Twenty-first ARCC Report
By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek
This is the 21st report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC). Following publication of the latest American Ornithologists Union (AOU) supplement, the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) checklist for Connecticut birds has been updated; there were some significant and surprising changes made to the taxonomic order. The Connecticut breeding bird review checklist has also been updated and can now be found on the COA web site. COA and ARCC archive accounts have been created on eBird, so that historical records can be added to this important database. Frank Gallo has begun the process, and the Connecticut State List has now been updated on eBird to include all species recorded in Connecticut back to 1900. If COA members find errors on eBird, please bring them to the Committee’s attention by contacting either the Chair or the Secretary, whose addresses are at the end of this article.
In the last report (see the Twentieth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut, Vol. 34 No. 2), Trumpeter Swan was added to the Connecticut State List. This year, another species, Zone-tailed Hawk, was added to the list following the observation of a bird at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven last fall. The Connecticut State List now stands at 437 with this addition.
This year, the Committee voted on 43 records, a substantial number. It is unknown at this time as to whether the abundance of reports stems from greater coverage in the field by a larger number of enthusiastic birders or from impressive strides in technology that allow for easier and better identification/documentation of birds in the field. In addition to the previously mentioned Zone-tailed Hawk, other records of note included the state’s second records for Hermit Warbler and “Western” (either Pacific Slope or Cordilleran) Flycatcher and the third record for Burrowing Owl.
There were also a number of records for unusual gulls including two for Mew Gull, one of the nominate Eurasian race canus (known as Common Gull) and another of the Siberian race kamtchatschensis (known as Kamchatka Gull). Records for Franklin’s, Slaty-backed and Thayer’s Gulls, as well as the Siberian race vegae of the Herring Gull (known as Vega Gull), were also submitted to the committee, but some of these remain under consideration. With the recent closures of most landfills, many birders believed that gull numbers would quickly decline. Christmas Count data may indicate this to be true for common species like Herring Gull, but the reports for these vagrant gulls are intriguing. Continuing advances in digital photography now allow committee members to evaluate these records in a manner that was all but impossible just a few years ago.
The committee also continues to evaluate early records such as a 1939 record for Townsend’s Solitaire. Unfortunately, this record presented too many unanswered questions, and without any accompanying photographs (not unusual for an almost 80-year-old record) or a specimen, the committee chose not to accept what would have become Connecticut’s earliest record for this species.
New members Tina Green of Westport and Bob Dixon of Sterling attended their first meeting. Members, in addition to the authors, who voted on records in this report were Nick Bonomo, Robert Dixon, Frank Gallo, Tina Green, 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 437 species with the addition of Zone-tailed Hawk. 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.
PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) One was present from 20 Nov 2015 to 21 Jan 2016 at Fisher Meadow in Avon (15-35 Mark Danforth*‡, Frank Mantlik‡, Mark Szantyr‡, m.ob.). It disappeared when the pond froze but returned to open waters there on 2 Mar 2016 for a few days. One was present from 27 Dec 2015 to 1 Jan 2016 then reappeared from 16-31 Jan 2016 at Broad Brook Mill Pond in East Windsor, as well as at times along Frog Hollow Road in Ellington. (15-36 Jan Collins,* Mark Danforth‡, Frank Mantlik‡, m.ob.). These represent the fifth and sixth state records, including one that involved two individuals. The first record, in 1998 in Mansfield, was the first fully accepted record of this Old World species for the Lower 48.
ROSS’S GOOSE (Chen rossii) An adult was found on 15 Jan 2016 at Broad Brook Mill Pond in East Windsor (16-01 Paul Dejardins,* Mark Szantyr‡, Frank Mantlik‡, m.ob.). It remained there through 31 Jan, then was relocated 18-29 Feb 2016 in Vernon (Debbie McTigue‡). It was a third state record.
EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) One was found on 29 Dec 2014 at Stonington Point in Stonington (15-41 Frank Mantlik*, Tina Green*). Although seen at great distance, Horned Grebes were present for comparison. Distinguishing features included a peaked head, dark throat and thin neck.
CORY’S SHEARWATER (Calonectris diomedea) Two or three were seen on 31 Aug 2015 from a New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry in Long Island Soun. (15-33 Frank Mantlik*‡, Frank Gallo*‡ and Greg Hanisek*). The birds were determined to be in state waters using GPS on smart phones. The birds were identified as the race C. d. borealis based on underwing pattern and bill characteristics.
WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One was found 15 Apr 2015 at Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme and was present the next day (15-14 Tom Murphy*‡, John Marshall, Russ Smiley‡). One was at Indian River Cemetery, Clinton, 14-23 May 2015 (15-25 Nick Bonomo*). One was found on 31 May 2015 in Wheeler Marsh at Milford Point (15-32 Frank Mantlik*). The April-May time frame was typical for the increasing reports of this now-annual species.
ZONE-TAILED HAWK (Buteo albonotatus) An adult, representing a first state record, flew by the Lighthouse Point hawk watch in New Haven on 20 Sep 2015 during the New Haven Migration Festival, thrilling dozens of people present for the event (15-13 Nick Bonomo*‡ Don Morgan‡ et al.). Following unexpected 2014 sightings of this species in spring in Massachusetts and Nova Scotia and in fall from New Jersey and Delaware, one was seen on 15 Aug 2015 in Rhode Island, putting coastal hawk-watchers in Connecticut on high alert. After its 20 Sep passage at Lighthouse, what was certainly the same bird passed Cape May, N.J., on 23 Sep and arrived later that day at Kiptopeke, VA, where it lingered to at least the next day.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus) A juvenile was found on 25 Sep 2015 at Mansfield Commons in Mansfield Center. (15-19 Tricia Reid,* Chris Elphick, Robert Dixon, Frank Mantlik,‡ Bruce Finnan‡). The bird, the sixth record since 1985, was last reported on 5 Oct 2015.
RUFF (Calidris pugnax) One was found on 29 Jun 2015 at Plum Bank Marsh in Old Saybrook (15-20 Anders Ogren*‡, Frank Mantlik, Alex Lin-Moore). It was relocated the next day, when it was seen by several observers and sketched by Lin-Moore.
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) Two were seen on 2 Jan 2016 aboard a ferry from New London to Orient, N.Y. (16-03 Frank Mantlik*‡ Frank Gallo*, Jory Teltser‡, Matthew Messina‡). The birds were determined to be in CT waters using GPS on a smart phone. They were recorded as part of the New London Christmas Bird Count.
FRANKLIN’S GULL (Leucophaeus pipixcan) A first-cycle bird was found 10 Nov 2015 at Seaside Park in Bridgeport (15-26 Nick Bonomo*‡, Frank Gallo*‡). A historic eastward movement had begun and reached Connecticut with this discovery. The influx then exploded on 13 Nov when dozens were found all along the coast (15-38 Frank Mantlik*‡ Julian Hough*‡). See article elsewhere in this issue.
MEW (COMMON) GULL (Larus canus canus) One was found on 16 Apr 2015 at the Oyster River mouth in Milford/West Haven (15-37 Keith Mueller*‡). The photos illustrate wing, head and bill details indicative of the nominate subspecies from western Europe, the form expected in the Northeast. Three well-photographed Connecticut records prior to 2015 have been L. c. canus.
MEW (KAMCHATKA) GULL (Larus canus kamtschatschensis) A first state record for this Siberian subspecies was found 10 Apr 2015 at Southport Beach in Fairfield (15-40 Mayn Hipp*‡, Mike Warner). It was relocated 15 Apr by Bonomo and 17 Apr by Mueller, both at Oyster River mouth in Milford/West Haven (15-40 Nick Bonomo‡, Keith Mueller‡). A substantially bigger and bulkier bird than the nominate form, it also showed wing, head and bill details that separated it from other subspecies.
THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) A worn juvenile was found on 19 Apr 2015 at the municipal boat launch in West Haven (15-16 Julian Hough*‡). The bird appeared during the heavy early spring staging of gulls in Long Island Sound, an annual event. It was a ninth state record, all but one of them at landfills that are now closed. The observer’s experience and a detailed photo array facilitated identification of a difficult species.
POMARINE JAEGER (Stercorarius pomarinus) An experienced observer saw one in direct comparison with a Herring Gull 4 Sep 2015 on a return trip aboard a ferry from New London to Orient, N.Y. (15-17 Phil Rusch*). The bird was in Connecticut waters.
COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) One was close to shore off Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook on 26 Dec 2015 (15-27 John Marshall,* Russ Smiley‡, Dan Rottino‡, Mark Danforth‡). This is a sixth state record for a species that wasn’t added to the state list until January 2011. It’s only the second recorded from shore, the others being on the New London-Orient, N.Y., ferry route.
WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) One visited a yard and feeder in East Haven from 5-23 Nov 2015 (15-28 Andrew Main,* Frank Gallo‡, Frank Mantlik‡, Russ Smiley‡). It was an eighth state record, all of them either attracted to feeders or associating with Mourning Doves in suburban neighborhoods. After the first state record in 1973, it took 24 years to document the second. The pace accelerated thereafter in conjunction with an eastward expansion of the species’ historic breeding range in the Southwest.
BURROWING OWL (Athene cunicularia) A third state record was found 27-29 May 2015 at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks (15-12 Rollin Tebbetts*‡). Tebbetts, an airport employee, investigated a maintenance worker’s report of an unusual owl and found this rare species. Its appearance at an airport raised the possibility of transport by plane, but airports offer prime habitat as well. Investigation of its subspecific identity helped solidify its acceptance as a naturally occurring vagrant. Plumage characteristics showed it to be of the migratory western race A. c. hypugaea, rather than the more sedentary A. c. floridana. The western race has wandered far and wide in North America. Records have occurred at all seasons, but this bird’s appearance falls into the May-July period of peak extralimital occurrence.
PACIFIC SLOPE/CORDILLERAN FLYCATCHER (Empidonax difficilis/occidentalis) One was found on 19-20 Dec 2015 in Branford during the New Haven Christmas Bird Count (15-29 Jim Cortina*, Steve Mayo, Julian Hough‡, Howie Sternberg‡). This is the second state record for this sibling species complex arsing from the split of Western Flycatcher into Pacific-slope and Cordilleran Flycatchers. None of the positional calls needed to separate these look-alikes was heard, but an excrement sample was collected and sent out for DNA analysis. Results are pending. Hough provided a detailed plumage analysis that separated it from other similar Empidonax species, notably the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. Seasonal timing also strongly favors “Western” over Yellow-bellied.
ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) One was found on 17 Nov 2015 at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport (15-21 A.J. Hand*‡, Tina Green, Frank Mantlik‡, Robert Dixon‡, Mark Szantyr‡). The hatch-year bird was seen almost daily through at least 8 Jan 2016, and c. 170 people submitted eBird checklists including this Southwestern species – 90 of them with photos attached. This was a fifth state record, all of them in the Nov-Jan time period when this species typically occurs at our latitude in the East.
FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana) A single observer saw and photographed one on 5 Oct 2014 in Old Lyme (14-19 Gary Squires*‡). It was a fifth state record for one of the few non-pelagic birds that have been recorded visiting North America from the Southern Hemisphere.
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi) One was found 5 Dec 2015 in a residential neighborhood in Greenwich (15-30 Stefan Martin*‡, Frank Gallo‡, Frank Mantlik‡). The bird remained through at least 15 Mar 2016 an unusually long stay. It was often conspicuous, perching in treetops and vocalizing. It was a seventh state record, one of which involved two individuals. Aside from one March record, all were birds found in Nov-Dec. However, some have lingered into January, and the two birds in Hamden in 2006 were present to at least 22 February.
SMITH’S LONGSPUR (Calcarius pictus) A molting adult male was found on 1 May 2015 at Allen’s Meadow in Wilton, and seen by many later that day (15-15 Bruce Stevenson*, Julian Hough‡, Frank Mantlik‡). The bird, a fourth state record, could not be found the next day. Two of the records are from March and two from May.
BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER (Setophaga nigrescens) A quick look and fast work with a camera documented a one-observer sighting on 24 Sep 2015 at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford (15-31 Frank Mantlik*‡).
HERMIT WARBLER (Setophaga occidentalis) One was found on 31 Jan 2016 along the Farmington River in the Pleasant Valley section of Barkhamsted (16-07 Dave Rosgen*, Fran Zygmont‡, Frank Gallo‡, Nick Bonomo‡, Greg Hanisek, Frank Mantlik‡ John Oshlick). The bird, a second state record, was relocated on 7 Feb and was then seen and photographed by many observers through 13 Feb, when it likely succumbed to sub-zero temperatures. It occupied a popular fly-fishing stretch of the river noted for year-round insect hatches and was often seen feeding on the ground on the stream edges. Based on molt and feather wear, the bird appeared to be a second-year male (hatched summer 2015.)
DARK-EYED “OREGON” JUNCO (Junco hyemalis oregonus) An adult male visited a Salem feeder from 15 Jan through 5 Mar 2015 (15-09 Pat and Christine Tamborra*‡). Another, likely an adult female, visited a Monroe feeder on 13 Feb 2015 (15-10 Janet Holt*, Robert Holt‡). Age and sex variability makes subspecific identification of Dark-eyed Juncos difficult, but these two birds show the classic dark, well-defined convex hood, bright pinkish buff sides and brown back.
WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) An adult male was found on 19 Dec 2015 in Peat Meadow Park, New Haven, on the New Haven Christmas Bird Count (15-24 John Oshlick*‡, Frank Mantlik‡, Russ Smiley‡). It was present through at least 3 Jan 2016. It was included in eBird checklists by 62 different observers, 28 with photos attached.
PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris) A juvenile was found on 23 Sep 2015 at Connecticut Audubon’s Smith-Richardson Christmas Tree Farm in Westport (15-22 Tina Green*, A.J. Hand‡). It was unexpectedly relocated by Green at the same location on 17 Oct 2015 and seen again the next day. An adult male returned to a feeder in a neighborhood adjacent to Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford on 21 Jan 2016 (16-04 David Winston*‡, Greg Hanisek). It was present, on and off, to at least 18 Mar 2016. This undoubtedly is the same bird that made a long and sporadic stay at the same feeder and sanctuary from October 2014 until deep into the winter of 2014-15.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED
DOVEKIE (Alle alle) One was reported on 19 Jan 2015 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (15-02). The bird was seen flying by Meigs Point at considerable distance by a single observe. The committee believed the circumstances were insufficient to document a species that is less than annual in Long Island Sound.
TOWNSEND’S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi) Committee member Gallo attempted to verify a 1939 report of this species from Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford (16-02). An original index card in the Hartford Audubon archives lists the date of occurrence as 7-8 May, about a month later than all of more than 40 other New England records. A single May record from New York is the only regional one of similar seasonality. The only descriptive details provided were white tail feathers used by the observers to eliminate “Olive-backed Thrush.” The committee agreed with Gallo’s assessment that lack of extensive field notes and lack of mention of what would have been a very significant record elsewhere in the ornithological literature raised too much doubt for acceptance of what would have been the first state record. What little detail was available did not eliminate Northern Mockingbird, a very rare species at the time.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED (ORIGIN UNCERTAIN)
COMMON SHELDUCK (Tadorna tadorna) A bird was first reported from Hanover Pond in South Meriden on 22 Nov 2015 and remained into at least February 2016 (15-34). There was no question about the identity of this distinctive adult duck, but it faced the usual skepticism about provenance attached to many possible vagrant waterfowl. In the case of this species, a history of natural occurrence from western Europe had been established recently in northeastern North America, primarily in eastern Canada, but also with one accepted record in Massachusetts. The pendulum swung away from acceptance when it became apparent that the bird had a red plastic band on its right leg. Keith Mueller, a waterfowl carver who has experience keeping captive waterfowl, noted that the band was consistent with ones used by aviculturists to mark their birds.
AFRICAN COLLARED DOVE (Streptopelia roseogrisea) One was found on 10 May 2015 in a residential neighborhood in Stratford (15-42 Mike Warner*‡, Frank Mantlik‡). It remained in the area through at least 29 Aug. This species, formerly known as Ringed Turtle Dove, is not known to occur in the wild anywhere in the world. However, it is similar to Eurasian Collared Dove, a species that has become established in North America and has occurred three times in Connecticut. Vocalizations (recorded), as well as plumage features well-illustrated by a series of photos, eliminated Eurasian Collared Dove, which has darker flight feathers as well as darker areas on the tail and undertail area.
In the 20th Report of ARCC (Connecticut Warbler Vol. 34 No. 2), a photo of an adult male Painted Bunting in Stamford was taken on 10 Jan 2015. The caption contained an incorrect date.
The committee thanks Alvaro Jaramillo for comments on Thayer’s Gull photos and Louis Bevier, Terry Bronson, Jeremiah Trimble, Phil Davis and David Sibley for comments on Burrowing Owl. Thanks also go to Denise Jernigan, Jane Ricci and Sara Zagorski for library research on the 1939 Townsend’s Solitaire record.
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Hanisek, Greg. 2005. Connecticut Birds By The Season. The Connecticut Warbler. Vol. 25 No. 1
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Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708
Jay Kaplan, 71 Gracey Road, Canton, CT 06019