Thirteenth ARCC Report
Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
In the Twelfth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (see July 2006 Vol. 26 No. 3 of The Connecticut Warbler), it was hoped that the committee’s 13th report would appear in the not too distant future. This article is a culmination of these good wishes, adding an additional six species to the Connecticut State Checklist. These species are Ross’s Goose, Little Stint, Common Ground Dove, Calliope Hummingbird, Brown-chested Martin and Lazuli Bunting. Two of these records were accepted by the Committee on the basis of one-observer sightings. In both instances the reports were meticulous in every detail and complete with excellent illustrations. It might be pertinent to explain that reports, voted upon solely by ARCC Committee members, can also be circulated to experts in various ornithological disciplines. Species reports may require testimony from individuals who are able to shed some light on an individual bird found far from home here in Connecticut. The Committee may ask for opinions from veterinarians concerning the health of a bird; from aviculturists who may maintain certain species in captivity; or from other experts in various ornithological-related fields. In the instance of the Brown-chested Martin, the report was sent not only to experts on swallow identification, but also to authorities on tropical American avifauna. Information from outside authorities assists the Committee with the evaluation of reports. Current members who evaluated and voted on these reports, in addition to the authors, were Buzz Devine, Frank Gallo, Ed Hagen, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik, Janet Mehmel, Dave Provencher, Mark Szantyr, and Dave Tripp Jr.
Over time, Committee members have received numerous inquiries about the voting procedures. It might be useful to review these procedures, discussed in detail in the ARCC Bylaws. A recent bylaw revision was accepted by the Connecticut Ornithological Association’s Board of Directors at its June 2007 meeting. Each member of the Committee must vote on all records, even those that he/she may have submitted. Abstentions are not permitted. Committee members do not discuss records among themselves until after a first voting round. This prevents members from developing any prejudice one way or another toward a record prior to the initial vote. If a record receives more than one vote of “not accepted” on the first circulation, this record is not accepted, although it may be submitted for recirculation. Up to three votes may be taken on an individual record. Five or more “not accepted” votes means that the record is officially not accepted and will not be resubmitted for another round of voting. If on a third round of voting, a record continues to receive more than one negative vote, the record is then officially “not accepted.” If, at some future time, an ARCC member believes that new information may have some bearing on a record that has already been decided, that member may request that the record be re-opened for additional discussion. This can occur even for records decided upon many years ago.
While the question of identification is generally straightforward, the question of origin may be more difficult to quantify. Records may be accepted with a question about the bird’s origin or may be rejected if it seems more likely that a bird is not of wild origin. For example, waterfowl with non-USFWS bands are generally considered to be escapes from captivity and would be likely rejected on the basis of origin. Readers may note that there are species in the most recent round of voting for which the origin question has not been firmly settled, and these birds will appear for another round of voting at a future ARCC meeting.
Finally, a few comments concerning digital photography are warranted.
Its advent and subsequent improvements to cameras have made it much easier to acquire photographic documentation of rare and unexpected birds. This may have led to an increase in the number of reports received by the Committee over the past year. Although the Committee has recently accepted photo reports with very basic documentation concerning a sighting, full reports with as much detail as is possible are encouraged. This information will provide a broader picture of the circumstances of the sighting including names of additional observers, conditions under which the bird was seen, vocalizations, habits, and other notations concerning the bird’s behavior, as well as anything else that may help put the sighting into a larger perspective. This will allow future birders and ornithologists to develop a more complete picture of what may be a developing trend. Please remember that the records of the Committee will serve as a historical record for future amateurs and professionals. We owe it to those who follow us to provide a complete picture of Connecticut’s birds.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The state list now stands at 420 with at least one addition pending. 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 deleting 14 species in the 12th Report, the committee left the list intact this time.
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.
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) Two were on the Connecticut River at Enfield from 4-12 Feb 2006 (06-30 Rollin Tebbetts*‡) The birds were with a large gathering of Canada Geese and were seen by many observers. This species was added to the state list based on research as to the likely origin of a single bird in Mansfield in 1998. In keeping with a subsequent ARCC policy decision, the Enfield birds were accepted based on identification only. For birds already on the state list, origin questions will only be considered if concrete evidence exists either for or against natural occurrence.
ROSS’S GOOSE (Chen rossii) One was found on 22 Sep 2003 at Caswell Cove in Milford (06-05 Nita Hamilton*, James Bair, Mark Szantyr‡, Frank Mantlik‡). The bird, present through 28 Sep, was clearly identified correctly, but the committee held the record through two rounds of voting while considering questions of origin. At the time of the sighting, the date was somewhat early, and most Ross’s Goose records from the Northeast occurred with large flocks of Snow Geese. In the intervening years leading up to the record cited below, the committee noted an increase in eastern sightings and found precedent for both the early date and the occurrence with Canada Geese. This becomes the first state record.
One was found 11 Dec 2006 at Bradley Point, West Haven, with a small flock of Canada Geese and then relocated with a similar flock 16-29 Dec 2006 in Westport (06-42 E.J. Raynor*, Luke Tiller, Penny Solum, Charles Barnard, AJ Hand‡ Russ Naylor). A fully illustrated account appears in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No 2.
WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis) One was found and seen by many observers off the Silver Sands section of Old Lyme on the Old Lyme-Old Saybrook CBC on 31 Dec 2006 (06-47 Danny Williams*, Andy Griswold‡, Greg Hanisek). The bird, seen briefly the next day, was the state’s first since 1973. The original observer, 15 years old at the time, provided a detailed report that separated the bird from the very similar Clark’s Grebe.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) One was seen flying by the Quaker Ridge hawk watch in Greenwich on 6 Sep 2006 (06-25 Brian Bielfelt*, Michael Warner, Ryan MacLean). While the bird was seen fairly briefly through telescopes, one of the observers had extensive experience with the species in Florida. His report included key field characters and eliminated confusion with other species such as soaring cormorants. The date fit the pattern of Anhinga occurrences in the Northeast.
GREATER SHEARWATER (Puffinis gravis) A bird in weakened condition was picked up by boaters in Stonington harbor on 28 June 2006 (06-29 Glenn Williams, Phil Rusch, Margaret Jones, Mark Szantyr‡). It was taken into care but died the same night. The specimen was delivered to the University of Connecticut at Storrs. There are two other specimen records. A photo of the dead bird appeared in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No. 1.
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One consorted with Glossy Ibises 18-20 April 2007 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison for a fifth state record (07-04 Renee Baade*, Greg Hanisek, Paul Fusco‡, Noble Proctor‡, Mark Barriger‡). A photo appeared in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No. 4.
YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis) One was flushed in a saltmarsh at Barn Island Wildlife Management Area in Stonington on 17 Dec 2006. (06-44 Phil Rusch*, James Restivo*) The observers’ detailed account included a sketch showing the diagnostic wing pattern. It is the first winter record.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrula martinica) The bird was discovered 29 Apr 2007 in a backyard pond in Stratford (07-06 Scott Kruitbosch*, Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough‡, Bruce Finnan‡, Mark Szantyr‡). It performed well for many observers through May, but it became hard and then impossible to find as vegetation thickened. It was believed to have left until the homeowner reported a brief sighting on 11 July. He also said it had been present for several days before the April discovery by birders (Jamison Scott).
WILSON’S PLOVER (Charadrius wilsonia) One visited Sandy Point in West Haven on 11 May 2007 (07-08 Robert White*‡) Although seen by only one observer, he obtained excellent photos that confirmed the identification of a bird in first-year plumage. Many first-years exhibit adult-like plumage after a partial molt in March. Lack of a complete breast band and no obvious blackish feathering in the lores indicate the bird is most likely a female. Although Connecticut has at least 20 records for this southern coastal species, this was the first one documented here since 1989. All but three of the records are in April through June; the others are in September.
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) One made a quick-hit appearance on 13 May 2006 at Longshore Country Club in Westport (06-37 Frank Mantlik*, Roy Harvey‡). A photo appeared in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 26 No 4.
RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) An adult was found 16-23 Jul 2006 at Milford Point (06-38 Nick Bonomo*, Julian Hough‡, Paul Fusco‡). This marked the third state record. Both of the others also occurred at Milford Point. A fully illustrated account appears in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 26 No 4.
RED PHALAROPE (Phalaropus fulicaria) One on 13 May 2006 on Lake Whitney in Hamden (06-39 Florence McBride*‡). One on 16 May 2006 in a flooded pasture in Canton (06-40 Jamie Meyers*‡, Steve Ballentine‡). One on 16 May 2006 on Middle Reservoir in Killingly (06-41 Mark Szantyr*). This species had not been documented in the state in more than a decade, but a four-day nor’easter in May 2006 generated a major fallout in southern New England, primarily in Massachusetts but also including the three Connecticut birds. A fully illustrated account appears in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 26 No 4.
LITTLE STINT (Calidris minuta) An adult was observed at Sandy Point, West Haven, on 1 & 5 Aug 2005 (06-12 Julian Hough). This is a first state record and probably one that was overdue. An adult in worn plumage presented a challenge that fortunately was met by a birder with extensive experience with the species as well as expertise in stint/peep identification. The bird was viewed on two days in direct comparison with Semipalmated Sandpipers and shown to several other birders. A detailed sketch of the bird was provided along with sketches of accompanying Semipalmateds. The key to identification was notation and illustration of a full suite of characters that included fine-tipped bill, throat and ear covert pattern, indistinct supercilium, dark central crown ridge, overall plumage tones, conspicuous mantle “tramlines,” scapular markings and lack of flank streaking.
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis) A bird in basic plumage was observed and photographed at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Milford and Stratford on 31 Jul and 1 Aug 2007 (07-09 Charles Barnard*, Nick Bonomo‡). This is the third state record and the first since 1998.
GULL-BILLED TERN (Sterna nilotica) An adult was found on 24 June 2006 at Milford Point and spent about an hour at the mouth of the Housatonic River (06-28 Nick Bonomo*‡). It was the first record since 1996.
SOOTY TERN (Sterna fuscata) An adult was picked up in moribund condition 16 April 2007 from the deck of a home in Southington (07-05 Jayne Amico, Greg Hanisek‡, Bruce Finnan‡). It was taken to a veterinarian but died that day. The specimen was delivered to the University of Connecticut at Storrs. Most records occur in late summer and early fall, often in association with hurricanes. This was a first April record for New England, but it was tied to a powerful nor’easter that also produced sight records of three Sooty Terns in Rhode Island the same day. A photo appeared in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No. 4.
COMMON GROUND-DOVE (Columbina passerina) Imagine the surprise of two top-notch photographers, who came to Ora Avenue in East Haven to photograph birds at a feeding station on 22 Oct 2007, when this little gem, a first state record, appeared in their view finders (07-11 Jim Zipp*‡, AJ Hand‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Dori Sosensky) The bird remained until at least 22 Nov, providing excellent views for birders from throughout Connecticut and from some surrounding states. Based on brief but inconclusive views obtained by Sosensky, who keeps the feeding area stocked, the bird may have been present since at least 20 Oct. Consultation with outside experts suggested this was most likely a male of the eastern race. North of its normal range, Common Ground-Dove has been recorded in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW (Caprimulgus carolinensis) One called regularly and was occasionally seen at dusk from 20 May until at least 4 June 2006 in Nehantic State Forest in Lyme (06-27 Glenn Williams*). It was the second year in a row that a calling bird appeared at this location.
CALLIOPE HUMMINGBIRD (Stellula calliope) This gem of a first state record visited feeders at the butterfly garden at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven on 2-7 Dec 2006 (06-35 Dori Sosensky*, Nick Bonomo*, Julian Hough‡, Frank Gallo‡, Tom Sayers‡, Ryan Sayers‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Jayne Amico). A series of excellent color photographs aided greatly in a firm identification, which was confirmed when the bird was banded by Szantyr and Amico on 3 Dec. After consultation with outside experts, Szantyr concluded the bird was best categorized as a female, age unknown. A fully illustrated account appears in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No 3. Amazingly, this was one of two first state records recorded at feeders maintained by Sosensky (see Common Ground-Dove).
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) One was found on 17 Dec 2006 on private property in Stamford on the Greenwich-Stamford CBC (06-46 Patrick Dugan*‡, Frank Gallo‡). It was present until at least 20 Dec. It is a third state record, all in winter, and the second for the Greenwich-Stamford CBC.
BROWN-CHESTED MARTIN (Progne tapera) One was in flight with other swallows on 1 Jul 2006 at Groton/New London Airport in Groton (06-33 Mark Szantyr*‡) This was a significant state first. It joins the following North American records: Monomoy I., Mass., 12 Jun 1983 (specimen); Cape May, N.J., 6-15 Nov 1997 (photos); Patagonia, Ariz., 3 Feb 2006 (photos); Belle Glade, Fla., 24 Oct 1991 (sight only). Documenting this record hinged on the observer’s skills as an artist and observer. He was able to make detailed field sketches that included all salient identification points. This record illustrates the importance of close, detailed scrutiny and documentation. The observer was aware of the other North American records but had no life experience with Brown-chested Martin. He noted several subtle features that proved after the fact to be keys to acceptance. These included long under tail coverts and a wing-cupping flight style. Size comparison with nearby Barn Swallows eliminated the possibility of Bank Swallow, which also shows a brown chest band. Because of the significance of the record, the committee submitted all the documentation to five experts who have field experience with the species. All agreed with the identification, and three offered detailed written responses. Two, both of whom are authors of books on South American birds, noted the significance of the unique flight style, in addition to the plumage characteristics.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe) Two were at Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, 18-23 Sep 2006 (06-32 Rollin Tebbetts*‡). They were followed by one at Milford Point on 27-29 Sep 2006 (06-31 Frank Gallo, Julian Hough‡). The birds fall within the strongly established pattern of September occurrence.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) A female was found in East Haddam on 17 Dec 2006 (06-45 Clay Taylor*, Russ Naylor) The bird proved very hard to relocate despite many people searching. It was seen again briefly on 19 Dec.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) A female/immature was found on 16 Dec 2006 at the Agricultural Experiment Station in Hamden on the New Haven CBC (06-43 Andy Brand*, Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough‡, Bruce Finnan‡). It was present until at least 22 Dec. and was the first record since the 1990s.
LAZULI BUNTING (Passerina amoena) A first-winter male cooperated for many birders from 4 Jan to at least 12 Feb 2007 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (07-01 Bill Yule*, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik‡, Noble Proctor‡, Julian Hough‡, Bruce Finnan‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Tom Sayers‡, Ryan Sayers‡, Jack Faller‡, Fran Zygmont‡, Stephanie Donaldson‡, B. Richardson‡). After the Brown-chested Martin, this was probably the least expected in the recent string of state firsts, because the species does not have a strong history of vagrancy to the Northeast. However, 2007 produced records from Massachusetts in January and Pennsylvania in March, in addition to the Connecticut bird. Hough spent considerable time consulting with experts and reviewing museum specimens to age the bird and eliminate the possibility of either an Indigo Bunting or a Lazuli X Indigo hybrid. A fully illustrated account appears in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No 2.
HARRIS’S SPARROW (Zonotrichia querula) An adult in basic plumage was at Allen’s Meadow in Wilton from 3-6 Nov 2007 (07-12 Luke Tiller*, Greg Hanisek, Bill Banks‡, AJ Hand‡, Tom Sayers‡, Bruce Finnan‡) This was a tenth state record but only the second since 1986.
SMITH’S LONGSPUR (Calcarius pictus) One was seen by a single observer and photographed 23 March 2007 at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport (07-03 Larry Flynn*‡). It represents a third state record. The pronounced white lesser-covert wing bar helps age and sex this bird as an adult male in the transition from winter to summer plumage. The extensive amount of white in the coverts shows that this was different from a Smith’s that was on Long Island, N.Y., until at least 13 March. A photo appeared in The Connecticut Warbler Vol. 27 No. 4.
ACCEPTED, ORIGIN UNCERTAIN
BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis) One moved through several locations in Newtown from 30 Nov 2006 until at least early January 2007 (Larry Fischer, Phil Henson‡). The extensive amount of white on the bird’s head raised questions about hybrid origin. The unusual assemblage of geese present, including some hybrids, raised origin questions. After two rounds of voting the committee determined the plumage was within the range of pure Barnacle Goose and decided there was no indisputable evidence of captive origin.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) One was reported off Avery Point, Groton, on 11 Dec 2004 (06-19). One was reported from Enders Island, Stonington, on 3 Jan 2004 (06-23). This species remains perhaps the most troublesome to document, primarily because to date no easily viewable, long-staying birds have made an appearance. In the case of the Groton bird, distance involved in a fairly brief observation led the committee to continue its conservative approach with this species. In the case of the Stonington bird, the observer made an excellent effort to obtain video clips, but again conditions were not ideal. The committee sent the clips to two experts with extensive West Coast experience with Pacific Loon. Both thought the images were inconclusive and Common Loon could not be absolutely ruled out. This no doubt is frustrating for birders who have taken the time to submit documentation, but the committee encourages anyone encountering an apparent Pacific Loon to continue doing so. All reports, accepted or not, become part of the official state archives. An article on page XX deals in greater detail with loon identification pitfalls. Note that it is illustrated with very clear, close loon images. We really need a Pacific Loon to cooperate like that.
ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga) One was reported from the Lighthouse Point hawk watch on 10 Oct 2006 (06-26). This was a rather distant telescope view by a single observer. While the description was suggestive of Anhinga, the committee took a conservative approach because of the viewing conditions and a date that was somewhat later than expected for this species.
BLACK RAIL (Laterallus jamaicensis) One was reported from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on 11 April 2006 (06-11). The observer, who saw the bird briefly at close range, noted some field marks suggestive of this species. Black Rails are notoriously difficult to see for extended periods, and most state records involve birds that were heard singing the species’ distinctive song. This bird was silent. It generated extensive discussion over a full three rounds of voting. Initial concern about the early date was dispelled when research showed similar dates in surrounding states, but in the end the very brief observation proved the deciding factor.
MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides) This species was reported in a yard in Norwalk on 5 May 2007 (07-07). As is often the case with records that are not accepted, this contained very little detail about the bird’s plumage and other features, other than that it was blue and lacked the orange breast of an Eastern Bluebird. The report did not eliminate Indigo Bunting. There are two records of Mountain Bluebird for the state, both in winter.
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi) One was reported from South Windsor on 26 Nov 2006. (06-34). The report noted some features consistent with this species but didn’t mention other equally significant ones. The habitat and behavior described was not consistent with this species.
The committee thanks the following for expert commentary on several records: Luis Bevier, Alvaro Jarramillo, Paul Lehman, Curtis Marantz, Steve Mlodinow, Robert Ridgely. Also see acknowledgments in the previous Connecticut Warbler articles cited in the species accounts for Calliope Hummingbird and Lazuli Bunting.
Bonomo, Nick. 2006. Red-necked Stint At Milford Point. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 26 No. 4
Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1
Hough, Julian. 2007. Calliope Hummingbird: New To Connecticut. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 27 No. 3
Hough, Julian. 2007. The Hammonasset Bunting. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 27 No. 2
Meyers, Jamie. 2006. Overview of Spring Red and Red-necked Phalaropes. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 26 No. 4
Raynor, E.J. 2007. Ross’s Goose In Connecticut. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 27 No. 2
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