Birding Community E-Bulletin for November 2012

November 2012

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics:

And by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, publishers of a complete line of birding books for beginners and experts, available wherever books are sold. To purchase online and get updates on books, authors, events, and contests, like us on

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


There were some truly remarkable rarities to consider during October (e.g., Pink-footed Goose in Massachusetts, Barnacle Geese in at least three locations in the Northeast, Gray-tailed Tattler in Massachusetts, Black-tailed Godwit in Virginia, Rufous-capped Warbler in Arizona, and Red-throated Pipit in California) so we decided to depart from our common practice of only choosing one species and instead focused on two this month – a bi-coastal duo of Eurasian vagrants.

The first species was actually found on 28 September by Steve Gerow and his group during a Santa Cruz Bird Club field trip. Specifically Lois Goldfrank was the first to spot a Common Cuckoo during a trip being conducted in Watsonville, California. At least until the morning of 2 October, this rare vagrant was found near Watsonville Slough, in and around the area of Ramsey Park. The cuckoo moved around quite a bit and was often skittish. Nonetheless, hundreds of birders went to see this vagrant from Eurasia.

Common Cuckoos breed from Western Europe to eastern Russia, and they mainly winter in southern Africa, as well as India and Southeast Asia. To find one in remote parts of Alaska is rare enough, but to encounter one in California is simply shocking. There is only one other record for this species in the lower-48 United States – an individual seen and banded on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in May 1981.

Right from its initial appearance the Watsonville individual was well photographed where it was often observed in small patches of willows and acacias. To view some photos taken by Don Roberson, see:

For more details, here is a story from the 1 October SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL along with some additional quality photos. (You can ignore the silly headline and lead sentence, however):

The second Eurasian vagrant was discovered on the other side of the country on 13 October, at Marsh Meadows in Jamestown, Rhode Island. This was a Wood Sandpiper found and photographed by Carlos Pedro and viewed by hundreds of birders through at least 28 October. The bird tended to most often frequent shallow marsh pools in the northwest corner of the salt marsh.

This shorebird is a widely distributed Eurasian breeder and one that is fairly rare in Alaska, and significantly rarer elsewhere in the United States. Even with the increasing number of astute birders afield these days, Wood Sandpipers are still very rarely found in the eastern United States. To view photographs of the Rhode Island bird, taken by Pedro and others visit:


Whenever your editors are reviewing the rarity of the month, like the spectacular Common Cuckoo and Wood Sandpiper reported in this issue, one of our most dependable sources of information has been the on-line collection of birding listservs that Jack Siler has maintained since the early 1990s.

For years, Jack Siler’s “” has been an essential source for active birding information in North America and beyond. On this single website, one could easily access listserv postings from Alaska to Florida, plus locations in-between. But Jack recently expressed an interest in moving on. Accordingly, he invited the American Birding Association to keep this outstanding birding listserv resource going. Since mid-August, the ABA has stepped up admirably to fulfill this task. The resource is now called “Birding News,” but the invaluable collection of birding listservs is still available for quick review.

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