13 January 2010

"That page in the field guide"

The long-time birders know "that page." Even newcomers may know of "that page in the field guide," drawn to it by names like Red-flanked Bluetail and Stonechat.

Maps, if even illustrated, show ranges from Siberia barely into the continent in northern Alaska, Greenland.

Old World species gracing the New World in the farthest reaches of tundra corners.

"That page" is often where the Family Turdidae (thrushes) begin in our guides, but where our distant imaginations hover. One would have to take a trip to Nome, AK in the spring/summer to holdout hope in seeing one. A trip I would like to take one day, but since I haven't I feel very fortunate to have seen 2 of these species on "that page" in the lower 48. One shared with Heidi.

photo by J. Fidorra

Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) , first fall/winter female

On 14th September 2008 this Old World Species was discovered by 4 intrepid ;-) biologists working on San Clemente Island, off the coast of Southern California. Yours truly being one of them.

This gal is the first, and only, record in the lower 48 of North America. Spending spring and summer in Siberia, northern Alaska and far northern Yukon Territory, Canada this bird migrates to north Africa and India in the winter.

Click here to read my original post about her on my old blog.

It just so happens that a single Stonechat (Saxicola torquatus ) was documented on SCIsland many yrs before I began working there.

This brings us to Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). Far from San Clemente Island, in fact the Greenland race (O. o. leucorhoa) makes one of the longest transoceanic crossing of any passerine.

This bird winters in Africa, not 8 miles outside Beeville, TX where Heidi and I recently observed one.

In the Spring most of the aforementioned race migrate from Africa by way of continental Europe, the British Islands, Iceland to Greenland. Incredible!

Amazingly, a few months earlier, during migration not winter, a Northern Wheatear was seen shortly in Ohio. On an Amish farm.

The "Beeville" Northern Wheatear...... Amish farm. These subsistence farmers must be doing something right by the Earth. Small rows of crops share space with forbs (NOT WEEDS, not pests, 'cides not needed). Gracious folks taking only what they need from the Earth's giving; no more. In tune.

Anyhow, 2 down from "that page." One shared with Heidi. Which one will be next on this lifetime's list?

above: National Geographic Field Guide to North American Birds, ed. by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer, 2006.

By the way, Bluethroat and Northern Wheatear had been members of Family Turdidae (thrushes) but are now more generally considered to belong to Family Muscicapidae (Old World Flycatchers) which is not related to "New World" (the Americas) flycatchers.

May need a new page.

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