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An eventful few weeks for bird records in North America:

The long-anticipated first nesting record of Lesser Black-backed Gull in North America (even though it hybridized with a Herring Gull) – on Appledore Island, Maine.

Green Violetear reaches Maine – the farthest northeast record to date. 19 Aug 2007 on Mount Desert Island; photo here

First Fan-tailed Warbler in Texas, in Pine Canyon, Big Bend NP and still present 30 Aug 2007. One of few records in the US.

First Great Knot in West Virginia (and eastern North America; and one of fewer than five records in North America outside Alaska) demonstrating once again that rare birds can turn up anywhere. You just have to get out there and look. 13 Aug 2007 at Winfield Locks and Dam, WV (photo links down, hopefully back soon – 7 Feb 2008).

First Townsend’s (Newell’s) Shearwater for mainland North America. Details here. Found on land (!) at night on 1 Aug 2007, San Diego County, CA

    • Closely related to the other small black-and-white shearwaters, the AOU currently considers this a single species: Townsend’s Shearwater (Puffinus auricularis), with two subspecies:
      • P. a. auricularis (commonly known as Townsend’s) breeding on the Islas Revillagigedos off western Mexico.
      • P. a. newelli (commonly known as Newell’s) and breeding on Kauai, Hawaii.
    • The two differ slightly in appearance (plumage and structure), habitat at sea, and breeding range and season. But identification and separation from Manx and other potential confusion species at sea is extremely difficult. Given trends in seabird taxonomy it seems likely that these two will be split into two full species, but neither had previously been documented within the birder’s North America.

Tantalizing first report of Tristram’s Storm-Petrel in North America – seen briefly but unfortunately not photographed from a pelagic birding trip off southern California on 21 July 2007.

The third verifiable North American record of Little Shearwater, and the first since the late 1800s, when beached specimens were found in Nova Scotia and South Carolina. The bird was seen and well-photographed during a pelagic birding trip south of Nantucket, MA on 25 Aug 2007. Photos here, in fact quite possibly the best photos ever taken of this species at sea.

  • taxonomy is confusing, since the AOU still maintains a widespread and variable species called Little Shearwater, but most authorities have split the North Atlantic breeders from populations in the rest of the world. The new species, called Macaronesian Shearwater, is comprised of two subspecies which also seem likely to be split into two species:
    • P. b. baroli – nesting in the Canaries, Azores, and Madeira and the source of all three North American records
    • P. b. boydi – nesting in the Cape Verdes

The totally unexpected first North American record of Brown Hawk-Owl – 27 Aug on St. Paul Island, Alaska (hiding among the crab pots, as many forest birds do on treeless St. Paul Island) photo and details here

Meanwhile, at Gambell on St. Lawrence Island, AK, Brown Shrike, Pechora Pipit, Willow Warbler and Dusky Warbler have all been seen in the past week. Check out updates here.

Finally, a Jabiru in Isola, Mississippi, reported 24-27 Aug 2007 (and possibly seen two weeks earlier as well) feeding at catfish farms with Wood Storks and Great Egrets. Photo and details here. This is the first for Mississippi, and one of fewer than ten records in the US of this spectacular bird.

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