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SE Farallon Bird Wave including Yellow-breasted Bunting

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  • Jim Tietz
    Hi Cal Birders, After several weeks of very few birds, we finally got a good migration wave. The wave started on 8 October with good number of western birds.
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2009
      Hi Cal Birders,

      After several weeks of very few birds, we finally got a good migration wave. The wave started on 8 October with good number of western birds. On the 9th, we had ideal fallout conditions and the birds kept coming and coming. The Violet-green Swallows were the most obvious as everytime you'd try to count them there would be more. Also conspicuous were the Yellow-rumped Warblers which were flycatching off the rocks everywhere. A very drab BLUE-HEADED VIREO turned up early in the morning that I initially dismissed as a Cassin's Vireo, but I became more interested in it after I got some better looks, though, we still could not be certain of the ID until I examined some photos that Kristie Nelson took with my camera late in the day that showed the complete white edging to the outer rectrices. In the early afternoon, Ryan spotted a GRAY-CHEECKED THRUSH amongst the hordes of Hermit Thrushes on the, tough to view, northside of the lighthouse. We ended the
      day with an incredible 1332 landbirds seen on the island. Island high counts were set for Violet-green Swallow and Audubon's Warbler. See below for a more detailed list.

      The following day brought more ideal weather, but fewer birds. Today was the last day for Matt Brady, Kristie Nelson, and me, and we only had half a day to bird. Because we had to pack our gear and clean, we did not get much time to look at birds in the morning. Ryan Terrill, Jill Gautreaux, Mark Dettling, and Andrew Greene were staying behind and Pete Warzybok was coming out on the boat. After I went over some of our protocols with Pete at the lighthouse, he and I started heading down the trail. About halfway down, I flushed two birds from the side of the trail – one was a junco, the other was similar sized, but had a brown back with white outer rectrices. I thought it would be a Vesper Sparrow so I stopped to take a look at it. The bird did not have a Vesper-type eyering, and it had strong buffy lines down the back. I told Pete, “I’m not sure what this bird is.” I thought maybe a longspur, but quickly ruled them out for various
      reasons. The bird had a strong mustard-yellow wash across the chest, narrow (but distinct) streaking on the sides and flanks, conical bill larger than the junco's with a black maxilla and pink lower mandible, a dark line wrapping around the auricular and pale lores, short wings, and white outer rectrices on a moderately long tail. I then realized that I was looking at an Asian bunting; I was thinking Yellow-breasted Bunting, but didn’t want to say that because I didn't really know the field marks for this bird, and I wasn’t sure about other possibilities such as Yellowhammer. At that moment, I heard somebody mentioning on the radio something about the Black-throated Green Warbler that Kristie had seen just 20 minutes earlier. Over the radio, I said something like, “Drop whatever you’re doing, there’s a bunting from Asia up here.” Matt, Ryan, and Kristie then started sprinting up the hillside. Unfortunately, the bunting flew up Little
      Lighthouse Hill by the time they got there and we could not relocate it before leaving. On the boat, Matt showed me all the possibilities in the Birds of East Asia book, and it was undoubtedly a YELLOW-BREASTED BUNTING. It was certainly a good bird to see just before leaving, but I feel bad that nobody else saw it. Sadly, the rest of the crew still on the island were not able to relocate it either. So no photos and no resight does not bode well for CBRC acceptance, but I'll submit my description anyway.

      The highlights of our bird wave are listed below:

      --9 October: 87 spp of migrants, 1332 individual landbirds
      Intergrade Flicker: 1
      Least Flycatcher: 1
      Red-eyed Vireo: 1
      Violet-green Swallow: 250 - island high count
      Hermit Thrush: 100
      Tennessee Warbler: 1
      Audubon's Warbler: 400 - island high count
      Blackburnian Warbler: 1
      Blackpoll Warbler: 1
      American Redstart: 1
      Ovenbird: 1
      Clay-colored Sparrow: 2
      Brewer's Sparrow: 1
      Song Sparrow: 1 morphna
      White-throated Sparrow: 7
      Chestnut-collared Longspur: 1
      Rose-breasted Grosbeak: 1
      Bobolink: 1
      Lawrence's Goldfinch: 1

      --10 October: 85 migrant bird species, 692 individual landbirds
      Greater white-fronted Goose:1
      Band-tailed Pigeon: 1
      Common Poorwill: 1 (not an arrival)
      Horned Lark: 1
      Hammond's Flycatcher: 1
      Golden-crowned Kinglet: 59 -island high count
      Ruby-crowbed Kinglet: 54
      American Pipit: 69
      Chestnut-sided Warbler: 1
      Magnolia Warbler: 1
      Black-throated Green Warbler: 1
      Palm Warbler: 1
      Black-and-white Warbler: 1
      White-throated Sparrow: 8 -island high count
      Orchard Oriole: 1

      --11 October--
      Northern Shoveler:1
      Tropical Kingbird:1
      Weird American Pipit (see IDfrontiers post, and this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/henicorhina)
      Black-throated Blue Warbler: 1
      Ovenbird: 1
      Lark Bunting: 1
      Yellow-headed Blackbird: 1

      James R. Tietz
      Davis, CA
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