured out the bird’s identity and through her rehab contacts learned that it needed to go to Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores, Fla. She then enlisted the help of friends, including an airline pilot, who got it onto a plane to Florida after she received health clearance for the bird through a registered USDA veterinarian. Her efforts won her a special recognition award from the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association. The person who found the bird wished to remain anonymous.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) This elusive species has proven difficult to document in the state, but a bird that posed cooperatively on 11-12 Jun 2011 at Lake Whitney in Hamden provided long-sought photo documentation, as well as a check-mark on dozens of birders’ state lists (11-04 Florence McBride*, Frank Gallo‡, Peter E. Vitali‡, Mark Szantyr‡).
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis) After an immature was found off Griswold Point in Old Lyme on 29 Aug 2011, the day after the passage of Tropical Storm Irene, single immature birds were reported at various places on Long Island Sound through 14 Nov 2011. Sightings were made in Madison, Milford and Fairfield, with more extended stays in New Haven harbor and in Greenwich. A lack of overlap in sightings suggests, but certainly doesn’t prove, that one immature bird could have remained in the Sound throughout the observation period. (11-21 Glenn Williams*, Hank Golet‡; Nick Bonomo‡, Keith Mueller‡, Scott Kruitbosch, Frank Mantlik‡).
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) An adult was at the state’s prime location for this western counterpart of the Glossy Ibis, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, on 21-22 Apr 2011 (11-16 Paul Fusco*‡). The bird fit the state pattern of spring occurrence on the coast. This pattern was broken by an adult in basic plumage, which became the first fall and first inland record on 20-22 Sep 2011 at Wangunk Meadows in Portland (11-17 Joanne Luppi*, Mark Szantyr‡).
YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis) One was seen by two observers, first on a grassy road edge and then in flight into the adjacent wetland on 14 May 2011 at Leadmine Brook in Harwinton. Sketches were rendered of the bird on the ground and in flight (11-12 Paul Carrier*, Winston Williams).
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) The day after the passage of Tropical Storm Irene, 29 Aug 2011, brought numerous observers to Milford Point, where one of the best finds in the wake of the storm was this handsome species, which remained through at least 4 Sep 2011 (11-14 Nick Bonomo*‡, Scott Kruitbosch, Joseph Cala‡, Paul Fusco‡).
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) One was seen from shore by an experienced observer on 16 Dec 2011 off Cove Place, Stratford (11-43 Frank Mantlik*). Birders searching for alcids from the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry reported kittiwakes on three occasions, with the reports contained in a single file (12-01). One adult was seen on 6 Jan 2012 (Frank Mantlik*‡). At least five adults were seen on 8 Jan 2012 (Renee Baade*). Four adults were seen on 14 Jan 2012 (Glenn Williams*, Bill Asteriades‡).
IVORY GULL (Pagophila eburnea) One was seen on the Connecticut River in South Windsor on 11 Jan 1986 (86-07 Donald Hopkins* 86-07R Nick Bonomo). This represents a first state record. The record was not accepted by the committee in 1988, but bylaws allow any committee member to submit a record for re-opening if substantial new information comes to light. Bonomo prepared a case for re-opening based on the pattern of occurrence that has unfolded since the 1980s, when this species was an extreme rarity. The original report contains two sketches that are a reasonable likeness of an Ivory Gull, but the committee at that time took a conservative approach because of the rarity combined with lack of evidence that these birds occurred inland at our latitude. Subsequent records from locations such as Tennessee, South Dakota and Minnesota indicate they are more wide-ranging outside the breeding season than previously believed. The behavior described in the original report, of the bird landing on an ice floe, also was consistent with the species. This action serves as a reminder that all reports, accepted or not, become a part of the state’s permanent ornithological record. The original action represents the opinion of committee members at the time, but is always subject to re-evaluation.
THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) A juvenile was at the Windsor-Bloomfield landfill in Windsor on 5-11 Dec 2011 (11-15 Nick Bonomo*‡, Frank Gallo‡). This species presents documentation challenges, which the observer met with a detailed description and a series of photos showing all aspects of the bird.
SOOTY TERN (Onychoprion fuscatus) Of more than 60 Sooty Terns recorded on 28 Aug 2011, reports and/or photos were received of four sightings involving 25 individuals incorporated into the following file (11-40): eight on the Housatonic River in Stratford (Charles Barnard*, Frank Mantlik, Scott Kruitbosch, Bill Asteriades); two in Fairfield (Alex Burdo*‡); 11 at Candelwood Lake in New Fairfield (Jim Dugan*‡), and four at Bantam Lake in Litchfield (Fran Zygmont).
GULL-BILLED TERN – (Sterna nilotica) One of several excellent finds at Milford Point in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene was a bird on the gravel bars with other terns on 1 Sep 2011 (11-13 Tina Green*, Scott Kruitbosch‡). One was seen in Stonington harbor on 14 Sep 1998. The record came to light when the observer entered some of his older sightings into eBird and responded to a query (10-04 Chris Roberts*).
LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus) The observer’s passion for pelagic trips stood him in good stead when he was able to apply extensive experience with all three jaeger species as this juvenile bird moved along the Milford coast during the passage of Tropical Storm Irene on 28 Aug 2011 (11-32 Nick Bonomo*). His excellent, detailed report included original field notes and a sketch.
DOVEKIE (Alle alle) One was picked up in a driveway in Groton on 11 Feb 2012 and taken into rehab (12-03 Glenn Williams*‡). The bird was emaciated and later died despite eating well for several days (fide Maggie Jones).
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) After the state’s first was documented in January 2011, winter 2011-12 produced multiple sightings, all from the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry. The following records are all contained in (11-26). Single birds were reported on 31 Dec 2011 (Bill Asteriades*‡), on 6 Jan 2012 (Frank Mantlik*‡), on 7 Jan 2012 (Bill Asteriades*‡), on 8 Jan 2012 (Renee Baade*), on 9 Jan 2012 (Tom Johnson‡,) and on 11 Jan 2012 (Frank Mantlik*‡). Two were present on 22 Jan. 2012 (Glenn Williams*, Bill Asteriades ‡).
THICK-BILLED MURRE -(Uria lomvia) A grounded bird was picked up on a street in North Stamford on 20 Nov 2005 and brought to Greenwich Audubon (11-24 Brian O’Toole). It was taken to Wildlife in Crisis in Weston‡ and subsequently released into Long Island Sound. One was seen from the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry on 31 Dec 2011, and the two observers provided a sketch as well as written details (11-25 Jay Kaplan*, Bill Asteriades*). One was seen and photographed in Connecticut waters on 11 Jan 2012 from the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry (12-06 Frank Mantlik‡). Conditions for photography were difficult. While poor photos were obtained, the observer solicited positive identification comments from experts in Massachusetts and Newfoundland, where the species is seen more regularly.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) One was seen very briefly but heard repeatedly on 19 Jul 2011 on the Coastal Center grounds at Milford Point. (11-29 Frank Gallo*, Scott Kruitbosch). One visited a yard in Stamford on 23-25 Nov 2011 (11-09 David Winston*‡, Bill Asteriades‡).
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) A pair, representing a third state record, was found on 7 Jun 2011 at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford (11-28 Frank Mantlik*‡, Scott Kruitbosch, Bruce Finnan‡, Mark Szantyr‡). On 8 Jun they were seen carrying nesting material, an attempt that apparently was soon abandoned, but they were seen sporadically by many observers through 17 Jun. There was a single sighting on 23 Jul in a nearby neighborhood.
CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Stellula calliope) The state’s fourth record, all of them since 2006, visited flowers in a yard in the Pawcatuck section of Stonington on 21-22 Oct 2011 (11-10 Robert Jones*, Carlos Pedro‡). The dramatic increase in western hummingbirds in the East is one of North America’s most intriguing ongoing avian events. Connecticut has now recorded three species in addition to Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and several more range from likely to possible.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) A consultant working at Groton-New London Airport in Groton pulled out his camera when he encountered an unusual bird on 29 Sep 2011. He reported his sighting to Jenny Dickson of the state DEEP, who saw that it made its way into the ARCC files (11-06 Jason Ringler*‡). Connecticut has proven to be a prime stop-over point during the strikingly consistent September migration window for the small numbers of this Greenland-Arctic Canada breeder that reach our latitude in North America.
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi) One was seen on 7 March 2012 at Sunny Brook State Park in Torrington (12-10 Ray Belding*‡). This is the seventh state record and the first since January 2006, when two were present in Hamden.
HARRIS’S SPARROW (Zonotrichia querula) One was found on 9 Jan 2012 along a rural roadside in Lebanon (12-04 Annie & Mike Perko*, Greg Hanisek, Frank Gallo‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Bill Asteriades‡). The first-winter bird was seen and photographed by many until at least late March. It was the 11th state record but only the third since 1986.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) An adult male was seen on 30 Sep 2009 when it flew by the hawk watch at Lighthouse Point in New Haven, landing long enough in a treetop to allow scope views (10-05 Dana Campbell*, Don Morgan*). A drab basic -plumaged bird survived a window strike in New Milford on 7 Feb 2012 and was photographed in the hand (12-02 Anne Kehmna*‡). A bird in brighter basic plumage visited a suet feeder at Peace Sanctuary in Mystic on 25 Feb 2012 (12-09 Maggie Jones*, Glenn Williams‡, Nick Bonomo‡, Mark Szantyr‡). This bird, a female or immature male, is most likely the same one seen briefly by Williams in a nearby backyard on 21 Feb. It was still present in mid-March.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) An adult male visited a feeder in the Mystic section of Stonington on 20 Jun 2009 (11-11 Maggie Jones*, Glenn Williams, Rosalind Isquith ‡). An adult male appeared at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford on 25-26 Nov 2011 (11-07 Patrick Dugan*‡). It was the second year in a row for an adult male at this location.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
MANX SHEARWATER (Puffinus puffinus) A shearwater seen from land in Stratford on 23 Jun 2011 fit the category of “small black-and-white shearwater,” which in northwestern Atlantic waters refers primarily to two similar species, Manx Shearwater (11-05) and Audubon’s Shearwater. While Manx is the more likely of the two, a relatively short fly-by observation was not sufficient to categorically eliminate Audubon’s. The general lack of tubenoses inside Long Island Sound, coupled with the wide-ranging proclivities of pelagic species, added to the committee’s conservative approach.
THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) An adult gull found on 7 Dec 2011 in Fairfield showed some characteristics of Thayer’s Gull (11-22). The observer made a good effort at photographing and sketching the bird, but distance and unfavorable weather made confirmation of this difficult species problematic.
BRIDLED TERN (Onychoprion anaethetus) One was reported 28 Aug. 2011 on the Housatonic River in Stratford (11-41). Multiple observers were present searching through at least eight Sooty Terns deposited by Tropical Storm Irene. The observers were not in unanimous agreement that a Bridled was present, and some, including the one who first raised the possibility, felt it more prudent to note a Sooty/Bridled. One was reported on flotsam, seen from shore in Westport on 29 Aug. 2011 (11-42). The observers took great care in studying the bird but were also forthright about distance and difficult light conditions, which led the committee to take a conservative approach.
BREWER’S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus) One was reported with Rusty Blackbirds and robins on 23 Oct 2011 in Litchfield (11-44). One was reported in a mixed flock of icterids in Stratford on 25 Nov. 2011 (11-08). In both cases single observers were able to see some, but not all, features indicative of this species. Because of its lack of outstanding field marks and its close resemblance to some plumages of Rusty Blackbird, this western species has proven frustratingly difficult to document in Connecticut. It will probably take, at minimum, an exhaustive description of all plumage and structural details extracted from a lengthy observation to provide sufficient evidence. A series of good photographs would be better.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED – ORIGIN QUESTIONABLE
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) A pair was on Konold’s Pond, Woodbridge, from 5 Feb 2012 until at least 15 Mar 2012 (12-07 Paul Wolter*, John Marshall*, Mark Szantyr‡, Steve Broker‡). A pair was also on Konold’s Pond from 21 Mar to 2 Apr 2011 (11-19 Frank Gallo*‡). It seems certain that the same pair was involved in both of these instances. These two birds are likely to be the same ones present at Cranbury Pond in Stratford from 28 Mar to 1 Apr 2010 as well. Reasons for questioning their origin were spelled out in the 15th ARCC report (see The Connecticut Warbler Volume 3 Number 30). Since that report was published it has come to light that most of the states/provinces where this species has been introduced east of its core range now consider it established. However, the closest state in that category, New York, does not, and the birds seen in Connecticut carry no bands or tags indicative of their origin. The committee believed it was best to continue to monitor the dispersal of these birds, as well as to consider the position of records committees in states to our south, which have not yet accepted birds reported as migrants/winterers.
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis) One banded in Scotland was first seen in Stratford on 3 Dec 2010. Its arrival date was listed incorrectly in the 16th ARCC report (see The Connecticut Warbler, Volume 31 Number 2).
For expert commentary on several difficult records the committee thanks David Boertmann, Ian Gereg, Bruce Mactavish, Carl Mitchell, Christian Newman and Blair Nikula. Committee members participating in review of the records in this report, in addition to the authors, were Nick Bonomo, Frank Gallo, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik, Janet Mehmel, Dave Provencher, Mark Szantyr, Dave Tripp and Glenn Williams. The review involved 56 records, including three that were approved in a second round of voting and four that remain under consideration.
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Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Jay Kaplan, 71 Gracey Road, Canton, CT 06019