Over the past year, the New York State Avian Records Committee (hereafter
NYSARC or the Committee) deliberated on a total of 177 reports covering
93 separate species, an all-time high for the Committee. The reports
involved 78 separate sightings from 2001, an additional 16 reports from
previous years, 9 second-round and 6 third-round reviews from 2000, and
one second round from 1996. The increase in contributions is gratifying
and marks a steady upward trend in reporting. Ultimately this means that
the birding community is working together to create a more comprehensive
account of the New York State avifauna. Part of the increase reflects
the growing use of the Internet as a means to exchange birding information.
The Committee has made good use of this new medium to (i) highlight the
reporting procedure, (ii) provide a simple mechanism for submitting written
reports and other forms of documentation and (iii) remind birders of
the species requiring review that have been reported across the state.
Written descriptions and photographs were provided by 100 separate observers,
and one or more sightings were reported from 30 out of the 62 counties
in the state. Counties with the most reports were Suffolk (24), Nassau
(22) and Oswego (18), a notable shift from the previous few years. In
all, 158 reports (89%) were accepted and testifies to the high quality
of the majority of the submissions. 17 were not accepted because of insufficient
documentation or because the descriptions were inconsistent with known
identification criteria. Multiple reports were received for 37% of the
sightings, with 35 diligent individuals sending in two or more reports.
Sightings for which there are multiple submissions are invariably stronger
than those from a single person. Details in one account help fill in
the gaps in another, and where the descriptions overlap they provide
confirmation of the specific details. Too often observers assume that
someone else will submit a detailed report and forego the responsibility.
As a result, well-watched birds may be poorly documented or missed altogether.
All records are sight records unless otherwise indicated. For accepted
reports, the names of observers submitting documentation are given in
parenthesis and the names of all contributors are listed in full at the
end of the report. Occasionally, the names of the original finders (when
known) are given in the narrative that accompanies each species entry.
The records in this report are arranged taxonomically following the 44th
supplement to the AOU Check-List of North American Birds (Banks
et al. 2003). Those contributing photographs, video or sketches are given
special mention in the narrative. With the rapid advances in affordable
camera equipment, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of rare
species documented by still photography or video. It is hard to overstate
the value of photographs both as tools to identification and as a permanent
record of the sighting. Photographs do not need to be 'magazine quality'
and a simple ‘snap’ taken with an instamatic camera can often
capture critical information. This year we saw clear examples of documentation
using unsophisticated camera equipment. The taking of photographs by
holding a camera to the eyepiece of a telescope - a technique known as ‘digiscoping’ -
can be remarkably effective. Inexpensive digital cameras are particularly
good for this but the approach also works with conventional single lens
reflex (SLR) cameras. There are many web sites that offer advice on digiscoping
and we encourage readers to read the article by Rex Stanford in an earlier
issue of this journal (Stanford 2002). Digital images, imported directly
from the camera or from scanning of slides or prints can be sent to the
committee via e-mail. We will also accept copies of video or audiotapes.
Please note that all forms of multimedia documentation must be accompanied
by a written report.
All of the records reviewed by NYSARC (including written descriptions,
photographs, videotapes, and audio recordings), irrespective of acceptance,
are archived at Cornell University in Ithaca and are accessible to the
public upon request. The Committee may choose to revisit reports in the
light of new information.
Who should submit reports?
A common misconception persists that only the initial discoverer of
a bird should submit a report. In actuality, all observers of a rarity
(even if it is seen by hundreds of people) should submit written descriptions
and/or other forms of documentation (e.g. photographs, video or sketches).
As a good rule of thumb, never assume that others will submit anything!
A significant number of multi-observer sightings go undocumented and
complacency may be partly to blame. We often receive minimal reports
that presume that co-observers will provide the missing details. Sadly,
in some cases the more comprehensive reports have not materialized and
the abbreviated reports are not complete enough to stand on their own.
Submission of multiple independent reports provides a more compelling
and detailed account of the sighting, increasing the likelihood of acceptance.
Concern of over burdening the committee is not a tenable excuse.
The review process
We are often asked how the review process works and why it sometimes
takes so long. The process itself is relatively simple. When received
by the secretary, all reports are duplicated and transmitted to the seven
voting members of the committee who write detailed commentaries (known
as 'review sheets') and cast their votes independently. These are returned
to the secretary and the votes are tabulated. Each report is then listed
as 'accepted' or 'not accepted'. At least six committee members must
vote in the affirmative for an immediate accept; similarly if there are
five or more votes against, then the record is not accepted (see McGowan
and Burke 2000). If no consensus is reached, the reports are sent out
again along with the seven review sheets (so-called ‘second round‘).
This allows each committee member to consider the arguments made by the
other six before casting a second vote. If necessary, records may even
be circulated for a third time (‘third round’).
Another common concern is the length of time it takes for a report
to be reviewed and for NYSARC to publish its decision. First, as indicated
above, NYSARC receives a large number of reports and these take a considerable
amount of time for the secretary to compile, duplicate and distribute
and for each committee member to review carefully. For a fraction of
the reports, a decision is not reached in the first round of voting and
these must be re-circulated through the committee for a second and sometimes
third round of review, thus adding to the delay. Secondly, many reports
are received weeks or months after the sighting, and so we generally
cannot begin reviewing until well into the following year. We do our
best to work quickly but carefully. Prompt submission, careful preparation
of reports and, where possible, submission of multiple independent reports
will help us keep the lag to a minimum. The continued cooperation of
bird clubs and Regional editors in coordinating or encouraging submissions
is greatly appreciated.
How to submit reports
To learn how to prepare and submit a report, please visit the Federation
of New York State Bird Clubs web site (http://nybirds.org/NYSARC/index.htm).
The site also includes a regularly updated list of species reviewed by
NYSARC, information on the composition of the Committee, a gallery of
rare or unusual birds photographed in the state, and perhaps most importantly,
copies of previous annual reports. NYSARC encourages observers to submit
documentation for all species on the review list, as well as species
previously unrecorded in New York State. We also encourage observers
to read the article by committee member Willie D'Anna on the documentation
and reporting process (D'Anna 2003). The Committee is grateful to Carena
Pooth and Barbara Butler for redesigning and regularly updating the NYSARC
web site. Documentation (written and photographic) or correspondence
for the Committee should be sent to:
Secretary for NYSARC
420 Chili-Scottsville Road
Churchville, NY 14428
At the end of December 2002 Dr. Robert Andrle completed his current
term and rotated off the Committee. As regular readers of this report
will know, Bob Andrle has served on the Committee since its inception
in 1977. He was appointed as the Chair in 1988, replacing Fritz G. Scheider.
After more than a decade at the helm, Dr. Andrle stepped down as Chair
in 1999 but remained as a voting member until the beginning of this year.
We thank him for his many years of service to the Committee. Dominic
Sherony of Rochester replaces Dr. Andrle as one of the seven voting members
of the Committee.
Highlights of the 2001 Report
The highlights of 2001 were the additions of Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa
limosa), Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope)
and Hammond’s Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)
to the New York State Checklist. With these three new species, the
official state list rises to 460 species
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis hutchinsii)
2001-36-A Two individuals, Rt 77, Town of Alabama, Genesee Co., 1 Apr
(Willie D’Anna); 2001-46-A One, Point au Roche State Park, Buckmantown,
Clinton Co., 30 Oct, (David Hoag). Variously known as Hutchins's or
Richardson's Goose, this northern subspecies B. c. hutchinsii has
at times been treated as a distinct species known as Tundra Goose (Aldrich,
1946). Observers in western NY, principally in Region 1, are reporting
this form with increasing regularity. Often these reports involve small
flocks mixed with other Canada Geese. The Committee remains interested
in carefully documented reports of this taxon and other small Canada
Geese so that we can more accurately ascertain their occurrence in
New York State.
Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)
2001-8-A One, in a flock of ~2000 Snow Geese, on Six Corners Rd., Seneca
Co., 21 Mar (Matthew J. Williams); 2001-11-A/B One adult, near the
Village of Lyons, Wayne Co., 31 Mar -1 Apr, (Willie D’Anna, Kurt
Fox); 2001-51-A/B One on Hutton Rd., Oakfield, Genesee Co., 1 - 8 Apr,
(William Watson, Willie D’Anna); 2001-61-A One, Marratooka Lake,
Mattituck, Suffolk Co., 13 Dec, (Paul H. Gillen, Jr.); 2001-74-A One,
Smith Road, Town of Veteran, Chemung Co., 17 Mar (David Russell); 2001-76-A
One, Oakfield, Genesee Co., 31 Mar (Brendan Klick). The number of Ross's
Geese reported in the state continues to increase, perhaps a direct
reflection of the growth of the population as a whole. Increased observer
vigilance may also be a factor. Observers are still cautioned to consider
Ross’s x Snow Goose hybrids in their identification and pay special
attention to documenting the bill shape, size and detail.
Black Brant (Branta bernicla nigricans)
2001-24-A One, Jamaica Bay WR, Kings Co., 20 May, (Rex Stanford, Birgit
Stanford). This adult Black Brant was initially discovered by Angus
Wilson and Andy Guthrie on 19 May as it loafed with other Atlantic
Brant (Branta bernicla hrota) on the spit at Terrapin Point
near the refuge's West Pond. The bird was still present the next day
when it was studied and photographed by Rex and Birgit Stanford who
submitted an excellent report. The very dark upper and underparts,
extensive necklace and large bulky physique all suggest this was an
adult male - and support identification as a (Pacific) Black Brant,
as opposed to a hybrid, intergrade, or other form of brant. The status
of Black Brant in New York has been reviewed in Wilson and Guthrie
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
2001-5-A/F One male, Oswego Harbor, Oswego Co., 4 Feb to 6 Mar, (Bill
Purcell, Barbara Herrgesell, Kurt Fox, Dana Rohleder, Mary Alice Koeneke,
Tim Capone). This adult male was discovered by Jon Glase on 4 Feb 2001
and continued to 6 Mar. It frequented the inner section of Oswego Harbor
along with Lesser and Greater scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Redhead and
Common Goldeneye. The immaculate white flanks, solid dark mantle, absence
of vermiculations, purple gloss on the head, yellow iris and long crest
hanging from rear of crown were fully consistent with an adult male
Tufted Duck. Four excellent color photographs taken by Mary Alice Koeneke
supplemented the details provided in the written descriptions.
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacifica)
2001-72-A/B One, off Seatuck Creek, Eastport, Suffolk Co, 22-27 Dec,
(Steve Biasetti, Douglas J. Futuyma). It frequented the relatively
calm water of Moriches Bay and was seen by many local observers during
its stay to 27 Dec and perhaps beyond. Quite remarkably, considering
the date, it was in near-alternate plumage, making the identification
as a Pacific rather than Common or Red-throated relatively straightforward.
More complicated perhaps is separation from Arctic Loon, primarily
a Palearctic species that has not been recorded in New York. The absence
of a white flank patch at the waterline, very pale crown and nape and
very thin bill indicated a Pacific Loon. The status of Pacific Loon
in New York has recently been summarized in Dyer 2003.
White-faced Storm-Petrel (Pelagodroma marina)
2001-29-A One, pelagic 60 miles SSE of Shinnecock Inlet [coordinates
39° 28.919’ - 72° 12.255’ to 39° 29.138’ -
72° 14.443’], 23 Sep, (Orhan Birol); 2001-54-A One, on Hudson
Canyon, 4 Sep (Paul A. Guris). This was another banner year for White-faced
Storm-Petrels off New York. Both reports were accompanied by convincing
descriptions and the Hudson Canyon bird was supported by a video by
Paul Guris (2001-54-A). This species breeds on remote islets in the
eastern North Atlantic (principally the Azores and Cape Verde Islands)
as well as in the southern oceans.
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
2001-64-A/B One, Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, Tompkins Co., 19-20 Dec, (William
Watson, Michael Anderson); 2001-71-A One immature, over Lake Ontario
from Krull Park, Town of Newfane, Niagara Co., 3 Dec, (Brendan Klick).
The Cayuga Lake gannet was well described and supported by clear photos
by Peter Hosner. Brown Booby, the most plausible confusion species
was clearly eliminated and other boobies were also discussed. Presumably
this inexperienced first-year bird made its way down the St. Lawrence
Seaway into Lake Ontario and then across land to the top of Cayuga
Great White Heron (Ardea [herodias] occidentalis)
2001-13-A One, Wolfe’s Pond Park, Richmond Co., 2 Sep - 4 Nov,
(Christopher Nuzzi); 2001-40-A One, Gilgo Beach, Town of Babylon, Suffolk
Co., 8 - 23 Oct., (John Fritz). Since the 1950’s the Great White
Heron has been treated as a distinctive subspecies of the widespread
Great Blue Heron rather than a full species in its own right. They occur
most commonly in central and southern Florida as well as Cuba, the Isle
of Pines, coastal Yucatan and Quintana Roo and in Venezuela (AOU 1998).
After breeding, both adults and young disperse across the Florida peninsula
and states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Occasionally Great White Herons
wander into the Northeast and there are two or three previous reports
for New York. An article by Shai Mitra and John Fritz reviews the previous
records from New York and elsewhere (Mitra and Fritz 2002).
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)
2001-58-A One, west of Skaneateles Lake, Onondaga Co., 11 Dec (Margaret
Rusk). This very late Cattle Egret was studied as it walked and flew
behind some cattle in a pasture. Fortunately the cows were curious
about the observer and came over to say hello, bringing the attendant
egret closer. Identification of non-breeding egrets, such as this individual,
is always more problematic, but the description was fully compatible
with Cattle Egret and its association with cows clinched the identification!
The egret was reported by Dr. Ben Burtt on the Onondaga Audubon Society
Bird Box and had been present from 3 Dec.
Wood Stork (Mycteria americana)
2001-28-A/I Maximum of 16 individuals, at the home of Jeff & Sue
Dapolito and surrounding area, Clyde, Wayne Co., 15 Aug to 1 Sep, (Fay
Sedore, Sandra Sharp, Kayo Roy, Charles Spagnoli, Mary Alice Koeneke,
Robert Spahn, Leona Lauster, Kurt Fox, William Watson). This was an unprecedented
gathering of sixteen Wood Storks, all in their 2nd calendar year. Although
details were not submitted to NYSARC, three Wood Storks were observed
on Cranberry Pond near Braddock Bay on 28-29 Aug. This is 35 miles from
Clyde and it is tempting to speculate that these were some of the same
birds. When they departed at 9:30 AM on the 29th, the storks headed east.
The reasons for the incursion are unknown but possibly relate to the
extended drought in several southern states, although it is possible
these could have come from as far away as Mexico. For more discussion
see Sherony 2001.
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
2001-78-A One, Salmon River, Richland, Oswego Co., 28-29 Dec (Donald
Coogan). This Osprey was seen fishing over a stretch of open water
in the partly frozen Salmon River. Primarily a summer visitor, lingering
individuals do occasionally occur in coastal areas but to find one
in central NY at the end of December is most unusual.
Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus)
2001-10-A One, Weaver Rd., West Sayville, Suffolk Co., 13 Mar, (Robert
Edwards). This stunning raptor was first spotted by 12-year old Scott
Edwards who quickly alerted his father Robert. It was perched in a
maple tree and was being actively scolded by American Crows. As the
Edwards family, together with their neighbors the Walsh family, studied
the bird with binoculars, nine-year old Nick Walsh took some very useful
photos, which were submitted with the report. These clearly show the
bird’s puffed up white breast and belly feathering and very long
black forked tail and primary tips. The white head appeared tiny compared
to the body and very long tail. Although Swallow-tailed Kites wander
into the Northeast during the spring and summer, it's hard to explain
the occurrence of a bird on Long Island so early in the season. The
first reports from the Gulf Coast were around the same time, making
this a rather unique record. This species seems unlikely to be held
in captivity and the committee considered the chances of an escape
as low. More details on this sighting are given in Edwards (2001).
Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
2001-45-A One, Sands Point Preserve, Nassau Co., 28 Oct, (Glenn Quinn).
The observer studied this soaring hawk for 15 minutes and gave an excellent
description consistent with that of a sub-adult Mississippi Kite. In
the full fifteen minutes of observation, the bird was seen to flap
its wings only once. This long, slim-winged hawk had banding on the
tail consistent with the kite. Although soaring Peregrine Falcons have
a similar shape, the plumage details and overall structure provided
sufficient assurances that this was, indeed, a Mississippi Kite.
Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
2001-37-A/B One, dark morph, Braddock Bay State Park, Monroe Co., 8 Apr
(Michael Tetlow, Dominic Sherony); 2001-79-A One, dark morph, Derby
Hill, Oswego Co., 8 Apr (Gerard Phillips). Although treated separately
here, it seems possible that these two sightings of a dark-morph Swainson’s
Hawk relate to the same bird. The first (2001-37-A) passed over Braddock
Bay near Rochester at 2:00 PM and the second (2001-79-A) over Derby
Hill, some 80 miles to the east at 4:00 PM on the same afternoon. At
Derby Hill, the observatory's first dark morph Swainson’s was
seen soaring in a kettle of twenty-five Turkey Vultures. Interestingly,
more than 1,300 Turkey Vultures were recorded that day, an observatory
record. Records of Swainson's Hawk are becoming increasingly frequent
in New York and eastern North America as a whole (Dodge and Nicoletti,
1998; England et al. 1997). Whether the increase in reports is due
to a range expansion, increased vigilance (such as more hawkwatches
or improved knowledge on the part of field observers) is unclear.
Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
2001-21-A One, light morph, Palmer Rd., Gansevoort, Saratoga Co., 10
Jul, (Barbara Putnam). The Rough-legged Hawk was studied with binoculars
for 10 minutes as it circled directly over the road then out over a
field where it hovered briefly. Key points supporting the identification
were the dark wrist patches, very dark belly and predominantly white
tail with one large dark terminal band. Although familiar during the
winter months, Rough-legged Hawks are very rare in NY during the summer,
and reports during that season probably mostly relate to juvenile Red-tailed
Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
2001-3-A/H One, Little Sodus Bay, Cayuga Co., 4 Feb through to 10 Mar,
(Mary Alice Koeneke, Barbara Herrgesell, Bill Purcell, Charles C. Spagnoli,
Tim Capone, Alison Van Keuren, Bernie Carr, Willie D’Anna). This
immature Gyrfalcon was studied by a number of observers during the
morning of its discovery as it perched in trees overlooking the partly
frozen bay and then when the bird was out on the ice. The falcon tried
to carry away a partly frozen waterfowl carcass that was embedded in
the ice but was unsuccessful. Instead, it consumed a large part of
it in situ. This large and powerful falcon even defended the
carcass from an immature Bald Eagle. Sketches from Mary Alice Koeneke,
Alison Van Keuren and Willie D’Anna and two rather distant color
photographs by Mary Alice Koeneke accompanied the written reports.
The Gyrfalcon was re-sighted on a number of other occasions during
the rest of the month to 10 Mar 2001.
Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)
2001-27-A/C One, Sandy Pond, Town of Sandy Pond, Oswego Co., 10-11 Aug,
(Barbara Herrgesell, Margaret Rusk, Bill Purcell). This Piping Plover
was studied with five Semipalmated Plovers, providing a perfect opportunity
to compare size and upper-part coloration. Interestingly, in 1984 a
pair bred at this same locality and this was the last inland breeding
record for the state. The inland breeding population of Piping Plover
nests on beaches from eastern Alberta to the shores of Lake Ontario,
and this species is designated as “Endangered”. Because
Piping Plovers occur more frequently on Lake Erie than Lake Ontario,
it is generally assumed, but not proven, that these records involve
birds from the inland rather than coastal population.
American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)
2001-43-A One, Village pier in Piermont, Rockland Co., 7 Oct (Carol Weiss).
This avocet was seen feeding with its characteristic side-to-side sweeping
action on a patch of exposed mud along the shore of the Hudson River.
It remained until 27 Oct and was seen by many observers.
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
2001-12-A/G One, breeding-plumaged male, Seatuck Creek, Eastport, Suffolk
Co., 5-14 Apr, (Paul H. Gillen, Jr., Michael Higgiston, Jennifer Hanson,
Arie Gilbert, Yolanda Garcia, Rex & Brigit Stanford, Willie D’Anna).
While checking a small muddy creek that often holds migrant shorebirds,
Paul H. Gillen Jr. happened upon a large and brightly colored shorebird,
which he quickly identified as a near-alternate plumaged adult Black-tailed
Godwit. He contacted Tony Lauro, who quickly spread the news through
the local birding community and then rushed down to see the godwit
himself, and confirm the identification. A major ‘twitch’ ensued,
with hundreds of birders from all over the Northeast and beyond traveling
to Eastport to enjoy this spectacular wader. Color photographs were
quickly posted on the web. The seven reports we received
an open question. This is the first record for New York. More information
is provided in Gillen (2001).
an excellent documentation of this wonderful bird. There are three
subspecies of Black-tailed Godwit and these can often be distinguished
in the field. In this case, the very strongly red rather than orange
tones and boldly marked tertials fit the Icelandic breeding form
(islandica) perfectly. The nominate form (limosa)
which breeds primarily in continental Europe tends to be paler
and lankier. The Siberian Black-tailed Godwit (melanuroides)
is similar to islandica in redness but has darker upper
parts and is appreciably shorter legged. Many are also shorter
billed. With the exception of occasional spring overshoots to western
Alaska, Black-tailed Godwits have been recorded fewer than 50 times
in North America. They are most frequent in the maritime provinces
of Canada in the spring, and most likely represent Icelandic birds
that have been displaced on their return from wintering grounds
in the British Isles. Some birds seem to be disorientated and continue
down the Atlantic seaboard and there are records from a number
of eastern states including Florida and more recently, Trinidad
and Tobago in the Caribbean. Whether the Eastport bird was a northbound
migrant that had already spent the winter in
the Americas or a very early migrant that had overshot Iceland
and traveled south remains
Godwit (2001-12 A/G)
Eastport, Suffolk Co.
Sketch © copyright of Yolanda Garcia.
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)
2001-16-A/C One, mouth of Great Chazy River, Town of Champlain, Clinton
Co., 6-8 May, (Charles W. Mitchell, William Krueger, Judith & Roger
Heintz). These carefully written and convincing reports described a
Marbled Godwit that accompanied some Greater and Lesser yellowlegs
in a pasture. The godwit was identified by virtue of its larger size,
marbled upperparts, cinnamon axillaries and underwing coverts, and
long bicolored and slightly upturned bill. In flight, the dark legs
extended beyond the tail.
Pomarine Jaeger (Stercorarius pomarinus)
2001-73-A One, Lake Champlain off Pt. au Roche, Clinton Co., 13 Jul,
(David Hoag). The only jaeger species routinely found in the lower
forty-eight states during summer is Pomarine and there has been at
least one other summer record for this species in New York State. This
light phase adult was seen in lumbering flight between New York and
Vermont over Lake Champlain. The overall description clearly identified
this bird as a jaeger. The flight style, physical size, and plumage
characteristics were sufficient for the committee to accept the observer's
conclusions that it was a Pomarine rather than a Parasitic or Long-tailed
. Two other jaeger sightings, possibly Pomarines, were mentioned but
not described in enough detail to be identified with confidence.
Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)
2001-38-A One, Hamlin Beach State Park, Monroe Co., 29 Aug, (Dominic
Sherony); 2001-39-A One, seen from a ferry crossing Long Island Sound,
Suffolk Co., 27 Aug, (Dennis Mildner); 2001-55-A One juvenile, on an
organized pelagic, (Paul A. Guris). The sighting from Lake Ontario
(2001-38-A) was made by two people for a very brief time as a fly-by.
Long-tailed Jaegers are rarely reported on Lake Ontario, but there
have been more reports in recent years, mostly because observers are
watching the lake earlier in the fall. This species usually occurs
in late August. This bird's grayish head contrasting with the darker
body was an important feature that weighed heavily with the committee's
decision to accept this submission. The sighting on Long Island Sound
(2001-39-A) was of an adult with the extended central tail feathers.
Although this report was brief, the committee accepted it on the basis
of the plumage description. The third report was very detailed. The
pale gray head of this immature bird was a convincing field characteristic
and the plumage of this bird was also well- described.
Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)
2001-50-A Seven adults, Lock #7, Mohawk River, Schenectady Co., 28 Jul,
(Robert P. Yunick). This group of seven adult Laughing Gulls was observed
floating on the barge canal of the Mohawk River and in the company
of Ring-billed Gulls. The well-defined black heads, dark mantle and
black wing tips ruled out other possibilities. Laughing Gulls are uncommon
away from the coast and this is a particularly impressive number of
Black-tailed Gull (Larus crassirostris)
2001-2-A/B One, Jones Beach, Nassau Co., 1 Jan, (Thomas W. Burke, Douglas
J. Futuyma). Scanning the marshes north of Jones Beach State Park,
Tom Burke and Gail Benson spotted a small dark-mantled gull some distance
(1/4 mile) across a marine channel. Suspecting it was a Black-tailed
Gull on the basis of its relatively small size and long-winged appearance,
the observers kept watch on the bird, which came closer (500 ft) as
it fed in the channel. The description provided critical details needed
to secure the identification, such as the sharply defined subterminal
tail band and the strong white trailing edge of the secondaries and
inner primaries. Unfortunately the fading afternoon light hampered
efforts to determine bill and leg color. Important alternatives (Lesser
Black-backed, Laughing, Olrog's and Band-tailed) were discussed and
can be ruled out. Interestingly, another group of birders reported
a Black-tailed Gull - most likely the same individual - from nearby
Point Lookout but failed to submit a report. This is the second record
for NY State.
California Gull (Larus californicus)
2001-65-A/B One, basic, Robert Moses Power Plant, Niagara River, Niagara
Co., 11 Nov, 1,2,8,9 Dec, (Willie D’Anna). Adult California Gulls
are now being seen annually on the Niagara River. The two reports received
discuss one adult seen on several dates and two adults seen on 2 Dec
.The descriptions provided discussed the size, mantle color, bill markings,
leg color, iris color, and wing pattern and leave little doubt about
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)
2001-66-A/B Two, Montauk Point, Suffolk Co., 4-11 Feb, (Andrew Guthrie,
Angus Wilson). Discovered by Bob Kurtz, these murres were seen on the
ocean by many observers to the west or south of the lighthouse. The
detailed descriptions carefully ruled out the most likely confusion
species, Common Murre and Razorbill, and hit on all the key points,
notably the diagnostic pale tomium stripe, stout bill shape, and shape
of divide between dark neck and white breast.
Long-billed Murrelet (Brachyramphus perdix)
2001-56-A/D One, south end of Cayuga Lake, Ithaca, Tompkins Co.,
17-18 Dec, (Kevin & Jay McGowan, Kurt Fox, Curtis Marantz, Matthew
J. Williams). Steve and Taylor Kelling discovered a small alcid on 17
Dec 2001. Suspecting they had found a murrelet, the Kellings promptly
alerted the local birding community, but it was not until noon that the
murrelet was refound and, only then, seen well enough to be positively
identified as a Long-billed. The bird remained until 20 Dec and was seen
by many local and visiting birders during its stay. The observers listed
above are to be commended for providing a particularly detailed set of
written descriptions, supported by equally informative digiscoped images
taken by Jay and Kevin McGowan under less than ideal conditions. For
a detailed account by the discoverers see Kelling and Kelling (2002).
Until recently, the AOU lumped Long-billed and Marbled as a single species.
Good arguments were made to split the two on the basis of phylogenetic,
evolutionary and biological criteria (Patten 1997; Friesen et al. 1996).
The pattern of the head and neck provides the best clue that the Cayuga
Lake bird was a Long-billed Murrelet. The dark feathering follows a continuous
line from the bill through the eye and down the neck. The corresponding
line on a Marbled Murrelet would be expected to bulge backward on the
side of the neck and forward on the side of the breast. The longish bill
and white eye-arcs, which are clearly evident in the photographs, also
support the identification. For discussion of the identification and
vagrancy of Long-billed and Marbled Murrelets see the excellent article
by Steven Mlodinow (1997). There are about 50 North American records,
and this is the 2nd for New York.
White-winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica)
2001-23-A/B One, East Lake Rd., Oswego, Oswego Co., 9 May, (David Cowell,
Gerard Phillips); 2001-68-A One, at feeder in Cedarhurst, Nassau Co.,
13 Oct, (Cindy Wodinsky). The dove on May 9th (2001-23-A/B) was described
well by voice and plumage. It was found during the late evening at
Region 5’s lamented Niagara Mohawk Energy Information Center.
This migrant hot spot was noted locally for superb fall outs of passerines,
but is now off limits to the public. The dove, last of a growing list
of rarities recorded at this location, was not relocated the following
day. For more details of the Nassau Co. dove (2001-68-A) see Wodinsky
Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula)
2001-4-A/E One, Bloomingdale Bog, Franklin Co., 1-27 Jan, (Kurt Fox,
Alison Van Keuren, Jay McGowan, Willie D’Anna, Angus Wilson);
2001-17-A/C One, Plattsburg, Clinton Co., 21Jan.-3 Mar, (Judith & Roger
Heintz, Nancy Olsen, Charles W. Mitchell). The winter of 2000-2001
was a good one for birders seeking this enigmatic visitor from the
north. Both Northern Hawk Owls were discovered within a two week period
(30 Dec for the Franklin Co. bird and 13 Jan for the Clinton Co. bird)
and perhaps encouraged by handouts in the form of domestic mice, remained
for several weeks. The Bloomingdale Bog bird (2001-4-A/E) was especially
cooperative, frequenting an abandoned but accessible railway grade
and was enjoyed by many visiting birders during its month long stay.
Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus)
2001-22-A/D One, Tifft Nature Preserve, Buffalo, Erie Co., 5-6 May, (Robert
Andrle, Willie D’Anna, William Watson, Brendan Klick); 2001-33-A/C
One, Manitou Rd., Town of Greece, Monroe Co., 27 Mar, (Robert Spahn,
Carolyn Cass, Kurt Fox). The Erie Co. owl was found by Robert Andrle
and immediately shown to Brendan Klick who happened to be leading a
field trip to the preserve. After some study, the bird was identified
as a Boreal Owl rather than a Saw-whet. Clearly identifiable color
photos submitted by Robert Andrle and Doug Happ supplemented these
well-written and convincing reports. Many birders also saw the Monroe
Co. owl. Although no photographs were submitted, the detailed reports
described its larger size compared to a nearby Saw-whet Owl, the broken
border to the facial disk, presence of white speckles on forehead and
the pale bill.
Hummingbird (Stellula calliope)
2001-49-A/E Two individuals, Fort Tryon Park, Manhattan, New York
Co., 2-8 Dec (Douglas J. Futuyma, Arie Gilbert, Sean Sime, Paul
Lehman, Jennifer Hanson). Two hummingbirds frequenting the late-blooming Salvia at
Fort Tryon in upper Manhattan from at least 21 Nov were looked
at more critically on the afternoon of 1 Dec and found not to be
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds. As a result, several birders gathered
at the site on 2 Dec, were treated to wonderful views of the hummingbirds,
and determined that they were two Calliope Hummingbirds, both immature
males. One or both hummingbirds continued to frequent the gardens,
to the delight of many visiting birders, up to 25 Dec, with the
last sighting of one apparently on 27 Dec. Excellent photos by
Sean Sime and video by Paul Lehman accompanied these reports, as
did sketches by Douglas Futuyma and Jennifer Hanson. Among the
key points of identification for these two small, compact hummingbirds
were the wings extending somewhat beyond the tail at rest, and
a notable rufous tinge along the flanks and some rufous at the
base of the tail feathers, though in neither case was the rufous
as extensive or intense as on a Rufous/Allen's Selasphorus hummingbird.
One of these males was also distinguished by one exceptionally
long gorget feather of the type displayed by adult males, which
at certain angles showed the purplish-red color shown by Calliopes.
This is a first record for New York State, and more detail appears
in Mitra and Bochnik (2001).
Calliope Hummingbird (2001-49-A/E)
Fort Tryon Park
Manhattan, New York Co.
Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus)
2001-67-A/B One, Lenoir Nature Preserve, Westchester Co., 17
Nov to 5 Jan 2002, (Michael Bochnik, Kevin & Jay McGowan).
This long staying and very well-studied Selasphorus hummingbird
frequented the late-blooming Lobelia flowers of the
butterfly garden at Lenoir Nature Preserve. After an absence
over New Year, what is presumed to be the same bird made a
brief re-appearance at a nearby feeder. The central issue is
separation of Rufous Hummingbird from the very similar Allen's.
Both reports provided multiple photographs, some of which are
of outstanding quality. The scattering of iridescent feathers
on the throat and mixture of rufous and green feathering on
the back suggest this was a first-fall male. Photographs provided
with both reports managed to show the spread tail including
the critical rectrix 5. To facilitate the review, the McGowan
report included a very useful set of reference photos showing
spread tails of specimens of both species. The difference in
the width of R5 is very evident in the specimens, and it is
clear from this comparison that the Yonkers bird was an excellent
match to the Rufous specimens.
Rufous Hummingbird (2001-67-A/B)
Lenoir Preserve, Westchester Co.
©Kevin & Jay McGowan
Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)
2001-15-A/B One, adult, Fort Drum Military Base, Jefferson Co., 1-2 May,
(Nick Leone, Jeffrey S. Bolsinger). The Lewis's Woodpecker was discovered
during an organized survey of Red-headed Woodpeckers on the Wheeler-Sack
Army Airfield at Fort Drum . It perched at the top of a tree in a small
open area. Typical for this western species, it performed numerous
towering flights to catch insects, but was also seen gleaning insects
from dead wood in more traditional fashion. The bird was seen by a
number of local birders during the day as well as the following morning
but sadly not located thereafter. These excellent reports provided
detailed descriptions of the plumage including the pink belly; wedge-
shaped tail, gray upper breast, and crow-like appearance in flight.
This is the fourth record for New York State.
Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus)
2001-69-A One, at a feeder in Plymouth Reservoir, Chenango Co., last
week Aug for 3-4 days., (Francis Hailey). Black-backed Woodpeckers
are known to wander more during the winter in search of better food
sources though they are rarely recorded. It is therefore not altogether
surprising that one might show up somewhere in the state outside of
the Adirondacks. This bird was seen for several days and observed for
extended periods on each encounter. The black back and barred flanks
as well as size were described.
Flycatcher (Empidonax hammondii)
2001-44-A/C One, Jones Beach State Park, Nassau Co., 26 & 27
Nov, (John Fritz, Douglas J. Futuyma, Angus Wilson). First
discovered by John Fritz, who together with Doug Futuyma correctly
identified the bird as a Hammond's Flycatcher. They quickly spread
the news enabling many local birders to be on site first thing
the next morning. Identification of Empidonax flycatchers
in the fall is notoriously difficult and should always be approached
with caution. Within hours of the sightings on the second day,
photographs were posted on the web and elicited expert commentary
from observers intimately familiar with Western, Least, Hammond's
and Dusky flycatchers. Field observations and photographs confirmed
that the lower mandible was pale, consistent with a first-year
rather than adult. The small size and prominent eye- ring ruled
out Acadian and Willow/Alder. The shape of the eye ring was not
correct for Western Flycatcher and the throat lacked the appropriate
yellow wash. Least Flycatcher presented a significant concern but
the long primary projection and smaller, straight-edged bill argued
against this. Lastly the plumage appeared freshly molted, consistent
with pre-migration molt of Hammond's Flycatcher (Pyle 1997). There
was precedent for vagrancy of this species into the Northeast and
this is a classic time of year for western vagrants. This is the
first record for New York State, and is described more fully in
Fritz and Futuyma (2002).
Hammond's Flycatcher (2001-44-A/E)
Jones Beach State Park, Nassau Co.
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
2001-77-A One, Democrat Point, Fire Island, Suffolk Co., 25 - 26 May,
(Shaibal S. Mitra, Patricia Lindsay). This rare but regular straggler
was well-observed flying and perched at Democrat Point near Fire Island
Inlet. Most sightings of this species are in fall; Bull's Birds of
NYS (Levine 1998) lists six spring sightings. The bird was seen well
and other Tyrannus Kingbirds were eliminated by structural and
plumage characteristics. Several people again observed this bird the
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
2001-34-A/C One, Stillwater Rd., Town of Carlton, Orleans Co., 19 May,
(Robert Spahn, Willie D’Anna, Michael Morgante). This Loggerhead
Shrike was documented by a set of excellent reports, which clearly
ruled out the more regular Northern Shrike. The critical identification
points were the relatively wide mask that fully surrounded the eye,
little if any white between upper border of mask and gray cap, and
a comparatively stubby black bill. These experienced observers also
considered the upperparts darker gray than expected for Northern Shrike.
Sadly, the Loggerhead Shrike continues to decline in the Northeast
and, although once a breeding species, has become quite rare in New
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
2001-75-A One, near Pane Lake, Antwerp, Jefferson Co., 18 & 21 Nov,
(Nick Leone). This report provided a good description of an adult or
perhaps first-winter Gray Jay. Although the location is not too far from
the boreal forests of the Adirondacks, it is not inconceivable that this
bird wandered down from the core range in Canada.
Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva)
2001-47-A/D One, Jones Beach State Park, Nassau Co., 11 Nov, (Diana Teta,
Steven D’Amato, Seymour Schiff, Kevin O’Leary); 2001-60-A/C
Two individuals, Round Pond, Town of Greece, Monroe Co., 8-9 Oct. (Kurt
Fox, Jeanne Skelly, Dominic Sherony). The reports, drawings and descriptions
of both sightings provided strong support for the identifications and
carefully eliminated Cliff Swallow, the most likely confusion species.
The two individuals in the Town of Greece (2001-60-A/B/C) were found
on Round Pond, just south of Lake Ontario, by David Tetlow, and were
seen by numerous observers, with one bird remaining for a second day.
The bird at Jones Beach West End (2001-47-A/D) was only seen for a
few passes over a period of a couple of hours. The overall descriptions
did not allow separation by race (a more difficult endeavor than most
field guides let on), but left no doubt about the species identification.
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
2001-42-A One, Smith Point County Park, Suffolk Co., 17 Sep, (Daniel
Stoebel). Paul Maldonado originally reported this Northern Wheatear
at Smith Point County Park on 16 Sep, and it was relocated and studied
by Daniel Stoebel the following day. A particularly cooperative bird,
the wheatear provided nice views while remaining in the area at least
until 22 Sep, during which time it was seen and photographed by many
additional birders. The details of the plumage were well described.
According to Bull's Birds of New York State (Levine 1998), sixty-five
percent of all Northern Wheatear sightings from NYS occur in the month
Townsend’s Solitaire (Myadestes townsendi)
2001-57-A/H Bond Lake County Park, Lewiston, Niagara Co., 23 Dec to 18
Jan 2002, (Willie D’Anna, Michael Morgante, Gerry Rising, Kurt
Fox, Curtis Marantz, Brendan Klick, Kevin McGann). Dave Muller found
the bird on 5 Dec, but it was five days before he could firmly identify
it as a Townsend's Solitaire. After an interval of almost three weeks,
Willie D'Anna relocated the solitaire on 23 Dec and it remained until
23 Feb 2002. Key features supporting the identification were the bold
white eye- ring, pale buff patch at base of primaries, thin white wing
bar on the greater coverts and the white outer tail feathers most evident
in flight. During its protracted stay, the solitaire was often observed
perched on the tops of trees and fruiting bushes and was seen eating
grapes and berries. On some occasions it was heard singing, suggesting
it might have been a male. Convincing color photographs contributed
by Willie D'Anna and Kevin McGann supported the well-prepared descriptions.
Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)
2001-59-A One, Montgomery, Orange Co., 13 Dec, (John Tramontano). Wood
Thrushes are Neotropical migrants wintering outside North America and
reports for the late fall and winter warrant review. This thrush was
observed on two occasions, once with a Hermit Thrush, offering useful
comparison. The superficially similar Brown Thrasher can be ruled out
on several counts and the more exotic possibility of a Fieldfare, something
to be considered in winter, could be eliminated by the color of the
Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus)
2001-41-A One, Hamlin Beach State Park, Monroe Co., 22 Sep, (Robert Spahn).
This Bohemian Waxwing was heard, then seen flying over the observers
with several Cedar Waxwings. This is a very early date for this uncommon
Tennessee Warbler (Vermivora peregrina)
2001-62-A One, Park Station, Chemung Co., 2 Dec, (David Russell). The
combination of grayish cap, whitish underparts and white supercilium
supported the identification of this warbler as an adult Tennessee
rather than Orange-crowned Warbler. There are very few winter records
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)
2001-26-A One male, Central Park, New York Co., 20 Jun, (Todd Olson).
First heard singing and then studied with binoculars. The detailed
description was consistent with an adult male. The late-spring/early-summer
date is unexpected and suggests a bird that might have wintered in
Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus)
2001-18-A One, Miner Rd, Town of Scriba, Oswego Co., 14 Apr, (Mary
Alice Koeneke). Five excellent color photographs nicely complemented
the observer's written description. The distinctive head pattern, discrete
breast spot and white outer edges to the tail including ‘tear drop'
marks at the tip firmly ruled out other sparrows and larks. The rich
chestnut on the head and lack of streaking indicates adult plumage, which
is to be expected in spring.
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)
2001-52-A/D Two, Cayuga Pool, Iroquois NWR, Genesee Co., 8-10 Oct, (Willie
D’Anna, Kurt Fox, William Watson, Brendan Klick). An excellent
set of reports in which at least 2 (possibly 4) adults studied in great
detail. Enough details were provided in the descriptions to firmly
eliminate subvirgatus, which is duller with less prominent white
stripes on back but not to separate nominate nelsoni from alterus.
The observers took care to set out the key points of separation from
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, specifically the less-defined streaks
extending along the flanks and the comparatively smaller bill.
Chestnut-collared Longspur (Calcarius ornatus)
2001-1-A/B One, Jones Beach State Park, Nassau Co., 5 Jan, (Thomas W.
Burke, John Fritz); 2001-7-A/B One, Jones Beach State Park, Nassau
Co., 18 & 20 Feb, (Alvin Wollin, Seymour Schiff). The first (2001-1-A/B)
of these two sighting was made under difficult conditions just before
dusk. Initially there was some uncertainty and the identification was
only clinched by careful review of the literature and museum specimens.
After a significant interlude a similar bird (2001-7-A/B) was seen
with Lapland Longspurs near the site of the first sighting. It seems
likely but is not proven that these two reports refer to the same bird.
These reports constitute the sixth, and possibly seventh, record for
Reports Accepted but Origins Uncertain
Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)
2001-32-A One, Town of Somerset, Niagara Co., 15 Jul, (William Watson).
Although the detailed description was good for a Gyrfalcon, the extraordinary
date rang alarm bells within the committee. This concern turned out
to be warranted when Willie D'Anna reported in a follow-up message
that analysis of his video of the bird revealed a small non-Fish & Wildlife
Service band on one leg. From this, the committee concluded that this
was most likely an escaped falconry bird. In recent years, at least
one captive Gyrfalcon has been reported lost in the state, however,
there is no reason to assume this highly mobile species could not wander
in from elsewhere.
Ross’s Goose (Chen rossii)
2000-9-A One, Biddelcum Pond, Town of Schroeppel, Oswego Co., 11 Mar,
(Bill Purcell). This report went for three rounds of review due in
large part to the wording of the relative size comparisons, which implied
that the bird was on the large side for a pure Ross’s. In addition,
there was no description of the shape of line of demarcation between
the base of the bill and the face. Both factors justifiably prompted
concern whether the bird could perhaps have been a Ross’s x Snow
Goose hybrid. Given the now regular occurrence of pure Ross’s
in the state and very few reports of hybrids, it was felt in the end
that the identification was more than likely correct.
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
2000-4-B One male, St. Lawrence River, Jefferson Co., 26 Feb, (Charles
Spagnoli). This was a late report of a bird that was previously accepted
by the Committee. The Tufted Duck was discovered and photographed by
Nick Leone on 29 Jan, 2000. The current report established that this
was likely the same bird and extended the dates of occurrence to 26
Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis)
2000-76-A 30+ birds, Fishkill, Dutchess Co., 31 Dec, (Edmond Spaeth).
The unusually warm December may have been a factor in the late occurrence
of this extraordinary flock. Though there has since been a January
sighting in Chautauqua County (Morgante 2002), the Fishkill birds unquestionably
involve a record number of Sandhill Cranes in New York.
Long-tailed Jaeger (Stercorarius longicaudus)
2000-83-A One adult, Democrat Point, Suffolk Co., 14 Jun, (Shaibal S.
Mitra). Although this report was written well after the fact, field
notes from the day of observation were convincing. The Long-tailed
was accompanied by an adult dark morph Parasitic Jaeger. The paler
grayer mantle with contrasting darker flight feathers, neat black cap,
and absence of a dark breast-band on the Long-tailed, as well as smaller
size, were all observed.
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus)
2000-82-A/B One adult, Conesus, Livingston Co., 2 Aug, (Mark
Deprez, Kurt Fox). Mark Deprez first discovered this flycatcher
and also submitted color photographs. The bird was actually
identified later by Jim Kimball. Kurt Fox forwarded additional
photographs to the committee. The images clearly show an adult
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher as indicated by the red-pink underwing
and flanks. Unfortunately, no other details of the sighting
near Conesus, Livingston Co.
1999 Reports Accepted
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla arenacea)
1999-78-A One, Tobay Beach, Nassau Co., 24 Oct, (Shaibal S. Mitra, Patricia
Lindsay). These reports from two experienced observers described a
Field Sparrow that showed characters of the subspecies arenacea,
the race that breeds in the Great Plains. The bird appeared pale overall,
especially on the underparts, with a uniformly gray face lacking discernable
rusty patterning on the cheeks. The crown appeared unstreaked and less
rusty than on typical eastern birds (S. p. pusilla) at this
time of year. Unfortunately, the literature on field identification
of the two Field Sparrow subspecies is limited. Byers et al. (1995),
Rising (1996) and Beadle and Rising (2001) mention that in arenacea the
wings and tail are longer and the plumage is grayer, lacking much of
the rusty tones seen in typical pusilla. These sources also
mention intergradation between the two forms, but provide little detailed
information regarding the abruptness of the boundary zone. As the observers
acknowledge, David Sibley in his field guide (Sibley 2000) makes the
unqualified statement that gray birds occur in pusilla (i.e.
east of where the two forms are known to intergrade in Oklahoma). Given
the uncertainties in the true extent of plumage variation within eastern
populations, one committee member expressed general concerns regarding
the ability to distinguish variability within pusilla from a
true arenacea without the benefit of measurements. However,
the committee in general felt that the details provided were sufficient
to document the first occurrence of the subspecies arenacea in
New York. The observers are to be commended for bringing the occurrence
of this poorly known subspecies to public attention and the committee
looks forward to additional reports of possible arenacea, preferably
with supportive measurements and/or photographs.
Western Kingbird (Tyrannus verticalis)
1998-90-A One, Fire Island Lighthouse, Suffolk Co., 19 Jun, (Shaibal
S. Mitra). Other Tyrannus were satisfactory excluded. A total
of 16 sightings of Western Kingbirds were reported in the east during
May and June of 1998, indicating an unprecedented seasonal incursion.
Hoary Redpoll (Carduelis hornemanni)
1998-89-A Four individuals, Bethel Corners, Oswego Co., 22 Jan - 10 Feb,
(Gerard Phillips). This excellent report documents at least four exilipes Hoary
Redpolls that were studied in the company of 300 or more Common Redpolls.
The written details were accompanied by color photographs, which supported
the identification, showing the barely streaked undertail coverts and
general frosty looking appearance, along with other appropriate field
Le Conte’s Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)
1995-53-A/B One, Zach’s Bay, Jones Beach, Nassau Co., 15 Nov, (David
Klauber, Howard Boltson). These belated reports describe a migrant sparrow
studied at close range in late fall together with a Grasshopper Sparrow.
The observers noted the bright orange face, gray/brown ear patch, white
stripe extending through the middle of the otherwise black crown, unique
pinkish nape striping, and presence of distinct streaks on the flanks.
In addition the tips of the tail feathers differed in shape from those
of the accompanying Grasshopper Sparrow. These details are consistent
with a LeConte's Sparrow and rule out other possibilities including the
Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana)
1983-41-A One, Montauk Point, Suffolk Co., 9 Dec, (Paul H. Gillen, Jr.).
This submission came in response to a call for records from any year.
The description was a good fit for a first-winter male. The bird was
bright yellowish with a hint of red feathering at the base of the bill.
Although the color of the wings was not discussed, they showed two
obvious wing bars. Despite some missing details, the committee felt
the report provided enough to firmly identify this distinctive species.
Furthermore, the time of year and location would not be inappropriate
for this western vagrant.
A number of factors may contribute to a record being denied acceptance.
By far the most common is that the material submitted was considered
insufficient or too vague to properly document the occurrence and/or
eliminate similar species. For example, written documentation or descriptions
prepared entirely from memory (sometimes weeks, months, or years) after
a sighting are seldom voted on favorably and the Committee cannot overstate
the importance of taking field notes of uncommon or rare birds. These
notes should be taken while the bird is under study or, if this is not
possible, immediately afterwards. It is very helpful to include a photocopy
of your notes with the formal typed or neatly written report. This helps
the committee to know what was seen at the time of the observation, before
field guides or other sources of information were consulted. If you feel
your handwriting is illegible, especially with the excitement of finding
a good bird, it is a good idea to add a key that explains or decodes
your notes. Crude field sketches are often very useful in illustrating
what you saw and should always be submitted as part of the report, even
if they are drawn on a napkin!
Advice on report preparation is available on our web
site (see above), and in several published articles. We recommend
the article by Willie D'Anna (2003), as well as the benchmark article
by Dittman and Lasley (1992). The key elements to a good report are
(i) the description of the bird with as much detail as possible, (ii)
the names and contact details of the observers, (iii) location and
date of the sighting and lastly (iv) an explanation of how the identification
was made. This last category is frequently omitted but is extremely
important. Ask yourself the following questions: What features led
you to this conclusion as to the species involved? What other species
might this bird be confused with and how were these possibilities ruled
out? By providing this information, you invariably build upon the basic
description and present a much more compelling case. By necessity,
the preparation of a good report takes time and effort. It is not enough
to scribble a few disjointed lines of description and leave it at that.
Once the description of what you saw has gone down on paper, it is
a good idea to consult reference books, audiotapes and so on. From
the details you recorded, can you determine the age and sex of the
bird? Are there identifiable subspecies that might tell us where the
bird came from? What similar species are there and how can these be
ruled out from the details you recorded? The latter it is especially
important. Sometimes it is worth considering and discussing exotic
possibilities. Escaped waterfowl, birds of prey, parrots and finches
are relatively common and can resemble North American species.
All records, whether accepted or not, remain on file and can be re-submitted
to the Committee if additional substantive material is presented. In
such cases, please contact the Secretary at the address given above.
Reports Not Accepted
Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)
2001-48-A Two adults with two immatures, Fair Haven, Cayuga Co., 12 Nov,
It was decided that one had to read too much between the lines in order
accept this report. The report included a brave but eccentrically stylized
sketch, depicting detail of the bill where it meets the forehead. Unfortunately,
this outline did not match any particular swan species. No attempt
was made to describe the two immature birds.
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (Oceanodrama castro)
2001-20-A Two birds, Bottcher Farms, Big Flats, Chemung Co., 7 Mar, This
was a particularly puzzling record for the Committee. The observer
described two birds flying rapidly in side-by-side formation over an
area of farmland. The brief account described them as black 'petrel
shaped’ birds with a ‘white-banded rump and shallow forked
tail‘. Given the unusual circumstances and brevity of the report,
the Committee was not even convinced these were identifiable as storm-petrels,
let alone as a particular species.
Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
2001-9-A One, light morph adult, along Rt 34B, Tompkins Co., 11 Mar,
The bird was seen briefly from a passing car with the naked eye. The
identification was primarily based on jizz and one or two suggestive
field marks. However, given the brevity of details, the Committee felt
there was reasonable doubt as to whether the bird was seen long or
well enough to conclusively eliminate other raptor species.
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
2001-19-A One, Derby Hill Hawkwatch, Oswego Co., 15 May, It was believed
that this sighting pertained to a Eurasian Collared-Dove. Certain plumage
details initially prompted concern whether Ringed Turtle-Dove was sufficiently
ruled out. However, a solid description of the vocalization was included
which helped resolve this issue. In the end, it was decided that for
a first state record, seen only by a single observer, photographic
evidence was needed. Furthermore, the legs had not been seen and therefore
were not checked for bands. Although feral origin was perhaps unlikely
in this case, the omission was nonetheless influential in the final
decision not to accept this potential first state record.
American Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus)
2001-70-A One, at a feeder in Garden City, Nassau Co., 19 Dec., This
brief report described a bird that had black bars on the front, white
stripes on the black wings, and a yellow mark on the head. The shape
of the bird was not described nor the type of feeder. Thus the committee
could not even be certain that this was a woodpecker. What was also
needed was some discussion as to why this was not a Black-backed Woodpecker.
Either species would be an excellent sighting that far outside the
shrike, sp. (Lanius sp.)
2001-63-A Two birds, Long Lake, Hamilton Co., 21 Jul, This was an intriguing
report. Two shrikes of any species seen together in mid-summer would
be highly significant since it would suggest nesting. Northern Shrike
has never been recorded breeding in NY, and Loggerhead Shrike has long
vanished as a nesting species. The description was not particularly
detailed and provided no discussion of the identification. In particular,
no mention was made of a hooked bill, the hallmark of a shrike, and
in this context it is essential that the observer rule out (or even
mention) such potentially confusing species as Northern Mockingbird
and Gray Jay.
Virginia's Warbler (Vermivora virginiae)
2001-31-A/B One, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Kings Co., 6 Sep. This small
Nashville-like warbler was studied rather briefly as it foraged actively
in the leaves of a maple tree as part of a moving flock of migrant
passerines that included Nashville Warbler. The upperparts of the bird
in question were described as ash or light gray and the underparts
as off-white with a pale yellow spot (or patch) at the center of the
breast. Other notable features included a bold white eye-ring, 'smoky
gray' wings, an absence of color at the bases of underwings and a rounded
head shape. Unfortunately, the tail, rump and undertail coverts were
not seen during this brief encounter and no vocalizations were heard.
The primary observer (2001-31-A) provided a candid report, making it
clear what was not seen as well as what was. The observer also took
pains to express caution regarding several aspects of the sighting,
for example, taking into account the shading effect of leaves. A color
sketch prepared a few days later supplemented the description, and
the extensive discussion of the identification reviewed a host of alternative
possibilities, from outside candidates such as gnatcatchers and Colima
Warbler to more relevant possibilities such as a dull Nashville Warbler
or Northern Parula. The western ridgwayi subspecies of Nashville
Warbler was considered and judged by the observers to be excluded.
This form is generally grayer than its eastern counterpart and closely
resembles Virginia's Warbler. The second report (2001-31-B) provided
confirmatory details but offered a less overt case for the specific
identification. After careful reflection the committee felt that this
sighting was simply too brief for a first state record of a relatively
cryptic species, noting that several key features were not seen and
the bird was not photographically documented or captured.
Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra)
2001-30-A One male, Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Co., 31 Jul, A frequent spring
overshoot into New York State, this species occurs annually in small
numbers on Long Island and the NYC metropolitan area but is decidedly
less common elsewhere. Although this red bird lacked the peaked crown
of a Northern Cardinal, its occurrence at a feeder in mid-summer raised
alarm bells for the committee. Some members felt that more detail was
needed to rule out a Cardinal molting its crown feathers. The report
failed to pass in the second round of review.
Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus)
2001-14-A/B One, Tanner Springs area, Central Park, New York Co., 22
Apr. On 22 Apr two New York City birders discovered a heavily spotted
towhee near Tanner Springs in Central Park. They alerted other birders
who not only managed to see it, but also obtained some excellent photographs.
Regrettably the bird vanished shortly after and was never relocated.
The strong white spotting on the upperparts suggested a Spotted Towhee
(Pipilo maculatus), most likely the widespread and partly migratory
subspecies arcticus. However, the bird also displayed an extensive
area of white at the base of the primaries, a feature normally attributed
to Eastern Towhee (P. erythrophthalmus). Details of this fascinating
sighting were submitted in the form of a published article that appeared
in The Kingbird (2001-14-B, Stubblefield and Rising 2002) and a more
conventional but brief report to NYSARC (2001-14-A) from two additional
observers. The record underwent two rounds of review and elicited substantial
discussion among the voting members. The committee appreciated the
substantial original research that went into the analysis of this problematic
bird. Ultimately the decision hinged on the question of ancestry and
the frequency with which Spotted Towhees show obvious white bases to
the primaries. As the authors of the article openly admit, this individual
differs obviously from the great majority of arcticus specimens
they examined. Even so, they document moderate to extensive white primary
patches on no fewer than 8 specimens of arcticus collected far
to the west of the contact zone (Fort Union Montana and Walsh, Alberta).
The Committee was divided in its interpretation of these and other
Spotted Towhee specimens showing white primary patches. Noting the
generally low frequency of such patches among Spotted Towhees, and
the generally smaller size of these patches (compared to the Central
Park bird), the committee agreed this was indeed not simply an 'odd'
Eastern Towhee, but in the end, decided that the possibility of a hybrid
origin could not be fully excluded.
Bullock’s Oriole (Icterus bullockii)
2001-35-A One adult male, Manitou Rd., Town of Greece, Monroe Co., 1
Apr. The committee did not accept this record because the description
would not allow complete separation with immature male Baltimore Orioles.
The color of the supercilium and details of the face, bib, and back
were inadequate to give a clear indication of the species. The bird
was viewed from a long distance with minimal study time and it is not
surprising that the observer had left some unanswered questions.
Reports Not Accepted
Canada Goose (B. c. minima)
2000-41-A One, possibly two, Point au Roche State Park beach, Clinton
Co., 12 Oct. Committee members cited the complexity of Canada Goose
taxonomy and the lack of prior documented occurrences of this form
in the East as reasons for turning it down. The photographs provided
show a very small Canada Goose among Snow Geese. The committee disagreed
whether this was sufficient to identify the bird as this form and voted
to not accept it in the third round.
2000-28-A One, 18 miles off shore from Fire Island, 18 Jun. This
was a distant view of a seabird without the aid of any optics. The size
and field marks do not eliminate Northern Gannet, a pelagic bird much
more common in these waters. Although the observer did describe the flight
characteristics, the lack of plumage details did not allow the committee
to have a high degree of certainty concerning a possible albatross.
Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni)
2000-17-A One, Niagara Mohawk Visitors Center, Town of Scriba, 4 May,
Oswego Co. Observed by multiple observers on 4 May and apparently also
on 6 May, this report was the only one received. Several factors combined
to work against acceptance of this report. The date is exceptionally
early for this species since inland spring migrants usually occur in
late May or early June. Second, a Grasshopper Sparrow was reported
at the same location around the same time. Although the committee felt
that the description was perhaps more consistent with a Nelson’s
Sharp-tailed Sparrow, in light of the above, the fact that Grasshopper
Sparrow was not considered in the report was an important reason why
it was not accepted.
Brewer’s Blackbird (Euphagus cyanocephalus)
2000-70-A One at a feeder, Fredonia, Chautauqua Co., 10 & 25 Dec.
This candid report by an experienced observer included a carefully made
colored pencil drawing. The bird was apparently in active molt and was
more advanced in plumage on the second date. The observer quickly narrowed
the choices down to a Rusty or Brewer’s Blackbird on the first
date and, noting the dark eyes on the second date, identified it as a
female Brewer’s. In essence this report was not accepted after
three rounds because the committee felt that it might have been a Brown-headed
Cowbird. The sketch showed a buff-cream throat unlike any known plumage
of Brewer’s Blackbird and the back was described as black with
no mention of gray or brown tones. Molt weighed heavily in our decision
since Brewer’s Blackbirds are known to molt before their fall migration
and so would not be expected to be actively molting in the state. Much
of the sketch and description was consistent with a male Brown-headed
Cowbird in post-juvenal molt. Although this report was not accepted in
the end, the refreshingly honest description along with a sketch done
before consulting field guides serves as an example of how reports should
Reports Not Accepted
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus intermedius)
1996-55-A One, molting 2nd summer to 3rd winter, Democrat Point, Suffolk
Co., 7 Jul. Although the committee was in complete agreement over the
identification of this dark mantled gull as a Lesser Black-backed Gull,
several members disagreed over the identification to subspecies. The
overwhelming majority of Lesser Black-backed Gulls recorded in North
America are thought to be of the subspecies graellsii, which
breeds in Iceland and the British Isles. A small number of darker-mantled
birds have been observed in North America and it has been proposed,
but not proven, that these correspond to the continental European subspecies,
which is known as intermedius. Although photos accompanied the
report, the Suffolk Co. bird was a subadult and it was not observed
with other Lesser Black-backs. Immaturity is a known obstacle to the
reliable assessment of mantle shade in gulls, particularly in the absence
of direct comparison. Given these issues, and the existence of intermediates
between intermedius and graellsii in Europe, the Committee
felt that identification as intermedius was not adequately supported.
As it stands the official NYSARC pelagic boundary between New York and
New Jersey follows a straight line from an inshore point at 40° 30'
36", 73° 58' 12" to a far offshore point at 37° 50'
24", 70° 35' 00". Following this rule, two offshore reports
were deemed as lying outside of New York waters and not formally reviewed.
These reports will be archived and would be revisited if the New York/New
Jersey boundary were to be changed.
Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
2001-25-A One, 16 miles south of Breezy Point, Long Island, 28 May.
Thick-billed Murre (Uria lomvia)
2001-53-A One, seen in the New York Bite (coordinates 39? 58.270’ -
73? 22.582’) on 4 Sep.
NYSARC gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following observers
who submitted written and/or photographic documentation:
Michael Anderson, Robert Andrle, Steve Biasetti, Allen H. Benton, Orhan
Birol, Michael Bochnik, Jeffrey Bolsinger, Howard Boltson, Thomas W.
Burke, Tim Capone, Bernie Carr, Carolyn Cass, Joan Collins, Donald Coogan,
David Cowell, Ed Crowne, Dorothy W. Crumb, Steven J. D’Amato, Willie
D’Anna, Mark Deprez, Peter Dorosh, Robert Edwards, Kurt Fox, John
Fritz, Douglas J. Futuyma, Yolanda Garcia, Arie Gilbert, Paul H. Gillen,
Jr., Paul A. Guris, Andrew Guthrie, Francis Hailey, Jennifer Hanson,
Judith Heintz, Roger Heintz, Barbara Herrgesell, Michael Higgiston, David
Hoag, Norma Hood, Peter Hosner, Richard Jorgensen, David Klauber, Brendan
Klick, Mary Alice Koeneke, William Krueger, Leona Lauster, Paul Lehman,
Nick Leone, Patricia Lindsay, Curtis Marantz, Zinas M. Mavodones, Kevin
McGann, Jay McGowan, Kevin McGowan, John McNanie, Dennis Mildner, Charles
W. Mitchell, Shaibal S. Mitra, Michael Morgante, Christopher Nuzzi, Kevin
O’Leary, Nancy Olsen, Todd Olson, Gerard Phillips, Bill Purcell,
Barbara Putnam, Glenn Quinn, Gerry Rising, James D. Rising, Dana Rohleder,
Kayo Roy, Margaret Rusk, David Russell, Seymour Schiff, Fay Sedore, Sandra
Sharp, Dominic Sherony, Sean Sime, Jeanne Skelly, Edmond Spaeth, Charles
C. Spagnoli, Robert Spahn, Lloyd Spitalnik, Sandy Spitalnik, Birgit Stanford,
Rex Stanford, Daniel Stoebel, Michael D. Stubblefield, Diana Teta, Michael
Tetlow, John P. Tramontano, Alison Van Keuren, William Watson, Carol
Weiss, Matthew J. Williams, Angus Wilson, Charles Witek III, Cindy Wodinsky,
Alvin Wollin, Robert P. Yunick.
Submitted on behalf of the
New York State Avian Records Committee:
Angus Wilson (Chair)
Jeanne Skelly (Secretary)
Thomas W. Burke
Kevin J. McGowan
Shaibal S. Mitra
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