Ninth Report of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut
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Ninth Report of The Avian Records Committee of
Connecticut Warbler 20: 1-13. 2000
Greg Hanisek and Mark Szantyr
The ninth report of The Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) of the Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) summarizes the efforts of volunteer observers/submitters from around the state who took time to help bolster the state's ornithological records. Current members, in addition to the authors, are Richard Soffer, Christopher Wood, Arnold Devine, Julian Hough, John Gaskell, Jay Kaplan, David Tripp and David Provencher. Also voting on the records in this report were Polly Brody and Frank Mantlik, whose terms have now expired. Although the committee's work carries an air of judgment that can prove daunting to potential submitters, the members prefer to emphasize the historical and educational benefits of record-keeping. All submissions, regardless of the committee's action, become a part of the state's permanent ornithological record. The committee provides a judgment on the adequacy of evidence submitted but can neither verify nor invalidate individual records. Anyone who observes and carefully documents the occurrence of a species on the state Review List, or a species not previously recorded in the state, is urged to submit a written report, along with sketches and/or photographs when possible. Original field notes, taken during the observation and describing the bird in detail, are greatly desired, even when photographs have been obtained. 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 24 records of 22 species reviewed by the ARCC. One additional record was reviewed only at the genus level. The committee accepted 70% of all records reported here. The records are primarily from 1997 through 1999. Significant records in this report include: the state's second record of Golden-crowned Sparrow, its third records of Franklin's Gull and Cory's Shearwater; its fourth record of Rufous Hummingbird, and its fifth record of Townsend's Solitaire. A record of Great Gray Owl is the eighth, but only the second in the past half-century. Also noteworthy was an effort, led by Szantyr, to forge a working relationship between ARCC and the state's well-organized cadre of bird rehabilitators. As a result of this initiative two significant records were obtained, involving a Purple Gallinule and the Rufous Hummingbird. Both birds were taken to rehabilitators in moribund condition and subsequently died. Photos of the specimens were obtained in both cases.
STATE LIST AND REVIEW LIST
The state list remains at 401 species. The most recently published (October 1997) state list contains 399 species and is available from the COA (314 Unquowa Road, Fairfield, 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. Submit written reports along with photographs and any other documentary material to the current ARCC Secretary, Mark Szantyr (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 and followed by an asterisk. Observers who submitted a photograph are acknowledged with † following their names. Hyphenated numbers (e.g., 98-11) following the observers are ARCC file numbers. The species are listed in order according to the A.O.U. Check-list (1998). Records of particular species are listed chronologically. Months of the year are shortened to their first three letters.
CORY'S SHEARWATER (Calonectris diomedea). A single bird was observed on 7 July 1997 from the observation deck at Meig's Point in Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison (Steve Rogers*, Jim Rogers, Jeff Rogers 97-29). Although the observation was short, the observers provided a description of the bird, as well as a sketch of its dorsal and ventral surfaces. Two of the observers had experience with pelagic species, one extensively so, in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which added weight to the report. Tubenoses are seldom encountered inside Long Island Sound, and all observations should be thoroughly documented.
HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus). A sub-adult male was present near Shippan Point in Stamford from 13 Dec 1998 through at least 25 Jan 1999 (Patrick Dugan*, Frank Mantlik† 99-29). It was seen by numerous observers and photographed. Although historically rare within Long Island Sound, this species has occurred with increased frequency in the past five years.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrula martinica). A juvenile was brought into the Wild Wings Wildlife rehabilitation center in Stamford on 17 Dec 1998 (Meredith Sampson 99-06). It had been found walking in a yard in a Stamford neighborhood. It died almost immediately, and photographs of the specimen were submitted for documentation. Although resident in the southeast USA, Purple Gallinules are known for long-distance vagrancy and for appearances in unexpected places at anytime of year.
SANDHILL CRANE (Cruss canadensis). A single bird flew over the Lighthouse Point hawk watch in New Haven on 20 Oct 1998 (Ron Bell*, Anki Hamback 99-04). A single bird was seen soaring over the Sandy Hook section of Newtown on 19 Nov 1998 (Polly Brody* 99-08). In both instances observers submitted sketches and addressed the problem of separating Sandhill Crane from Common Crane, a species that has occurred in North America as both a documented escape and a probable wild vagrant. Because of an increase in sightings in recent years, a trend noted throughout the Northeast, the committee has removed this species from the review list and no longer solicits documentation of sightings.
AMERICAN AVOCET (Recurvirostra americana). This distinctive shorebird was found in the tidal lagoon at Sandy Point in West Haven on 18 Aug 1998 (Jay Kaplan*, Brian Kleinman† 99-11). It was photographed and was seen by a few observers the following day. Although many eastern records of American Avocet occur in late fall, this observation follows the pattern of most recent Connecticut records occurring during the peak shorebird migration in late summer.
RUFF (Philomachus pugnax). An adult male in its spectacular breeding plumage was discovered 29 Jun 1999 in a saltmarsh pool in Stratford (Elaine Nye*, Frank Mantlik†, Greg Hanisek 99-24). The bird was seen by numerous observers and photographed that day but could not be relocated thereafter. The date is unusual, since most recent records in the Northeast have occurred front mid-March to mid-April.
CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea). A juvenile was present 8-13 October 1998 in Old Lyme (Ted Hendrickson*, Mark Szantyr†, Dave Provencher, Greg Hanisek 99-14). The bird was very cooperative, appearing for several days on a small stretch of beach with a mixed flock of sandpipers, providing direct comparison with several species. It was sketched and photographed. The bird was identified as a juvenile by the presence of a buffy breast, white belly and crisply edged feathers of the upper parts and wings. Almost all North American records involve adult birds, but it is interesting to note that this is the second juvenile recorded in Connecticut.
FRANKLIN'S GULL (Larus pipixcan). An adult was found standing in a large flock of Laughing Gulls on 15 Nov 1998, at the mouth of the Oyster River on the Milford-West Haven town line (Linda Donohue*, Frank Mantlik† 99-28). It represents a third state record. The original observers alerted other birders, but the gull flushed before other observers arrived and could not be relocated. Photographs were obtained, however. This appearance occurred during an unprecedented flight of Franklin's Gulls into the Northeast, with more than 40 recorded in New Jersey. Alerted to the events in New Jersey, Connecticut observers were out looking for Franklin's Gulls the day this one was found.
GREAT GRAY OWL (Strix nebulosa) A single bird was observed 7 and 11 Feb 1996 at Rocky Neck State Park in the Niantic section of East Lyme (Raymond L. Jacobsen*), and therein lies a fascinating tale. The observer, a casual birder who had seen few owls in the wild, consulted a field guide after the first sighting. He narrowed down his choices to Barred Owl and Great Gray Owl, then eliminated the latter because of the stated range. However, he returned to the site with his wife a few days later, when they noticed field marks consistent with a Great Gray Owl, including yellow eyes. The observer submitted a complete description that convinced the committee of the identification. The only other record in more than 50 years occurred in January 1996, less than 20 miles west at Hammonasset Beach State Park.
SELASPHORUS HUMMINGBIRD SP. The bird, which visited a hummingbird feeder in Guilford from 17 Oct to 11 Nov 1998 (Lisa Courtney*, Dori Sosensky, Mark Szantyr†, Dave Provencher, Julian Hough 99-15), was photographed and sketched. The extensive amount of rufous in its plumage identified it as a member of the genus Selasphorus, probably an immature male. Identification of immature or female Selasphorus hummingbirds as either Rufous or Allen's requires use of critical tail measurements best taken on specimens in the hand, so the identification was left at the genus level. Rufous is by far the more likely species in Connecticut, but Alien's has been recorded in the East. In addition, increased awareness of the tendency of several western hummingbird species to reach the east coast in fall and winter dictates that nothing be taken for granted when dealing with this family. The committee does not normally act on sightings identified only to genus. It is our opinion that if it is possible to identify a bird to species in the field, and only circumstances of the observation have prevented this, then the bird was not seen well enough to be identified positively. There are certain species groups, however, that cannot be safely separated to species in the field with confidence, even under the best conditions. The genus Selasphorus is one such situation. The committee will review such generic identifications.
RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus). A specimen, believed to be an adult female, was obtained from a rehabilitator on 6 January 1999 (Mark Szantyr*† 99-18). The bird had died in captivity after having been picked up in a weakened condition in late October or early November 1998 in Glastonbury. In the hand, the bird could be measured, aged and sexed and identified positively as rufus.
NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe). An adult male in basic plumage was found on 19 Sep 1998 during a field trip to Sherwood Island State Park in Westport as part of a COA Fall Field Day (Charles Barnard*, Julian Hough†, Polly Brody 99-16). It was present until at least 23 Sep. The dates fall within the typical pattern of early fall appearances by this species, primarily along the coast. Wheatears seen in eastern North America are believed to belong to the Greenland race leucorhoa,which is bigger, brighter and longer winged than the nominate race breeding in Europe. However, individual birds are probably not safely assigned to race in the field. The presence of black lores and mottled ear coverts allowed aging of the bird as an adult, and the presence of black on the ear coverts indicated it was a male (Hough, 1997).
TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi). A bird seen on 7 Nov 1998 near Bantam Lake in Litchfield represents a fifth state record (Buzz Devine* 99-19). This thrush from the northwestern mountains has a long history of appearances in the Northeast during late fall and early winter. This individual, which was seen briefly amid a heavy movements of robins and other typical November migrants, was carefully described with reference to similar species such as Northern Mockingbird.
YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER (Dendroica dominica). A single bird was present for several weeks at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth, where it was seen by numerous observers (Patrick Dugan† 97-19). No one submitted written documentation, but a single photo taken on 20 Apr 1997 was submitted. The photos clearly identify the bird as to species, but the color of the lores can not be clearly seen. Two races occur in our region, the more western white-lored albilora, often called Sycamore Warbler for its preference for nesting in these large riparian trees, and the yellow-lored dominica of the South. Interestingly, the western bird is expanding its range to the east and has become established in northern New Jersey. The only Yellow-throated Warbler identified to race in the field in Connecticut has been albilora (see field notes for Winter 1999/2000 Season, CW20-3 in preparation). Sightings of this species have been increasing, with records at all seasons, and the committee has removed it from the review list.
GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW (Zonotrichia atricapilla). The second record for Connecticut involves an immature seen at Crook Horn Road in Southbury on 24-25 Oct 1998 (Buzz Devine*, Chris Wood, Tom Kilroy 99-13). Several observers submitted detailed notes and sketches. Numerous others searched for the bird for more than a week after the initial observations, and while some possible sightings were reported, no additional written documentation was submitted.
BOAT-TAILED CRACKLE (Quiscalus major) A male was seen on 3 Apr 1999 at the Great Meadows in Stratford, part of Stewart B, McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (Charles Barnard* 99-23). The bird was found at a place where the species has occurred regularly in recent years and where evidence of breeding has been detected in the past. However, no females were noted in 1999.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, identification questionable.
YELLOW RAIL (Coturnicops noveboracensis). A bird of this species was reported from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison on 25 Mar 1998 (99-02). While at a likely location for such an occurrence, the observer admits to having less than ideal views of a bird in flight. Certain details of the observation suggest a correct identification but important characters that clinch it were not noted. The observer and others attempted to relocate the bird but were unsuccessful.
WHITE-WINGED TERN (Chilidonias leucopterus). A bird in definitive alternate plumage was reported off Milford Point in Milford on 20 May 1999 (99-26). This record was very difficult for the committee. This Old World species is a rare bird in all of North America, with annual occurrences on this continent, but not predictably from any one location (with the possible exception of the greater Delmarva area). Remarkably, it has nested once, paired to a Black Tern (Chilidonias niger), in Quebec and produced young. Records of this species span from early May to late September, with July and August being peak months of occurrence, coinciding with the build-up of southbound Black Terns. This record fits well into the expected time of occurrence, and the observer carefully noted features that suggest a correct identification. Descriptions of a few key characters, including details of upper and under wing and of the rump and tail, were troubling to the committee. Likewise, the fact that the observer admits to being relatively inexperienced with this genus in alternate plumage left some room for uncertainty. These facts combined with the rarity of the species in North America would not allow the committee to accept this as a first Connecticut record. Unfortunately, subsequent searches for the bird on Long Island Sound were fruitless.
The "marsh terns," that is, the small terns of the genus Chilidonias, are exciting birds. At times, the various species in this genus can be quite difficult to differentiate with certainty. This identification problem is well covered in Olsen and Larsson's Terns of Europe and North America (1995).
EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE (Streptopelia decaocto). A diligent observer reported a bird thought to be of this species from Woodbury on 31 Aug 1998 (99-10a). This bird was associating with Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) and coming to a bird feeder. The observer, experienced with a wide variety of exotic avifauna, believed that certain characters of this bird eliminated Ringed Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia risoria), a popular cage bird, from contention. The bird was relocated and photographed by a member of this committee. The photos and a written report were subsequently submitted to the committee. Details of both reports were evaluated and it was determined that the bird in question was indeed Ringed Turtle-Dove based on several key characteristics. In the meantime, the original observer retracted his original identification after further study of the bird and re-submitted a report as Ringed Turtle-Dove (99-10b). The action on this re-submittal is detailed elsewhere in this report.
Eurasian Collared Dove is an Old World species that was introduced to the Bahamas in the early 1970's. The species is very prolific in its Old World range and likewise thrived in the Bahamas and its population burgeoned. In 1986, this species was identified from south Florida, causing a stir in the birding community. It seems that prior to this identification, it was assumed that all doves of this genus in Florida were Ringed Turtle-Doves, the more expected exotic cage species that had become established there earlier. Investigation revealed that by far the largest element of the population of feral Streptopelia doves in this area were Eurasian Collared Doves. Based on our previous discussions about this species' hardiness, it seems likely that this population originated from the Bahamas. Since then, the species population in the New World has grown dramatically and reports of the species have come from far and wide in North America, with the most recent expansion seemingly coming from areas to the north and west of its Florida point of origin. It is likely that this species will occur in Connecticut, and anyone interested in more information regarding the history and identification of this species should consult the excellent article by P. William Smith in American Birds (1987).
BEWICK'S WREN (Thryomanes betvickii). The committee received an enticing report of a bird thought to be this species frequenting an overgrown back yard in Uncasville during the first few weeks of Jul 1998 (99-03). During the original period of observation, two members of this committee had occasion to visit this yard and, with the original observer, study the bird in question at some length. These two committee members submitted details of their observations to the committee during the evaluation of this record. While the original observer kept very extensive notes and should be commended for the diligence and commitment made to the study of this bird, all characters suggest that the bird was actually a washed out or pale immature Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus).
Bewick's Wren is a rare vagrant to eastern North America. It has become even more uncommon since the eastern portion of its population has suffered dramatic decline. For a discussion of the fine points in identifying this species, especially on how to separate it from the more expected Carolina Wren, see Szantyr (1999).
YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephcdus xanthocephdus). A bird of this species was reported from Canton on 8 May 1997 (97-18). The committee believes that the circumstances of this very brief observation do not allow for confident identification of this species and therefore takes a conservative stance in not accepting it.
Yellow-headed Blackbird has become regular in Connecticut during both spring and fall migration and because of this, the committee has decided to remove this species from our review list. However, please forward any sighting information on Yellow-headed Blackbird to Greg Hanisek, Field Notes Editor for the Connecticut Warbler, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury, CT 06708. Information on this species is still of general interest and such reports often influence a species placement or removal from the review list of the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut.
RECORDS NOT ACCEPTED, origin questionable.
GRAYLAG GOOSE (Anser anser). A bird of this species was reported from the Ellington/Tolland area on 7 Feb 1999 (99-20). While Graylag Goose is the source species of many of the domestic "barnyard" geese often noted in the company of migrant waterfowl and therefore usually overlooked by birdwatchers, this individual and a few others in recent history are trim, "svelte," wild-looking birds and not the large, pot-bellied, "fat, dumb, and happy" birds associated with domestic conditions. However, wild-type Graylag Geese are widely kept in waterfowl collections and it seems that Connecticut occurrences of this bird are centered near known waterfowl collections. Observers are still requested to document occurrences of "exotic" waterfowl as patterns of natural occurrence may someday be established and these pieces of information will be key in determining a species' status in Connecticut.
RINGED TURTLE-DOVE (Streptopelia risoria). A bird initially identified as a Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) on 31 Aug 1998 (99-10a) was subsequently re-identified as this species (99-1 Ob). This species is commonly held in captivity and there is no evidence of natural occurrence. See the account for Eurasian Collared-Dove elsewhere in this report for further discussion.
AOU (American Ornithologists' Union). 1998. Check-list of North American
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Bevier, L.R. 1996. The Connecticut Rare Records Committee: an overview. Connecticut Warbler 16:26-30.
Bevier, L.R., and G. A. Clark, Jr. 1990. Fourth Report of the Connecticut Rare Records Committee. Connecticut Warbler 10:84-91.
Bull, J. 1974. Birds of New York State. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y.
Clark, G. A., Jr. 1989. Third report of the Connecticut Rare Records Committee. Connecticut Warbler 9:20-24.
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Mlodinow, S. G. and M. O'Brien. 1996. America's 100 Most Wanted Birds. Falco Press Publishing Co. Billings, MT.
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Petersen, W. R. 1995. First annual report of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee. Bird Observer 23:263-274.
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Zeranski, J. D. and T. R. Baptist. 1990. Connecticut Birds. University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H.
The committee greatly appreciates the time and effort expended by the following people who submitted reports or photographs of rarities: Charles Barnard, Ron Bell, Polly Brody, Donna Brooks, Patrick Comins, Lisa Courtney, Buzz Devine, Linda Donohue, Patrick Dugan, Carl Ekroth, Anki Hamback, Julian Hough, Greg Hanisek, Ted Hendrickson, Raymond L. Jacobsen, Jay Kaplan, Brian Kleinman, Tom Kilroy, Russ Naylor, Frank Mantlik, Elaine Nye, Noble S. Proctor, Dave Provencher, Charlie Rafford, Cynthia Rice, Jeff Rogers, Jim Rogers, Steve Rogers, Meredith Sampson, Dori Sosensky, Mark Szantyr, and Chris Wood.
Several people helped the committee with its decisions in this report. We offer our appreciation to Louis Bevier, Paul Lehman, Tom Burke, Jayne Amico, and Julian Hough.
Greg Hanisek, 175 Circuit Ave., Waterbury CT 06708
Mark Szantyr, 145 Farmington Ave., Waterbury CT 06710