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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Page 97 of 131

N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S 264 Alaska The season's best Black Oystercatcher high counts came from new areas, including 70 at Sitka's Totem Park 16 Feb (MRG), likely a new local peak, 21 on Glacier Bay's Beardslee Island 14 Dec (GPS, SLN, fde NKD), and 80 in Humpy Cove, Unalaska Island 1 Dec (SG). Very rare in winter, a Killdeer was notewor- thy at Seward 22 Dec–5 Jan (DC, CAG et al.); there are a few prior local records. A late Nov Greater Yellowlegs at Old Harbor village on Kodiak reappeared intermittently through 26 Jan (p. RB), where it constituted Kodiak and South-coastal Alaska's frst mid-winter record. Equally unusual for winter for the Region and also Kodiak's frst winter record was a lone Rud- dy Turnstone at Kalsin Bay 27 Dec–18 Jan (ph. RAM). Rare winter Sanderling accounts away from the Gustavus area, where up to 150 were counted 20 Feb (NKD), included one at Sitka 16 Feb (ph. MRG), one at Seward 10 Dec (RC), and 3 farther out at Resurrection Bay 22 Dec (TD). Decent Wilson's Snipe reports came in for at least the front half of the season in South- east. Mid-winter highlights included singles in Valdez 4 Jan (NL), Juneau 31 Jan (OS) and 13 Feb (GBV), Petersburg 28 Jan (ELY), Wrangell 3 Jan (BHD), and Sitka 4 Jan (MRG), while several spent most of Jan–Feb in the Ketchikan area (SCH, AWP). An occasional bird was also fushed out of open wetland around Dutch Har- bor in the second half of the season (SG). An estimated 2850 Marbled Murrelets at Ket- chikan's Clover Passage 5 Jan (AWP, SCH) tied that area's second highest ever count; this area is one of the Region's most signifcant wintering sites for the species. The gull season was quiet, even during the winter fshery openers in Feb. A Mew Gull was at Anchorage 25-29 Jan (StS, PS et al.), where there may have not been a late- winter record in 25 years. A photographically documented Iceland Gull at Homer 26 Feb (DWS, MR, JV) was of the kumlieni subspecies. Most of the ca. 20 Alaska reports of Kumlien's come from the late winter or early spring. Only one Slaty-backed Gull was reported this winter, from Kodiak 22-25 Feb (ph. RAM). Another Morning Dove wintered in the Homer area from about 15 Dec into Mar (ph. AJL et al.); a few have been recorded there in past winters. A Snowy Owl at Pan Creek on Mit- kof Island 4 Jan (ph. TG) was the only notable winter report. The species is irregular in winter, most often noted between Southeast and South- coastal Alaska. Given the fairly mild winter, it was not too unusual to have a few Short-eared Owls linger, highlighted by up to 2 at Gustavus 17 Dec (NKD, JV, SLN, HH) and a hardy bird in Seward 23 Feb (RC). Although Anna's Hum- mingbird remains a very rare fall and winter visitor, mainly in Southeast, numbers in those seasons have clearly increased over the past 3-5 years. It is diffcult to know how many birds season for Northern Shovelers: at Ko- diak, 8 were seen 13 Dec, with 3 as late as 21 Jan (RAM); one was at Cordova through 26 Dec (AJL); and late birds in Southeast included one at Juneau 8 Dec (BAA), 6 on the Bartlett River, Glacier Bay 14 Dec (HPL), and one at Sitka 11 Feb (MRG). It was unusual to have the season's lone Canvas- back report come from Unalaska, where a male wintered (ph. SG); Canvas- backs are rare in winter in South-coastal Alaska. Another rare winter diver, Ring-necked Duck, peaked in decent numbers, including 3 at Ko- diak 5 Jan (RAM) and a new local high count of 45 at Sitka 10 Jan (MRG). Normal small num- bers were seen elsewhere in Southeast. Two Tufted Ducks at Adak Island 6-9 Dec (NH) and a male with Greater Scaup at Unalaska's Mar- garet Bay all season (ph. SG) made the season's only reports. Thirty-fve Common Eiders re- ported in open near-shore Bering Sea waters e. of Nome 27 Dec (PB) was signifcant given the limited daylight, icing conditions, and extreme windy, cold weather had forced waterbirds out of Seward Peninsula areas by early Nov; there are few mid-winter season reports of Common Eider from the iced sections of the Bering Sea. An estimated 450 Black Scoters found on the shoreline w. of Gustavus 27 Feb (NKD) repre- sented the season's largest aggregation. Typical small numbers of Brandt's Cormo- rants were seen around Ketchikan this winter; the maximum one-day tally was 4 on 2 & 16 Jan (ph. SCH). Winter raptor numbers seemed low this season, perhaps in part due to reduced waterbirds and the near absence of fnches. A Northern Harrier was seen at Homer 12 & 21 Dec and 28 Jan (m.ob.), the only one of the sea- son. Of the few Sharp-shinned Hawk reports, most signifcant was a single around Dutch Harbor all season (SG), where normally very rare. A Red-tailed Hawk at Ketchikan in late Nov was possibly the same bird observed again 13 Jan and 1 Feb (SCH, JHL). Single light- and dark-morph Rough-legged Hawks were docu- mented 6 & 16 Feb on the e. side of Kodiak (ph. RAM), where the species is not annual in winter. Another Rough-legged at Juneau's wet- lands 28 Dec–28 Feb (GBV et al.) provided only the second local winter record. Rough-leggeds remain casual in Southeast in winter. A Golden Eagle noted above Homer's e. end 25 Feb (AJL) was likely a northbound migrant. Virginia Rails were at Gustavus, with one photographed 3 Dec (ph. NKD) and 2 together there 15-16 Dec (LMP, ES, TML, NKD). We now have more than 10 Virginia Rail reports from Southeast since the frst record in Feb 1986, primarily from the Mainland, four of those from the Gustavus area. Thede Tobish –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– W inter of 2013-2014 started slowly across most of the Region, with early season mild conditions slowly giving way to mostly average snow accumulations and cooling trends by the end of December. A few late-fall cold snaps and lengthy cold fronts prob- ably limited the potential for semi-hardy win- tering birds or signifcant late departure dates at coastal sites where such are the norm. The remainder of the winter tended toward above- average temperatures at most stations. Eastern Aleutian reports noted that the winter included regular freeze-thaw periods and prolonged peri- ods of ice-free conditions on freshwater lakes. In Southeast, wetter-than-average conditions dom- inated December, while January included warm, very wet weather followed by a clear and cooler end of season. By late February, continental high pressure covered much of the Region and pre- vailed into March. Most observers considered this a rather quiet season characterized by below-average num- bers, aggregations, and diversity. Southeast re- ports were particularly disappointing: Piston and Heinl suggested this winter was in a class of its own for poor numbers and even missing regular species. WATERFOWL THROUGH WOODPECKERS A lingering Greater White-fronted Goose at Sitka was last observed 1 Dec (MRG), provid- ing one of fewer than 10 Alaska winter records. The Juneau C.B.C. produced a new local record winter high count of 2140 Canada Geese 4 Jan (fde MWS); winter goose highlights were other- wise few. Kodiak's winter Trumpeter Swan tally peaked at 36 on Lake Rose Tead 12 Feb (RAM); Tundra Swans were scarce at that offshore site. This season's only Whooper Swan account came from Adak Island, where 3 were located 6-8 Dec (NH). Good numbers of Gadwalls were in n. Southeast, highlighted by 39 in Juneau 30 Jan (GBV) and 48 there 3 Feb (ACC); a count of 32 around Gustavus 23 Feb (NKD) was considered average there for recent winters. It was a good

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