North American Birds

VOLUME 69 No1 2016

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 38 of 179

V O L U M E 6 9 ( 2 0 1 5 ) • N U M B E R 1 37 T H E C H A N G I N G S E A S O N S : O U T P O S T S the Southwest and Alaska (again, ffth warm- est statewide, and warmest November ever at Homer). From the Rockies to the East, Novem - ber was remarkably colder than normal, a har- binger of another brutal winter to come in that part of the world. Alabama and Mississippi had their second-coldest Novembers on record, and some eighteen states from the Midwest to the Southeast were top-ten coldest. Precipitation to - tals were near average, with few extreme events mentioned, but because of the cold, the snow cover extent in November was the largest in the 49-year record (based on satellite data), about 640,000 km 2 above the 1981-2010 average in fact. Birders in the Buffalo, New York area will not soon forget the 165 cm (65 in.) of snow in that month. Alas, long-term drought continued across California and the Southwest, and the Drought Monitor remained almost unchanged, at 29.1% for the Lower 48, as Californians and others awaited arrival of the rains associated with the forecast El Niño winter. Tropical storm activity was not noteworthy in the Atlantic, but the Pacifc theatre was active. On 7 August, Tropical Storm Iselle made landfall on the big island of Hawaii, the strongest tropi - cal cyclone to make landfall there since Hurri- cane Iniki in 1992. The storm did some damage to property and habitat but had the positive ef - fect of alleviating the long-term drought condi- tions, with over a foot of rain measured in some places. In September, Hurricanes Norbert and Odile brought copious rain to the Southwest. On 7-8 September, remnants of Norbert pushed into Arizona, combining with the remains of Tropical Storm Dolly from the Gulf of Mexico to bring more than 15 cm (6 in.) of rain to Phoenix; more than half that amount fell in seven hours at the airport, making 8 September the rainiest day on record for the city. Meteorologists de - scribed this rainfall as a "thousand-year event." Category 3 Hurricane Odile hit Cabo San Lucas 14 September with sustained winds of 205 km/ hr (125 m.p.h.) and moved northward along the Baja California peninsula with hurricane-force winds 15 September, exiting land into the Gulf of California near Bahía de los Ángeles on 16 September. The storm wreaked havoc with the electrical grid and water supplies over a large portion of the peninsula, causing at least 1.22 billion dollars in damage, one of the worst in the history of Baja California Sur. Rains from the storm continued into the United States and soaked California and much of the Southwest with unseasonably strong thunderstorms. In early October, the remnants of Hurricane Simon did likewise, further ameliorating dry condi - tions in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Of great interest, and for the frst time of which we are aware, these decaying tropical systems in the Pacifc were credited with bringing birds to the Great Lakes region—and not seabirds. (Read on.) Finally, in early November, the decaying but very strong Super Typhoon Nuri moved into the western Aleutians and eventually battered west - ern Alaska, its pressure bottoming out at 924 mb, the record-lowest reading for the Bering Sea. By that time, visiting observers have long since departed most western Alaska outposts; but astute local birders on Unalaska Island, in the eastern Aleutians, discovered several very fancy waifs after the passage of Nuri, including a third state record. (Read on.) Canada's annual and autumn weather pat - terns mirrored those of the continental United States closely. Overall, the national average tem - perature for 2014 was 0.5° C above the base- line average (1961-1990 reference period), only the twenty-ffth warmest since records began in 1948, and autumn was also 0.5° C above the baseline average, making the season the thirty- third warmest on record. The year 2010 still holds title as the warmest year in Canada, and 1998 was the warmest autumn season. In au - tumn 2014, but also in 2014 as a whole, Brit- ish Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and parts of northern Québec logged above-average temperatures, whereas Ontario and the Prairie Provinces were below and Atlan - tic Canada near average. Only one of Canada's eleven climate regions, the Pacifc Coast, had a record-warmest autumn (at 1.6° C above aver - age), in keeping with the very warm autumn in Alaska and along the U.S. Pacifc Coast gener - ally. As a whole, Canada experienced slightly drier-than-average conditions in the year 2014, the twenty-second driest year in the 67-year record. Southern Manitoba and Ontario had slightly wetter-than-average conditions, whereas Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Ellesmere Island had drier-than-average conditions. The autumn season was similar, but southern Brit - ish Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta, eastern Ontario, and western Québec had wetter-than- average conditions, while the opposite was true in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Vagrancy: theories & strategies Vagrancy in birds is one of the most fascinating topics in feld ornithology, and it is certainly an important driver of birder behavior during much of the year, especially during fall migration. Re - search into vagrancy mechanisms has been on- going for decades, often associated with studies of avian migration in general. Much of the early work on this topic has been conducted in the United Kingdom and Europe (e.g., Vinicombe and Cottridge 1996). Since the 1970s, research in to such topics as mirror-image misorientation has been carried out in North America as well Figures 2, 3. North America's, and Alaska's, fourth record, this Wood Warbler was discovered on Adak in the central Aleutians 19 September 2014. Photographs by Franklin Haas. Figure 4. Most Alaska records of Taiga Flycatcher are from Bering Sea sites in spring. This immature, documented at St. Paul Island 18 September 2014, was one of two birds located in the area 18-22 September. Alaska's frst fall report came from Gambell in 2004. Photograph by Doug Gochfeld.

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