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.

Issue link: http://nab.aba.org/i/605532

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N O R T H A M E R I C A N B I R D S 542 Alaska Given the warming sea surface tempera- tures in the Gulf of Alaska, it was a surpris- ingly quiet summer seabird season. Only a single Flesh-footed Shearwater was report- ed, from off e. Kodiak 19 Jul (JBA), where singles have been consistent in midsummer. Biologists were able to survey nesting sea- birds on Southeast's Hazy Islands in Jun and reported at least 4 Brandt's Cormorants at nests 27 Jun (ph. JS). Brandt's were frst doc- umented nesting at this isolated island group off Coronation Island in 1982, with 23 pairs counted. Nesting Brandt's were again found in 2000, with 57 ads. and 40 nests. Roughly 50 pairs have been the average counts in the subsequent infrequent checks. Signifcant summer Double-crested Cormorant reports included 2 at St. Paul Island 4-18 Jun (St. Paul Tour), then just one the next day, and 2 on St. George Island 17-20 Jun (CH). These were deemed the sixteenth and seventeenth ever for the Pribilofs, where singles are spo- radic in early summer. At least 4 Double- cresteds were equally noteworthy and be- yond their summer range up the Bering Sea coast from Nome from early Jun through 11 Jun (fde PEL, m.ob.). Three Osprey observa- tions, from Gustavus 2 Jun (BBP), Thomas Bay 28 Jul (KG), and at Swan Bay on Ad - miralty Island 31 Jul (ACW), were signif- cant, as the species is a very rare nester in Southeast. A lone Osprey wandered offshore in the Bering Sea to St. Paul Island 6-9 Jun (St. Paul Tour), where it represented a ninth for the Pribilofs and the frst in 19 years. Up to 2 Soras summered around Gustavus in n. Southeast 1 Jun–7 Aug (BBP), the season's only sightings of this rare migrant, summer visitor, and local breeder in Southeast. Three Sandhill Cranes found at the Castle River fats on Kupreanof Island in Southeast 29 Jul were present in the same area earlier in the season (BLH), which suggested local breed- ing. Pairs at Zarembo Island and Salmon Bay on Prince of Wales Island 1-3 Aug were presumed nesting (WM). Nesting cranes are rare and localized in s. Southeast and likely tabida/rowani Greater Sandhills. SHOREBIRDS THROUGH FALCONS Following the spring passage, Asian shore- birds were scarce. Notables included both late northbound birds and early returning adults. Most were reported from only typical Bering Sea and w. Aleutian sites, highlights of which included: an ad. Lesser Sand- Plover at St. Paul Island 12-14 Jul (St. Paul Tour), a frst Jul report there in a decade; a Terek Sandpiper around Gambell 2-4 Jun (Wings); a Gray-tailed Tattler at Barrow 6 Jun (TJD); a single Common Greenshank, islands in particular were productive for Palearctic migrants. GEESE THROUGH CRANES St. Paul birders noted a Taiga Bean- Goose 17 Jun (St. Paul Tour), the Pribilofs' ninth record. Un- seasonable Tundra Swans included 11 at Gambell, where uncommon in spring, 3 Jun (Wings), a pair on Kodiak's Lake Rose Tead 13-20 Jun (RAM, CT, MT), where they do not nest, and 3 summering at St. Paul Island, includ- ing 2 Bewick's (St. Paul Tour). Of the usual few extralimital Gadwall sightings, notable was a pair at Barrow 17-21 (TJD) & 27-29 Jun (VENT) that was joined by a female 29 Jun. A male Blue-winged Teal seen fy- ing with murres at Homer 7 Jun (BKP). Signifcant Aythya reports included a Com- mon Pochard on the Seward Peninsula at Nome's Safety Sound 4-5 Jun (ph. AJL, WT, EW, DH et al.) and a peak count of 11 summering Greater Scaup at St. Paul Island 2-4 Jul (St. Paul Tour), a very high summer tally there. A single Surf Scoter at St. Paul Island 24 Jun was joined by 2 others 28-29 Jun (St. Paul Tour), which tied the Pribilof high count for this rare summer Bering Sea species. Four Surf Scoters off Gambell 5 Jun (Wings) were equally uncommon from the Bering Strait vicinity. Two male stejnegeri White-winged Scoters were described from Gambell's Northwest Point 6-7 Jun (Wings, †JLD). Many of the handful of Alaska reports are from Gambell. A lone female Buffehead made an unusual summer report for Barrow 27-28 Jun (GB, VENT). A female Smew at St. George Island 3 Jul (CH) was only the Pribilofs' fourth in summer and the season's sole report. Very rare for the summer season was a female-type Hooded Merganser in An - chorage's Spenard Lake 31 May–7 Jun (JLD et al.). Most Hooded Merganser reports from South-coastal areas are fall birds near freeze- up. Mid-season surveys in the larger bays of nw. Prince William Sound produced a note- worthy count of 193 Common Mergansers (TLD, DC, SL), which likely included stag- ing nonbreeders and post-breeders. The spe- cies is typically sporadic, uncommon to rare, and well dispersed in the Sound and across South-coastal Alaska in midsummer. Gam- bell birders distinguished at least one male americanus Common Merganser at Gambell 5-7 Jun (Wings, †JLD), where the species is a very rare spring migrant. The Kenny Lake Ruddy Duck situation apparently included only a pair 9 Jun+ (LHD). Thede Tobish –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– T he Alaska bureau of the National Weather Service called summer 2014 the coldest, wettest, and warmest on record. The Region witnessed three distinct weather zones, including a band of sig- nifcantly warmer-than-average air over the westerly third of the state, from the North- west coast to the outer Southeast coast. Within this warm zone, average tempera- tures were off the charts from Kotzebue to St. Paul Island and onto the Alaska Peninsula to the Kenai Peninsula. East of this warm band, the northern coast beyond the Brooks Range divide was nearly record cool, for instance at Barrow, where the season's warmest day hit only 58° F. Chukchi Sea pack ice peaked at 160-220 km offshore, father than 2013 but closer than much of the past decade. Por- tions of the northern Interior were milder but wetter; for instance, Fairbanks had its wettest summer ever with 29.5 cm (11.63 in.) of rain. Portions of the eastern Interior were late to warm up into mid-June; focks of unpaired Trumpeter Swans were noted still staging or lingering at late opening lakes in the eastern Interior well into the second week of June. Compared to the rest of the state, seasonal precipitation was monstrous from Prince William Sound to Southeast, with record or near-record rainfall totals from most communities. Settled weather conditions were otherwise the norm for this summer. How this unusual summer weather im- pacted bird movements and breeding was not always clear. It was very likely an ear- ly out-migration for adult passerines and shorebirds, with a lack of summer storms making southbound movements easier. Shorebird staging numbers seemed rela- tively small at traditional sites, and the fall season's mixed passerine focks seemed to be moving earlier than usual. Most rarities were detected in early June, and the Bering Sea

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