On January 21st the BRC held its second conference call, and first for 2014. Ten species were reviewed and below is a summary based on comments received from all the committee members.
Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) – Lister, Feb. 11, 2005.
Only a black-and-white photo was reviewed by the committee along with a description of the sighting. However, the photo was sufficient to identify the species involved. The photo showed a unicoloured bird with a long pointed bill and short tail. The only potential confusion species based on structure and bill shape would be Clark’s Nutcracker, which could be easily ruled out based on plumage details. The bird was seen well for a period of 54 days, and fits with a general pattern of dispersal during that time period potentially due to droughts and fires.
Lesser Nighthawk (Chordeiles acutipennis) – 80 km offshore Tofino, June 5, 2006.
Excellent photographs showing definitive field marks including white primary band nearer the wingtip and across four primaries (approximately half-way down the primaries on Common Nighthawk and involving 5 primaries), more rounded wingtip shape (p9 longest primary) as opposed to pointier wingshape of Common (due to p10 being longest), buffy spots on inner and outer primary wing-coverts, less contrast between primaries and the upperwing coverts, less contrast between trailing edge to secondaries and the upperwing coverts, overall buffy colour, and fine barring on breast. Judged to be a second-year male by plumage and moult patterns. Lesser appears to have more records offshore and on offshore islands than Common. One committee member saw one about 300 nautical miles from the closest land in the eastern tropical Pacific.
Sedge Wren (Cistothorous platensis) – Vancouver, Oct. 29, 2005.
Excellent photos and description combine to leave no doubts as to the identification. The combination of finely streaked crown, small bill, faint supercilium, heavily barred wings, thin white streaking on the back and overall light buff colouration easily rules out Marsh Wren, the main confusion species. The timing of the BC record fits the pattern of records elsewhere on the Pacific coast.
Dovekie (Alle alle) – Campania Island, Aug. 21, 2013.
The available black and white photographs accompanying this record showed all diagnostic field marks consistent with Dovekie, and ruled out all sea ducks and other alcids. The very small bird had a squat body, short neck and very short stubby black bill. The head, neck, back and wings were black and the upper chest was sharply demarcated from the white underparts. The bird was observed at close range and the photographs were accompanied by detailed field notes on its appearance and behaviour.
Oriental Greenfinch (Chloris sinica) – Francois Lake, May 27, 2009.
From a series of low resolution photographs taken in poor light enough field marks could be seen to clearly identify the bird as an Oriental Greenfinch: pale conical bill, gray nape contrasting with a brown back, grayish breast, broad yellow patch at base of blackish primaries, yellow at base of tail and faintly yellowish undertail-coverts. However, the photographs were insufficiently detailed to allow identification to subspecies. Of the six subspecies recognized, only one, kawarahiba, is slightly migratory and historically has shown almost no pattern of long distance vagrancy. There are no mainland Alaska records and only two unaccepted records from California on the west coast. This record caused a considerable amount of discussion related to provenance, since the species has been known to be kept in captivity in Canada. Overall, the committee concluded that this record, though correct as to species, left considerable uncertainty as to provenance.
Conclusion: Not accepted
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) – Drury Inlet, May 4-June 3, 1998.
The closeup colour photograph clearly shows a Crested Caracara standing on the ground. The lack of buffy spotting on the wings, and barring rather than streaking on the chest and neck, identify the bird as an adult or near adult. The uniformly blackish-brown wings and upperparts (as opposed to lighter brownish with mottled scapulars) rule out Southern Caracara. The bird was unbanded and showed no obvious marks or signs of unusual feather wear. This species has shown a clear pattern of vagrancy in recent years and there are currently 3 accepted records for Washington, 5 for Oregon and over 50 for California. A recent analysis of 60 California sightings concludes that they represent repeated occurrences of perhaps only 11 individuals over successive years, and that the pattern is consistent with birds moving north as wild vagrants (Nelson and Pyle, Western Birds 44:45-55, 2013). The committee concluded that the remote location and characteristics of the bird were consistent with a wild origin, especially given the recent pattern of vagrancy for this species.
Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) – Juan de Fuca Strait, Aug. 8, 2004. This record was accompanied by clear photographs showing diagnostic field marks and excellent field notes. The white undertail coverts rule out the most similar species, Newell’s and Townsend’s Shearwaters. This species has become quite regular on the Pacific coast in recent years.
Yellow-green Vireo (Vireo flavoviridis) – Stanley Park, Vancouver, Sept. 18, 2013.
This bird was well photographed from several angles at high resolution by a visiting birder, and was originally identified by him as a Red-eyed Vireo. The bird shows a combination of field marks that are consistent for Yellow-green Vireo but not for Red-eyed Vireo: large pale bill, light silvery-gray crown that blends into the nape, indistinct supercilium bordered above by a very indistinct pale grayish line, and indistinct grayish eyeline. The extent and intensity of the continous yellow wash running from the undertail coverts, along the flanks and onto the ear-coverts are outside the normal range of variability seen on fall-plumaged Red-eyed Vireos. The upperparts are uniformly yellowish-olive, lighter than on Red-eyed Vireo. The bright red eye indicates this bird is an adult (after hatch year). Although there are currently no records of this species for Washington and Oregon, the timing of the Vancouver sighting puts it within the window of 82 accepted September-October records of this species for California, most of which have occurred since 1994.
Whooping Crane (Grus americana) – Prince George, Salmon River, Dome Creek and McBride, June 30 – Aug. 28, 2003.
Photographs of a pair of birds identify them unmistakably as Whooping Cranes. Published notes explain in detail the movements of these birds and leave no doubts regarding the authenticity of the sightings.
Black-tailed Gull (Larus crassirostris) – Courtney/Comox, Nov. 18-Dec. 1, 2008.
Excellent photographs of the bird, both standing and in flight, show all pertinent field marks of an adult Black-tailed Gull and easily eliminate all other species with which it might be confused. This individual was seen and photographed by many birders during its stay. Black-tailed Gull has a well-documented pattern of long distance vagrancy all over North America.