Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gambell, AK to Seattle and Monroe, Washington to Arizona

No new birds seen at Gambell since the Stonechat on 09/10/13.  Stonechat is number 807 for my ABA area life list without considering Little Bunting.  I have decided to count the Little Bunting, number 808 on my life list.  I will discuss the rationale below but first the update.

I stayed one extra day on Gambell as did Dave Sonneborn also, because the weather and winds looked promising.  I stayed until Saturday morning because the Yellow-browed Warbler and Stonechat showed up late in the day giving me Friday evening for another rarity to show.  Neil Hayward arrived on Thursday evening but all the rarities and many other birds had left Gambell as predicted by Paul Lehman.  There was fog on Saturday morning and Bering Air did not land (Neil's flight).  REA, my flight circled and landed.  Neil and I left together on this flight after much excitement.  Paul Lehman, Gambell and birding expert and birder extraordinaire found a Common Snipe.  We tried but failed to find it even running from the lodge to the boneyard.  We both needed Common Snipe.

We flew to Anchorage.  Then Neil returned to Boston and I flew to Seattle, drove to Monroe for Vaux's Swift and saw about 30 Vaux's Swifts along the Skykomish River and at Al Berlin Park.  At dusk it was an awesome display as 2400 to 2600 Vaux's Swifts poured into the chimney roost from a funnel cloud of circling swifts.  Awesome.  Pictures later.  Thundershoeers did not dampen enthusiasm.

Then I flew to Phoenix, AZ and added Rosy-faced Lovebirds at Encanto Park and drove to Sierra Vista last night.  Rosy-faced Lovebird is number 808 on my ABA list.  I had seen these birds before but needed to see them again after they were added to the official list because they are an introduced species.

Yesterday, September 17, I saw the juvenile Sinoloa Wren in Huachuca Canyon four times while trying unsuccessfully to get a photo.  I heard the ratchet call,  saw the bird twice and heard a brief burst of the distinctive song this morning before 9:00 am, saw a wet and bedraggled Sinaloa Wren at 11:54 am after it bathed in the creek, heard the ratchet call at 1:00 pm and saw the bird again at 3:00 pm just before leaving.  In a feeding flock comprised of Hutton's Vireos, Painted Redstart, Bridled Titmice, Summer Tanagers and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, I found a Cassin's Vireo, new for the year, with gray head, white spectacles, olive grayish back and olive edges to secondaries visible in closed wings with yellowish wash on flanks.

I stopped at Wilcox and checked the lake and found sixty three Long-billed Curlews, another new bird for the year.  I only needed one!  :>) :>)(smile).  There were also 30 Black-necked Stilts, 60 American Avocets, 6 Greater Yellowlegs, about 15 Least, 8 Western and 2 Spotted Sandpipers, one Wilson's Phalarope, 10 Northern Shovelers and 12 Eared Grebes.

Here is the rationale for counting the Little Bunting.  It was suggested that I confused it with the more common Lapland Longspur.   However, since that day, I studied every Lapland Longspur I saw on Gambell and none had the rich chestnut cheek patch and forward part of the supercillium and sharply defined streaking across the breast and down into the belly that I saw.  The fifty or so Lapland Longspurs that I saw did have streaking across the top of the breast and down along the sides of the breast and belly leaving the center of the lower breast and the belly clean unmarked white color.  The streaking on the Lapland Longspurs was not as clean and sharp as on the bird I saw, perhaps because most of the Lapland Longspus remaining on Gambell are juvenal plumage.  I am assuming that adults leave earlier but do not know for sure.  The location was also questioned as on the flats and outside the usual location in the stands of wormwood.  I saw this bird fly from the wormwood in the main part of the far bone to an area of wormwood close to the marsh across the road.  This bird stayed hidden in the wormwood until I approached within about 20 feet.  It flew toward the village twice sticking to the wormwood as I stalked it until it reached the end of the wormwood.  Then it flew over the sparce wormwood a short distance toward the village and swung right and landed in a close-by grassy area and hid behind a small pile of gravel.  I measured the distance from my sighting location to the sparce wormwood and the thicker wormwood using my steps, the floor tiles in the lodge and a small ruler to get these estimates.  The location was 41.66 feet from the end of the sparse wormwood on a direct line toward the lake and 33.85 feet in a perpendicular direction from the thick wormwood toward the mountain.  These distances are quite short for a bird to fly.  I remain open to evidence that will prove me incorrect and will remove it with such evidence in hand.

Little Bunting, Vaux's Swift, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Sinoloa Wren, Cassin's Vireo, and Long-billed Curlew raise the total to 649.  Little Bunting and Rosy-faced Lovebirds raise my ABA area list to 808.

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