Sixteenth ARCC Report
By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
In the Fifteenth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (see July 2010 Vol. 30 No.3 of The Connecticut Warbler), Western Meadowlark was added to Connecticut’s State List. This year, three species were accepted to the list bringing the state total to 427 birds. These new species are White-tailed Kite, Northern Lapwing and Common Murre.
Over the past year, committee members have been asked about the voting process for records that have been submitted for review. At this time, it seems prudent to provide a brief summary of how the process works. The secretary of the Avian Records Committee compiles a file for each submitted record. Anyone can file a report and guidelines may be found in the ARCC section of the COA web site. The committee members submit votes on each record prior to the holding of committee meetings, generally held annually. In situations where a large number of records are submitted, the committee may schedule additional meetings. Committee members do not discuss records prior to the votes, which are submitted to the chairman and secretary electronically. At the meeting, the vote results are announced. A record is accepted if it receives no more than one negative vote. Voting categories are accept; accept although there may have been questions concerning the origin of the bird; not accepted due to questions about identification; or not accepted due to questions about origin. If the committee does not accept a record on the first round of voting, but the record receives a majority of accept votes, the record goes to a second round of voting. If a record is not accepted on a second round of voting, it may go to a third round. If the record is not accepted on a third and final round of voting, it is not accepted.
It should be noted that following the first round of voting, records are discussed by members of the committee, and these discussions can be quite lively. A record that is not accepted remains in the committee’s files. Such a record may be re-opened at any time as requested by any committee member and if there is reason to do so. It may be that new information has been brought to light concerning the record or perhaps concerning the species. This has recently occurred with several records, some of which are more than 20 years old. It should be mentioned that “non-acceptance” of a record does not mean that this bird did not occur in Connecticut. The record may not be accepted because the report was missing crucial information or did not provide information necessary to differentiate it from similar or related species. The ARCC files provide a permanent record for Connecticut ornithologists and birders and must stand the test of time.
ARCC members take their responsibilities seriously, and a great deal of thought and discussion goes into the decision as to whether or not to accept a record. One thing that has made the committee’s work easier are incredible advances in digital photography. It should be noted that photographs accompanying a report do not have to be of professional quality. The committee has accepted reports for which photos were taken using a cell phone camera. Another record came from a committee member who observed a bird while delivering mail, and was able to photograph it with a small camera kept in the car. Such activity was unheard of a generation ago.
Another issue with respect to records is who may contribute them. The fact is that anyone can submit a record. It is hoped that Connecticut birders will review the guidelines found in the ARCC section of the COA web site. Often, records take months or more to be submitted because the birders who first found a rare bird wait for a more experienced birder to see the bird and submit a report. If the bird is present for only a short time, reports by experienced birders may not be forthcoming. Today, there are many new birders looking for birds throughout Connecticut. With greater coverage, it would not be surprising were record submissions to increase considerably.
In closing, the committee would like to publicly thank Ed Hagen for his many years of service. Ed has resigned from the committee as he and his wife recently sold their home in Woodbury and moved to Florida. The committee wishes Ed all the best and hopes that he will have many opportunities to find rarities in the Sunshine State. Finally, the committee held its last meeting at the Peabody Museum in New Haven. At one time, the committee held all its meetings at the Peabody, taking advantage of the institution’s collections. These collections can be extremely helpful in reviewing records. The committee thanks Jacob Musser for his invitation to return to New Haven and looks forward to meeting at the Peabody Museum in the future.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The state list now stands at 427. 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. 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.
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) One visited Mackenize Reservoir in Wallingford from 10 Oct through early Nov 2010 (10-20 Mark Barriger*, Dan Cinotti‡). One joined flocks of Canada Geese in a Windsor corporate park on 31 Oct 2010. It was last seen on 11 Dec 2010 at the Windsor boat launch on the Connecticut River (10-23 Brian Kleinman*‡, Jay Kaplan, Gil Kleiner‡). One was at Horsebarn Hill in Storrs from 21 Nov through at least 7 Dec 2010 (10-21 Mary Covello*, Frank Gallo‡, Mark Szantyr‡). One was found in Wooster Park, Stratford, on 2 Dec 2010. It eventually was relocated on 10 Dec at the Longshore Club in Westport, where it remained through 7 Jan 2011 (10-22 Frank Mantlik‡*, Bruce Finnan‡, Frank Gallo‡, Scott Kruitbosch, Mark Szantyr‡). Record 10-22 was of special significance because observers were able to read a leg band that proved it to be the same bird seen in The Bronx, N.Y. a few days before its arrival in Stratford. New York observers had also read the band and discovered the goose had originated from a prime wintering area of this species on the island of Islay in the western isles of Scotland, U.K., where it was banded as a juvenile on 13 Nov 2002. It had a plastic leg band, VUB, and a metal band, “British Museum # 1291347.” The Barnacle Geese wintering on Islay breed in northeastern Greenland, known to be the point of origin for some neck-collared Canada Geese seen annually in Connecticut. This is also the presumptive point of origin for other Barnacle Geese, Greenland White-fronted Geese and Pink-footed Geese seen in Connecticut, often in the company of neck-collared Greenland Canada Geese. A Barnacle Goose seen and photographed at Beardsley Park in Bridgeport (Scott Vincent‡) between the banded bird’s move from Stratford to Westport is believed to be the same individual. The bird was seen only on the water, so the presence of a band could not be detected.
WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis) One was found swimming off Milford Point on 2-3 Nov 2010 (10-15 Dennis Varza *, Frank Gallo). The bird was seen by several observers, and Gallo provided detailed sketches along with a report that clearly eliminated the very similar Clark’s Grebe. This is the first record since December 2006 and only the third documented record in more than 30 years.
BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis) An immature bird was seen in flight and on the water off Stratford Point, Stratford, and Milford Point, Milford, on 10 Aug 2010 (10-16 Scott Kruitbosch‡*, Frank Gallo‡, Scott Vincent‡). The bird appeared while a number of observers were present at Stratford Point awaiting the arrival of a long-staying White-tailed Kite. Several were equipped with cameras, resulting in excellent photographic confirmation.
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) An adult was seen flying across Route 1 in Clinton on 7 May 2008 (08-11 Graham Scott*). The observer and his wife were both familiar with the species from time spent in Florida, where he had photographed a number of individuals.
WHITE-TAILED KITE (Elanus leucorus) The state’s first was found on 1 Aug 2010 at Stratford Point, Stratford (10-17 Dennis Varza*, Bruce Finnan‡, Frank Gallo‡, Julian Hough‡, Scott Kruitbosch‡, Tom Sayers‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Scott Vincent‡, Rick Wiltraut‡, Jim Zipp‡). The bird’s remarkable stay of more than four months allowed several thousand observers to see it and produced a remarkable array of photographs. The bird became perhaps the best-documented individual rarity ever in Connecticut. It spent some time at Milford Point but was most often observed at Stratford Point, a location not always open to the public. Throngs of people were able to see it there because of warden services provided by Kruitbosch through Connecticut Audubon Society. His almost-daily observations were published as an article in The Connecticut Warbler (Vol. 31 Number 1), which featured a deft cover drawing by Mark Szantyr. The only previous sighting in New England was at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, on 30 May 1910. Hough provided the following on age and sex: “While worn outer primaries and the state of molt may have initially suggested a 2nd calendar-year bird, input from experienced birders (Liguori, Clark et al.) indicated a molting adult cannot be excluded, and the bird is best left as ‘age and sex uncertain’. Further research revealed that while many juvenile White-tailed Kites replace much of their plumage in the first fall, according to Clark, they do not replace their black wing coverts, which according to him would still be white-tipped, unlike the adult feathers of the Connecticut individual.”
NORTHERN LAPWING (Vanellus vanellus) A bird discovered 27 Nov 2010 at Lot W on the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs represented a first state record of this Old World plover (10-08 Phil Rusch*, Frank Gallo‡, Mark Szantyr‡). It was seen by many observers on 28 Nov, the final day of its two-day stay, when it traded between Lot W and Horsebarn Hill, also on the UConn campus. Its arrival coincided with a significant weather-related movement of Northern Lapwings, as well as other Eurasian species, into northeastern North America, primarily the Canadian Maritime Provinces as expected.
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) A total of four sightings involving at least three birds, all adults, was made 2 Jan 2010 from the New London-Orient, N.Y. ferry in Connecticut waters (10-10 Frank Mantlik*‡). One bird was seen on the outward- bound trip and three on the return trip. This pelagic winterer rarely penetrates deep into Long Island Sound, making this easterly ferry route a prime spot for sightings.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea) A single adult was seen flying past the tern colony at Falkner Island, Guilford, on 1 Jul 1999 (10-06 Peter Vickery*). Although this species breeds as close by as the Massachusetts islands, it is a pelagic migrant not inclined to enter Long Island Sound. The sighting came to light in a manner that may produce additional significant records in the future. The very experienced observer was entering some of his old records into eBird, the online database maintained jointly by National Audubon Society and Cornell University. The eBird filters, set to capture records of rarities, flagged the entry. The observer was asked for details and he provided succinct, species-specific notes taken at the time. The value of good field notes goes without saying, especially when the passage of time has blurred memory of a long-ago day in the field.
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) The state’s overdue first record involved a bird in breeding plumage found by an adult education birding class on 30 Jan 2011 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (11-01 Tina Green*, Nick Bonomo‡, Sarah Faulkner ‡, Frank Gallo‡, Greg Hanisek, Keith Mueller‡). As the bird made a slow swimming circuit around Meigs Point early on a Sunday morning, a number of birders were able to hustle to Hammo to see it. Because the species is highly pelagic away from its breeding grounds, it had not been a good candidate historically to enter Long Island Sound. However, a recent change in pattern had resulted in a significant increase in onshore and near-shore sightings from as close by as Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto) One was found on 22 May 2008 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (10-14 Michael DiGiorgio*‡, Patrick Dugan‡). It was relocated briefly the following morning. This is a second state record for this introduced and now well-established Old World species, which has spread significantly since its anchoring of a breeding population in Florida. Its radiation includes a westward component that has resulted in relatively few New England records. The previous state record was also in May.
CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Stellula calliope) One visited a feeder in Guilford, where it was first identified to species on 10 Dec 2010 (10-11 Hank Kranichfeld*, Frank Gallo‡, Mark Szantyr‡). It was a third state record, all involving birds visiting feeders in early winter. An exact arrival date is not known, but the bird was present for some time before it was identified as a Calliope. It was last seen on 1 Jan 2011, when it was believed to have departed. The homeowner graciously invited observers to view this elegant little gem, allowing many to enjoy its visit.
SCISSOR-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus forficatus) One frequented private property in Old Lyme from 3 through 12 Nov 2010 (10-19 Frank Gallo‡, Hank Golet‡). Both the length of stay and late fall appearance were unusual. Most records have been of short duration in late spring-early summer.
FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana) One discovered on 17 Nov 2010 turned out to be a star attraction at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, where it remained until 4 Dec 2010 (10-07 Tina Green*, Kevin Bolton‡, Nick Bonomo‡, Patrick Dugan‡, AJ Hand‡, Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough‡, Frank Mantlik‡, Michael Moccio‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Scott Vincent‡, Jim Zipp‡). The bird, a third state record, was enjoyed by visitors from at least 25 states and three foreign countries. The visitors’ log was signed by 650 people, but it was absent on seven days of the bird’s 18-day stay. Sanctuary members estimated total visitors at 1000 to 1200. A Cove Island newsletter account surmises that the bird may have either succumbed to cold weather and a lack of insects or fallen prey to a Cooper’s Hawk.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) A first-winter/female appeared 23 Sep 2010 at Allen’s Meadow in Wilton (10-09 Tina Green*, Michael Warner‡). Its arrival fell squarely in the typical mid-September window for appearances in the state.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides) One was found on 7 Dec 2010 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks (10-12 Rollin Tebbetts *‡, Frank Gallo‡). Tebbetts, who works at the airport, has photographed several rare species on the grounds, which are for the most part off limits to birders because of homeland security concerns. However, Tebbetts facilitated a relaxation of the rules about parking along the perimeter road on 11 Dec, allowing a number of observers to see the bird, which was last seen by Tebbetts on 6 Jan 2011. The bird, a first-winter male, was a third state record.
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) One was found dead on a residential street in the Pawcatuck section of Stonington on or about 14 Nov 2010 (10-26 Lisa Bolduc*‡, Robert Dewire). One was seen throughout the day and photographed on 16 Jan 2011 in a yard in East Hartland (11-02 Kristen Anderson*‡). Grayish breast bands indicate both were females.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Dendroica nigrescens) An observer delivering mail in the Compo Beach area of Westport on 7 Dec 2010 found and photographed an adult female (10-13 Frank Mantlik*‡). It could not be relocated. Because of a flurry of records in the 1990s, ARCC removed this species from the state review list. However, its subsequent scarcity in the past decade resulted in ARCC returning it to review status at its 2010 meeting.
LE CONTE’S SPARROW (Ammodramus leconteii) One was found on 29 Oct 2010 at Milford Point, where it remained until at least 14 Nov 2010 (10-25 Tom Sayers*, Greg Hanisek, Jim Zipp‡). The bird remained confined to a small area of marsh grass, Spartina alterniflora, affording many observers the chance to see what is often a frustratingly secretive species. This was a sixth state record.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) An adult male visited a backyard feeder on 5 May 2010 in Milford, where it was photographed by the homeowner (10-03 Roger N. Borgerson Jr.*, Alyce S. Borgerson). An adult male was seen on 25 Dec 2010 at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford (10-18 Douglas and Shirley Beach*). The bird was seen briefly but described in good detail by two observers familiar with the species from decades of living in south Florida.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
LE CONTE’S SPARROW (Ammodramus leconteii) One was reported from Coventry on 26 Nov 2010 (09-15). This single-observer report included some details indicative of this species, but the observation was of short duration, which is not surprising for a noted skulker that can be difficult to see well. Given its similarity to several closely related species, the committee took a conservative approach.
BRAMBLING (Fringilla montifringilla) A singing male was reported from East Rock Park in New Haven on 16 May 2010 (10-24). Two observers submitted a written description of the bird and its song. The details were consistent with the species, but the committee took a conservative approach based in part on the lack of precedent for spring records of singing birds in eastern North America. Most North American records away from Alaska, including Connecticut’s single confirmed sighting, involve wintering birds. The possibility of a cage bird escape could not be ruled out as well.
MEW GULL (09-03) In an account accepting the first photo documentation for the species and the first documentation for the Old World subspecies, known in Britain as Common Gull, an incorrect scientific name was given. The correct name is Larus canus canus.
Clark, George A. Jr. 1999. Birds of Storrs, Connecticut and Vicinity. Third Edition. Natchaug Ornithological Society, Mansfield Center, CT, & Joshua’s Tract Conservation and Historic Trust, Mansfield, CT.
Clark, W.S., and B.K. Wheeler. 2001. A Field Guide to Hawks of North America. 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1
Liguori, Jerry. 2005. Hawks From Every Angle: How To Identify Raptors In Flight. Princeton University Press.
Pyle, Peter. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I, Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, Calif.
Sibley, D.A. 2000. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Veit, Richard R., and Wayne R. Peterson. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, Mass.
Zeranski, J.D. and T.R. Baptist. 1990. Connecticut Birds. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H.
Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Jay Kaplan, 71 Gracey Road, Canton, CT 06019