Twenty-second ARCC Report

By Jay Kaplan and Greg Hanisek

This is the Twenty-second Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC).  The Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) checklist for Connecticut Birds has been updated and is now in print form as well as available on the COA web site.  The Connecticut review list has also been updated and Swainson’s Hawk has been returned to the list as this species is no longer appearing in the state on an annual basis.  There is a COA archive on eBird and we continue to update the Connecticut State List on this popular site.  Should COA members find errors on eBird, please bring them to the committee’s attention by contacting either the chairman or the ARCC secretary, whose addresses are at the end of this article.

In the last report (see the Twenty-first Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut, Vol. 35 No. 2), Zone-tailed Hawk, was added to the state list.  This year, California Gull was added after one was found at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, and Sprague’s Pipit was added after an individual was discovered at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport.   The Connecticut State List now stands at 439 with these additions.  The committee also reviews unusual subspecies and forms.  In 2016, the Short-billed subspecies of Mew Gull was accepted from the report an individual found at Hammonasset Beach State Park. This is Connecticut’s first record for this European form. The committee also accepted older reports of Vega (Herring) Gull and  Eurasian Whimbrel, also first subspecies records.

The committee also deliberated on other subspecies including Black Brant and a western form of White-crowned Sparrow, the latter unresolved.  The improvements in digital photography allow for the documentation of characteristics that were previously more difficult to assess. Going forward, the committee will consider which subspecies and forms are reviewable.

This year, the committee voted on 41 records, exceeding 40 records for a second consecutive year.  Technological advances as well as the growing popularity of field birding have contributed many important additions to Connecticut’s ornithological record.  ARCC appreciates the willingness of the birding community to share their unusual sightings.   In addition to the previously mentioned state firsts, other records of note included the state’s second record for Bell’s Vireo,  third records for Black Guillemot and Say’s Phoebe, and a fourth for Western Grebe.

The Connecticut review list has also been updated, and Swainson’s Hawk has been returned to the list as this species is no longer appearing in the state on an annual basis. There was significant discussion concerning Bicknell’s Thrush.  Identification is very difficult and there is scant documentation for this species, but how should it be reviewed?  The committee would welcome audiograms and/or recordings, and photographs are needed.  The committee agreed to add Bicknell’s Thrush to the review list, with the addendum that we are specifically looking for photos and recordings, not sight records.  Banding reports are also encouraged.

One of the difficulties in assessing records is the potential for hybrid individuals.  One of the Ross’s Goose reports included photographs of a bird that showed features of both Ross’s and Snow Goose.  The committee has not accepted the bird as a Ross’s Goose at this time.  The photos will be sent out to goose experts for their opinions.

The committee continues to evaluate review species.  Just this year, four reports were received for Ross’s Goose, three of which were accepted.  Previously, there were but three accepted records for this small goose.  Four accepted records for Pink-footed Goose nearly doubled the previous record total (5) for this increasing species.  If these trends continue, it may be that these geese, and perhaps other species, will be removed from the review list.

The committee continues to study early records such as a 1965 accepted record for Mew Gull.  Questions have arisen as to the identity of the original reporter of this bird.  These questions require more careful study to determine if the record can stand.  It should be noted that committee actions are never final.  New information can always be brought forth in order to reopen previous records, whether they have been accepted or not.

COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

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 439 species with the addition of California Gull and Sprague’s Pipit. 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 at www.ctbirding.org. Submit written reports along with documentary material to Jay Kaplan, ARCC chairman (address below).

FORMAT

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. Photo are acknowledged with ‡. 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.

ACCEPTED RECORDS

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) Single birds were present 11-16 Dec 2016 at Grass Island Nature Area in Greenwich (16-18 Stefan Martin*‡ Sean Murtha, Ryan Maclean et al.); at Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport 5 Jan 2017 (17-03 Jory Teltser*‡ et al.); at Barnes Boat Launch and nearby areas in Enfield and Suffield 15 Jan-15 Mar 2017 (17-02 Bill Asteriades*‡ m.ob.); at Southport Beach in Fairfield 11-13 Mar 2017 (17-13 Aidan Kiley*‡, Jory Teltser* Frank Gallo‡ et al.). There are five previous records.

ROSS’S GOOSE (Chen rossii) An adult remained at Seaside Park in Bridgeport from 19 Mar to 10 Apr 2016 (16-24 Stefan Martin*, Greg Hanisek‡, m.ob.); an immature was present 13-15 Dec 2016 at Squantz Pond in New Fairfield (16-25 Bill Gemmell*, Angela Dimmitt*‡); an adult found at the Hunt Club of Fairfield County, Westport, was present 15-28 Jan 2017, often seen on a small pond near the original location where it usually spent the night (17-04 Jory Teltser*‡, m.ob.). There are three previous records.

BLACK BRANT (Branta bernicla nigricans) This well-marked subspecies of western distribution was found on 5 Feb 2017 at Eastern Point, Groton. (17-06 Nick Bonomo*‡ et al.). This is the third state record (and first immature), all found by the same observer.

TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula) A female settled in at Captain’s Cove Marina in Bridgeport 18 Jan-11 Feb 2017 (17-08 Dylan Jackson*, Greg Hanisek, Frank Mantlik, Mike Warner‡, m.ob.). A female was at the same location 22 Feb-19 Mar 2015.

PACIFIC LOON (Gavia pacifica) One was found on 28 Dec 2016 at Ender’s Island in Mystic. It remained until 2 Jan 2017 (16-31 Russ Smiley*‡, Frank Mantlik*‡, Robert Dixon, m.ob.). This is the sixth state record.

EARED GREBE (Podiceps nigricollis) A bird found 16 Jan 2017 at Stratford Point in Stratford was last seen there on 21 Jan. What was believed to be the same individual, based on photo comparison and lack of date overlap, was found at Fort Nathan Hale in New Haven on 25 Jan 2017 and remained to at least 01 Apr 2017 (17-05 Patrick Comins*‡, Nick Bonomo‡, m.ob.); one was found on 21 Feb 2017 in Stonington Harbor, where it was present to at least 29 Mar 2017 (17-10 Robert Dewire*, Glenn Williams*‡ et al.). Photos showed a head pattern different from the Stratford/New Haven bird.

WESTERN GREBE (Aechmophorus occidentalis) One was found 27 Mar 2016 at Cornfield Point in Old Saybrook and then was relocated on 2 Apr 2016 at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (16-12 Russ Smiley*‡, Tina Green, Dan Rottino‡, m.ob.).

FRIGATEBIRD SP. (Fregata sp.) An adult soaring over the Connecticut River in Middletown on 29 Sep 2016 no doubt startled the observer, who nonetheless took field notes that included a sketch of the bird and a map of the area where it was seen (16-20 B. Lynn Hollinger*). Of interest were reports of a Magnificent Frigatebird on 11 Oct 2016 on the Maine and New Hampshire birding listservs. Magnificent Frigatebird is the only species breeding in North America, but because the sighting was brief, the committee took a conservative approach on the species involved. Other species of frigatebirds have shown long distance vagrancy into the North Atlantic; Ascension Island Frigatebird has reached Scotland twice (moribund 1953 and 2013). In the US, Lesser Frigatebird has been recorded in Maine (1960), Wyoming (2003), Michigan (2005) and California (2007). Great Frigatebird has been recorded in California (1979 and 1992) and adult males are essentially identical to male Magnificents.

WHITE IBIS (Eudicimus albus) A single adult offered a brief but diagnostic look to two observers on 23 Jul 2016 at Ash Creek, Fairfield (16-32 Dave Zawisha*, Joel Hintz*).

WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi) One was found on 22 Apr 2016 at Plum Bank Marsh in Old Saybrook. Subsequent reports came from Clinton on 23 Apr to 2 May; from Ingham Hill Pond in Old Saybrook on 26-27 Jun; and from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on Jul 3 (16-14 Chris Elphick*, Frank Mantlik‡, Tim Antanaitis‡ m.ob.).

EURASIAN WHIMBREL (Numenius phaeopus sp.) An individual of this white-rumped Old World form was seen briefly but well on 21 Sep 2003 at Griswold Point in Old Lyme (17-12 Dave Provencher*, Roy Harvey, Dori Sosensky). North American authorities consider the North American form (N. p. hudsonicus) to be conspecific with the well-marked and distinctive Eurasian birds, which comprise three subspecies. Because of its white rump, the Griswold Point bird easily falls into the Eurasian grouping, but subtle subspecific differences among the Eurasian birds could not be ascertained. It is the first state record for this form.

RUFF (Calidris pugnax)  A black-and-gray adult male was at Wheeler Marsh, Milford, on 2-7 May 2016 (16-15 Tina Green*‡, Frank Mantlik‡ et al.). A black-and-white adult male was at Sandy Point, West Haven, on 14 May 2016 (16-16 Anthony Amato*, Julian Hough‡, Steve Broker et al.).  A bird in basic plumage was at the Greenway in Stratford 1-8 Jul 2016 (16-17 Stefan Martin*, Frank Mantlik‡ et al.). Determining the sex of the latter bird is complicated by the relatively recent discovery that some males, known as faeders,  mimic the size and plumage of females. Three Ruffs within a two-month period were unprecedented for Connecticut.

COMMON MURRE (Uria aalge) A group of three was observed from a New London, CT-Orient,NY, ferry on 31 Dec 2016 as part of the New London Christmas Bird Count (16-33 Frank Mantlik*‡ et al.). Two were observed from a New London, CT-Orient, NY, ferry on 16 Jan 2017 (17-07 Frank Mantlik*‡, Jory Teltser‡ et al.).  In both cases the birds’ presence in CT waters was verified by GPS on cell phones.

BLACK GUILLEMOT (Cepphus grylle) The state’s third modern record was found on 26 Jan 2017 at Stonington Point, Stonington (17-01 John Oshlick *). It was noted that while Connecticut has few records, it is fairly regular in winter in nearby Rhode Island waters.

BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE (Rissa tridactyla) A first-winter bird was seen from a boat about two miles off Shippan Point, Stamford, on 18 Dec 2016 on the Greenwich-Stamford Christmas Bird Count (16-30 Al Collins*‡ Patrick Dugan*‡). It represented a first record for that CBC.

MEW (COMMON) GULL (Larus canus canus) An adult of the European subspecies was found in a surface-feeding flock on 20-23 Mar 2016 off Meigs Point at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison (16-09 Nick Bonomo*‡ m.ob.). This is the fourth state record for this subspecies.

MEW (SHORT-BILLED) GULL (Larus canus brachyrhynchus) An adult of the North American subspecies was found on 20-21 Mar 2016 shortly after discovery of the “Common Gull” in the same flock at Hammonasset (16-10 Nick Bonomo*‡ et al.). This is a first state record for this subspecies of the Pacific Northwest. A recent paper (Adriaens and Gibbins 2016) suggests that this West Coast form may be a potential future split and thus will become the first state species record. (See an article elsewhere in this issue on identification of Mew Gull subspecies and their status in the state).

CALIFORNIA GULL (Larus californicus)  This much-anticipated first state record, a first-cycle bird,  was found on 21-23 Mar 2016 at  Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison during a search for the two forms of Mew Gull found there the day before (16-11 Stefan Martin*‡, Phil Rusch, Nick Bonomo‡, Robert Dixon‡ m.ob.). It was relocated on 24 Mar 2016 about 20 miles west at a boat launch in West Haven, where it remained to at least 16 April 2016.  Apparently the same bird was re-discovered in the same West Haven area on 29 Sep 2016, staying to at least 4 Oct. Its advance into second-cycle plumage corresponded with the expected molt of the bird found in March. (See additional information about the initial discovery in the Photo Challenge in this issue).

VEGA GULL (Larus argentatus vegae) This Asiatic subspecies of Herring Gull was observed and photographed in North Haven in November 1995, when distribution and identification of gulls from this part of the world was poorly understood. In the last decade, the ability of gulls from this region, such as Slaty-backed (Larus schistisagus) and Kamchatka Gulls (Larus canus kamtschatschensis – the Siberian race of Mew Gull), to reach the eastern U.S. has been well established. As a result, efforts to identify Vega Gulls have gained traction. In the east, there have been documented reports of this subspecies in Florida (2009) and Pennsylvania (2012) as well as Europe’s potential first record in Ireland (2016). Although they show some distinctive plumage traits, some authors regard Vega Gull as a separate species, while others treat them as a subspecies of Herring Gull. Relying on recent literature and expert opinions, the observer used his photos and sketches to illustrate a suite of features (wing tip and underwing patterns, eye and mantle color, head and bill shape and head and body markings) consistent with this subspecies (16-05 Julian Hough*‡). It is a first Connecticut record for the subspecies and likely represents the first documented record for eastern North America.

WHITE-WINGED DOVE (Zenaida asiatica) One was found on 18 Sep 2016 at Forth Nathan Hale in New Haven (16-23 Greg Hanisek*, Jannie Shapiro‡, Maggie Peretto‡, et al.). It was not relocated immediately, but one that made a brief appearance at nearby Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven on 24 Oct 2016 may have been the same individual (Sol Satin et al.).

CHUCK-WILL’S-WIDOW (Caprimulgis carolinensis) One was heard singing repeatedly just before dawn on 23 May 1995 in the backyard of a house in Norwalk (17-09 Frank Mantlik*, Connie Wood). It was not heard or seen after that.

SAY’S PHOEBE (Sayornis saya) One was found on 18 Sep 2016 at Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area in Easton, where it was seen and photographed by many through at least 21 Sep 2016 (16-22 Jeremy Nance*, Brenda Inskeep*, Mike Carpenter‡, m.ob.). This is a third state record but the first one available for many to see. The other two are a specimen from Gaylordsville in 1916 and one seen by a single observer on private property in Shelton in 2012.

ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens) One found at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison fit the classic timing pattern for this western rarity, offering many observers opportunities to see and photograph it 4-10 Dec 2016 (16-27 Tim Antanaitis‡, Julian Hough‡, m.ob.).

BELL’S VIREO (Vireo belli) This nondescript species, Connecticut’s second, was described in meticulous detail by a lone observer who found it on 13 Nov 2016 at Glastonbury Meadows (16-13 Andrew Dasinger*).

SPRAGUE’S PIPIT (Anthus spragueii) Two young brothers added a species to the state list when they found this cryptic and secretive pipit of the prairies on 23 Oct 2016 at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, where it was seen and photographed by numerous observers during its one-day stay (16-26 Preston Lust*‡, Terry Lust*, Frank Gallo‡, Greg Hanisek, Frank Mantlik‡ m.ob.).

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana) An adult male visited a feeder in Eastford 17-27 Dec 2016 (16-28 Joe Beaudoin*‡, Mark Szantyr‡, Chris Elphick).

BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK (Pheucticus melanocephalus) An adult male was a distinguished feeder visitor 29-30 April 2016 in Berlin (16-19 Brett Myskowski*‡, Mark Danforth‡ et al.). This is a fourth state record.

RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED

GYRFALCON (Falco rusticolus) A dark raptor identified as this species was reported on 10 Jan 2015 over Long Island Sound off of Stamford (15-04). The observer presented as much detail as possible given about a three-minute view. The committee considered the short duration of the observation and less than ideal lighting conditions as factors in its decision. This species has proven difficult to document without extended viewing opportunities or quality photos.

THAYER’S GULL (Larus thayeri) A first-cycle gull photographed on 1 Feb 2016 at Holly Pond in Stamford exhibited a series of characters consistent with this species (16-08). However, the status of the bird’s molt, appearing to be out of synch with the Thayer’s molt cycle, prompted consultation with outside experts. One from the West Coast and another from the Great Lakes Region independently responded that the bird was not in their opinions a Thayer’s Gull. There was no consensus on what the gull was.

SLATY-BACKED GULL (Larus schistisagus) A bird at the Windsor-Bloomfield landfill on 23 Feb 2013 was photographed after birders considered that it might be a first-cycle Slaty-backed Gull, an age class for which solid consensus on identification criteria was lacking (16-06). The issue was essentially tabled until an identification article in Birding, November/December 2014, used these photos as an example of a legitimate first-cycle Slaty-backed. ARCC then undertook a review of this bird that included a study of the photos, search of literature, correspondence with the article’s authors and consultation with outside experts. After more than two years of study that covered every aspect of the bird’s appearance, committee members concluded that uncertainty remained. Most believed that the bird could be a Slaty-backed or possessed Slaty-backed genes, but that a positive identification remained elusive. As is the case with all unaccepted records, this one can be reopened at any time that new information becomes available.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The committee thanks Alvaro Jaramillo and Amar Ayash for comments on the Thayer’s Gull photos and on some of the other gulls. Osao and Michiaki Ujihara of Japan, internationally acknowledged experts on Slaty-backed Gull, led the outside commentary on that species. Commenting on the Vega Gull were Chris Gibbins, Peter Adriaens and Jon King. Jory Teltser created a photo array that allowed easy comparison of the individual Pink-footed Geese based mainly on bill patterns.

LITERATURE CITED

Adriaens P. and C. Gibbins. 2016. Identification of the Larus canus Complex.: Dutch Birding 38: 1-64.

Currie, David A. and Ian A. McLaren. Nova Scotia’s First Burrowing Owl. Nova Scotia Birds Vol. 55 Issue 1: 44-48.

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.

Howell, Steven N.G. and Jon Dunn. 2007. Gulls of the Americas. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, N.Y.

Malling Olsen, K. and H. Larsson. 2003. Gulls of North America, Europe and Asia. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press.

McKee, Tristan, Peter Pyle and Nial Moores. Vagrancy and Identification of First Cycle Slaty-backed Gulls. Birding November-December 2014.

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