Alabama and Mississippi: Fall 2018
Fall 2018: 1 Aug–30 Nov
Greg D. Jackson
Jackson, G. D. 2021. Fall 2018: Alabama & Mississippi. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9VR> North American Birds.
Migration was kind to the busy observers in the region this autumn. Regular migrants, passerines and non-passerines alike, showed well, with many daily maxima broken across the spectrum of species. Quite a few late departure dates fell to the binocular-wielding troops as well. And those rare pearls of discovery appeared like magic to the fortunate on several occasions in both states.
August came with normal temperatures, mid-fall was unusually warm, and the season ended cooler than expected; with the exceptions below, most areas were dryer than usual until the end of the season. Two tropical systems staged assaults this period. Tropical Storm Gordon, originating in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, sliced northwest to make landfall on the Alabama coast in the evening of 4 September, continuing across southern Mississippi the following day. The main physical impacts were heavy rains and local flooding; a few avian observations likely were related. Far more powerful, and the first Category 5 storm to strike the Lower 48 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Michael arose in the western Caribbean and took aim on the eastern Panhandle of Florida. The tempest roared ashore 10 October then continued northeast, mildly affecting the southeast corner of Alabama before charging across Georgia. The physical and human tolls were immense from this monster; several significant bird records were produced in the immediate aftermath.
Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)
Jane C. Allen, Melinda Averhart, Katie Barnes, Wayne Baumgartner, Andrew Bell, Blair Benson, Isaac Boden, Charles W. Boley, Philippe Bouvier, Joanne Bradbury, Dick Bruer, Jason Bryan, Lily Calderon (LCn), John Cambre, Linda Cambre, Rodney Cassidy, Franklin Chalk, Bala Chennupati, Karen Chiasson, John Cole (JCo), Margaret Cole, C. Dwight Cooley, Carey Cooper, Holly Cox, Abby Darrah
Harry Dean, Gil DeHuff, Jennifer Dial, Karen Dierolf, Robert Dobbs, Brady Dunaway, R. Scot Duncan, Kavan Eldredge, Auriel Fournier, Lawrence F. Gardella, Ben C. Garmon, Jeff T. Garner, David P. George, Doris Gertler, Leslie Gibb, Robert Goss, Olivia Graves, M. Scott Gravette, Alban Guillaumet, Evelyne C. Guillaumet, Andrew Haffenden, Dana C. Hamilton, R. Stan Hamilton, Greg J. Harber, Ken Hare, Jeffrey Harris, J. Milton Harris, Eric Haskell, Geoff E. Hill, James F. Holmes, Jim Holmes (JHo), Howard E. Horne, Sharon H. Hudgins, Eugene Huryn (EHu), John M. Imhof, Debra G. Jackson, Greg D. Jackson (Alabama), Wes Jarnigan, James Jarosz, Brian Johnston, Jeff Johnston (JJo), Michael J. Jordan, Scott Jones, Chris King, Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Gene C. Knight, Bob Kornegay, Josh Lefever, Denise Littleton, Andrew Lydeard, Paul Mack, Laura Marsh (LMa), Keith Martin (KMa), Natalie Matthews, Rodney McCollum, Steve W. McConnell, Mo McCool, Lori McDonald, Paul McLaren (PMc), Keith McMullen, Rosemary Meredith (RMe), Anne G. Miller, Ralph E. Mirarchi, Hal Mitchell, Kristina Mitchell (KMi), Alan Moss, Sue R. Moske, Sheila Murphy, Janice Neitzel, Jimmy Osborne, Michael Parrish, Dianne Patterson, Jim Patterson, Wayne R. Patterson, Brittany Peterson, Rhonda Plitt, Daniel Redwine, Steve Reed, Rick Remy, Emma Rhodes, J. R. Rigby, Orin Robinson, Pelham A. Rowen, Patsy Russo, Frank Sandford, Thomas W. Savage, Marion H. Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer (Mississippi), Jessica Schultz (JSz), Don Self, Judy Self, Frank John Serio, Frank Joseph Serio (FJsS), Renea Simpson, Damien J. Simbeck, Eric C. Soehren, Kristie Stein (KSt), Collin Stempien, Fred Strickland (FSt), Keith Sullivan, Chris Sykes (CSy), John A. Trent, Matt Wagner (MWa), Ken Ward, Satchell Watts-Kerr, Vincent Weber, Daniel West, Mariah West, Bryan White, James White.
Blakeley I. (Blakeley Island, Mobile, AL); Dauphin (Dauphin Island, Mobile, AL); Ft. Morgan (Fort Morgan State Historical Park, Baldwin, AL); G.C. (Gulf Coast region, Mobile/Baldwin, AL); I.C.P. (Inland Coastal Plain region of south and central Alabama); M.R. (Mountain Region of north central Alabama); Noxubee N.W.R. (Noxubee N.W.R., Noxubee/Oktibbeha/Winston, MS); O.C.L. (Oktibbeha County Lake, Oktibbeha, MS); T.V. (Tennessee Valley region of north Alabama); U.E.C.M. (Upper East Central Mississippi—seven-county region surrounding Starkville: Oktibbeha, Webster, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Winston, Choctaw); Wheeler Dam (Tennessee River, Lauderdale/Limestone, AL); Wheeler N.W.R. (Wheeler N.W.R., Limestone/Morgan/Madison, AL); Wilson Dam (Tennessee River, Lauderdale/Colbert, AL); p.a. (pending acceptance); acc. (accepted); vt. (videotape); v.r. (voice recording).
WATERFOWL THROUGH HUMMINGBIRDS
The explosion of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks continues, particularly prominent in coastal Alabama but now regularly appearing, and locally breeding, inland in the region. Especially noteworthy reports in Mississippi included up to 35 in Lowndes 11 Aug–10 Sep (WJ, TLS, MHS, DP, JP et al., ph.) for a local high count, a first U.E.C.M. nesting 28 Sep at Noxubee N.W.R. (ph. KMa), and a departure date set 3 Nov by 11 individuals in Lowndes (TLS, MHS, JH, JC, LC, ph.). Rare in n. Alabama, 9 Black-bellieds were in Jackson 10 Nov (ph. SM) establishing a new maximum. Local but rapidly increasing in the I.C.P., a peak was provided by 86 at a now-regular site in Barbour 18 Nov (HEH, ph. JAT et al.), and 200 Black-bellieds 28 Nov in s. Baldwin (ph. KC, EH, m.ob.) surpassed the Alabama fall pinnacle. Notably early, a Ross’s Goose was spotted 1 Nov at O.C.L. (TLS).
Ninety diminutive Green-winged Teal at Blakeley I. (LFG) gave the G.C. a new high mark. The 200 Canvasbacks in Lowndes 27 Nov (DP, MM) were unusually plentiful for U.E.C.M., and the I.C.P. top count was surpassed by 32 in Hale 29 Nov (ph. DS, JS). Breaking the limit in fall for n. Alabama, 600 Ring-necked Ducks were in Jackson 8 Nov (JL). Black Scoter is uncommon to rare along the coast, but erratic with fluctuating numbers year to year; this was a particularly good season for transit, with multiple reports and some in large numbers. As many as 32 were present in Harrison, MS 9–14 Nov (ph. HC et al.). Passage was even more impressive along Alabama shores, with new peaks for the state: up to 126 were seen on the Ft. Morgan Pen. 30 Oct–13 Nov (FC, CC), as many as 125 farther east in Baldwin 11–30 Nov (ph. KM et al.), and up to 135 were at Dauphin 2–30 Nov (BCG, CS, KB, AH, KM et al., ph.). Far more unusual away from saltwater, 3 Black Scoters were in Winston, MS 15–16 Nov (TLS, MHS, JH, PM et al., ph.), a female was at Oxford, Lafayette, MS 16 Nov (GCK, ph. JRR), an impressive 9 were in Montgomery, MS 16 Nov (MHS, JH, IB, ph.), 2 were discovered 21 Nov in Talladega, AL (JTG), and a single was spotted in Montgomery, AL the same day (ph. AG, ECG).
A “summer” surprise, a Bufflehead was in Covington at least from 24 Aug (TWS), providing the first Alabama record in the period July through September. Two were unprecedentedly ahead of schedule in Clay, MS 23 Oct (ph. JH, MHS). A count of 55 of these dapper little ducks near Dauphin 19 Nov (RD, JSz) set a maximum in fall for the G.C., and the top count in autumn for s. Alabama was furnished by 100 in Montgomery 24 Nov (JH). Rare in U.E.C.M. in late summer and early fall, a Hooded Merganser was noted 15 Sep at O.C.L. (MHS). Northern Bobwhite is a species in a tailspin in many areas, so it was good to learn of a maximum G.C. fall count of 26 in n. Baldwin 5 Aug (LFG). A top I.C.P. tally of 137 Pied-billed Grebes was recorded 23 Nov in s. Hale (JW). The autumn G. C. high for Horned Grebe was passed with the observation of 25 at Dauphin 17 Nov (AH, KB, CS et al.).
Inca Dove continues on the rise, still rare but breeding in several spots in the southern portions of the region. Two were at Dauphin 10–12 Sep (ph. RD), 2 were at a usual site in Jackson, MS 22 Sep (KB, MA, BJ, ph.), and 1–3 were inland at Hattiesburg 8–18 Oct (ph. LG). On the Ft. Morgan Pen., 2 Incas were present 15–22 Oct (ph. JN) at a frequent site, and another was to the east at Bon Secour N.W.R. 17 Nov (BP). Rare but regular in coastal Mississippi, a Groove-billed Ani was discovered 17 Nov in Pascagoula (HC, LM, RP, LG, ph.). The 14 Yellow-billed Cuckoos 4 Aug in Covington (TWS) established a new fall I.C.P. top count, and another 10 Nov in Lowndes (PM) was quite tardy for U.E.C.M. Black-billed Cuckoo is rarely detected in autumn migration inland, so separate sightings in Lowndes, MS 8 Sep (PM) and 14 Sep (JO), 22 Sep in Birmingham (ph. KE), and 19 Oct in n. Lee, AL (REM), were noteworthy. A tardy Chimney Swift was spotted 28 Oct in Lowndes, MS (PM). Two Eastern Whip-poor-wills sounding off 7 Oct in the Talladega N.F., Cleburne/Clay (GEH) gave the M.R. a late record. An estimated 400 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in Lauderdale 8 Sep (DJS et al., 33 b.) resulted in a new fall maximum for Alabama.
LIMPKIN THROUGH TERNS
The first in 34 years in Mississippi, a Limpkin was a shock 24 Sep near Potts Camp, Marshall (ph./vt. KD, MWa, acc.). Rare in U.E.C.M., up to 6 Black-necked Stilts were noted 15 Aug–6 Sep in Lowndes (PM, TLS, MHS, m.ob., ph.). Several American Avocets unexpectedly graced inland areas this season. In U.E.C.M., 12 were discovered 3 Aug in Webster (TLS, MHS, MP, ph.), and singles were in Lowndes 20–21 Aug (TLS, JH, MHS et al., ph.) and in Noxubee 26 Aug (ph. JH). To the east in Alabama, lone avocets were found 1 Sep in Cherokee (ph. PB) and after Hurricane Michael 11 Oct in Henry (ph. GEH), with a duo at Wheeler N.W.R. 3–7 Nov (JMH, KW, CWB, HD et al., ph.). Even more unusual away from the Gulf, single Marbled Godwits dominated the scene 13–14 Aug at Greenville, Washington, MS (FJS, FJsS, ph.) and 2–3 Nov at Wheeler N.W.R. (RLK, RJK et al.). Joining the unusual inland shorebird parade, a Ruddy Turnstone was in Lauderdale, AL 10 Aug (RJK, RLK).
Tallying 218 Sanderlings at Dauphin 19 Nov (RD) yielded a fall Alabama maximum. Baird’s Sandpiper is rare in the I.C.P.; lone birds were found 3 Sep in Lowndes (GEH) and 13 Sep in Escambia (ph. JCo, MC). Quite scarce in autumn, a White-rumped Sandpiper was found 2 Oct in Crenshaw, AL (JW). Latest for U.E.C.M., the uncommon Buff-breasted Sandpiper was spotted 6 Oct in Noxubee (JH, LC, JC, WRP et al., ph.). A Willet, unusual in non-coastal haunts, was in Tuscaloosa, AL 17–18 Aug (ph. WJ et al.). The count of 65 Greater Yellowlegs at Blakeley I. 3 Oct (ECS) furnished a new G.C. fall high. It was an exciting triple-phalarope season for the region. Wilson’s Phalarope is rare in U.E.C.M., so noteworthy were a juvenile 11–15 Aug in Lowndes (TLS, ph. MHS, m.ob.), 2 adults at the same spot 21 Aug (TLS, JH, BD, MP, ph.), and one 5–6 Sep in Noxubee (JH, MHS, TLS, ph.). Occasional in autumn in Alabama, lone Red-necked Phalaropes were at Ft. Morgan 6 Sep (ph. ECS) and at Blakeley I. the next day (ph. RLK, RJK), possibly related to the passage of Tropical Storm Gordon. Winning the trophy, though, was the crowd-pleasing Red Phalarope 22–24 Sep at O.C.L. (MHS, TLS, m.ob., ph., acc.).
Pomarine Jaeger is rarely observed in our region, though appears to be regular in low numbers offshore in late fall; an adult was spotted 23 Nov in Biloxi, MS (OG; acc.). Rare but expected in the T.V., up to three Laughing Gulls were at Wheeler Dam 27 Sep–16 Oct (ph. DJS, WB). Franklin’s Gull is rare in U.E.C.M.; one was at O.C.L. 29 Oct (TLS, MHS, JH, PM, ph.), up to 2 were in Lowndes beginning 4 Nov (TLS, m.ob., ph.), and as many as 4 were at another Lowndes site 7–10 Nov (JH et al., ph.). Rare but habitual in Alabama in fall, up to 2 daily Franklin’s were in the Wheeler Dam area 24 Aug–16 Oct (RLK, RJK, DJS, m.ob., ph.), 2 adults were at Guntersville, Marshall 3 Nov (ph. GDJ) with a first-cycle bird there 11 Nov (ph. BC), and another youngster was at Dauphin 11 Nov (AH, KB, ph.). At Logan Martin Dam, St. Clair/Tallapoosa 17 Nov, 13 Herring Gulls (MW, DW) provided the M.R. a fall peak count. Lesser Black-backed Gull continues in low numbers—and is gradually increasing—at certain sites in the region. Of several Alabama reports, most notable were at least 9 individuals (daily high of 5) beginning as early as 24 Aug in the favored area of Wheeler and Wilson Dams (RJK, RLK, DJS, GDJ, m.ob., ph.). Up to 4 Lessers were at Dauphin—not a usual site—during the period 13 Oct–20 Nov (ECS, CS, BCG et al., ph.). At the frequent site of Guntersville, Marshall, a juvenile appeared 3 Nov (GDJ) and an adult 11–23 Nov (BC et al.). Less frequent in Mississippi, an adult was far inland in Panola 24 Nov (ph. HC, LJ). A rare apparition, particularly inland, an immature Glaucous Gull was located 26 Nov in Madison, MS (ph. AB, acc.). Regular in small numbers on the Mississippi coast, a first-cycle Great Black-backed Gull was the unexpected beach bully at Biloxi, MS at the early date of 27 Aug (ph. HC).
Sooty Tern is rare but regular well offshore, with up to 5 pairs nesting several years on the Alabama coast, but usually appears onshore in conjunction with tropical storms. One was at Dauphin as Tropical Storm Gordon was in the Gulf 2 Sep (KB, AH, ph.). Bridled Tern is more often encountered well offshore than Sooty, but is less frequent onshore, even with storms. On closer approach of Gordon 4 Sep, Dauphin hosted 5 of these slender terns as well (AH). The Caspian Tern 7–16 Nov in Lowndes (PM et al., ph.) was the latest for U.E.C.M. A GPS-tagged Common Tern, rare in mid summer on the Mississippi mainland, was noted with 2 others at Gulfport 1 Aug (MA, BW, AD, ph.); this elderly female had been banded in 2007 at Interstate I., MN/WI. A single flock of 141 Forster’s Terns in Lauderdale 5 Oct (DJS) yielded a new fall inland Alabama maximum. Royal Tern is only occasional away from the coast, generally in conjunction with tropical activity; 11 Oct following Hurricane Michael, 8 were spotted at W.F. George Dam, Henry (ph. GEH) for the eighth I.C.P. record.
LOONS THROUGH WOODPECKERS
A Pacific Loon, rare but expected at Guntersville, Marshall, AL, was seen 16–18 Nov (RLK, RJK, FS et al.); another was more unusual at Wheeler N.W.R. 17 Nov (CDC, GJH, CWB, m.ob.). Though locally abundant at times in the I.C.P., Wood Storks remain rare in other regions of Alabama; lone storks were discovered 25 Aug in Colbert (ph. KW, DB, JMH, m.ob.) and 23 Sep in Tallapoosa (GEH), with 4 noteworthy in Baldwin 26 Oct (RJK, RLK, FS). With only five prior inland Alabama records of Magnificent Frigatebird, the 2 immatures in Henry (GEH) and another in Barbour (PMc et al.) 11 Oct after Hurricane Michael were significant. A count of 3530 Double-crested Cormorants 5 Nov at Dauphin (EM, OR, BB) set an autumn maximum for Alabama. Only occasional in fall in the T.V., single Anhingas were spotted 17 Aug in Colbert (DJS) and 16 Sep in Morgan (SWM). Though a regular breeder at Noxubee N.W.R., up to 50 Anhingas there 15 Sep (JH, IB, FSt) were unusually plentiful. The Brown Pelican far from the Gulf in Choctaw 26 Aug (ph. DS, JS) was the sixth in fall for the I.C.P.
Least Bittern is now rare in U.E.C.M.; one was detected at the former breeding location of Noxubee N.W.R. 23 Sep (ph. JJ), exceeding prior local departures by a month. Top count in autumn for the G.C., 96 Great Blue Herons were in Mobile and Weeks Bays, Baldwin 3 Oct (JB). A fall maximum for n. Alabama, and tying the all-time high, an estimated 500 Great Egrets must have been impressive in Colbert 8 Aug (DJS). Rare in U.E.C.M., a juvenile Tricolored Heron was photographed in Lowndes 18 Aug (JH, MP, MHS, PM). Scarce in recent years in this area, a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was noteworthy in Lowndes 18 Aug–6 Sep (ph. JH et al); eight in Perry 26 Aug (DPG) furnished a top fall count for the I.C.P.
Though breeding in small numbers on the Alabama coast, Plegadis ibis are rare inland in the region. Three Glossy Ibis and 9 White-faced Ibis were discovered at St. Catherine’s Creek N.W.R., Adams, MS 11 Aug (ph. HC). Single Plegadis were observed 14 Sep in Shelby (ph. RR) for the third fall M.R. record, 29 Sep in Noxubee, MS (ph. JH), and 6–21 Oct at Wheeler N.W.R. (CWB, ph. RG). The spectacular Roseate Spoonbill continues to show well in the region, particularly in the Mississippi Delta but also this season in other areas. Of many records in both states, most notable were 4 each in Sumter, AL 3 Aug (ph. JD) and Autauga/Lowndes 13 Aug (ph. KH), up to 8 at O.C.L. 13–23 Sep (TLS, MHS, JH, MP, m.ob., ph.), and 6 along the Black Warrior R. in Hale, AL 15 Sep (JTG). Rare in the T.V., an immature spoonbill was discovered trapped in a small office building courtyard at Huntsville 15 Aug (ph. JB et al.), but was captured and successfully released.
A funereal assemblage of 90 Black Vultures 6 Oct in Cullman (KS) set a fall M.R. maximum. Rare in U.E.C.M., a Swallow-tailed Kite spiced up the day in Oktibbeha 15 Aug (MP). Mississippi Kite is found locally in n. Alabama and is slowly increasing, more in the M.R. but also the T.V. Interesting reports away from usual sites included one in New Hope, Shelby 5 Aug (GDJ), an unexpected 8 kites in Homewood, Jefferson 19 Aug (RLK), up to 5 tying the T.V. fall max 26 Aug–1 Sep near Falkville, Morgan (ph. BJ et al.), and 2 at Key Cave N.W.R., Lauderdale 9 Sep (ph. WB). A controversial though exciting return visitor, presently under records committee review regarding provenance, an adult Harris’s Hawk was in Chickasaw, Mobile 22 Oct–4 Nov (NM, m.ob., ph.); Alabama has no prior accepted records of this falconers’ favorite. Rare but increasing in autumn in the G.C., an immature Swainson’s Hawk was spotted 18 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. KC).
Scarce and irregular in the G.C., a Short-eared Owl was a surprise 28 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. SR). More frequent but still erratic in the T.V., another was in Madison 23 Nov (SRM). The nocturnal banding efforts in n. and cen. Alabama led by the Sargents ceased following Bob’s demise in 2014, but taught us much about the unanticipated prevalence of Northern Saw-whet Owls in the area each winter. Mississippi saw banding operations this fall aimed at this tiny tiger, with 3 captured at Holly Springs, Marshall 6–19 Nov (KMi, HM et al., ph., all acc.). A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 11 Sep in Madison (WB) gave the T.V. an early date, and 10 at Wheeler N.W.R. 19 Oct (RLK, RJK) represented a fall top count for that region. An autumn high for the I.C.P. was furnished by 13 Downy Woodpeckers 6 Oct in Lowndes (GEH).
FLYCATCHERS THROUGH CARDUELINE FINCHES
Ash-throated Flycatcher is rare but expected in fall along the Gulf; one was found at Ft. Morgan 2 Nov (ph. FC). Rare inland, and only the sixth in fall for the M.R., a Western Kingbird was at Inverness, Shelby 20 Sep (ph. RJK). Late for U.E.C.M., an Eastern Kingbird dallied to 5 Oct in Lowndes (PM). Of multiple Scissor-tailed Flycatcher reports, most noteworthy was a nw. Mississippi single in Washington 11 Oct and 2 Nov (ph. FJS). High snags throughout the region are eagerly inspected early each fall for the rare but regular Olive-sided Flycatcher. Slightly less frequent inland, appearances were made at Birmingham by at least one individual 1–18 Sep (ph. RR, AGM, DG), singles were at two separate sites 3 Sep in Lamar, AL (ph. DS, JS), and one was in Shelby, AL 29 Sep (JMI et al.). Coastal observations of “Ol’ Big Head” were 11 Sep at Daphne, Baldwin (LFG) and 20 Sep in Biloxi (ph. HC). Smaller cousin Eastern Wood-Pewee gave the T.V. a new high with 88 on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count 29 Sep, and exceptionally tardy wood-pewees were noted 27–28 Oct in Madison, AL (CWB) and 2 Nov in Oktibbeha, MS (v.r. JO).
A fall maximum for the M.R., 5 Acadian Flycatchers were on the Birmingham area count 29 Sep; another 17 Oct in Lowndes (PM) gave U.E.C.M. a new departure date. Rarely identified, a calling Alder Flycatcher was in Montgomery 17 Sep (LFG). Doppelganger Willow Flycatcher is a bit more frequently characterized to species in fall, and singles were vocalizing at Wheeler N.W.R. (where nesting has occurred) 18 Aug (CWB) and in Coffee, AL 22 Sep (GEH). The total of 160 Eastern Phoebes on the Birmingham area count 29 Sep exceeded prior inland highs, and was a new peak for Alabama in fall. Rare but regular along the coast in fall and winter, jaunty Vermilion Flycatchers, both female, were fun 6 Oct at Biloxi (ph. HC) and 20 Nov just north of Mobile (ph. PR, DL).
On the Wheeler N.W.R. area count, 66 White-eyed Vireos set a T.V. autumn maximum 29 Sep, and a lingerer in Birmingham 28 Nov (ph. RR) was the latest for n. Alabama excepting casual winter sightings. Bell’s Vireo is rare but expected in fall in the G.C.; one was discovered 9 Oct unusually away from the outer coast in Daphne, Baldwin (LFG), and another was at Dauphin 2–3 Nov (ph. JHo, RM, BCG et al.). Earliest for the I.C.P., a Blue-headed Vireo was in Marengo 21 Aug (DS, JS), with a fall I.C.P. high of 7 in Covington 23 Nov (AM). Warbling Vireo is uncommon in U.E.C.M. in autumn, and a tardy individual was observed 30 Sep in Oktibbeha (MHS); rare in the M.R., singles were noted at different sites in Jefferson 19 Sep (RSH, DCH) and 29 Sep (PAR, CSy).
More in line with much of the East, but bucking the usual G.C. spring trend, Cave Swallows appeared at Ft. Morgan 21 Oct (JL, LCn) and at Dauphin 14 Nov (ph. CS); there were only 3 prior fall G.C. and 6 previous fall Alabama records. A Red-breasted Nuthatch was unprecedentedly early for the M.R. 8 Sep in Jefferson (RSD). Setting a high I.C.P. fall count, 26 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were found in Tuscaloosa 17 Aug (RLK, RJK). The Veery 18 Oct at Huntsville (CWB) was the latest for the T.V.; on the flip side, a Hermit Thrush 18 Sep in Houston (RS, BK) represented the earliest for the I.C.P. An amazing surprise while slinking through the dense foliage of the Goat Trees at Dauphin, a male Varied Thrush was discovered 2 Nov (ph. JHo, RM) for a fourth Alabama record. Multiple Alabama regional autumn maxima bit the dust this season through the following observations: 650 American Robins in Sumter 24 Nov (RD), 113 Gray Catbirds 29 Sep on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count, 100 Cedar Waxwings in Shelby 13 Nov (MW, DW), 200 American Pipits at Wheeler N.W.R. 10 Nov (CDC, JCA, KW), 6 Purple Finches 24 Nov in Lamar (JW), 32 Pine Siskins at Dauphin 18 Nov (KM), and 45 American Goldfinches at Dauphin 17 Nov (KB).
SPARROWS THROUGH CARDINALIDS
A new state fall high for Chipping Sparrow was furnished by 163 on the Birmingham area count 29 Sep. Clay-colored Sparrow is a regular though rare transient along the Gulf in autumn, and 2 were found at Dauphin 24 Oct (CS, KSt, LMa, ph.). Non-coastal reports came from Auburn, Lee 15–18 Oct (JHo, JFH, RM, m.ob.; ph.), yielding the eighth inland in fall for Alabama and the sixth at any season for the M.R., and 29 Oct at O.C.L. (TLS, MHS, acc.) providing U.E.C.M. an eighth occurrence. Tying the earliest for the T.V., a White-throated Sparrow was spotted 29 Sep at Wheeler N.W.R. (CDC, MSG). Henslow’s Sparrow is rarely detected inland in the fall. Providing a fourth I.C.P. record at that season, this skulker was incredibly found 29 Oct at Tuscaloosa (ph. EHu et al.) feeding peacefully on a short grass lawn between classrooms on the University of Alabama campus!
Yellow-headed Blackbird is rare but regular in fall in the G.C., and an adult male was discovered 21 Oct at Ft. Morgan (JL, LCn). Two Bobolinks, rare in fall, were on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count 29 Sep (CDC, MSG). Single Orchard Orioles were found 29 Sep on both the Wheeler N.W.R. area count (RSD, RR, RSH, DCH) and the Birmingham area count (DPG, SSH), setting a new inland Alabama departure date. The rare Bronzed Cowbird 22 Oct at Ft. Morgan (GDJ, DGJ) was the twelfth in autumn for the state.
A rare hybrid Brewster’s Warbler was spotted at Monte Sano S.P., Madison 1 Sep (ph. RG) for a tenth T.V. and seventh fall T.V. record. A late Black-and-white Warbler was in Lowndes, MS 3–4 Nov (GD, TLS). A total of 140 Tennessee Warblers on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count 29 Sep represented a T.V. maximum. Scarce in the I.C.P., a Nashville Warbler appeared in Conecuh 3 Oct (JW). Not often noted in fall, and only the 6th for that season in U.E.C.M., a Mourning Warbler was a treat 17 Sep at Plymouth Bluff, Lowndes (TLS, acc.). The Wheeler N.W.R. area count 29 Sep generated another T.V. high with 89 American Redstarts. A Cape May Warbler was rare in fall at Huntsville 21 Sep (CWB), and another was discovered 6 Oct farther northeast in DeKalb (ph. RMe).
Setting a departure mark for n. Alabama, a Northern Parula was in Shelby 31 Oct (RLK), and one in Lowndes 4 Nov (TLS) was the tardiest for U.E.C.M. Behind schedule as well, a Magnolia Warbler at Dauphin 20 Nov (ph. RD) was the latest for Alabama, and a Bay-breasted Warbler in Lowndes 4 Nov (TLS) gave U.E.C.M. a new terminal date. On the other hand, a Chestnut-sided Warbler 3 Aug at Wheeler Dam (AL, DR) set a new T.V. arrival. For the fifth fall I.C.P. occurrence, and only twelfth for that region overall, a male Black-throated Blue Warbler was a nice find at Tuscaloosa 30 Sep (SW-K, ph. WJ, SJ). Four Yellow-throated Warblers 11 Aug in Wilcox (RC) and 29 Sep on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count exceeded the I.C.P. and tied the T.V., respectively, high seasonal counts. Latest in the fall for the M.R. (though with two winter records), a Black-throated Green Warbler dallied to 18 Nov in Lee (RM). Rare but regular in autumn in the M.R., a Wilson’s Warbler was on the Birmingham area count 29 Sep (GJH et al.).
Lagging the pack, a Summer Tanager was in Lowndes, MS until 6 Nov (PM). A rare Western Tanager, even better an adult male, brightened the day 5 Sep at Bon Secour N.W.R., Baldwin, AL (JL, LCn, VW). Though there are five winter season occurrences, a Blue Grosbeak 30 Nov at Ft. Morgan (ph. FC) was the latest for Alabama in the fall period. An impressive tally of 609 Indigo Buntings on the Wheeler N.W.R. area count 29 Sep broke the fall maximum for n. Alabama. A real surprise, a female-type Painted Bunting was carefully observed 28 Sep at Swan Creek W.M.A., Limestone (CWB) for only the fifth in the T.V. and the first in autumn. Painteds breed uncommonly in U.E.C.M., but one remaining until 18 Nov in Lowndes (DP, JP) smashed the departure record by over a month.
Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 15 Feb 2021.