North American Birds

VOLUME 68 NO2 2015

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.

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N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S 186 T h e c h a n g i n g s e a s o n s : W i n T e r o f o u r d i s c o n T e n T unknown in North America away from Alas- kan islands, and Bermuda this winter pro- duced an amazing Arctic Warbler (Figures 13, 14)—Arctic Warbler in the new sense, that is, not the recently split Japanese Leaf Warbler or Kamchatka Leaf Warbler, for- merly combined with Arctic Warbler. No- where in the American East is there a hint that any Phylloscopus has occurred. This re- cord on Bermuda suggests perhaps that we are missing at least a few Old World/Alaskan vagrants that are straying over to this side of the continent, but the track record thus far is scant for over-the-continent Asian/Alaskan passerine strays, possibly limited to Brown Shrike and Siberian Stonechat records from northeastern Canada. Less unusual, but clearly an indication that something was afoot with the species, Bermuda was awash in Purple Gallinules in the middle of winter, with frst detections around the island on 10, 13, and 26 Janu - ary and 2 birds on 1 February—at least fve Purple Gallinules (Figure 15)! Already in late autumn, there was a hint that something was going on, with a gallinule appearing 7 November at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Maine (another island) and another ten days earlier in Portugal at Lisbon (on the coast), with one appearing almost a month later on 8 December at Clarenville, New- foundland and one Virginia Beach, Virginia 30 December. And the hits kept coming in January, with singles at Trenton, Maine 8 research, and education about the ethics of con- servation and wildlife watching. Their team deserves hearty con- gratulations. Islands in the Stream A Snowy Owl reaching Bermuda is not unprec- edented, and indeed Bermuda birders had been on the lookout for them, as the net had already begun to buzz about the fight earlier in November. Islands, whether close to shore or far out in the ocean, like Bermuda, are re- cipients of "expected" overshooting birds such as the Snowy Owl in this season's irruption. But islands also have an almost magical capacity to tell us what's going on with bird move- ments we might not have detected other- wise. In September 1980, Bermuda hosted a Dark-sided Flycatcher, for instance, a bird many newly retired people take up wildlife photography as a hobby, and it will take pa- tience and diplomacy on our parts to keep our cool when interacting with those who have not yet fgured out how severely hu- man disturbance can impact a bird's forag- ing and survival. The owls are very much a keystone species in the Arctic, but they also, like Polar Bears, can serve as ambassadors to the general public, as a means of opening discussions and raising awareness of anthro- pogenic climate destabilization. No, these owls were not here this season because the wheels are coming off the climate—not that we know of. The owls arrived because they had enjoyed a bounteous breeding season in the eastern Canadian Arctic, where prey re- sources had become too limited to support their numbers. However, the extreme up- heavals in the Arctic climate, even more ex- aggerated than in the rest of the planet, mean that such species are clearly imperiled, their breeding grounds themselves becoming en- dangered. So we are obliged to balance our disappointment in owl-harassers with our hope that these golden-eyed wonders of the North can open the eyes of those who want to learn about them and to value them. Proj- ect SNOWstorm did a great deal to provide a good measure of public outreach, scientifc Figure 12. Snowy Owls visiting the southern part of the range, as here at Cape May, New Jersey 26 December 2013, had to con- tend with many novelties: buildings, vehicles, humans, dogs, and aggressive Peregrine Falcons (here) and gulls. In many instances, birders frst discovered or located perched owls because gulls were dive-bombing or mobbing them. Photograph by Tom Johnson. Figure 13. The upper audiospectrograph, from a sound recording of Bermuda's Arctic Warbler made 6 March 2014, matches call notes of Arctic Warblers made on the breeding grounds in Alaska (lower). This recording was key to ruling out the very similar Kam- chatka Leaf Warbler (also known from Alaska) and Japanese Leaf Warbler. Audiorecord- ing (upper) by Wendy Frith; audiospectrographs produced by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Bermuda Arctic Warbler Arctic Warbler (kennicotti)

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