North American Birds

VOLUME 70 NO2 2018

A Quarterly Journal of Ornithological Record Published by the American Birding Association. The mission of the journal is to provide a complete overview of the changing panorama of our continent’s birdlife.

Issue link: http://nab.aba.org/i/1028840

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V O L U M E 7 0 ( 2 0 1 8 ) • N U M B E R 2 219 A L A S K A Only the third Alaska record away from Bering Sea sites and the Aleutian Islands, this Common Pochard wintered on lakes and ponds in Kodiak's Buskin River drain- age from 29 December (here 31 December). Photo by Richard A. MacIntosh. season at Juneau (GBV, m.ob.). This winter's only Wood Duck was a drake at Sitka 7 Feb into Mar (AH, JH, ph. MRG). The season's only other significant waterfowl highlights included: 3 Common Pochards and a lone Redhead at Adak 14 Jan and 10 Jan, respec - tively (BU-K, NK), where there a few prior winter records; a female Tufted Duck, rare for the North Gulf of Alaska, at Kodiak 13-17 Jan (ph. RAM); a hardy Harlequin Duck from a section of open river in Fairbanks 1-5 Jan (JP); up to 3 Hooded Mergansers around Ko - diak, where casual in winter, 22 Jan–29 Feb (ph. RAM); and very late eiders that lingered in the Nome area, including up to 15 Com - mons off the Nome R. mouth 12 Dec and a single King there to 19 Dec (KP). Another fe - male Common Pochard that wintered at Ko- diak 29 Dec to Mar (ph. RAM) was big news as it represented just the third time (with the two previous also in the North Gulf) that this species has been located away from the Ber - ing Sea-Aleutian regions. An Eared Grebe reported from salt water north of Juneau 4-5 Dec (GBV, m.ob.) could not be photographed due to poor conditions. There are fewer than 10 AK records and only one previous South - east report, from May 2000. Western Grebe continues as a rare winter visitant in South - east as far north as Glacier Bay, where 7 at Gustavus 19 Dec (fide NKD) provided a new local high count. Eurasian Collared-Doves seemed reduced in numbers from recent new strongholds in several Southeast urban areas like Ketchikan and Juneau, but other less known sites showed new high counts, for instance 83+ at Sit - ka 3 Jan (MRG), 9 at Hoonah 16-22 Jan (ACC), and up to 5 in Gustavus 11 Dec (NKD), Petersburg 14 Jan (ELY), and Craig/Klawock 19 Dec. A lone Eurasian Collared-Dove in s. Anchorage 10+ Jan (LEB) was unexpected and furnished that area's second confirmed record. Winter season Anna's Hummingbird counts con - tinue to increase, with this season's numbers no doubt buoyed by the mild condi - tions. Significant high numbers included at least 7 all winter in Juneau (m.ob.), 12+ in Ketchikan (m.ob.), and 5 at Sitka (MRG). Otherwise, single and mostly early-season re - ports came in from Skagway to 8 Dec (JW), Gustavus to 4 Dec (NKD), Wrangell 19 Dec, and Petersburg 1-6 Feb (ELY). The only other noteworthy Anna's report included at least one all season in the Homer area (AJL). Single Black-bellied Plovers turned up in the Glacier Bay environs, at the Beardslee Is. 20 Feb (NKD) and near Gustavus 27-28 Feb (JFS, NKD). This species is casual after Nov, and there are only two previous mid-winter AK records. Impressive and near-record winter counts of 29 Killdeer near Juneau 11 Dec (JD), with 23 in the area 13 Dec (GBV), were among the highest AK totals of this uncom - mon and local shorebird. Two Long-billed Dowitchers detected during the Juneau C.B.C. 2 Jan (LAL, m.ob.) remained in the area to early-Mar and provided the Region's fifth mid-winter record, all of which are from Juneau or Gustavus. For the second consecu - tive year, a Spotted Sandpiper wintered in Sitka (MRG, ph. CPFG). There are fewer than 10 AK winter records. The Kodiak area pro - duced yet another winter Greater Yellowlegs near Old Harbor 23-25 Dec (ph. RB), in the area where winter birds were seen during the previous two years. ALCIDS TO CORVIDS Ketchikan's Mountain Pt. produced the sea- son's highest Marbled Murrelet aggregation, with 1425 there 31 Jan (SCH). Three Califor - nia Gulls at the Ketchikan waterfront 27 Feb (SCH, LEB, JHL) provided the Region's sec - ond-earliest spring arrival date. Up to 4 Pe- lagic Cormorants were a surprise at Gambell 18 Feb (ph. CI). Pelagics are known to winter when there are open leads on the south side of St. Lawrence I., but only a couple prior winter sightings had been logged at Gam - bell. Gustavus area birders enjoyed a surpris- ing, fly-by Great Egret 8 Dec (NKD, SLN), representing about the twelth for Southeast and only the second in winter. Single North - ern Harriers at Gustavus 16 Dec and 22 Jan (NKD), Kodiak 22 Feb (RAM), and Kenai R. flats 24 Jan (LEB) served as the season's only reports of this occasional winter visitor. Most mid-winter reports focus on the immediate North Gulf coast. At least 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks wintered in the Anchorage area (m.ob.), a total that is about average for the past decade. Northern Pygmy-Owls put in a strong showing across Southeast, highlighted by 7 on the Gustavus C.B.C. 19 Dec (NKD), singles on 34 days of the season around Ju - neau (m.ob.), 2 through the season at Sitka (MRG), and singles in Ketchikan 8 & 20 Jan and 21 Feb (PSD, JFK, SCH). Most impres - sive was a Northern Pygmy-Owl takedown SA Following a poor 2015 breeding season, Common Murre populations from the North Gulf of Alaska and Prince William Sound began to show signs of stress and starvation, with mass movements noted in nearshore waters and points inland in late- Nov and early-Dec. These actions intensified by the third week of Dec when birds poured north into Upper Cook Inlet and points to the north, and numbers were reported or con - centrated inland on brackish and freshwater bodies. This heavy push peaked in late-Dec and seemed mostly over by mid-Jan. Exceptional counts from areas where the species is previously known only as an occasional storm-driven waif included: 589 and 1000 per hour passing Anchorage's Pt. Woronzof 30-31 Dec (AB, PS, RP). Unprecedented numbers wandered well north of tidewater, mostly into the south half of the Matanuska Valley where dozens were observed in roadside ditches and open leads in area rivers into Jan. Extreme inland reports included 25 sitting on frozen Flathorn Lake 29 Dec (fide TGT), doz - ens feeding in the lower Talkeetna R. in late-Dec (fide TGT), 14 along the Parks Hwy. north of Talkeetna 30 Dec (SP), and one at Broad Pass south of Cantwell 31 Dec (NW). At the ex - treme were singles in Fairbanks around 29 Dec (fide KR) and at milepost 21 of Chena Hot Springs Rd 31 Dec (fide KR). Ancillary reports of unusual Common Murre concentrations and locations came in from Southeast, w. Cook Inlet, and Prince William Sound. In South - east, high numbers were noted in the Dec–early-Jan period, including 5000 in Juneau 9 Dec (GBV), while starving birds were found at both Gustavus and Sitka beaches (NKD, MRG). USFWS and USGS biologists documented this dramatic die-off and inland move - ment well into spring. Previous inland dispersals and winter die-off events of murres have been documented in the North Gulf, but this year's situation was extreme.

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