Record Sightings by FeederWatchers
Rustic Buntings: Saskatchewan and FeederWatch records
A Eurasian species, Rustic Buntings occasionally wander to North America, but they are almost exclusively seen on the west coast only. Their normal breeding range extends from Scandinavia to northern Siberia, and they typically winter in China or Japan. In the 2009-10 season, three of birds were reported by FeederWatch participants–the first ever reported to FeederWatch. One was found in Saskatchewan, a record for that interior province, and two were found in the same yard in Alaska.
A Rustic Bunting in Saskatchewan: a province record
Harvey and Brenda Schmidt, of Creighton, Saskatchewan, first discovered four juncos in their yard on December 3, 2009, which is unusual in and of itself for their yard in winter. Traveling with the juncos, Harvey spotted a smaller bird and called his wife over. They photographed the bird that evening and the next day. Brenda posted the photos on her blog and sent a message to Bob Luterbach, a prominent Saskatchewan birder, asking him to take a look. He confirmed the identification a few days later. Their bird was the first Rustic Bunting ever confirmed in the Province of Saskatchewan.
Harvey later wrote about the experience: “We’ve been avid birdwatchers all our lives and have been birding together for more than 20 years. To see a bird in our yard that has not been reported this far inland was surprising to say the least.” In addition to birding together for many years, Harvey and Brenda have been participating in Project FeederWatch since 2006.
Two Rustic Buntings in Alaska
Jerrold Koerner has been a FeederWatch participant for five years, but he has been feeding birds on his property north of Ketchikan, Alaska, since 1986. With 10-12 feeders, he attracts lots of birds, including rarities. In Winter Bird Highlights 2005-06, we featured three rarities that Jerrold saw at his feeders that winter–a Common Grackle, a Tennessee Warbler, and a Nashville Warbler, all in November. The Common Grackle was only the ninth record for Alaska.
On October 24, 2009, Jerrold noticed a bird in his driveway that looked different from the juncos it was associating with. He wrote, “The head pattern reminded me of some Lapland Longspurs that were in our neighborhood earlier, but when I looked at it through my binoculars, I could see that this was a very different bird.” Jerrold is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), where he was a salmon research biologist for 25 years, and he has been a birder all of his life. After seeing the bunting, he called two birding friends who work for the ADFG, and they confirmed his identification.
“What became the real shocker,” according to Jerrold, “was looking out the window on November 11th and seeing two Rustic Buntings side by side in our driveway.”
Yellow-throated Warbler: second record for Alberta
Pat Harding of Medicine Hat, Alberta, had the day off on Friday, November 7, 2008. In the afternoon she spotted an unfamiliar bird outside her kitchen window. Her first thought was, “wait a minute – this is not usual.” Pat took out her binoculars and her guide to Western birds, but she could not find a similar bird in the book. Fortunately, she always keeps her camera close at hand and managed to capture several pictures of the bird. Pat emailed her photos to local Grasslands Naturalist Club member Phil Horch, who identified the bird as a Yellow-throated Warbler, a southeastern warbler that typically winters as far south as Central America and the Caribbean.
There has only been one other confirmed report of a Yellow-throated Warbler in Alberta on September 9-10, 2006, where it was spotted in a residential area of Calgary.
Streak-backed Oriole: record in Colorado
Connie and Al Kogler of Loveland, Colorado, first discovered an oriole on their feeders December 8, 2007. Al saw the bird first and called Connie to check “something different” on the feeder. Connie thought the bird was a Bullock’s Oriole, which breed in her area, and figured it was late migrating south. Nevertheless, she took some photos before heading out to work. While at work, Connie posted a message about her oriole to her local email list, COBirds-L. A birding friend, Rachel Hopper, wrote back wondering if Connie had ruled out Streak-backed Oriole. Connie sent the photos on to Rachel and soon Andrew Spencer and Cole Wild headed over to Connie’s house despite a snowstorm and confirmed that the oriole was indeed a Streak-backed Oriole. About 80 birders came to her house to see the bird the next day.
What the Koglers did next was remarkable. They decided to open their home to birders—even when no one was home. For nine days they left their garage door open and instructional notes posted on the door and on the kitchen counter. They also left a guest book. People came in droves. Connie wrote, “Many times after returning to the house from work or errands, we’d read in the guest book who came by to see the bird! By the end of the ninth day we’d had a total of 413 people come through our kitchen.” Visitors came from as far away as Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Alaska, New Jersey, Maryland, and Winnepeg, Canada. Connie said that many visitors came bearing gifts, “cash for the birdseed and mealworm fund, oranges, grape jelly, suet, bird seed, cookies, fudge, candy, wine, champagne–my goodness we were blessed!”
The Streak-backed Oriole is a Mexican species that is rarely spotted farther north than Arizona, where it is occasionally seen in winter. Connie, a 30-year birder, sits on the board of Colorado Field Ornithologists, which maintains the rare bird records for the state of Colorado, so she knew where to report the bird. It wasn’t long before the bird was confirmed as a state record and reported in local newspapers.
Common Redpoll: Record for New Mexico
Ann Ellen and James Tuomey found a Common Redpoll on their thistle sock in El Prado, New Mexico, on November 26, 2007. At first Ann Ellen thought the bird was unusual but not rare. Nevertheless, she notified her state’s rare bird alert and was advised to notify the New Mexico Bird Records Committee (NMBRC). Soon Jerry Oldenettel from the NMRBC arrived, after driving 200 miles hoping to add the redpoll to his state list. He confirmed the identification, and took many photos to confirm the sighting. Then the Tuomeys learned that it was the first confirmed sighting of a Common Redpoll in the state of New Mexico. They enjoyed visits from many enthusiastic, interesting, and knowledgeable people who came to see the bird, many bearing gifts of thistle seed.
Lucy’s Warbler: second record in Oregon
Sheila Chambers first discovered an unusual, small gray bird in her bushes in Harbor, Oregon, in January 2004. After looking through her field guide, she thought it might be an Oak Titmouse. Then the bird came to her hummingbird feeder right outside her dining room window. Once Sheila was able to get a better look, she identified a Lucy’s Warbler, the only small gray warbler with a rufous rump. Sheila notified her state’s ornithological society and did a little research. She discovered that her warbler is only the second record of a Lucy’s Warbler in the state of Oregon. Lucy’s Warblers breed in the southern half of Arizona and normally winter in Mexico.
Sheila was worried about what the tiny warbler would eat. She wrote, “All she had to eat here was the sugar water in the feeders. She frantically hunted for insects in the grass while the cold rain was pouring down… I decided to try putting peanut butter on the perch of the feeders. It took her a while to discover it, but finally one day as she was poking about trying to lick up more sugar water from the perches, she got some peanut butter stuck to her beak. She liked it and gulped it right down.” For the rest of the winter Sheila kept the base of the hummingbird feeder coated with peanut butter or suet mixes (as shown at left).
Brown-headed Nuthatch: Ohio record
Linda Gilbert of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, observed a Brown-headed Nuthatch at her feeder on November 21, 2001. The identity of the bird was confirmed by a member of the Ohio Rare Birds Record Committee. She wrote, “This bird will be a state record for Ohio, pending on the decision of the Ohio Bird Records Committee in Columbus, Ohio. Most of the people on that committee have been to my house and have seen this bird. Actually, we’ve had over 200 people stop by to see this nuthatch since it first appeared.”
The range of the Brown-headed Nuthatch extends in a band along the Atlantic and Gulf states where the nuthatches are usually found in pine forests and join mixed species flocks in winter. The northernmost part of its range includes the southern part of New Jersey and southeast Virginia.