Californication 2016

April 9, 2016
First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT, April 2016 (Julian Hough)

First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT, April 2016 (Julian Hough)

After it had gone missing for a week, I bumped into the California Gull still visiting the boatramp. It remained fairly regular giving great views and photo-opps.

I met Brooklyn birding acquaintance Sean Sime and his wife Sarah down there today (9th) to see if I could nail it down for them as they passed through on their way from Rhode Island. It was quiet when I arrived with few gulls – it was not looking good! Alex and I started to throw some bread and within a few minutes Sean picked up the bird flying around. Mark Szantyr arrived at that moment and we all had ridiculous views as usual. (Click for larger images)

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California Dreamin’

March 30, 2016
First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT 3/24 (Julian Hough). Without direct comparison, some of the structural features are not clearly evident. The small size, intermediate between Ring-billed and Herring Gull, with disproportionately longer wings, short, narrow tail and shorter legs were quite obvious. The glaucous-like bill pattern was similar to other 2nd -cycle Herring Gulls but the darker grey mantle feathers coming in and dark greater covert panel were typical California. In flat light the pale, anemic legs were grey-green toned on the shins, another feature charactersitic of CAGU.

First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT 3/24 (Julian Hough). Without direct comparison with other gulls, some of the structural features are not clearly evident. The smaller size, intermediate between Ring-billed and Herring Gull, with disproportionately longer wings, short, narrow tail and shorter legs were quite obvious in the field. The glaucous-like bill pattern was similar to other 2nd -cycle Herring Gulls but the darker grey mantle feathers coming in and dark greater covert panel were typical California. In flat light, the pale, anemic legs were grey-green toned on the shins, another feature characteristic of CAGU.

Act #1

Well, as if Eurasian Common Gull and (Short-billed) Mew Gull at Hammo wasn’t enough, Stefan Martin, while looking for both these birds the day after I saw them,  photographed a first-cycle bird on the beach at Meig’s point which he identified as a California Gull!!

A long-awaited state first, this was a bird on several peoples’ radar for a long time – a real birder’s bird! The identification is compounded by the vast array of Herring Gull mimics, which makes picking out a California Gull not for the faint of heart – it is a bird that would be easily overlooked by many birders, so Stefan receives big kudos for this one!

Thankfully the bird remained faithful to the beach and boulder pool area at Meig’s point, showing well and  allowing many people to catch up with it before it disappeared by Wednesday.

Act #2

On my way home from work on 24th March, Nick Bonomo and I were discussing on the phone what other new gulls were lurking in the sound – still to be found. He was out checking the local areas. Sitting in the Yale University Gym, New Haven,  I was just about to work-out when I get a call from him, “I’m at the West Haven Boat Ramp – I have the California Gull here!”

This boat ramp is on the west side of New Haven harbor, close to my home and a spot I check regularly, one I had planned to check in the morning! It is 20 miles west of Hammonasset, so Nick’s re-finding was amazing-even better when it was right next to the house.

Leave gym. Get bins and camera. Arrive at boat ramp. See California Gull sitting nonchalantly on the beach. It is dusk, so light isn’t great but Nick, myself and Tony Amato enjoy great views of this bird. Who’d have thunk!

First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT 3/24 (Julian Hough). The long, rakish wings are not as evident in this shot, but in flight the longish, spiky bill, relatively narrow tail and Long-tailed Jaeger-like shape to the undercarriage were classic California. The best feature on this image is the nice dark primaries, lacking any pale inner window, dark trailing edge and a second dark bar formed by extensively dark greater coverts, is a must-have for any putative California. The dark tail and heavily barred rump is very Herring Gull-like, but the thin white outerweb to the tail and pale terminal tips are subtle differences from Herring Gull.

First-cycle California Gull, West Haven, CT 3/24 (Julian Hough). The long, rakish wings are not as evident in this shot, but in flight the longish, spiky bill, relatively narrow tail and Long-tailed Jaeger-like shape to the undercarriage were classic California. The best features on this image : the nice dark primaries, lacking any pale inner window; dark trailing edge; and a second dark bar formed by extensively dark greater coverts – all ‘must-haves” for any putative California. The dark tail and heavily barred rump is very Herring Gull-like, but the thin white outerweb to the tail and pale terminal tips are subtly different.

Postscript: the most interesting part of all this, is from photographs, it appears that this is the same bird that was seen, and photographed, by a single observer in Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn in January 2016, before being refound across the sound in CT at Hammonasset and then in New Haven in March 2016.

Two Rabbits – One Hat!

March 29, 2016

Short-billed (Mew) Gull, Hammonasset SP, CT 20th March 2016 (Julian Hough). Note very narrow bill, nicotine-stained blotchiness extending from crown around in a shawl onto the upperbreast. Very extensive grey tongues P8-7 with broad white subterminal "spots". Broad trailing edge.

Short-billed (Mew) Gull, Hammonasset SP, CT 20th March 2016 (Julian Hough). Note very narrow bill, nicotine-stained blotchiness extending from crown around in a shawl onto the upperbreast. Very extensive grey tongues P8-7 with broad white subterminal “spots”. Broad trailing edge very striking! (Click on images for hi-res version)

Sunday March 20th saw me leisurely sipping my fourth cup of java in Park Slope, Brooklyn, contemplating getting Alex and myself together to leave when my phone rang. It was Nick Bonomo, calmly informing me with news that he had found (another) Common Gull in CT, at Hamonassett State Park.

“I know you need it for CT, so wanted to let you know..but..it’s not in view right now”. Appreciative of the personal shout-out about a state Nemesis bird, it kick-started our exit strategy.

We were on the road by 11:30 and had got onto the Brooklyn Bridge when I get another call from NB..”Hey..I am pretty sure there’s two Mew-type Gulls here and the one I just refound in the flock is a !@#### Short-billed!!”.

AAARRGGGHHHHH!!!!

The first documented state record of the west coast race brachyrhyncus, which, if the current treatise on the complex by Adriaens and Gibbins 2016  is anything to go by, may be split in the near future.

Motherfather! Well done Mr. Bonomo – a two-fer!!

It seems that every weekend I am in Brooklyn, someone finds a rare bird in CT. This has necessitated a frantic, white-knuckle, cannonball-type run from the ‘burbs of the Big Apple to the tax-hiked landscape of Connecticut.

Thankfully, I blasted out of Brooklyn and up I-95 into CT not encountering any traffic at all. A mere two hours after leaving Brooklyn, including a quick pit-stop in New Haven, to grab the scope and camera, I Tokyo-drifted into the Meigs Point parking lot at 1:32pm!

I ran down and joined some familiar faces that were overseeing an expansive flock of gulls. The problem was that most were all jibber-jabbering away and not really focused on the prizes at hand. Damn them..I expected to look in one scope and see a brachyrhyncus, and then move on to the next scope and see a canus.

Panicked and fuelled by adrenaline and in full twitch mode, I was ready to commit some GBH at any second, when John Oshlik mercifully said “I’ve got the Short-billed in my scope”.  BOOM…Mew Gull #1!

Note slightly darker mantle, long wings with broad white tertial crescent at rest.Short-billed (Mew) Gull, Hammonasset SP, CT 20th March 2016 (Julian Hough).
Note slightly darker mantle, long wings with broad white tertial crescent at rest

The bird showed briefly on the water then quickly took flight, showing a whopping broad trailing edge to the wing and obvious white subterminal “spots” which gave the bird a much different wing pattern than nominate Canus. The bird circled around and alighted on the stone jetty.

Short-billed (Mew) Gull, Hammonasset SP, CT 20th March 2016 (Julian Hough).

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Within minutes, the bird belonging to the nominate Eurasian race, canus , was found bathing in the water in the lee of the rocks, showing a much cleaner head and a staring, black eye. BOOM…Mew Gull #2!

Holy crap!

With both birds safely under the belt I settled in to take a good look at the canus, noticing the much whiter-headed, dark-eyed look and, in flight, the narrower trailing edge (especially on the inner primaries) and darker areas on P8 lacking extensive grey tongues and with black extending 3/4 up the feather shafts.

_MG_9515 copyCommon Gull, nominate canus, Little Lever, UK, February 2008 (Julian Hough). Note dark subterminal mark to bill, P8 largely dark with no extensive grey “tongue”. Relatively narrow trailing edge, especially on the inner primaries. This individual has a dark, blackish eye in the field.

Growing up in the UK, canus was a North American tick, but a species I was familiar with, but the brachyrhyncus was the main prize. It had been lost for a while in the swirling melee, but thankfully I locked into it as it flew back in to join the plankton-feeding flock in front of us, giving great, prolonged looks. It subsequently took flight, passing reasonably close in front of us giving a decent photo-opp. Excellent stuff.

For a personal account of a great find by Nick, check out his blog here;http://www.shorebirder.com/2016/03/two-gulls-one-flock.html

Franklin’s Fall-out November 2015

November 21, 2015

Having just returned from Texas where Franklin’s Gulls were moving in big numbers, the strong storm bringing strong winds into the north-east seemed conducive to bringing some Franklin’s Gulls. Nick Bonomo and I had mused over this, and with some birds in the mid-west, hopes were high. An east-coast Franklin’s Gull had been a nemesis bird for me ever since I had lived in the US. I had seen two close to my house in the UK, but missed the last two records in CT in 1998 and 1999. It was a bird that I had sought for more than a decade. Then Nick actually went out and did the unthinkable – actually finding a one-day wonder with Frank Gallo http://www.shorebirder.com/2015/11/franklins-gull-in-ct.html

Although gripped into oblivion, this hopeful herald carried with it optimism of more birds.

Keeping close contact with Tom Reed in Cape May, it was obvious on Nov 13 a huge influx of Franklin’s Gulls was happening in the mid-Atlantic region. See here for a more thorough analysis of the event: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/frgu2015/

With only five previous CT records, at least 30+ occurred in two days!

I expected these birds to reorient themselves quickly and with Nick confirming a deliberate westerly movement of the CT birds, tardy birders would likely struggle to find them. Due to work, I couldn’t be out that morning, but checking local gull spots came up blank. Combined with the only lingering flock of ten departing before I could get there, beads of sweat began to form on my brow. As I pulled into Oyster River, a well-known resting flock for gulls (host of CT’s only Ross’s and Kamchatka Gulls), a cursory scan with bins revealed two first-cycle Franklin’s Gull. !!@@###### BOOM!

I drove over and managed a few shots in nice light. I called Nick who was nearby and he came over and we were able to watch these crippling birds for a couple of hours. We babysat them for Dave Tripp who finally arrived after dipping them nearby. He kindly bought the celebratory brews at the local bar – we were able to sit drinking a beer at sunset with the birds visible in the background. Amazing stuff!

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First-winter Franklin’s Gull

BBC August Overnight Pelagic

August 28, 2015
 Title page
This summary is taken from a post written by Jeremiah Trimble and posted to MASSbird:
This weekend 58 lucky birders explored the offshore waters of Massachusetts, south of Nantucket.
main areas
It was an absolutely incredible trip,and that is an understatement. To the say the trip was a success would be an understatement! We found our first ever White-tailed Tropicbirds (andhad two species of tropicbird in one day!), set trip high counts for White-faced Storm-Petrel, Audubon’s Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
and Pomarine Jaeger and had such an amazing variety of rarities on top of these including Black-capped Petrel, Bridled Tern and South Polar Skua. In a later email, I will provide a narrative of the two day trip but to summarize, here are the major avian highlights in brief:
2 Black-capped Petrel
202 Audubon’s Shearwater
28 White-faced Storm-Petrel
161 Leach’s Storm-Petrel
23 Band-rumped Storm-Petrel
4 White-tailed Tropicbird (two adults and 2 immatures)
1 Red-billed Tropicbird (an immature bird)
17 Pomarine Jaeger
1 Long-tailed Jaeger
1 South Polar Skua
1 Bridled Tern
2nd Cal-yr Bridled Tern

2nd Cal-yr Bridled Tern

 

Leach's Petrel

Leach’s Petrel

 

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Imm Red-billed Tropicbird

 

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Imm Red-billed Tropicbird (left) and Imm White-tailed Tropicbird. This composite of two birds seen on this trip shows the important pattern of the greater coverts – blackish on Red-billed Tropicbird and white on White-tailed. Talking with Nick about assessing this in the field is essentially the dark primaries extend only 1/2 way up the leading edge in White-tailed.

 

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White-faced Storm-Petrel

 

White-faced Storm Petrel

White-faced Storm-Petrel

 

Adult White-tailed Tropicbird - a world tick and a bogey bird for me finally laid to rest!

Adult White-tailed Tropicbird – a world tick and a bogey bird for me finally laid to rest!

 

Adult White-tailed Tropicbird - a world tick and a bogey bird for me finally laid to rest!

Adult White-tailed Tropicbird

 

2nd Cal-yr Pomarine Jaeger (all juv primaries replaced with p10 almost fully grown)

2nd Cal-yr Pomarine Jaeger (all juv primaries replaced with p10 almost fully grown)

 

3rd Cal-yr Long-tailed Jaeger. A cool bird and my first non-juv/adult plumage. Aged by the largely brown underwing and dark cap. Although the markings on the breast seemed suggestive of a breast band and the tail projections looked spikey, any initial thoughts of Parasitic were dispelled by a combination of features and behavior, notably the short bill, grey-toned upperparts with a darker trailing edge and 2-3 white primary shafts all being pro-Long-tailed. In discussion with Nick, he mentioned the lack of any white primary bases on the underwing which is probably diagnostic (?) in itself at this age for LTJA

3rd Cal-yr Long-tailed Jaeger. A cool bird and my first non-juv/adult plumage. Aged by the largely brown underwing and dark cap. Although the markings on the breast seemed suggestive of a breast band and the tail projections looked spikey, any initial thoughts of Parasitic were dispelled by a combination of features and behavior, notably the short bill, grey-toned upperparts with a darker trailing edge and 2-3 white primary shafts all being pro-Long-tailed. While discussing it with Nick Bonomo, he brought attention to the lack of any white primary bases on the underwing as a pro-LTJA feature – in itself possibly diagnostic (?) for this age for LTJA.

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Adult Pomarine Jaeger. Broken breast band and clean flanks suggest male. Note inner primary moult taking place; an adult jaeger in late August in primary moult is almost certainly a Pomarine; both Parasitic and Long-tailed are not moulting.

 

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Band-rumped Storm-Petrel

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2nd Cal-yr Pomarine Jaeger at sunset

 

The CT contingent of the trip

The CT contingent of the trip (photo courtesy of Tina Green)

Here are links to two general checklists for each of the two days of the trip which include great images by Jeremiah Trimble.

Checklists:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24748705
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S24750035
We would like to first of all thank Ida Giriunas, as always, for her efforts
in organizing and pushing for these trips to happen. She has helped so many birders enjoy the offshore birds of Massachusetts! Thanks!
Also,thanks to Captain Joe Huckemeyer and the crew of the Helen H.
Thanks as well to my fellow tripleaders; Nick Bonomo, Doug Gochfeld, Julian Hough, and Luke Seitz.
Their skills at identifying and spotting birds, communicating to participants and getting everyone on each bird was critical.

Smith’s Longspur, Wilton, CT – Twitch on!

May 2, 2015
Male Smith's Longspur, Wilton, CT

Male Smith’s Longspur, Wilton, CT

TGIF! Friday ended with no real plans for the evening, so I was doing errands at the store, when my phone rang. It was Jake Musser. “Smith’s Longspur reported at Allen’s Meadow! I’m leaving now!”.

Smith’s Longspur was a much-wanted bird in the state – it was essentially a lifer, since the only previous bird I had seen was a skulking b!!@@## of a bird at Jones Beach, NY several years ago. A one observer-photographed-bird, seen by Larry Flynn, in late March several years ago, was not available to the masses and could not be found subsequently by yours truly and others searching in vain the day after.

So, this was the first chaseable bird since the early 70s or so and a state tick for just about everyone alive!

Homeward-bound, via rush hour New Haven traffic, I made a quick pit-stop to pick up the optics and I was on my way.  Although it was overcast, there was plenty of light left. When I arrived it was in view, showing brilliantly, shuffling around a short area of cropped grass and gravel. Occasionally it would flush, giving it’s rippling, liquid-like rattle call.

With a careful, not-too-close approach, I managed to get a few record shots at high ISO. Kudos to Bruce Stevenson for a mega-find and also proactively putting the news out – even when he wasn’t 100% sure of the id. – to allow people to get there tonight!

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Gulls Gone Wild!

April 20, 2015

17th-19th April – West Haven, CT (click images for larger view)

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First-cycle Thayer’s Gull, West Haven, CT 19th April

After Nick Bonomo refound the adult Kamchatka Gull at Oyster River on the West Haven, Milford border, (first found in Southport, CT by Mayn Hipp and Mike Warner a week previously), Oyster River had been given a good going over by a few locals, mainly because it was a great loafing spot for gulls and hosted CT’s only Ross’s Gull in the 80s.

The birds are frequently disturbed here by Joe Public and when flushed, frustratingly often fly off into the sound and despite checking the area, the Kamchatka Gull had not been seen since. Nick and I did find a surprisingly late Snowy Owl along the same stretch of coast. Later that night, amazingly enough, Keith Mueller, birding the same spot an hour before Nick refound the Kamchatka, had unwittingly photographed another Mew Gull while taking shots of Bonaparte’s Gulls. The images appear to show the Eurasian race of Mew Gull, known as Common Gull.

On Friday 17th, I had left work early for a Dentist appt. Deciding to head down to Oyster River on spec, I was just leaving New Haven, when Nick called to tell me Keith had relocated the Kamchatka Gull back at Oyster River. Panicking, I set off only to hit rush hour traffic. Halfway there I got a call that the bird was flushed by a clammer and was not on view. AAARRRGGGHHHH!!! Relief came when Keith called back and said he had it out on the flats. A mad sprint later and the bird showed excellent roosting on the flats.

Adult Kamchatka Gull, Oyster River, CT

Adult Kamchatka Gull, Oyster River, CT

I spent Sunday afternoon 19th April birding, but  there was no sign of the Kamchatka Gull or any other gulls for that matter. Taking my usual route back to the house, I stopped at the West Haven boat ramp, as I often do to check out any gulls. There were few birds in evidence but I did spot a first-cycle Iceland Gull on the water.

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_P9A4672After shooting it for some time, I left. As I was reversing back, I caught a glimpse of a bird landing below the dock, but the metal barricade obscured everything but the underside of the wingtip. It looked surprisingly silvery, but didn’t strike me as Iceland. My spidey sense was tingling, so I stopped the car, got my bins and peered over the barrier to find a first-cycle Thayer’s Gull staring back at me. Holy !!!@@$$$$.

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Doing a double-take, I checked off the short primaries with nice silvery fringes, brown, pale-tipped tail and overall bleached, cafe-au-lait plumage. Structurally it was all thayeri with short legs, a slight pot-belly and a disproportionately small, but pear-shaped head. The bill was mostly dark, just beginning to get some flesh-color at the base. Thayer’s retain their juvenile mantle feathers until later in the winter and upperparts seemed to be all worn first generation feathers, again supportive of Thayer’s Gull.

_P9A4882In flight, coffee-coloured (not blackish, or dark brown) tail, secondary bar and outer webs to the outer primaries all screamed..RESULT!!

_P9A4778Nice pale underside to primaries, here the light showing through illuminating the “venetian blind” effect on the primaries.

_P9A4845Note color of primaries and tertial centres being rather uniform and not contrastingly darker as some of the similar, bleached Herring Gulls nearby. What a cracking bird! I’ve always dreamed of finding something like a Mew Gull or a Franklin’s Gull here, but Thayer’s was not really on my radar.

A fantastic few days of birding on my local beaches!

_P9A4254Snowy Owl, Bradley Point, West Haven..a nice consolation for missing the Kamchatka Gull on the first evening.

Yellow-bellied kingbird tail patterns

November 22, 2014
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A self-found Western Kingbird, New Haven, CT October 2010. Nice dark tail and pale grey head identify it quickly as a Western, but note the white tail edges are not visible in this view. (Julian Hough)

Vagrant kingbirds such as Tropical, Couch’s and Cassin’s have all been recorded in the north-east and it is only a matter of time before one of these “Western” kingbirds in Connecticut turns into something a bit more exciting.

While Western Kingbird is the expected species, Cassin’s has been recorded in Massachusetts in 2010 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/bonxie88/6686022777/in/photostream/)
and recently as last week in Brooklyn, although this was a one-observer sighting and couldn’t be refound.
Pictures clearly solidify the identity (https://www.flickr.com/photos/123166253@N05/sets/72157646979944483/); the second record for NYS after one at Montauk in October 2007 ( http://citybirder.blogspot.com/2014/11/new-brooklyn-rarity.html)

The Mass bird was mis-identified as a Western by virtue of its tail pattern, which was blackish and showed prominently white outer webs to the tail feathers, a key id feature of Western. That Cassin’s can show this too means that any yellow-bellied kingbird with a blackish tail and white outer edges may not necessarily be a Western.

A reported Western Kingbird in Bridgeport, without any details of other potential species being systematically ruled out, set off the spidey senses.  Questioning several observers, it seems the bird was distant but the ”white tail edges were apparent” The only pictures we saw seemed somewhat ambiguous – indeed the darkness of the head and tail pattern in one image suggested better photos need to be obtained to rule out Cassin’s. Further images revealed the bird to be a Western, as reported, but it spotlighted some tail features that needed to be expounded upon should observers be faced with a fall, yellow-bellied kingbird.

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Tropical (left two birds) and Western (right two birds). Yale Museum (Julian Hough). Note tail and wing color.

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Note the greenish band across the breast in the two Tropicals (left) compared with the more extensive grey breast of the Westerns. The Tropicals also show a cleaner white throat. Also, note the pale edge to the tail feather of the rightmost tropical, but compare with the more broader, whiter outer web of the Westerns. From below, the dark charcoal-gray underside to the tail is darker than the pale gray of the Tropicals.

So, just because it has pale outer tail feathers it doesn’t automatically make it a Western (see the Mass individual). So what should you key into when you chance upon a distant yellow-bellied kingbird?

Tropical Kingbird, Panama, February (Julian Hough). Note the long, notched tail, not darker than the wings and long, hooked bill.

Tropical Kingbird, Panama, February (Julian Hough). Note the long, notched tail, not darker than the wings and long, stout bill. Note the obvious pale edges to the tail – easily could be mistaken for those shown by Western?

Western Kingbird, New Haven (same as title photo). Note broad white edge to the tail which is blackish and clearly darker than the wingtips (Julian Hough)

Western Kingbird, New Haven, CT (same as title photo). Note broad white edge to the tail which is blackish and clearly darker than the wingtips (Julian Hough)

  • Bill size and shape and tail seem to be the two main features to concentrate on.  Calls are also invaluable in separating kingbirds, so recording and/or a clear description of the call is important in identifying and documenting the record from a historical point of view.
  • Any yellow-bellied kingbird with a blackish tail that is darker than the wings, is either a Western or a Cassin’s.
  • Both Western and Cassin’s show whitish tail sides, but Cassin’s often lacks this and has pale tips to the tail forming a pale terminal band. They are typically more obvious and include the entire outer vane of the outer tail feather in Western. Sometimes in the field this may not be obvious, so continued observation of an individual may be required to determine the presence and amount of white in the tail.
  • Any kingbird that has a paler brownish tail, that is concolorous with the wings is likely a Tropical or Couch’s. Note that some Tropicals can show paler edges to the outer tail feathers, but this is narrower and less well-defined that Western. Tropicals in particular seem to show a disproportionately long and notched tail.
  • Tropical and Couch’s both show a long, broad and hooked bill tip, larger than either Western or Cassin’s but sometimes, bill size and shape can be hard to determine on lone individuals.
  • Cassin’s and Western have a smaller bill, but compared to Western, Cassin’s have a short, but deep-based bill, often with a curved culmen that gives the bill a stouter, more conical-appearance.

So, a distant kingbird that has an obvious blackish-tail, darker than the wingtips, should get you into the Cassin’s/Western camp and a bird that has a tail concolorous with the wingtips should get you thinking about Tropical/Couch’s.

Separating them from here requires more observation about plumage and how dark the grey areas are on the head, underpart color and tail pattern. This post isn’t meant for covering that in detail, but I found a similar and more in-depth look at this problem by Kevin McGowan here at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/crows/kingbirdsX.htm

Northern Goshawks-problems and pitfalls

October 25, 2014

We are getting into that time of year where well-manned hawk watches begin to see the occasional Northern Goshawk. Here in Connecticut, they are a late migrant, generally occurring in late October into November – all reports are typically of juveniles and not adults (I’ve never seen an adult away from the breeding grounds in CT).

Our well-known, in-state watchpoints (Lighthouse Pt. and Quaker Ridge) are manned everyday, all day, at this time of year and there are few reports of Northern Goshawk. The math is simple. Goshawks are uncommon.

Goshawks are  big buteo-like birds, impressive to see both during the breeding season and on migration. They are also frequently misidentified. The time-honored identification pitfall being big Cooper’s Hawks –  it is these birds that you are likely to see  at Hawkwatches in September; in your backyard, attacking birds at your feeders; or just hanging out at Hammonasett in winter. Could you see a Northern Goshawk in September, in your backyard, or at Hammonasett in winter. Sure, it’s possible…but really, it’s just a big Cooper’s Hawk. CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE.

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Juvenile Northern Goshawks (left) and Cooper’s Hawks (right) (Julian Hough). Large juvenile female COHA can be very similar to NOGO, but note the broader body, tail and wings of NOGO. Underpart markings are variable in both, but typically heavier, darker and more extensive in NOGO.

We’ve all made that mistake, been spooked initially by that huge female Coop’s, but when you finally see a Goshawk, it’s often a case of “You know it when you see it”.

 

Status of “Northern” Red-tailed Hawk in Connecticut

October 11, 2014

An adult  Red-tailed I photographed at Lighthouse Point, Ct on the 14th November 2011 was particularly well-marked that I mused about it having some Western influence. I admit I am not familiar enough with that race to know, but it was distinct enough from typical Eastern (borealis) Red-tails to be noticeable. I recently came across the photo while updating my file library and with some basic research it fits as a typical example of a “Northern” Red-tail, the so-called abeiticola. While not a recognized sub-species, these birds inhanit the boreal forests from Alberta east to Nova Scotia.

From left to right: juvenile Eastern (borealis), adult Northern (abeiticola) and adult Eastern (borealis) Red-tailed Hawks, Lighthouse Point, CT Oct/Nov.

From left to right: juvenile Eastern (borealis), adult Northern (abeiticola) and adult Eastern (borealis) Red-tailed Hawks, Lighthouse Point, CT Oct/Nov 2011. (Julian Hough)

Birds show overlap in many plumage traits, juveniles in particular being harder to pigeonhole as abeiticola than adults. Compared to borealis, they are generally darker-throated, have more densely marked belly bands due to more globular streaks and are often more buffy-toned on the underparts, particularly the upper breast.

These features are all noticeable on the CT bird, together with more lightly-marked secondaries and darker tips to the outer primaries, giving a more Broad-winged-like wingtip pattern (though I don’t believe this is a separating feature, it does stand out).

As  increased buteo migration through Lighthouse Point ramps up in October and November, hawkwatchers should look out for these birds so we can try and assess their occurrence compared with more typical Eastern birds.

Thanks to Jerry Liguori for discussion and comments.