Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ring-necked Duck x Scaup hybrid

Another New Haven Harbor hybrid Aythya, amongst a wintering mixed scaup flock. I have seen this bird three times, initially on January 19th. Trying to figure out the scaup species involved is a bit of a headache. In the field I certainly found the bird to give more of a Greater Scaup-like vibe, based on body, head, and bill shape & size, for what it's worth. However it has been hypothesized that the mediocre open-wing photo is pro-Lesser, as the obvious white is restricted to the secondaries, but I'm not convinced that is anything more than suggestive. All criteria seem shaky.

Click for larger images:


Hybrid's head shot pasted between GRSC and LESC for comparison (identical lighting conditions). Not to scale (hybrid's head is magnified). Vibrance kicked up a few notches to accentuate head color.















Older pics, with Greaters, from back in January:









 - Nick

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrid

On March 20th, while scanning the scaup flock from the West Haven Boat Ramp, I noticed a hybrid Tufted Duck. Luckily there were no tense moments here - with the sun at my back, though the bird was distant, the dark gray (not black) back and short, blunt-ended tuft immediately declared this bird as a scaup hybrid and not a bona fide Tufted. While a pure TUDU would have been preferred, this is a life hybrid, and a cool one at that.

The bird was too far to document by handheld phone-scoping. I tried. As luck would have it, I put my boat in the water early this year, and it happened to be located in this very same harbor. I hopped on the boat and tried to approach the scaup flocks, a process that turned out more difficult than I had hoped. The flocks were flighty. I've gotten close to ducks in this boat before, but it usually takes finesse. These flocks, though, were especially spooky.

I eventually refound the bird among the scattered Greater Scaup flocks and got as close as I could (which was not very close at all). Still, record photos were obtained.


did look rather black-backed at certain angles



with Greater Scaup

with Greater Scaup

bottom right, as marked





Separating scaup from each other can be difficult enough, so confidently assigning the scaup parent to species is a whole other level of difficulty. Comments are welcome, as always.

 - Nick

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Australia - Nov-Dec 2017

I'm nearly finished with photo catch-up from a few big trips over the past couple years. I think it's a tad late for a trip summary, but I did want to share a few favorite images from the three-week journey that included Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney, Alice Springs, and Darwin. I was with Ian Davies for the first three cities, and on my own in the Northern Territory.

Splendid Fairywren

Hooded Parrot

Wedge-tailed Eagle (immature)

Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo

White-cheeked Honeyeater

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Red-capped Robin

Plainswanderer

Rufous Whistler

Short-tailed Shearwaters

White-capped Albatross

Spinifex Pigeon

Australian Owlet-nightjar

 - NB

Monday, March 4, 2019

CT's Next 15 Birds - Twelve Years Later!

Back in the summer of 2007 I began to piece together an article, later published in The Connecticut Warbler, that attempted to predict (I mean ‘guess') the next 15 bird species to be added to the CT state list. How time flies. We’re nearly twelve years from that voting period. Periodically it’s fun to look back on this to see how we fared!

The "research" included assembling a 13-member panel to submit their own personal Top Ten Lists, ranked from most (10 pts) to least likely (1 pt). A total of 47 species received votes (Top 15 were featured in the article). Here they are. Species since added to the state list are in bold print.



Rank
Votes
Points
1
Townsend's Warbler
13
117
2
Swainson's Warbler
11
68
3
Black-chinned Hummingbird
10
70
4
Little Egret
6
39
5
California Gull
6
28
6
White-winged Tern
6
19
t7
Allen's Hummingbird
5
29
t7
Hammond's Flycatcher
5
29
9
Slaty-backed Gull
4
30
10
Garganey
4
18
11
Northern Lapwing
4
15
12
Common Murre
3
26
13
Pacific Golden Plover
3
17
14
Redwing
3
13
15
Black-tailed Gull
3
9
16
Shiny Cowbird
2
16
17
Western Meadowlark
2
14
18
Rock Wren
2
13
19
Reddish Egret
2
12
20
Vermillion Flycatcher
2
11
21
White-tailed Kite
2
9
22
Lesser Sand-Plover
2
7
23
Yellow-legged Gull
2
6
t24
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
2
5
t24
Sage Thrasher
2
5
26
Lewis' Woodpecker
2
4
27
Great-tailed Grackle
2
2
28
Inca Dove
1
9
t29
Long-billed Murrelet
1
8
t29
Trumpeter Swan
1
8
t31
Black-throated Sparrow
1
7
t31
Common Ground Dove
1
7
t31
Lesser Nighthawk
1
7
34
Anna's Hummingbird
1
6
*t35
Fieldfare
1
5
t35
Western Wood-pewee
1
5
t37
Gray Jay
1
4
t37
Western Reef-heron
1
4
39
Eurasian Kestrel
1
3
t40
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
1
2
t40
Cassin's Sparrow
1
2
t40
Clark's Grebe
1
2
t43
Brown Booby
1
1
t43
Common Chaffinch
1
1
t43
Common Ringed Plover
1
1
t43
Mountain Plover
1
1
t43
Violet-green Swallow
1
1


Panel members: Nick Bonomo, Milan Bull, Frank Gallo, Greg Hanisek, Julian Hough, Jay Kaplan, Frank Mantlik, Edward James Raynor, Dori Sosensky, Mark Szantyr, Daniel Williams, Glenn Williams, and Joseph Zeranski.

Since then, the following 23 species have been seen in the state (in chronological order):


Common Ground Dove
“Western” Flycatcher (later, a Pacific Slope was positively identified)
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Slaty-backed Gull
Graylag Goose
Western Meadowlark
White-tailed Kite
Northern Lapwing
Common Murre
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
White-tailed Tropicbird
Brown Booby

Black-chinned Hummingbird
Trumpeter Swan
Zone-tailed Hawk
California Gull
Sprague’s Pipit
Gray Flycatcher
Mexican Violetear
Black-backed Oriole
Little Egret
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Roseate Spoonbill

*NOTE: The Avian Records Committee of Connecticut (ARCC) occasionally reviews historical records. Often, these records have not been adjudicated previously. Such was the case with a 19th-century specimen of Fieldfare, which was reviewed and accepted to the state list after these predictions were made.


Also, a 1986 record of Ivory Gull, originally rejected, was re-reviewed and accepted by the ARCC. However, nobody included Ivory Gull on their predictive lists anyway.

Lastly, a 1988 record of Jackdaw was re-reviewed and accepted to the state list due to new evidence.


You'll see that many of our new birds were not even mentioned in the predictions! Goes to show what a crapshoot this exercise can be. Still, I think we did pretty well. Six of the top 12 species have been seen over these last dozen years – that’s a pretty good hit rate if you ask me.

The number of “overdue” species is slowly dwindling as we continue to expand the state list. Still, new trends will emerge, especially as the climate continues to change at an increasing rate. For instance, note the position of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck on the list from 12 years ago – it only got two votes! If you had re-polled the panel only a few years later, it almost certainly would have landed in the Top 5. This is because there was a serious uptick in regional records of this species starting about a decade ago.

Common Ground Dove received one vote (Frank Gallo), Western Meadowlark got two votes (Milan Bull and Frank Mantlik), Slaty-backed Gull received 4 votes (Nick Bonomo, EJ Raynor, Danny Williams, Glenn Williams), Northern Lapwing got 4 votes (Greg Hanisek, Mark Szantyr, Frank Gallo, Danny Williams), Common Murre fetched three (Nick Bonomo, Glenn Williams, Frank Mantlik), White-tailed Kite had two (Jay Kaplan, Danny Williams), Brown Booby one vote (Joe Zeranski), Black-chinned Hummingbird received 10 (all but FG, MB, JZ), Trumpeter Swan with one vote (JZ), California Gull had 6 votes (MS, ER, MB, GW, FM, NB), Little Egret saw 6 votes (GH, MS, NB, MB, GW, DS), and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck received two votes (MS, NB).


It’s not a competition, but as of our previous check-in six years ago, Danny Williams had correctly predicted the most new species (3). As of today, yours truly leads the pack with six correct, while Julian Hough brings up the rear with one correct :)

We'll keep checking in as the years pass.

 - NB