Thursday, November 10, 2011

Virginia's Warbler in Maine

Monhegan Island is very well known as a migrant trap and rarity hotspot. In May and late September, during peak migration, you can't round a corner without running into a birder. The problem is hardly any birders get out there in late October and November, mostly because the stores and hotels shut down. But this is when Maine usually gets its oddball migrants.

During a weekend trip in late October we were even told by an island resident, "You're too late, all the birds are gone." The hundreds of warblers moving through daily were gone but we topped that: Ash-throated Flycatcher! These were being reported around New England (esp Massachusetts) so it actually wasn't much of a surprise when we found one in the yard at the Trailing Yew. This was only Maine's 9th record for this species.

I just spent 11/7 to 11/9 on the island and still can't believe everything that happened. Winter birds (Snow Bunting, White-winged Crossbill, etc) had started to show up but a few unusual birds were still around. A late Black-throated Green Warbler was exciting but a Red-headed Woodpecker (rare in Maine but near annual in fall on Monhegan) stole the show, especially when we found it in our house!

The real story came when on the 8th I was birding near Burnt Head and a skulky warbler caught my attention. I spent a few minutes working that bird before it finally showed and turned out to be a Common Yellowthroat. While taking photos, another warbler flew in. My thinking went something like: "Huh, that's pretty gray but yellow under tail... Funky Orange-crowned Warbler? Wait, why does it have an eye-ring?" Click click click:

8 seconds later the bird was gone. Virginia's Warbler was no where on my radar but it had to be... I eventually took a photo of the screen on my camera with my phone and sent it to a few people who would have had experience with the species. First response was: "Dude its a Virginia's!!!"

Overall gray color, full white eye-ring and yellow on the rump all sealed the deal. The bird had no sign of yellow on the chest which likely makes it a first year female. Unfortunately I wasn't able to relocate it.

There have only been two prior records for Virginia's Warbler in Maine and both of the come from Monhegan! The first was May 21, 1998 by G. Dennis; check out his photos! (NAB V.52 n.3) and the second from September 28 & 30, 2006 by V. Laux and L. McDowell (NAB V.61 n.1)

So if we went out for a few random days in the end of October and found Maine's 9th Ash-throated Flycatcher, then I go for a couple days in November and find the state's 3rd Virginia's Warbler... what was out there in between? What is out there now?


Unknown said...

I just saw my life Virginia Warbler in a canyon above Salt Lake City earlier this year. Awesome bird! Especially for Maine!

John B. said...

Wow, congrats!

Owen said...
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