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.

Issue link: http://nab.aba.org/i/629070

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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 V O L U M E 6 9 ( 2 0 1 5 ) • N U M B E R 1 per Sparrow, Orchard Oriole, Brambling, and an exceptional November Purple Martin, among a suite of more regularly occurring rarities. Many birders pay close attention to these somewhat remote outposts for a vicarious thrill, but others watch the unfolding of the vagrant season with an eye to fnding a gem of their own, closer to home, "downstream" of the vagrant fow, as it were. And indeed, soon after the wag - tails and Bramblings hit Alaska and then British Columbia, others were turned up in proximal areas, such as the lovely White Wagtail at Salm - on Arm, a frst for the interior of British Colum- bia (Figure 14). Bramblings began appearing in the western Aleutians on Shemya Island about 17 September (2 birds), with 14 the next day and a seasonal peak of 45 counted 1 October, decreasing gradually to 2 birds 14 October. On Adak, the frst to arrive was 14 September. St. Paul Island recorded huge numbers, with the frst arrivals of the season on 13 September and a peak count of 45 on 19 September. On 24 September, Peter Leahy had six Bramblings land several decades in Alaska's Southeast, the late- fall period is good for late species and for eastern reverse or mirror-image vagrants. These south- central Alaska towns have now been likewise producing hummingbirds, a variety of late and eastern warblers (including a Cape May Warbler in 2014) and sparrows. Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) off the coast of British Columbia has al - ways seemed like a good bet to produce both Asian and eastern North American strays in fall, if only it could receive better coverage, and if some isolating, attractive habitat for migrants could be found there amongst the many miles of coastal rainforest. Those limitations have been partly solved by an increase in coverage by lo - cal and visiting birders and by their discovery of good migrant sites near Sandspit and Masset. In recent years, there have been multiple fall records of wagtails, Red-throated Pipits, Rustic Buntings, and Bramblings, and during autumn 2014 there was an Eastern Yellow Wagtail (Fig - ure 11) and a Brambling. Farther south still, a similar birding phenom - enon has been taking hold in recent years along the west shore of Vancouver Island, where the fall of 2014 netted White-winged Dove, Tropi - cal Kingbird, Brambling (Figure 12), and Lark Bunting. And still farther south, to the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula at Neah Bay, Washington, a substantial increase in observer coverage during the fall of 2014 was richly re - warded by the discovery of a Eurasian Hobby, a state-frst Lucy's Warbler, Slaty-backed Gull, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Figure 13), Grasshop - Island has excellent waterbird habitat, but its large size and very extensive tundra and scrub habitat lacks the concentrating effects that aid birders in fnding landbirds at Gambell and St. Paul. It has received variable birder visitation, mostly in spring, but some recent fall coverage as well, particularly by Isaac Helmericks and by Barb and Frank Haas, the fnders of the Septem - ber 2014 Wood Warbler. But the eastern Aleutians have largely been bypassed by birders, that is, until Dutch Harbor resident Suzi Golodoff greatly improved the cov - erage on Unalaska Island over the past several years. Along with several visiting birders, they have found a fair number of Alaska mainland warblers and sparrows in the three small, iso - lated Sitka Spruce groves planted by Russian fur traders and later by American GIs stationed there during World War II. In November 2014, the passage of two major storm systems from the west, including the extra-tropical but brutal remains of Super Typhoon Nuri, brought a Eur - asian Siskin to that same grove where a Dusky Thrush also was found and where the two White- winged Crossbills that arrived at the same time as the siskin might well have been Two-barred Crossbills, from Eurasia, currently considered a subspecies (bifasciata) of White-winged. Alaska has just two prior records of Eurasian Siskin and no certain records of Two-barred Crossbill (Gib - son and Withrow 2015). One just never knows what a hurricane's remains might fetch up. The Eurasian Siskin ended up spending the winter at Unalaska/Dutch Harbor and receiving visitors from as far away as Georgia. It is not surprising that Anchorage has more birders than any other site in Alaska, yet coverage of its birding sites just recently got a major boost by additional local birder activity. For many years, long-time Alaska regional editor Thede Tobish has been checking nooks, crannies, al - leyways, and parks in the city in late fall for late and vagrant passerines, and more recently other birders have joined in. Recent highlights have included a well-watched Dusky Thrush, Stone - chat, Red-throated Pipits, Tennessee and Palm Warblers, and Lazuli Bunting—although 2014 was somewhat slow in this regard, and the best that was found was a Chipping Sparrow. In just the past few years at Anchorage, spearheaded by Aaron Bowman, birders have discovered that "seawatching" near the top of Cook Inlet during southerly winds can sometimes produce good numbers of such coastal species as Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, jaegers, and Marbled Murrelet. Just a few hours away along the outer coast, the towns of Homer and Seward are fnally re - ceiving decent late-autumn coverage, perhaps spurred on by the November 2011 appearance of a Redwing at Seward. As has been known for Figure 13. This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, present at Neah Bay, Clallam County, Washington from 7-10 (here 7) November 2014, provided the fourteenth record for Washington. More signifcantly, study of the photographs of this individual, spe- cifcally ones showing the tail pattern, allowed confrmation of this being the eastern subspecies, caerulea. The subspecifc identities of previous Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in the state are unknown. Photograph by Brad Waggoner. Figure 12. This Brambling associated with juncos at Mount Tol - mie near Victoria, British Columbia for four days, photographed here 25 September 2014. Photograph by unknown photographer. 41

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