28 August 2014

Today touts "Tatts for tots - two"

Remember earlier when I wanted to illustrate the difference between WANDERING TATTLER and GRAY-TAILED TATTLER but didn't have good enough photos of the GTTA?  Well, an obliging young visitor to the Salt Lagoon the other day remedied that.

Here is a GRAY-TAILED trying to blend in with the omnipresent ROCK SANDPIPERS:
Taking a closer look below, a couple of things should stand out.  First, you can see that the pale supercilium fades slightly but still EXTENDS BEHIND THE EYE:
Look again from farther away:
For comparison, look at this WANDERING TATTLER below.  Any hint of the supercilium behind the eye?
Here are the two species side-by-side.  Look specifically at that supercilium-behind-the-eye mark:
Taking an even closer look at the GRAY-TAILED, the supercilium very nearly meets right over the bill.  It doesn't but it comes much closer than a WANDERING would.  First the GTTA:
And now the WATA for comparison.  Notice how you can see both eyelines coming towards the bill but there is distinct dark separation there:
Another fieldmark is the nasal groove of both species.  I mentioned in an earlier post how the nasal groove of a WANDERING is about 2/3 the length of the bill.  Take a look:
And now compare that to the nasal groove of the GRAY-TAILED:
Boom.  Sure looks like it's about 1/2 the bill length, considerably shorter than a WANDERING.

Anyway, moving on.  The juvenile LESSER SAND-PLOVER is still reliable on Pumphouse Lake (we're on day 10 for this bird):
A swallow was hanging out with the shorebirds on Salt Lagoon the other day (no really, it was hovering over the Rock Sandpiper flock looking like it wanted to land on the shoreline).  It finally found a nearby rock to perch on.  With a scope, we could confirm that it was a SAND MARTIN:
Haven't heard of a Sand Martin before?  It's another name for BANK SWALLOW, in case you were wondering.  Cropping it off-center, making it black-and-white, and boom, it's art:
In closing, here's a view of town you haven't seen before on my blog:

27 August 2014

Code 5 alert!

Now that late-August is upon us, we've been seeing more changes in the weather which has certainly made the birding more interesting.  At first, we had strong winds out of the east which piled in good numbers of American breeders.  For example, the first day of seeing GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS this fall... nearly half a dozen of them showed up at scattered locations all across the island.  Here's a distant picture of the first one I saw at the diesel tanks (found by DG):
That storm brought in other American birds too like 15 ARCTIC TERNS which were seen both at Big Lake and the Salt Lagoon.  I tried to get some documentation pics of the first one I saw... with limited success: 
We also had a couple of shorebirds drop in during the rain including an "American" WHIMBREL; only the 2nd WHIM of the year and the 1st of an American race.  Some other typical migrants showed up too like SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPERS (which probably could arrive here on any wind).  Here's an adult at Tonki Point Wetlands:
But then the winds shifted, they became strong out of the NW for a day or two which put all us guides on high alert.  Doug was guiding that day and eventually stumbled on a BLUETHROAT which I was able to chase (thanks to their group staying on it for me).  I got some pictures but the bird blends in fairly well; see if you can find it:
That species was very high on my most-wanted list, partly because I'm slowly-but-surely snagging all the ABA breeding species.  This species (and Arctic Warbler) were at the top of the list although neither of them are completely expected here.  Regardless, I was quite pleased with this new lifer and started charging the beard-trimmer for the immediate and celebratory removal of the 4-week old beard.

The day remained quiet until the evening when Doug's group ventured to Hutch Hill where he found a Code 5 WILLOW WARBLER.  Of course, I was in the shower when the news of this rarity came (again).  Rushing out the door, me still being wet, we rushed to the scene and thanks to Doug for keeping tabs on it, managed to relocate it.  Note the small bill, long pale eyeline that meets over the bill, pale feet, lack of a wingbar, fairly bright yellowish wash to breast, relatively long primary projection, etc:
This Old World Phylloscopus warbler has been seen in the ABA area fewer than 20 times (and this particular record represents the 3rd from the Pribs).  In fact, St. Paul Island is the only place this species has been seen away from St. Lawrence Island (also in the Bering Sea).  Code 5 birds are NOT something you come across very often and this bird is only my 7th species with that ranking.

Clearly the winds had brought some new arrivals, some of them very very rare.  This was again confirmed when Doug flushed an interesting bird off the road near Webster House just an hour after the Willow Warbler.  Once relocated, we saw it was a juvenile GRAY-STREAKED FLYCATCHER:
This is another rare vagrant from Siberia, a Code 4 bird.  We all got scope views for several minutes before it eventually vanished.  We walked the celery in that area but didn't see it again.  And with the above picture, before people start babbling incoherent phrases with "Mugimaki" in it, the rich color on the breast is due to the 9 PM light.

So with that closed a fun, rarity-filled day on St. Paul (hopefully the first of many this fall!).  Oh, and in closing, the sunset from town was spectacular too:

23 August 2014

Nasal groovin'

Oy!  So young GRAY-CROWNED ROSY-FINCHES here are suuuuper tame.  Check out this thing perched behind the Webster House:
Oh, and know how field guides always point to the "nasal grove" fieldmark for tattlers?  Well, I finally saw one close enough where I was sure where the nasal groove actually ended:
If you think the nasal groove is about two-thirds of the bill length, like I do, we'd come to the conclusion that this is a WANDERING TATTLER.  Of course, the calls it gave when it flew away were proof enough to confirm this ID... but still.

21 August 2014


Last evening, I flushed two new island birds (for me, at least); both sparrows and both in the celery patch on the east shore of Antone Lake.  First up, the island's second SAVANNAH SPARROW of the year:
Next, a "SOOTY" FOX SPARROW perched up long enough for me to digiscope it with my phone:
A quick check of the quarry crabpots on my way back yielded the continuing family of COMMON REDPOLLS.  I didn't see one youngster until I was about 4 feet from it.  I stopped dead in my tracks, snapped a few photos, and backed away:

20 August 2014


I told you it wouldn't take long to put together another blog post.  So here's the quickest and dirtiest guide to juv RED-NECKED STINT identification when it's next to a WESTERN SANDPIPER.

Step one... the sandpiper stands taller than the stint; check out the "upper leg" portion of each species:
In the above photo, look also at the primary projection; the stint has noticeable primary projection which gives the entire shape a slightly more tapered look.

When next to the sandpiper, the stint has a slightly more pronounced mantle "V" when looking head-on:
In the next photo, you'll notice this particular stint has a darker head and more blurry, buffy coloring on the breast:
And in the above photo, yeah, just look at the bill length of the RNST compared to the WESA.

Yesterday Scott found a young LESSER SAND-PLOVER at Pumphouse Lake.  This is the 2nd one we've had on St. Paul so far this year (the first was a male that stuck around for 1-2 weeks).  Here's the latest bird: