Tenth ARCC Report
Connecticut Warbler 21: 43-61. 2001
Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough, and Mark Szantyr
The tenth report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) of the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) summarizes the latest cooperative effort of the state’s birders to maintain an accurate record and historical archive of the state’s avifauna. Current ARCC members, in addition to the authors, are Frank Mantlik, Buzz Devine, Chris Wood, Jay Kaplan, John Gaskell, Dave Tripp, and Frank Gallo. Also voting on records in this report were Dave Provencher, Richard Soffer, Polly Brody, and Bob Dewire, whose terms have now expired. The committee recognizes the effort required to document rarities and extends its thanks to all who have submitted written reports, sketches, and photographs. Committee members place special emphasis on original field notes and urge birders to carefully detail plumage characters, voice, behavior, and other aspects of a sighting in as timely a manner as possible. All submissions, regardless of the committee’s action, become a part of the state’s permanent ornithological record, and can be reopened at any time to consider significant new information (such as an additional observer’s report, an emerging pattern of vagrancy, or a newly recognized field character). The committee provides a judgment on the adequacy of the evidence submitted but can neither verify nor invalidate individual records. 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).
This report contains 49 records of 42 species reviewed by the ARCC. The committee accepted 67 percent of all records reported here, the majority of them from 1999 and 2000. The roster includes four new state records – Red-necked Stint, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Cave Swallow, and Brambling. Other notable records include: the state’s second Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Sandwich Tern; its third Anhinga and Chestnut-collared Longspur; its fourth Franklin’s Gull; and its fifth Rufous Hummingbird and Wood Stork. The Rufous Hummingbird represents an especially strong recent trend of western hummers appearing in the east in autumn, a phenomenon that has continued in Connecticut beyond the period covered by this report.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The State List now stands at 405 species. The most recently published state list contains 399 species and is available from the COA (314 Unquowa Road, Fan-field, 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).
This report continues the format of previous reports. In the case of accepted reports, 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. 00-01) 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.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) A single bird was seen soaring over Woodbury on 10 Aug 1999. (Chris Wood* 99-30). Reports of soaring Anhingas attract close scrutiny in the Northeast, because many observers don’t realize the soaring abilities of Double-crested Cormorants, which can lead to confusion. In this case, the experienced observer zeroed in on traits such as head, neck and tail proportions that help separate Anhingas from cormorants. The bird appeared at a time when southern waterbirds typically wander north of breeding areas. This sighting represents the third state record.
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula) A single female was present in a small flock of Greater Scaup on 26 Apr 1999 at Bantam Lake (Dave Tripp*, Greg Hanisek 99-25). This record was unusual, because most (if not all) previous records have been of males along the coast. Aythya ducks present a number of identification challenges, especially in plumages other than adult male, but the presence of female Greater Scaup for direct comparison helped solidify this identification. It is worth noting that Tufted Duck is commonly kept in captivity, a fact pointed out by several committee members. However, it also has a history of vagrancy to this continent, and the committee in the end maintained its practice of considering individual Tufted Ducks as wild birds barring specific evidence to the contrary. Single males were seen on 19-20 Feb 2000 at Black Rock Harbor in Bridgeport (Charles Barnard* 00-03; Mark Szantyr* 00-04). The identification was straightforward, but the number of birds present was not. Barnard found a single male in a large mixed Aythya flock on the 19th and was present when a male was found the following day. In his opinion, they appeared to be two different birds based on the size of their tufts. Two birds were never seen together, however, and some committee members were uncertain about the presence of two birds. The comments above on origin apply equally to this report.
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) A female was seen by a number of observers on 30 Oct 1999 at Holly Pond in Stamford and the adjacent waters of Long Island Sound off Cove Island Park (Mark Szantyr 99-39). Initially seen briefly by Patrick Dugan on 28 Oct, it remained through 17 Nov 1999. Because of increased occurrences, the committee has removed this species from the review list and no longer seeks documentation of sightings.
WOOD STORK (Myctcria arnericana) An immature was seen near Cream Hill Lake in Cornwall on 22 Jul 1999 (Mike Root† 99-33). The observer was told of the bird’s presence by neighbors and was able to obtain an identifiable photograph. The photo, along with notation on date and place, comprises the entire record. The committee can act on an annotated photo if it is clearly identifiable, but it prefers to receive a detailed written description as well. In the case of hard-to-identify species, pictures and words may be needed to make a decision. In this case, the photo allowed identification and aging of a species prone to wandering northward in summer. This is the fifth state record, but the first since 1955.
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus) One was seen 8 May 2000 over Stamford (Diane Collins* 00-09). An identifiable sketch of this distinctive species accompanied a brief description. Records during the spring overshoot period are on the increase, and, as in this case, most involve single birds seen briefly overhead.
MISSISSIPPI KITE (Ictinia mississippiensis) One was seen 12 May 1999 over Redding (Jay Carlisle* 99-21). The comments about the status of Swallow-tailed Kite in the state apply equally well to this species, although identification of Ictinia is more problematic. In both cases, most of the reports come from the southwestern part of the state.
SWAINSON’S HAWK (Buteo swainsoni) An immature was seen 19 Oct 1997 at Lighthouse Point in New Haven (Frank Mantlik* 99-27). Although observed at a hawk watch, this individual was seen primarily while perched and in low flight giving a wing-on view. As a result, the diagnostic underwing pattern could not be seen, but the observer provided copious, detailed notes and a sketch. This is another increasing species, with all records to date falling in the autumn migration period.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrula martinica) An adult was present 15-20 Jul 2000 at a small pond at Osbornedale State Park in Derby (Mark Szantyr 00-17). This shy but unmistakable species spent much of its time hidden in thick vegetation, but many patient observers were able to see it during its stay, following its initial discovery by Roger Lawson.
RUFF (Philomachus pugnax) One was present 22-25 Apr 2000 in rain pools at the west end of Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (Mark Szantyr, Patrick Comins† 00-05). This bird was easily viewed and seen by many observers, following its initial discovery by John Maynard. Aging and sexing of non-adult males is difficult; this bird was believed to be a first-year female.
RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) An adult, representing a first state record, was discovered 29 Jul 2000 in a large flock of Semipalmated Sandpipers and other “peeps” on the tidal bars at Milford Point (Frank Gallo*, Mark Szantyr, Greg Hanisek 00-20). Although the bird was in nearly full alternate plumage, it was tucked in among the flock and required careful and patient study by more than a dozen birders present before its identification was satisfactorily deduced. The intricacies of identifying small Calidris sandpipers are such that an almost feather-by-feather description is needed to satisfactorily confirm a rare species. In this case, a number of the observers present had put in much study in anticipation of an appearance by one of the stints, and something close to a full library emerged from the various cars in the Coastal Center’s parking lot. Checking and re-checking of plumage characters resulted in several detailed reports and a field sketch that was converted by Szantyr into a color illustration. It should be noted that searches for this bird on subsequent days produced some confusing and uncertain results. There was some evidence that a second ruficollis may have been present, and the committee is still reviewing some reports from subsequent dates, including a photograph. There were also some reports submitted that lacked the detail needed to confirm this species. (See Records Not Accepted section below).
SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER (Calidris acuminata) An adult visited a drained pond in Waterbury on 11 Aug 1999 (Mark Szantyr* 99-34). The observer obtained close views in direct comparison with Pectoral Sandpipers, and was able to produce detailed notes on all aspects of plumage and bare parts. Original field sketches were submitted, as well as a color illustration created using the sketches as a guide. This is the second state record.
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus lobatus) An adult female appeared on a pond in New Canaan on 19 May 1999 (Frank Gallo 99-46). Elsbeth Johnson discovered the bird and contacted Gallo, who provided written details and a sketch. Although most state records are from fall, this sighting occurred during the species’ normal spring migration period.
Maintaining this pattern, another adult female appeared on a pond in Morris on 18-19 May 2000 (Buzz Devine*†, Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr 00-07). This obliging bird performed for a number of observers and was well photographed.
FRANKLIN’S GULL (Lams pipixcan) A single bird was present 24 Oct-11 Nov 1999 in the vicinity of Holly Pond in Stamford (Patrick Dugan*†, Angus Wilson†, Greg Hanisek, Frank Gallo 99-40). While standing, the bird showed adult characteristics, but in flight the wings lacked the prominent white bar separating the black outer portion of the primaries from the rest of the wing, and the white primary tips were not very conspicuous. This combination of characters suggests a bird that had completed its first calendar year and entered its second. This is the fourth state record.
SANDWICH TERN (Sterna sandvicencis) One bird was discovered 12 Sep 1998 in a large tern flock at Sandy Point in West Haven (Bruce Finnan* 99-01). This was a rather brief view of a bird in flight, and those circumstances resulted in extensive committee discussion. In the end, a fairly detailed description of the head and bill, along with good seasonal timing for this species, led to acceptance. It is a second state record.
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufous) An adult male visited a feeder in Hebron from 30 Aug to 23 Nov 1998 (Suzanne Gerety*, Christopher Juhl† 99-05). Many Selasphorus hummingbirds are unidentifiable to species in the field, but a color photograph showed this to be an adult male. It is the fifth state record.
FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana) An adult was photographed on 3 Jul 2000 at Windham Airport in Windham (Jane Seymour*† 00-19). This is the long-awaited first state record of a South American species with a long history of vagrancy to North America.
The November 1999 flight of Cave Swallows was an event of broad proportion, spreading from the Great Lakes to the eastern seaboard. Although the records above were the only ones submitted for review, up to 30 Cave Swallows were reported in Connecticut from 5 Nov to 29 Nov. (See Connecticut Warbler Vol. 20 No. 2 April 2000 for a more detailed account of this flight). Both the southwestern and Caribbean races have been documented in the Northeast. Most autumn records probably relate to southwestern pallida, though this cannot be proven in the field. Given the sedentary nature of the Caribbean population, the extent and numbers of birds involved in the 1999 invasion and the weather conditions in the southwest, it is assumed that pallida was the race involved. A specimen and banded bird, both from Ontario during this flight, each fit pallida on measurements, giving circumstantial weight to the idea that the other birds were also probably pallida.
LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE (Lanius ludovicianus) One was seen 22-23 May 2000 at Groton-New London Airport in Groton (James Restivo*, Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr† 00-08). The bird allowed close approach as it hunted insects from a chain-link fence.
VARIED THRUSH (Ixoreus naevius) One visited fruiting shrubs in Andy Brand’s yard in Hamden from 18-20 Nov 1999 (Greg Hanisek, Jim Zipp† 99-41). Its overall dull coloration identified it as a female, and it was probably a first-year bird based on its brown tail.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Dendroica nigrescens) One adult was seen on 2 Oct 1996 at a Metropolitan District Commission reservoir in West Hartford (Paul Cianfaglione*, Jamie Meyers, Sam Fried 97-08). One adult was seen 7 Nov 1999 at Crook Horn Road in Southbury (Kevin Finnan* 99-44). There has been a recent increase in records of this species in the state. Most are in late fall to early winter.
SUMMER TANAGER (Piranga rubra) An apparent window-kill was found on the deck of a home in Guilford on 3 May 2000 (Amy Hopkins*† 00-15). This southern species has become a rare but regular visitor to the state, usually as a spring overshoot. Because of its now-annual occurrence, the committee no longer requires documentation.
CHESTNUT-COLLARED LONGSPUR (Cacarius ornatus) An adult male was found on a ballfield at Haddam-Killingworth High School in Haddam on 10 Jun 2000 (Dave Gumbart*, Mark Szantyr, Julian Hough† 00-11). This spectacular bird allowed approach within a few feet. The date of occurrence falls within a late spring–early summer window that has produced a surprising number of northeastern records. This is the third state record.
BREWER’S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus) Three males were found in association with a large mixed flock of blackbirds on 10 Nov 1999 in Windham. (Mark Szantyr* 99-36). A difficult identification was obtained through use of plumage and structural characters, and was aided by the presence of the primary confusion species (Rusty Blackbird and Common Crackle) close by for comparison. Field sketches were provided.
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus major) A male and a female were seen on 14 Apr 2000 in the Long Beach-Great Meadows section of Stratford (Charles Barnard*, Patrick Comins 00-16). This species is now regular at this location and has been confirmed breeding in the past; a few reports from other coastal locations have occurred recently as well. As a result, the committee no longer solicits documentation of occurrences in the state, although details of breeding are still sought. Birders should also note that the very similar Great-tailed Grackle has been undergoing range expansion and has been documented as far north as Maritime Canada. As a result, all large grackles should be viewed critically, and any seen away from the immediate coast should be carefully documented.
BULLOCK’S ORIOLE (Icterus bullockii) An immature male frequented a feeder in Stafford 5 November to at least 30 Nov 1999 (Linda Mack*†, Mark Szantyr† 99-35). Winter orioles present a variety of identification problems. Good photos helped confirm this identification.
An adult male visited the Lang feeder in West Goshen for the third consecutive winter, from December 1999 to at least February 2000 (Mark Szantyr 00-01). This is an exciting example of site fidelity in a vagrant, a phenomenon documented a number of times in North America.
BRAMBLING (Fringilla montifringilla) A male visited a feeder in a Weston neighborhood from 4 January to 24 March 2000, establishing a first state record (Evangeline LaMore*†, Mark Szantyr, Curtis Marantz 00-02). A large number of observers produced written details, photos and sketches. This abundant Eurasian species is a long-distance migrant with a long history of appearances in the northern U.S. and Canada. The committee believed its history of vagrancy outweighed the possibility that it was an escaped cage bird. However, see the Yellowhammer account elsewhere in this report for additional comment on this problem.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, identification questionable.
YELLOW-NOSED ALBATROSS (Thalassarche chlororhyncos) On 10 Jul 2000, a bird suggesting a pale bodied albatross was described by observers as being seen from a moving automobile as the bird crossed the 1-95 bridge over the Housatonic River between the towns of Stratford and Milford (00-18). Considering the circumstances of this observation, a reasonable view was had and an array of very interesting field marks was noted. The observers subsequently became aware of the infamous Yellow-nosed Albatross(es) that had been making random appearances along the eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida during the late spring and summer of 2000. After comparing the details of their sighting to these other reports, concluded that they had seen this bird as it made its way between the Mid-Atlantic States and New England. The committee was more than a little intrigued by this report and gave it close and careful consideration in light of the unique set of circumstances presented by the events of this year. Unfortunately, the observer admitted that the conditions of the observation were far from ideal to confidently identify this bird and even if thought to be an albatross, the details were certainly insufficient to eliminate other similar species. It is very important to note that even though this report is inadequate to place the species on the state list, it will be a part of the permanent ornithological record for the state of Connecticut and provide a tantalizing bit of information to those people analyzing “Albatross Summer 2000”.
SOOTY SHEARWATER (Puffinus griseus) A single individual was reported from off of Meig’s Point at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on 10 Oct 1999 (99-43, 99-43A). While the identification was likely correct, the description provided by the observers (99-43) and the subsequent additional information (99-43A) do not conclusively identify this as P. griseus to the elimination of other possible dark shearwater or petrel species. The committee does want to stress that the identification is most likely correct and that Sooty Shearwater is by far the most likely candidate for this observation. This group of pelagic birds can be decidedly difficult to identify without unambiguous photographs and extensive descriptive details. We thank the observers for their efforts in the reporting of this observation of a species long overdue for inclusion on the state list.
The place and timing of this report would probably be enough to elicit skepticism from most committee members but remarkably again, a bird of this species was seen, photographed, and captured for rehabilitation and relocation in nearby Massachusetts within a few days of this sighting (MassBird; Massachusetts Audubon Rare Bird Alert Hotline, m.ob.). The committee believes that this pelican probably did fly through Connecticut to get to Massachusetts and that this report probably refers to the same individual. This report was not deemed acceptable because of its lack of details and because of uncertainty as to the name or names of Connecticut observers involved in this sighting. Also, the question was raised as to the possibility of an other than wild origin for this bird, considering the anomalous circumstances of timing and location. The committee asks anyone having additional information concerning this bird’s New Year’s Eve occurrence in Connecticut to please forward details to Mark Szantyr, ARCC Secretary, 145 Farmington Avenue, Waterbury, Connecticut 06710.
SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoide forficatus) An apparent adult of this species was reported from Weston on 5 Jun 1999 (99-32). While arguably one of the most distinctive birds in North America, Swallow-tailed Kite is reported far more often than it is accepted by this committee because accounts of these occurrences are rarely, if ever documented beyond the declarative statement, “I saw a Swallow-tailed Kite!” The timing and circumstances of this sighting leave little doubt that the observer did indeed see a Swallow-tailed Kite but sadly, little or no supportive documentation accompanied the report. Some committee members noted that portions of the sparse details were, in fact counter-indicative of this species.
GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) A “nearly black” Gyrfalcon was reported from Griswold Point in Lyme during the Old Lyme, Connecticut Christmas Bird Count on 3 Jan 1999 (9-17). Editor’s Note: Record should be #99-17. The committee agreed that the details of this sighting, while suggestive of a large falcon, do not confidently establish the identity as F. rusticolus to the exclusion of other large falcons including hybrids kept by falconers. In the last decade, several falconer’s birds have been seen in our area, including a Prairie Falcon (F.mexicanus) x Peregrine Falcon (F. peregrinus) in Rhode Island. Also, some members of the committee commented that the weather conditions during this count were horrendous and probably did not allow for optimal viewing conditions.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) A single individual was reported from Greenwich on 23 Jun 1997 (97-46). This report was the subject of extensive debate by the committee. While this was probably a correct identification, the committee could not reach a consensus as to certain reported details and felt that a conservative resolution would be best. Black-necked Stilt is widely reported from our region yet is incredibly rare in Connecticut.
AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana) Three birds of this species were reported from the extensive marshes at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Milford on 31 Jul 1999 (99-31). As in the previous record, the committee felt that the sparse details of the sighting did not conclusively eliminate other possible shore-bird species. The committee reminds observers that even birds as distinctive as American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, and Swallow-tailed Kite need thorough and complete documentation.
RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) A bird described as a near alternate plumage adult was reported from off of Milford Point, Milford on 30 Jul 2000 (00-21) and another bird of indeterminate plumage was reported from the same area on 1 Aug 2000 (00-22). The summer of 2000 saw an amazing array of stints, small Eurasian shorebirds of the genus Calidris, in Long Island Sound. (See 00-20, Accepted Records, elsewhere in this report). These reports, while certainly suggestive of a stint, and likely C. ruficollis, do not conclusively eliminate other small sandpipers in the genus Calidris. As stated above, this is an extremely difficult identification problem and detailed descriptions of plumage and structure are necessary. Even with this detail, some of these birds defy confident identification to species.
ROSS’S GULL (Rhodostethia rosea) A bird described as in extremely bright alternate plumage was reported from Old Saybrook on 22 Mar 2000 (00-14). The committee agreed that details in this report were insufficient to eliminate more expected small gull species or to confidently identify R. rosea.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea) A bird described as a sub-adult or second year bird was reported and photographed at Sandy Point in West Haven on 8 Aug 1999 (99-45). Terns of the genus Sterna can be very similar especially in other than definitive alternate plumage. The second year, (first-summer or “Portlandica”), plumage of Arctic Tern and of the more expected Common Tern, S. hirundo, is not often seen in New England as these birds usually spend this portion of their lives in the southern hemisphere. The identification of this or any plumage of Arctic Tern in Connecticut requires detailed descriptions of plumage and structural characters. Even then it may be difficult to identify certain individuals. With due regard for the excellent field skills and experience of the observer, the committee agreed that the details of this observation, including the photographs, do not conclusively identify the bird in question as S. paradisaea, nor do they certainly eliminate S. hirundo. Interestingly, the committee learned of a bird seen that same weekend in the same location that was initially thought to be Arctic Tern, but that was subsequently seen well and critically studied and determined to be a Common Tern in an “unusually dark” plumage.
CASSIN’S KINGBIRD (Tyrannus vociferans) A single bird thought to be of this species was seen and photographed at Hammonasset Beach State Park on 19 Aug 1998 (99-12). This report initiated one of the most interesting ornithological investigations in ARCC history. The bird was fairly well studied. The photographs were suggestive at best but actually provided some key evidence for this investigation. The write-ups and photos describe a kingbird shaped bird with fairly yellow under parts; a distinct and fairly broad white terminal band to the tail, a dark breast set off from the yellowish under parts by a narrow white area, a “medium” sized bill for a kingbird, and moderately dark upper parts. Lacking, or unable to be determined were the white malar area typical of Cassin’s Kingbird, a clear determination of the number of tail feathers evident, the certain age of the individual, or the true extent of the yellowish coloration to the under parts.
Many committee members felt that this bird showed real possibilities to be vociferans but a few were initially troubled by the tail pattern. The white tip seemed to be a bit extreme for Cassin’s Kingbird which has white or pale fringing to the tip of the tail and not really a defined white tip as this bird showed. The tails suggested that of an Eastern Kingbird (T. tyrannus), but the yellowish coloration to the under parts seemed to be beyond what reviewers have experienced with the species. Copies of the slides were sent digitally to experts from around the country and what ensued was extremely interesting. Most of these people felt that the bird was not Cassin’s Kingbird for the same reasons as stated above. A few felt that the images did not conclusively identify it as Cassin’s, nor did they conclusively eliminate Cassin’s. The most important bits of information came when the ARCC asked reviewers if they had any experience with hybrid Eastern X Western Kingbird (T. verticalis). Surprisingly, a few people had some experience with this pairing and more importantly, numerous extremely experienced ornithologists felt that these photos suggest what a hybrid of this pairing could, in fact, resemble (V. Remsen, K. Garrett, T. Leukering, pers. comm.)! While identification to this hybrid combination is far from provable, the committee agreed that the bird was not Cassin’s Kingbird and that identification of this bird as an Eastern X Western Kingbird hybrid could not be ruled out.
The breeding range of Western Kingbird is spreading eastward at an impressive rate and recent nestings in Tennessee and in the upper Midwest, east of the Mississippi, seem to indicate that hybrid pairings like the one suggested above may become more frequent (Winging It, Aug 99). Observers are asked to carefully note all details of yellow-bellied kingbird observations.
This committee would like to extend special thanks to Louis Bevier, Kimball Garrett, Greg Lasley, Tony Leukering, Van Remsen, and Don Roberson for their careful analysis and comment on this confusing issue.
BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalu major) A single male was reported from Griswold Point in Old Lyme on 22 Sep 1996 and three, two females and one male, from a nearby site in Old Lyme on 23 Sep 1996 (96-57). The committee agreed that certain aspects of this report were not conclusive for identification as Q. major and felt that a conservative evaluation would be the best result. Boat-tailed Grackle is now of regular occurrence in Connecticut, especially in the area of the Lordship/Great Meadows marshes in Stratford. For this reason, it is no longer a review species except as it pertains to records of breeding.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, origin questionable.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) An adult was seen and well photographed on 17 May 1999 from the town docks in Stratford (99-22). Certainly a good find as the bird was with the ubiquitous Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), this occurrence coincides with an influx of this species in the east, undoubtedly the result of introductions in the upper Midwest and north. The observer did well in documenting this occurrence and the committee asks that any future observations be similarly documented and reported in order that we might develop a complete picture of the seemingly inevitably successful reintroduction of this species to the eastern portion of its historical range.
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) A single adult was with a large flock of migrant Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) on the Willimantic Reservoir in Mansfield on 6-7 Apr 1996 (97-02). As has been discussed, an occurrence of Barnacle Goose in Connecticut is very difficult to confidently assess in light of its origin, either wild or from captivity. The species is widely kept in waterfowl collections, is inexpensive to purchase, is quite attractive, and adapts very well to “wild-like” behavior once on the loose. However, we do have evidence that at least one Barnacle Goose, a banded individual shot by a hunter, has made it to North America from its nesting location in the Old World (Szantyr, CW, Vol. 5, No. 2 1985). The Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus) that occurred in Mansfield in March 1998 (98-11) was deemed wild based on the large quantity of circumstantial supporting evidence that accompanied the sighting and the fact that research showed that Pink-footed Goose is not widely kept in captivity. It is more than a little intriguing that this Barnacle Goose showed up in the same area, used the same roosting and foraging sites, at the same time of year, and with essentially the same, or a very similar flock of migrant Canada Geese as the Pink-footed Goose. So is this bird wild? There is no way to know. Is it an escape from captivity? Same answer. By far the most conservative approach, and the one we took here, says that until a Barnacle Goose record is accompanied with the same level of supporting details as the Pink-footed Goose of 1998, we should consider any record of suspect origin.
YELLOWHAMMER (Emberiza citrinella) A bird of indeterminate age and sex was videotaped at a Stamford feeder where it spent approximately an hour on 3 Dec 1999 and was never relocated (00-12). The story of how we got word of this record is nearly as intriguing as the record itself. A friend of the committee and renowned ornithologist, Paul Buckley, lives in Rhode Island. Paul has a local birdwatching supply store that he frequents. This store has an area where people can post photos and videos of birds that are either unknown to them or of some other interest. While on a visit to this store, Buckley observed a video being viewed, recognized the species as Yellowhammer and, dumbfounded, asked for all the details. The Stamford, Connecticut homeowner that made the video has a relative who lives in Rhode Island. The homeowner asked to have this video brought to the store so that this bird, unknown to him, could be identified. Paul, when learning that the bird was recorded in Connecticut, alerted this committee and subsequently we were able to get a copy of the video for our records.
Holy Mackerel! Yellowhammer is a reasonably common Eurasian species. Only the northern part of its population is moderately migratory. This species has occurred in Iceland only about 12 times in approximately 50 years of record keeping. It has never been recorded in anywhere in North America, including Greenland or the Aleutians. An alternate plumage male Yellowhammer is a strikingly bright yellow sparrow-like bird. As a male in basic plumage or in female or juvenal plumage, the bird could easily be overlooked at a feeder or in the wild. This bird was in such a plumage. An observer familiar with this bird from England suggests that due to the lack of strong yellow in the plumage, the bird is most likely not from the northwestern European population, the population that is deemed to be the most migratory (Trevor Lloyd-Evans, pers. comm). This individual showed no bands but was missing tertials on the bird’s right wing. It was not possible to determine whether this was from molt or from being in captivity. The committee made a check of national and international breeders and importers of cage birds and found that Yellowhammer is widely offered to the avicultural trade. We also found rather circuitously that a Connecticut breeder had been shipped two of this species at around the same time as the Stamford occurrence.
Again, Holy Mackerel. This report, if accepted, would constitute a first record for North America. This is not something to be taken lightly. Such information significantly alters what we know about a species distribution and movements. This committee, after some discussion, decided that there was more than enough circumstantial information to suggest a likely captive origin There was no information supporting a wild origin except that its date of occurrence coincides with dates when the migratory population arrives at its wintering grounds. The committee believed that in order to accept this record as wild, a pattern of occurrences on the intervening landmasses between here and the Eurasian range of Yellowhammer must be established.
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Jaramillo, Alvaro and Peter Burke. 1999. New World Blackbirds. The Icterids. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.
Levine, Emanuel, Editor. 1998. Bull’s Birds Of New York State. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.
Mlodinow, Stephen G. and Michael O’Brien. 1996. America’s 100 Most Wanted Birds. Falcon Press Publishing Co. Billings, MT.
National Geographic Society. 1999. Field Guide to the Birds of North America, Third Edition. National Geographic Society, Washington D.C.
Olsen, Mailing, and Hans Larsson 1995. Terns of Europe and North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.
Purnell, Fred. 1987. Second report of the Connecticut Rare Records Committee. Connecticut Warbler 7(4):46-51.
Sibley, David Allen. 2000. National Audubon Society: The Sibley Guide to the Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Veil, Richard R., and Wayne R. Petersen. 1993. Birds of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Audubon Society, Lincoln, MA.
Zeranski, Joseph D., and Thomas R. Baptist. 1990. Connecticut Birds. University Press of New England, Hanover, NH.
Dennis Abbott, Jim Bair, Charles Barnard, Don Breeger, Paul Buckley, Jay Carlisle, Paul Cianfaglione, Diane Collins, Patrick Comins, Dennis Costa, Buzz Devine, Patrick Dugan, Bruce Finnan, Kevin Finnan, Sam Fried, Frank Gallo, Suzanne Gerety, Robert Guida, Dave Gumbart, Greg Hanisek, Tom Harrington, Amy Hopkins, Julian Hough, Christopher Juhl, Rich Julian, Jay Kaplan, Tom Kilroy, Brian Kleinman, Evangeline LaMore, Linda Mack, Alvin Malthauer, Merle Malthauer, Frank Mantlik, Curtis Marantz, Jamie Meyers, Noble Proctor, James Restivo, Mike Root, Jane Seymour, Bruce Spaulding, Andrew Spencer, Mark Szantyr, Clay Taylor, Dave Tripp, Angus Wilson, Chris Wood, Jim Zipp.
Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Avenue, Waterbury, CT 06708
Mark Szantyr, 145 Farmington Ave., Waterbury, CT 06710
Julian Hough, 72 Quentin Street, Waterbury, CT 06706