North American Birds

VOLUME 68 NO4 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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V O L U M E 6 8 ( 2 0 1 5 ) • N U M B E R 4 465 T h e c h a n g i n g s e a s o n s : o d d d u c k ital birds could be attributed to the dire situation there. Canada had its sixth warm- est summer on record (since 1948), being 1.0° C above the average; the record-warmest summer is still 2012, at 1.8° C above average. Almost half of the meteorological regions in Canada had top-ten warm- est summers: Pacifc Coast, Atlantic Canada, Southern British Columbia Mountains, Northwest Forest, and Mack- enzie District. The remaining six regions were near aver- age in temperature. Overall, summer 2014 in Canada was wetter than average, ranking fourteenth wettest in 67 years of records. The Northeastern Forest, the Prairies, and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence re- gion had top-ten wet seasons, while the Pacifc Coast had its seventh dri- est. Rains from decaying Hurricane Arthur contributed to the rainfall totals in east- ern Canada in early July, and hundreds of displaced seabirds were detected in Nova Scotia, with a few west to New Brunswick and Québec (and possibly upstate New York). And the livin' is easy Summer-season trends and themes can be hard to come by. June and July go by in the blink of an eye; between spring and fall migrations, many birders seek refuge in air-conditioned spaces or in high-lat - itude holidays; and many of the July re- cords pertain to post-breeding movements and are properly considered part of the "autumn" push, even though meteorologi - cal autumn is still weeks away. This short essay will begin with the non-conformists, the odd ducks, mostly waterbirds, that seem to be lingering or summering well south of normal breed- ing range. Birders have coined the term "oversummering" to apply to such birds— normally when breeding activity is not in- volved, the bird(s) are in an extralimital context, and the bird(s) survive the season or at least remain in the area for most of the season. Regional reports usually regard sum- mering waterfowl out of range as ailing or injured birds, and this has often been ac- curate: carefully studied individual birds often show missing parts of wings, mostly the result of human hunting activity. But in recent summer seasons, there appears to have been a subtle increase in summer- ing waterbirds that have no obviously ex- ternal injuries. The change has not been stark as yet, at least not for most species, but for a few, the shift has been sudden. The most dramatic example of a shift in southerly summering has been in Black Scoter on the Atlantic coast. As little as four years ago, seeing more than a few south of New England in summer would have been unusual, but beginning in 2013, increasingly large numbers have been summering farther and farther south (through summer 2015). This summering pattern strengthened and expanded fol- lowing the large autumn/winter infux of the species into the Southeast, including Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, in 2012- 2013, the time of the Great Razorbill Flight (Brinkley 2013). As far as I can tell, the historical literature provides no prec- edent for the numbers seen in summers 2013, 2014, and 2015. These Black Scoters appear to be non- breeding rather than post-breeding birds, as they are present in large numbers in both June and July. In summer 2014, Long Island had 120 Black Scoters off Georgica 22 June, New Jersey at least 127 off Brigantine 28 June and 100 off Cape May by mid-July, and one site in Virginia, Metompkin Island, held a carefully count- ed 439 birds 13 June. Farther south, 31 were off Topsail Island, North Carolina 17 June, Kiawah Island, South Carolina had 45 on 14 June, Chatham County, Geor- gia 12 on 14 June, and 29 were at Parrish Park, Brevard County, Florida through at least 6 June. We know that birds need suffcient prey resources to maintain themselves both on the wintering grounds and the breeding grounds, particularly in the weeks leading up to migration, when they must be in ex- cellent physical condition. Are Black Sco- ters in the Atlantic stressed by some fac- Figure 1. In Georgia, this Greater White-fronted Goose spent 1-18 (here 6) July 2014 at Lake Zwerner, Lumpkin County, where it kept company for a while with a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. Another Greater White-fronted hung around St. Landry Parish, Louisiana in June. Photograph by Roy Brown.

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