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Gambell: Pechora Pipit, Thayer's, Lincoln's & 2 Chippies

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  • Paul Lehman
    Friday the 20th dawned (currently does so at around 9AM!) at Gambell as just about every previous day the past week has, cold and with NE winds of
    Message 1 of 232 , Sep 20, 2013
      Friday the 20th dawned (currently does so at around 9AM!) at Gambell as
      just about every previous day the past week has, cold and with NE winds
      of 15-20mph--but it was actually even a little colder (34 degrees) and
      the mountain slope and far boneyard had their first small coating of
      snow of the season. Didn't give me great hope; but I ended up being
      pleasantly surprised by a number of new arrivals, which included a
      PECHORA PIPIT (in the circular boneyard)--see below for more
      discussion--, a LINCOLN'S SPARROW (11th fall record here; casual on
      Bering Sea islands), 2 more juvenile CHIPPING SPARROWS (bringing the
      season total to a lofty 5+ birds and the grand total for autumn to a
      somewhat silly 29), a Sooty Fox Sparrow, and an Orange-crowned Warbler.
      Sort of interesting that the pipit--presumably from the W or NW-- and
      the Sooty Fox Sparrow--a regular-occurring reverse migrant from the
      S--would turn up during extended NNE winds--but odd things happen. And
      yesterday I had a classic-looking juvenile THAYER'S GULL, very rare in
      the offshore Bering Sea and my 7th here in fall, second this season, and
      the first not to be an adult or near-adult. The season's Kittlitz's
      Murrelet total is currently at an above-average 6 birds, finally the
      numbers of eiders and loons passing the point seems to be on the
      increase, but it's been the third terrible fall in a row for all three
      jaegers.

      OK, back to Pechora Pipit: today's bird was the 18th recorded here at
      Gambell in fall since the first birds were found in 2003. So pretty much
      almost annual since then, with 1-4 birds per season. So, has there been
      a real increase in vagrant rates, or did we just overlook them before
      then? I think the latter is clearly the answer. Pechoras are actually
      often quasi-identifiable even before one finally gets a good look at the
      bird by their flushing behavior: flush fairly close to the observer, fly
      low and a fairly short distance, do so silently, land, and then
      immediately scurry off like a mouse. No circling around, fairly high
      up, calling repeatedly, like a Red-throated Pipit usually does! I think
      we had a number of silent, sneaky birds pre-2003 that we may well have
      passed off as "Oh well, probably a Red-throated, but I can't find it
      again, and they are a regular migrant here, so off to find the next
      bird..." After it soon became apparent in the ensuing few years how
      regular this species seems to be here, I looked through my rather
      limited number of past photos of Red-throated Pipits; and lo and behold
      I came across two photos of a "Red-throated Pipit" from here in late
      August 1998 that is clearly a Pechora. Oops!

      --Paul Lehman
    • Paul Lehman
      Following my departure on the 12th, Gambell resident photographers Clarence Irrigoo and Sue Bryer have been scoring big-time. Sue photo d a TOWNSEND S WARBLER
      Message 232 of 232 , Oct 16
        Following my departure on the 12th, Gambell resident photographers
        Clarence Irrigoo and Sue Bryer have been scoring big-time. Sue photo'd a
        TOWNSEND'S WARBLER on the 14th, the 8th and by far the latest fall
        record (also 1 spring record). On the 15th, Clarence saw and photo'd the
        continuing first North American RED-BACKED SHRIKE (and which continues
        on the 16th), as well as a casual RUSTY BLACKBIRD (4th fall record),
        rare and late RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET, a late PACIFIC GOLDEN-PLOVER, and a
        casual-in-fall (and likely quite late) CACKLING GOOSE; and Sue photo'd a
        new, scarce-and-late GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW. And on the 16th, Clarence
        photo'd a casual WOOD WARBLER, the third Gambell record, and second this
        fall; there are only about a dozen records for AK and the U.S., and this
        is likely the latest (though not by much). He also photo'd an
        OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT, very rare to casual, and late.  Not a bad haul!
        Photos of all these species have been included in the appropriate e-Bird
        lists for the three days.

        --Paul Lehman
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