Twentieth ARCC Report
By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
The state on-line checklist and review species lists have newly been updated to reflect the latest changes in taxonomic order made in the most recent American Ornithologists Union (AOU) supplement. It has recently come to committee members’ attention that there have been occasional discrepancies between the printed checklist used by the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) and that found on the COA web page and ARCC records. This is due mainly to periodic changes by AOU in the taxonomic order. Going forward, there will be a standardized review of the state checklist, annually at ARCC meetings, and prior to the COA annual meeting, so that the online and printed versions of the list are consistent. At our most recent meeting, the Connecticut rare breeding birds list was also reviewed and updated, as it had not been updated for some time. The new list is now posted on the COA web site.
In the last report (see the Nineteenth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut, Vol. 34 No. 2), the addition of four birds brought the State List to 435. This year, another bird has been added to the list – Trumpeter Swan. It should be noted that this Trumpeter Swan is the first “official” state record for this species. Previous reports were received prior to this species being added to the Connecticut State List. For additional information on the history of this species in Connecticut, and why it came to be added now, see the article elsewhere in this issue.
As discussed in previous reports, the Avian Records Committee welcomes the opportunity to view what are termed “historical” records, including records that may be 100 or more years old. Frank Gallo continues to work on a 1937 Townsend’s Solitaire record. This would, if accepted, constitute the first of seven state records. Louis Bevier, a former committee secretary, is working on two old specimen records of Long-tailed Jaegers.
The committee has accepted the resignation of member Jake Musser, who will be leaving in June to take a post-doctoral position in Germany. The committee thanked Jake for his participation and for opening Yale’s Peabody Museum as an ideal meeting place, a practice that we hope will continue into the future. With this resignation, the committee stood at ten active members and bylaws allow for 12. The committee moved that Tina Green of Westport and Bob Dixon of Sterling be added as members. At its March meeting the COA Board confirmed the nominations as per ARCC bylaws. Members, in addition to the authors, who voted on records in this report were Nick Bonomo, Frank Gallo, Julian Hough, Frank Mantlik, Jacob Musser, Dave Provencher, Phil Rusch, Dave Tripp and Glenn Williams.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The state list now stands at 436 species with the addition of Trumpeter Swan. 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 American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) Checklist. Multiple records of a particular species are listed chronologically. Months of the year are shortened to their first three letters.
TRUMPETER SWAN (Cygnus buccinator) One was found on 19 Jan 2014 at Konold’s Pond in Woodbridge and remained there to at least 19 April 2014 (14-18 Frank Gallo*‡, Vanessa Mickan). A number of recent observations of this species have been rejected on the basis of origin questions. An article elsewhere in this issue explains the series of events and decisions that led the committee to finally accept this species, making it Number 436 on the state list.
TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula) A female was found 22 Feb 2015 at Captain’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport (15-08 Tina Green*‡, Frank Gallo‡, A.J. Hand‡, Frank Mantlik‡). Although there are at least five records, this is the first one documented since 2000. As is usually the case, this one was found with others of its genus, primarily Greater and Lesser Scaup, but also Redhead, Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck. With most harbors frozen and slush ice in Long Island Sound, the open water in the cove offered shelter for a wide variety of waterfowl as well as opportunities for many birders to see this Eurasian species. It was still present in early March, sometimes seen in rafts of scaup off St. Mary’s-by-the-Sea in the nearby Black Rock section of Bridgeport. It’s worth noting that the 2000 bird was seen 19-20 Feb in Black Rock Harbor.
WHITE IBIS (Eudocimus albus) An immature was present in Old Lyme from 3-23 Aug 2014 (14-12 Sue Joffray,* Hank Golet‡, Greg Hanisek‡, Frank Mantlik‡). The bird was mobile but best seen from a marsh in the Hawk’s Nest community off Route 156. Appearances have increased in the 21st Century; of 11 documented records, nine are from 2006 to the present.
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One was found on 17 May 2014 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison with sightings through at least 1 Aug (14-10 Patrick Comins,* Glenn Williams, Phil Rusch, Russ Smiley‡). This sighting fits the pattern of primarily May-Jun appearances along the coast, most of them at Hammonasset. While none of the sightings involved more than one individual, photos of a bird seen on 4 July raised the possibility that it might be a different individual, based on the amount of white around the eye. The committee considered that possibility through photos in a separate ARCC file (14-11) but considered evidence for this being a different individual inconclusive. An expert later said it appeared just one individual was involved.
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) Two adults were seen by numerous observers riding the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry on 3 Jan 2015 (15-03 Frank Gallo,* Frank Mantlik). The trip was part of the New London and Orient Point, N.Y., Christmas Bird Counts. The birds’ presence in Connecticut waters was confirmed by GPS in Google Maps on an iPhone. This ferry route has proven the best way to see this primarily pelagic species in Connecticut waters. The report included sketches by Gallo.
MEW (COMMON) GULL (Larus canus canus) A basic-plumaged adult was found 3 Jan 2015 on the Housatonic River below Shepaug Dam in Southbury (15-01 Nick Bonomo*‡). This bird, seen by numerous observers, appeared at the same location that hosted one from 30 Jan to at least 2 Feb 2014. Photos indicate the same individual was involved in both sightings. Based on features such as bill and wingtip pattern, it conformed to the nominate subspecies canus – often called Common Gull. This subspecies, breeding in Europe and western Asia, is the form most often seen in the Northeast. It represents the fourth state record.
ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea) One was seen at Batterson Pond in Farmington on 14 May 2014 (14-17 Paul Cianfaglione*). Mid-sized terns present a difficult and sometimes under-appreciated identification challenge. Arctic Tern is especially tough because it offers almost no opportunities for Connecticut birders to study it on our home turf. It breeds to the north and migrates offshore. The observer took advantage of his familiarity with the bird on its breeding grounds to present an excellent, detailed description that separated his tern from similar species using plumage, structure and flight style. The occurrence during an easterly storm during the species’ northbound migration fit perfectly into the time frame and weather conditions when this species might be encountered. This is a fourth state record, and the first since 1999.
LONG-TAILED JAEGER (Stercorarius longicaudus) One was seen in Long Island Sound off Milford and Stratford on 3 Sept 2014 (14-14 Frank Mantlik*‡, Greg Hanisek). The observers were conducting a Long Island Sound Bird Study cruise aboard MV John Dempsey, a Connecticut DEEP research vessel conducting water quality sampling. Mantlik spotted a jaeger flying west at about 1:44 p.m. and was able to obtain a series of digital images. Given the difficulty of jaeger identification, often involving birds at sea at great distances, final decisions are increasingly based on photo evidence. When Mantlik was able to examine his images, he suspected the bird was a Long-tailed Jaeger and sent them to three seabird experts who are not members of ARCC. All agreed that the images best depicted a Long-tailed Jaeger. Plumage features indicate it was probably a dark juvenile, but distance makes ageing difficult. The date fits the late August-early September time frame for migrating Long-tailed Jaegers in the Northeast and Great Lakes.
THICK-BILLED MURRE (Uria lomvia) An adult in basic plumage, picked up grounded in Putnam on 10 Feb 2015, was taken to Horizon Wings Raptor Rehabilitation and Education in Ashford (15-05 Linden Bowen‡). One in basic plumage was studied at length on the water and in flight on 12 Feb 2015 from Meigs Point at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (15-06 Frank Gallo*‡). One flew by Stratford Point in Stratford on 12 Feb 2015 (15-07 Patrick Comins). These three closely spaced reports came during a widespread movement of this species tied to a series of northeast storms. When the bird in rehab appeared on a Facebook page, Gallo went to Hammonassett with this seldom-seen state rarity in mind and was quickly rewarded for his effort.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) An adult male appeared at a feeder in Brookfield on 8 Jul 2014 (14-16 William March *‡). It was seen only on the day it was discovered, but the observer reported it to Margaret Robbins of Wild Birds Unlimited in Brookfield, who notified ARCC and forwarded the photo. An adult male found on 27 Oct 2014 at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford was seen through at least mid-March 2015 (14-15 Patrick Dugan*, Frank Mantlik‡). The bird was present for a few days after its discovery but then disappeared until re-found by Dugan on 22 Dec 2014. Adult males were also seen at Cove Island in Dec 2010 and Nov 2011.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
RED-NECKED STINT (Calidris ruficollis) Two were reported together on 16 & 24 Jul 2014 at Sandy Point in West Haven (14-13). This Old World sandpiper, a very rare species in most of North America, belongs to a group that presents difficult identification problems. Two together would be unprecedented. The three previous records of single birds provided the requisite amount of feather detail needed to eliminate other confusion species, specifically worn alternate-plumaged Sanderling, a pitfall in early summer. The report did not cover several key identification points and relied heavily on noting that the birds matched field guide illustrations. While straightforward comparisons to illustrations work for many birds, in the case of difficult species groups much more detailed studies are needed to separate similar species. Short of identifiable photos, the best way to document a rarity is with detailed field notes, including simple sketches, taken before a field guide is consulted.
SANDWICH TERN (Thalasseus sandvicensis) One was reported on 12 Sep 2013 at Menunketesuck Island in Westbrook (13-23). The observer reported a tern with a yellow-tipped black bill but didn’t supply other important supporting descriptive details. Committee members agreed he had most likely seen a Sandwich Tern but noted that misidentifications have been made based on other terns showing pale bill tips at certain times of year. The committee encourages observers to provide as complete a description as possible and not rely on a single feature, regardless of how diagnostic it seems. In this case reference to the species’ black legs, shaggy crest and large size compared to expected Sterna terns would have allowed for easy acceptance.
HENSLOW’S SPARROW (Ammodramus henslowii) One was reported on 19 Oct 2013 at Bauer Park in Madison (13-21). The observation was very brief and did not allow for study of the underparts, a key feature in separating this rare and very secretive species from other similar Ammodramus sparrows. As is often the case when a record is not accepted, the committee felt that for various reasons documentation was insufficient, rather implying an error by the observer.
The committee thanks Louis Bevier, Marshall Iliff and Tom Johnson for comments on the jaeger photos and Peter Pyle for comments on molts of White-faced Ibis.
Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1
Howell, S.N.G, I. Lewington, and W. Russell. 2014. Rare Birds of North America. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.
Pyle, Peter. 1997. Identification Guide to North American Birds, Part I, Slate Creek Press, Bolinas, Calif.
Sage, J.H., L.B. Bishop, and W.P. Bliss. 1913. The Birds of Connecticut. Connecticut Geological and Natural History Survey Bulletin No. 20.
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