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Gambell: SEDGE WARBLER--new for North America

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  • Paul Lehman
    After what seemed like forever of 20-30 mph NE and N winds here at Gambell we ve had two days of LIGHT NE and N winds (!), and after getting only a few minor
    Message 1 of 27 , Sep 30, 2007
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      After what seemed like forever of 20-30 mph NE and N winds here at
      Gambell we've had two days of LIGHT NE and N winds (!), and after
      getting only a few minor new odds and ends, early this evening we found
      what we (and others who have seen the photos) believe to be a SEDGE
      WARBLER (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), the first record for North
      America. This species breeds through much of Europe and western Russia,
      north to the upper taiga belt, but east only to about 80 degrees East at
      best, at about the same longitude as northern India. So this bird was
      not on anyone's radar screen as a potential vagrant to North America--at
      least I don't think it was! (This species breeds only as far east as
      Wood Warbler [Phylloscopus sibilatrix], which has occurred twice in
      Alaska, as well as in Japan, but Sedge nests farther to the north than
      Wood.)

      We have posted several of Gary Rosenberg's photos of the bird on
      surfbirds.com, and are interested in feedback from any folks with
      experience with the genus, or who have any references that would suggest
      that 80 degrees East is not the eastern limit of Sedge's breeding range.
      I gather the species winters in sub-Saharan Africa. The bird was tough
      to get good looks at, and the sun was going down, so some of the photos
      are blurry, but they still do a pretty good job showing what the bird
      looked like. (The video I took was brief and does not add anything to
      Gary's photos.)

      I'll post another e-mail tomorrow with any more news on the bird, plus
      the miscellaneous other news from here the last few days. A few
      highlights: white Gyrfalcon, 10 Spectacled Eiders, Varied Thrush, about
      150 Yellow-billed Loons, etc.

      --Paul Lehman
    • Paul Lehman
      It is still pre-dawn on 1 October, but I thought I d add a little more info on the yesterday s SEDGE WARBLER and add some other miscellaneous news from the
      Message 2 of 27 , Oct 1, 2007
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        It is still pre-dawn on 1 October, but I thought I'd add a little more
        info on the yesterday's SEDGE WARBLER and add some other miscellaneous
        news from the past few days. If there was any confusion due to the
        date/time stamp of my earlier posting, the Sedge Warbler was found here
        on 30 September (not 1 October) and it was in the Near Boneyard. The
        known eastern limit of its breeding range appears to be about the
        Yenisey River in Russia, a long way's away. The streaks you can see on
        the breast in one of the photos posted on surfbirds.com ("North America
        Stop Press" section), as well as the distinct white tertial edges, etc,
        are indicative of an immature, but it should also be said that the one
        photo makes these streaks seem a bit bolder than they looked in the
        field (actually seemed a bit finer and sparser in reality). Gary also
        has a beautiful shot of the long-staying Eyebrowed Thrush a couple
        photos earlier in the queue on surfbirds.com

        Currently--and thankfully--we have a light NW breeze, so maybe we can
        eek out one more good bird today before the winds returns N and NE and
        pick up again, which is the forecast for much of the rest of the week.
        Gary leaves tomorrow, Tuesday. I leave late Weds. Should get home to
        Cape May on Friday.

        In other recent news, the aforementioned Eyebrowed Thrush was still
        present yesterday, as was the last of the 5 Bramblings, and on 29 Sept I
        refound the Far Boneyard BULLOCK'S Oriole over a mile to the south,
        along the side of the mountain, eating berries. A Varied Thrush on 29
        Sep was the second fall record here, ever, but also the second this
        fall, and there have been additional Am. Tree and White-cr Sparrows (a
        new record seasonal total of 20 of the latter), D-e Junco, we saw the
        WHITE Gyrfalcon again, 4 continuing Snowy Owls, tied my late date for
        Red-throated Pipit, and the "last" Lappies were on the 29th.

        Morning seawatching has been fun, with 10 Spectacled Eiders, Steller's
        Eider, a 25-30 September six-day total of 230 Yellow-billed Loons
        passing the Point (all alternate adults), a total of 4 Arctic Loons,
        late Sabine's Gulls, more Ancient Murrelets, a few lingering Fork-tld
        Storm-Petrels, and a large increase in King Eiders.

        --Paul Lehman
      • Paul Lehman
        I depart Gambell in a couple hours, so this should be my last posting from here this year (unless some mega flies over me while I get on the plane!). The
        Message 3 of 27 , Oct 3, 2007
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          I depart Gambell in a couple hours, so this should be my last posting
          from here this year (unless some "mega" flies over me while I get on the
          plane!).

          The Sedge Warbler here at Gambell on 30 September was not seen the next
          day, so a one-day bird. But on 1 October we found a new Little
          Bunting--in Old Town--the SEVENTH of this fall here. Excellent photo of
          it posted on surfbirds.com. And late this morning--3 October--as I
          entered the Far Boneyard, I was greeted by a FLOCK of THREE Little
          Buntings!! So that makes TEN! A bit silly, really.....

          Also during the last couple days we've had two new, separate individual
          Bramblings show up, bringing the current village total back up to three
          birds, and the seasonal total to nine. Yesterday I had an adult THAYER'S
          Gull, casual in the Bering Sea, and my fourth here in fall over the
          years. Looking at large gulls here can be a bit of a pain in early fall
          due to some of the sub-adults being in worn, ugly condition, and due to
          the presence of a disturbing number of hybrid looking creatures of
          various combinations.

          This morning's final seawatch had a flock of 17 Spectacled Eiders, a
          harbinger of things to come later, as the local residents say that
          thousands of Spectacleds pass by every autumn during late October and
          November. Still about 50,000 Short-tailed Shearwaters offshore, a couple
          each Slaty-backed Gulls and Red-necked Grebes. Also still lingering is
          an above-normal-for-October 28 Pacific Golden-Plovers. And there's been
          a new, gray-brown Gyrfalcon, single Golden-crowned and Savannah
          Sparrows, and the EYEBROWED Thrush is still present and setting some
          sort of record for staying such a long time.

          Temps are now in the upper 30s, reaching the low 40s some days, and the
          mountains over in Russia have snow on them. So time for me to migrate
          south as well--except for the fact that I wonder (as I do every year...)
          what I'll be missing here over the next couple weeks, especially given
          how this year has been going! At least the folks at St Paul and Shemya
          will stay on their respective rocks until mid-month.

          If anyone is interested in an electronic copy of my Gambell fall report
          for this year--once I finish compiling it in November--let me know.
          Also, I annually update the large paper I wrote on the fall birdlife at
          Gambell and on St Lawrence Island overall, and which was published (with
          data through 2004) in "Western Birds" magazine a couple years ago. So,
          also during November, I'll update that paper through the 2007 season,
          and I am happy to e-mail a copy to anyone who would like it. Just let me
          know.

          Trees, here I come!

          --Paul Lehman
        • Paul Lehman
          Greetings everyone, The spring arrival at Gambell is ME, the first birder to get here for the peak spring season (although it looks a bit wintry around
          Message 4 of 27 , May 23, 2008
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            Greetings everyone,

            The spring arrival at Gambell is ME, the first birder to get here for
            the "peak" spring season (although it looks a bit wintry around here!).
            Got in today (5/23) between bouts of fog, so feel lucky to have gotten
            in. While Nome has thawed, with no snow in the lowlands and many of the
            ponds partly thawed, and Tree Swallows flying around, here at Gambell I
            have stepped back in time a couple weeks or more: snow still covers
            about 80 percent of the ground and the marshes and ponds are almost all
            still frozen and snow-covered. Temperature in the high 20s and low 30s;
            winds were SW yesterday but back to NE today, alas. (There have been
            excessive north winds so far this spring throughout much of the Bering
            Sea and Aleutians, with a mediocre showing of migrants and rarities to
            date at the various islands.)

            I walked out to point after arriving this morning and within just a
            minute had a pair of Spectacled Eiders fly by, followed soon by
            Steller's Eiders and Black Guillemot. A bit surprised to see already a
            one-year-old kittiwake pass by with the many flocks of adults, as I
            would have thought it wouldn't be in a rush to get here so quickly. Lots
            of murres, smaller numbers of the other alcids (except still no Horned
            Puffins or Parakeet Auklets in evidence). A couple Long-tailed Jaegers
            already around, but only a few shorebirds (bunch of Dunlins, Pacific
            Golden- and Semi Plovers), and a good number of Hoary Redpolls (35+).

            I'm here for two weeks this spring, the first week mostly on my own, the
            second co-leading the annual Gambell Wings tour.

            --Paul Lehman
          • Paul Lehman
            A few people asked me about sea ice and Ivory Gulls this year.... Well, an hour ago I had two nice adult Ivory Gulls fly right by up the shore. The sea-ice
            Message 5 of 27 , May 23, 2008
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              A few people asked me about sea ice and Ivory Gulls this year.... Well,
              an hour ago I had two nice adult Ivory Gulls fly right by up the shore.
              The sea-ice here at Gambell this year departed suddenly about two weeks
              ago, according to the local residents, but there is still LOTS of shore
              ice heaped up along the entire shoreline, some in towering piles, so
              hopefully this will last a fair while and will hopefully be somewhat of
              an attraction for some additional Ivories this season, even if all the
              pack-ice is gone already.

              Also saw about 25 Emperor Geese, 6 Steller's Eiders, and 8 Black
              Guillemots (a good count). Also a Short-eared Owl hanging around (a
              scarce but regular migrant out here). Back in Nome there were good
              numbers of "Black" Brant moving up the coast early today and yesterday
              evening when I arrived. (I did no birding during my brief time in Nome
              other than do a bit of a "seawatch" from town. Also a good number of
              scoters moving by, plus a flock of 10 Red-necked Grebes [uncommon]).

              --Paul Lehman
            • Paul Lehman
              Today (Saturday) there was a male Brambling in the Near Boneyard for much of the day (in spite of the 15 mph EAST winds), but of more interest were the numbers
              Message 6 of 27 , May 24, 2008
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                Today (Saturday) there was a male Brambling in the Near Boneyard for
                much of the day (in spite of the 15 mph EAST winds), but of more
                interest were the numbers of several seabirds, which I seem to have hit
                a spike in their out-/through- migration. Today's total of 24 Black
                Guillemots is by far the most that I've ever seen in a day here; I am
                not sure what the all-time record is. The 22 Yellow-billed Loons was
                also a large number (this species trickles by here on many days in
                spring, but the large single-day counts come mostly from late Sept.).
                Also 350 King Eiders, 500 Long-tailed Ducks, and 100 Vega Gulls (the
                latter about double my usual one-day max). Also 6+ Gray Whales feeding
                around the Point.

                For those of you who have birded Gambell, you might be interested to
                hear how "limited" the birding access is at the moment due to all the
                current ice and snow. The Near Boneyard and seawatching are fine. But
                the Far and Circular Boneyards still have too much snow, the fine marsh
                at the northeast corner of the lake is still largely covered in ice and
                snow but showing early signs of thawing, "Old Town" ("the boatyard") has
                a few drifts up to three feet high, the mountainside is still largely
                snow-covered as are parts of the road down the side of the mountain,
                there is a bit of open water at the culvert and near the raised white
                tank below Troutman Lake, but most everything else south of the lake is
                still frozen. I suppose the good news is that whatever shows up will be
                even more concentrated in the few thawed places compared to normal, but
                it would be nice to see some serious additional thawing very soon!

                --Paul Lehman
              • Paul Lehman
                It is late morning on 26 Sep and we have light west winds, some snow falling, and temp of 32 degrees with a wind-chill of 23...This morning two groups totaling
                Message 7 of 27 , May 26, 2008
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                  It is late morning on 26 Sep and we have light west winds, some snow
                  falling, and temp of 32 degrees with a wind-chill of 23...This morning
                  two groups totaling 7 adult Ivory Gulls flew right by near the Point.
                  One group was actually calling (a lifer audio for me); they give a
                  cricket-like call somewhat like Aleutian Tern call. So that makes 9
                  Ivory Gulls so far since I arrived on the 23rd, and all of them adults,
                  which is odd. Also 7 more Spectacled Eiders today, the four-day total of
                  Black Guillemots is now over 60, there a up to 20+ Steller's Eiders per
                  day (including groups of birds on the water in full display), daily
                  single-digits of Y-b Loons, and two evening flights of Pomarine Jaegers
                  each with 100+ birds.

                  There was an influx of shorebirds today, with a Lesser Sand-Plover
                  appearing in the marsh below the culvert--where the best shorebirding is
                  currently. Also there is a Red-throated Pipit and a displaying Wilson's
                  Snipe, the fourth year in a row there's been displaying Wilson's there
                  (very rare offshore here).

                  Yesterday there was a "Mostly McKay's" Bunting (male). Rough-legged Hawk
                  is back again this year, nest-building on the mountainside. Continuing
                  Short-eared Owl. There has been too much fog on the mountain to be able
                  to check yet to see if the Dovekies are back. Big increase in alcid
                  numbers starting yesterday, with the parade of many, many tens of
                  thousands past the Point now.

                  --Paul Lehman
                • Paul Lehman
                  OOPS! Today s date is obviously 26 May, not 26 Sep. I m just out here so long each fall that I get easily confused (plus my brain is frozen after this
                  Message 8 of 27 , May 26, 2008
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                    OOPS! Today's date is obviously 26 May, not 26 Sep. I'm just out here
                    so long each fall that I get easily confused (plus my brain is frozen
                    after this morning's seawatch).

                    --Paul
                  • Paul Lehman
                    Today, MAY 26, continues well, with a Wood Sandpiper in the northeast corner marsh and a fly-by adult Black-headed Gull near Old Town. But even combined with
                    Message 9 of 27 , May 26, 2008
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                      Today, MAY 26, continues well, with a Wood Sandpiper in the "northeast
                      corner marsh" and a fly-by adult Black-headed Gull near Old Town. But
                      even combined with the morning's 7 Ivory Gulls and the total now of 14
                      Spectacled Eiders for the day, the Lesser Sand-Plover, etc., actually
                      the "rarest" bird here today is clearly the BLACK Turnstone, also near
                      the northeast corner marsh. This species is strictly casual on the
                      offshore Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, and it is my first-ever here
                      at Gambell. Otherwise, another dozen Yellow-billed Loons today, 3
                      Red-necked Grebes (rare but regular), only one Slaty-backed Gull so far
                      for the four days, another flock of Emperor Geese. In the landbird
                      department, two Northern Wheatears and 2 Eastern Yellow Wagtails arrived
                      today, the latter singing.

                      --Paul Lehman
                    • Paul Lehman
                      May 26 ended with a bang here at Gambell with the evening discovery of a boldly marked, male DUSKY THRUSH by two birders named Dave and Tom from San Bernardino
                      Message 10 of 27 , May 27, 2008
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                        May 26 ended with a bang here at Gambell with the evening discovery of a
                        boldly marked, male DUSKY THRUSH by two birders named Dave and Tom from
                        San Bernardino CA who had just arrived on the island. They flushed the
                        bird in awful habitat of open gravel and sparse grass at the bottom end
                        of the runway (where it must have just recently come in off the ocean),
                        got some photos of it, and watched it fly across all of frozen Troutman
                        Lake and up on to the mountainside, where I just happen to be, taking an
                        evening stroll. After first finding three Bluethroats and a Hermit
                        Thrush, I finally re-found the Dusky Thrush, and the few of us birders
                        currently here all got good looks at it (as long as we kept our distance
                        and used a scope). The bird is very boldly marked. It behaves and calls
                        remarkably like an American Robin.

                        Most Alaska records of this species are from the western Aleutians
                        (where I have seen two in fall at Attu). There is at least one previous
                        Gambell record, of a spring bird way back in the 1970s, if I remember
                        correctly. There are also a couple mainland AK records (as well as one
                        in BC).

                        Otherwise, the male Brambling from a couple days ago reappeared this
                        afternoon--or at least what I am assuming is the same bird did.

                        The light W to SW to SSW winds we had today are supposed to go SE and
                        then back N over the next couple days.

                        --Paul Lehman
                      • Paul Lehman
                        During the past two days (27-28 May) at Gambell, the following were seen (or not seen): The Dusky Thrush ended up staying two days, 26-27 May, but was not seen
                        Message 11 of 27 , May 28, 2008
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                          During the past two days (27-28 May) at Gambell, the following were seen
                          (or not seen):

                          The Dusky Thrush ended up staying two days, 26-27 May, but was not seen
                          today. The first White Wagtail of the season arrived today, in town. The
                          fog/overcast finally lifted enough this morning that we checked the
                          alcid-covered mountain slope and found 5 or 6 Dovekies in their usual
                          area. The Black Turnstone is still present today, for day #3. One or two
                          Lesser Sand-Plovers have been seen very sporadically (like only about
                          once per day) the past three days. The Brambling continues.

                          The season's first Arctic Loons (3) passed the point yesterday and
                          today. Another Red-throated Pipit was seen, a couple more Bluethroats, 5
                          additional Northern Wheatears. From the North American mainland came a
                          male SURF Scoter on 27 May, my personal first-ever at Gambell, as well
                          as a Least Sandpiper (very rare, but one or two each of the past four
                          springs), and a constantly singing "Sooty" Fox Sparrow that must think
                          it has found "home." Also a Greater W-f Goose and three more Red-necked
                          Grebes.

                          --Paul Lehman
                        • Paul Lehman
                          During the mid-afternoon today (5/29) an immature eagle was seen only briefly by two CA birders--Tom Benson and Dave Goodward--as it flew up along the side of
                          Message 12 of 27 , May 29, 2008
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                            During the mid-afternoon today (5/29) an immature eagle was seen only
                            briefly by two CA birders--Tom Benson and Dave Goodward--as it flew up
                            along the side of the mountain. Tom got one very mediocre photo of the
                            bird (very good given the brevity of the situation and the fact that it
                            was flying away), and perhaps someone with more knowledge of eagle ID
                            might be able to do something with it. But their description of tail
                            shape (somewhat wedge-shaped and short) and mottling pattern, and of the
                            pale mottling to the underwing, seems to best fit young White-tailed.
                            Obviously everyone here hopes the bird will re-appear....(gee, now
                            that's a profound understatement...) (Last year's adult White-tailed
                            here was also seen only relatively briefly, though by more people, but
                            that was largely due to the pea-soup fog present that day--today it is
                            quite the opposite, with almost limitless visibility).

                            A calling Common Ringed Plover flew by town yesterday evening (5/28) but
                            did not put down. An "Asian" Barn Swallow also turned up yesterday
                            evening and is still present today. Two immature Ivory Gulls have been
                            feeding along the shore in town late yesterday and today, bringing the
                            week's total now to 11 birds. There are now 2 White Wagtails around, a
                            second "Sooty" Fox Sparrow appeared, and a bright Red-necked Stint
                            landed in town today but stayed less than 10 minutes before
                            disappearing. The Dovekie count on the mountainside is now up to 8.

                            --Paul Lehman
                          • Paul Lehman
                            The last several days here at Gambell have seen plentiful sunshine, crystal clear views of the Russian mountains, light or calm winds.....all factors that make
                            Message 13 of 27 , Jun 1, 2008
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                              The last several days here at Gambell have seen plentiful sunshine,
                              crystal clear views of the Russian mountains, light or calm
                              winds.....all factors that make for beautiful scenery, warmer temps, and
                              sunburn potential! But also relatively few migrants. Highlights include
                              a total of four Common Ringed Plovers, including displaying males, 8
                              Dovekies, 3 White Wagtails, all the selected seabird specialties
                              including Spectacled and Stellers' Eiders, Arctic and Yellow-billed
                              Loons, Emperor Geese, Black Guillemots, and still three more Ivory Gulls
                              (now all immatures) that settled in along the shoreline and perched on
                              mini-icebergs for a couple days.

                              A second Red-necked Stint turned up. A new "Asian" Barn Swallow was
                              found today. Alaska mainland wanderers have included an americanus
                              (North American) Common Merganser, American Tree Sparrow, "Sooty" Fox
                              Sparrow, 2 Hermit Thrushes, Bank Swallow, Cackling Goose, hudsonicus
                              Whimbrel, and 2 Wilson's Snipe.

                              --Paul Lehman
                            • Paul Lehman
                              On Monday afternoon (6/2) I found a LITTLE BUNTING in Gambell s Far Boneyard, which is still present this morning (6/3), and enjoyed by all birders present.
                              Message 14 of 27 , Jun 3, 2008
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                                On Monday afternoon (6/2) I found a LITTLE BUNTING in Gambell's Far
                                Boneyard, which is still present this morning (6/3), and enjoyed by all
                                birders present. This is the FIRST spring record for Alaska and the
                                U.S., although the species has proven to be a regular visitor in fall,
                                with 20 found here at Gambell since the late 1990s. Also present at the
                                same time at the nearby Circular Boneyard was a good-looking male
                                McKay's Bunting. A third Red-necked Stint turned up, there was a
                                japonicus-type American Pipit (very rare in spring, regular in small
                                numbers in fall). Also today (6/3) was a briefly seen small falcon that
                                was probably a Merlin (casual offshore) and a Varied Thrush (also casual
                                offshore). Still one Ivory Gull seen today.

                                From the AK mainland also has come two North American-type Mew Gulls on
                                6/2, 3 Snow Geese on 6/2 (very rare in spring), an adult male Common
                                Goldeneye (perhaps the first ever here of that age/sex), still a fair
                                number of Black Guillemots and Steller's Eiders, but only one more
                                Spectacled Eider. Also a couple more Bluethroats, Hermit and several
                                Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Wheatear, continuing White Wagtails.

                                --Paul Lehman
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