Alabama and Mississippi: Fall 2019

Fall 2019: 1 Aug–30 Nov

Greg D. Jackson
[email protected]

Recommended citation:

Jackson, G. D. 2021. Fall 2019: Alabama & Mississippi. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-9Xv> North American Birds.

For rarity fanciers, our region was a great place to be in Autumn 2019! Numerous unusual species were observed throughout the area spanning the phylogenetic order. Standard migrants arrived in respectable numbers and diversity, and many lingering individuals were found.

We fortunately avoided direct strikes by tropical systems this season. Tropical Storm Nestor delivered only a glancing blow in late October as it transited from the northeast Gulf of Mexico into the Florida Panhandle and Georgia, casting heavy rain along our coast. Temperatures in the region were generally warm until a chillier-than-normal November; precipitation was increased in August and October, but diminished in September and November.

Contributors (subregional editors in boldface)

Skyler Abell, Jane C. Allen, Andrew Bell, Eric Blomberg (EBl), Charles W. Boley, Jake Bones, Ned Boyajian, Jordan Broadhead (JBr), Sue Buckingham, Edlyn Burch, Bill Campbell (BCa), Thomas Ceruzzi, Franklin Chalk, Walt F. Chambers, P. Chappell, Bala Chennupati, Karen Chiasson, Katherine Clemo (KCl), John Cole, Margaret Cole, C. Dwight Cooley, Carey Cooper, Neill Cowles, Holly Cox, Ellen Crotty, Meegan Dale, Joan Dixon, Rod Douglas, R. Scot Duncan, Harold Elder, Nora Elder, Chuck Estes, Lola Estes, Barry K. Fleming, Paul H. Franklin, Cynthia Freeman, Lawrence F. Gardella, Ben C. Garmon, David P. George, Doris Gertler, Lillie Gibb, Robert Goss, Olivia Graves, M. Scott Gravette, Andrew Haffenden (AHn), Charlie Hagan, Dana C. Hamilton, R. Stan Hamilton, Tina Hammond, Greg J. Harber, Rob Harbin, Jeffrey Harris, Amber Hart, Eric Haskell (EHa), Lynn Hathaway, Kathy Hicks, Geoff E. Hill, Jim Holmes (JHo), Howard E. Horne, Eugene Huryn, Debra G. Jackson, Greg D. Jackson (Alabama), Lucy Jacobson, Wes Jarnigan, Odis H. Johnson, Brian Johnston, Sam Jolly, Michael J. Jordan, Nicholaus Kelley, Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Bob Kornegay

Contributors (cont.)

Edward Landi, Herbert Lewis, Craig Litteken, Marybeth Lima, Jan Lloyd, Andrew Lydeard, Paul Mack, Joel Martin, Rodney McCollum, Mo McCool (MMc), Lori McDonald, Don McKee, Keith McMullen, David McVay (DMy), Anne G. Miller, Sharon Milligan, Ralph E. Mirarchi, Hal Mitchell, Kristina Mitchell (KMi), Matt Morrow, Sue R. Moske, Sheila Murphy (SMu), Linda Neighbors, Janice Neitzel, Chris Nixon, Thomas O’Flarity, Bill Parker, Diane Patterson (DPa), Ashley Peters, Dillon Potter (DPo), Mason Preston, David Plumb, D. Michael Ray, David Reed, Rick Remy, Emma Rhodes, JoAnn P. Riggle, Tommie Rogers, Jeanette Ruffles, Patsy Russo, Frank Sandford, Michael Sandoz, Thomas W. Savage, Marion H. Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer (Mississippi), Suzanne Schneidau, Tim Schneidau, Don Self, Judy Self, Frank John Serio, Lindsay Shaw, Tom Siegwald (TSi), Damien J. Simbeck, Renea Simpson, Georgia Sims, Eric C. Soehren, Angela Stahl, Mike Stahl (MSt), Collin Stempien, Ruben Stoll, Victor Stoll, Bill Summerour, Lauren Thead, Carrie Threadgill, Barrie Tillman, John A. Trent, Heidi Vanhanen, Alan Van Norman, Ken Ward, Pullen Watkins, Douglas Watson, Satchell Watts-Kerr, Harold Webe, Spencer Weitzel, Jimmy Wells (JWe), Scottie Whigham (SWh), James White, Randy White, Joe Wujcik (JWu), Aaron Yappert, T.J. Zenzal.

Acknowledgments: I appreciate the assistance of Gene C. Knight in providing Mississippi Ornithological Society Bird Records Committee information and photographs.

Abbreviations: Blakeley I. (Blakeley Island, Mobile, AL); Dauphin (Dauphin Island, Mobile, AL); Eufaula N.W.R. (Barbour, AL units); 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 near 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); b. (banded).

WATERFOWL THROUGH GREBES

Continuing a march through the region, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks appeared at several non-typical sites. In U.E.C.M., where still rare and first arriving in 2015, breeding birds extended their summer residence in Noxubee (TLS et al.) and Lowndes (JH et al., ph.); as many as 54 adults and juveniles were in Oktibbeha beginning 21 Sep (JH et al., ph.). In Alabama, I.C.P. observations of Black-bellieds at new sites included one bird 17 Aug in Autauga (GEH) and 2 in Perry 19 Oct (ph. JW); 3 birds in Lauderdale 1 Sep (ph. AL) were only the fourth for the T.V. in fall. Fulvous Whistling-Duck is now only occasionally seen in our area; one was spotted near Van Cleave, Jackson, MS 19 Sep (SS, TS, NB et al., ph., acc.). Becoming regular in the I.C.P., a Ross’s Goose was in Tuscaloosa 2–3 Nov (HE, NE et al., ph.), up to 5 were present in Barbour 19–20 Nov (ph. PC et al.), and a single was in Lee 29–30 Nov (ph. JHo et al.); a Ross’s in Etowah 30 Nov (ph. TH) was rare for the M.R. Providing the third fall T.V. record, a Cackling Goose was in Colbert 26–27 (DJS et al., ph.).

Representing an M.R. maximum, 270 Northern Shovelers were counted in Etowah 11 Nov (GDJ). Fall high tallies for Alabama came with estimates at Wheeler N.W.R. of 12,000 Gadwalls 2 Nov (CDC, KW, JCA, NC) and 7500 Mallards 23 Nov (CDC). The American Black Duck 4 Sep in Etowah (GDJ) was rare so early in the M.R., and may have summered locally. At Wheeler N.W.R., 350 Green-winged Teal 23 Nov (CDC) tied the Alabama fall top. A count of 45 Canvasbacks 25 Nov at Eufaula N.W.R. (MP) furnished an autumn I.C.P. peak, and 2 Redheads in Elmore 8 Oct (GEH) gave that region an early date. Unusual summering Ring-necked Ducks were noted in Hale, AL July–7 Aug (DPG), in Noxubee, MS 26 Aug–11 Sep (TLS, JH, ph.), and 4 Sep in Etowah, AL (GDJ); at that Etowah site, 680 Ring-neckeds provided a fall state maximum 11 Nov (GDJ). Noteworthy in the I.C.P., up to 2 Greater Scaup were observed in Barbour 7–25 Nov (RS, BK). An atypically summering Lesser Scaup was in Hale, AL 17 Aug–5 Sep (GJH et al., ph.).

Sporadic inland, a Surf Scoter was spotted 2 Nov in Marshall, AL (ph. GDJ); while often occurring along the coast, 2 on Dauphin 2 Nov (JWu) tied the G.C. arrival record. Two Surfs were unexpected 8 Nov in Lowndes, MS (TLS, MHS, PM). Rare and irregular in Mississippi, a White-winged Scoter was discovered in Jackson 7 Nov (BJ, OG et al., ph.); ninth for the I.C.P., and only the second for fall in that region, 2 White-wingeds were in Chilton 9–10 Nov (ph. JWu et al.). Black Scoter seems more numerous in recent years, often in sizable flocks at the Gulf; largest numbers this season were 59 in Baldwin 7 Nov (KM) and 54 in that county 12 Nov (LFG). Far scarcer inland, 2 Blacks appeared in Lowndes, MS 8 Nov (TLS, MHS, PM) and another was Colbert, AL that day (DJS). Though more frequent on the Mississippi coast, Long-tailed Duck is only occasional in fall in the G.C.; what was probably an injured bird was by the roadside at Dauphin 8 Nov (ph. TSi, JD). Giving the G.C. a new arrival date, 3 Buffleheads were at Ft. Morgan 2 Nov (GEH), and another 3 did the same for the I.C.P. in Hale 7 Nov (DS, JS). Fifty Buffleheads in Lee 19 Nov (CH) were exceptionally numerous for the M.R. Tying the Alabama early date, a Common Goldeneye appeared 27 Oct in Madison (CWB). A Hooded Merganser 4 Oct in Lowndes (PM) was scarce so early in U.E.C.M.; the tally of 75 in Baldwin 13 Nov (KC) was the highest in autumn for the G.C. In Etowah 11 Nov, 230 Ruddy Ducks (GDJ) provided an M.R. maximum.

A surprise, especially inland, was an unbanded American Flamingo 10–11 Oct at Eagle L. near the Mississippi R. just n. of Vicksburg, Warren (ph. AB et al., p.a.). Mississippi has had no prior occurrences accepted as of wild provenance, and the debate will continue with this individual. Only casual now in the M.R. (third since 2000), and the eighth in fall for that area, an Eared Grebe was discovered 11 Nov in Etowah (GDJ).

S. A.

Alabama’s second (and the third regional) White-crowned Pigeon was a shock on Dauphin 24 Oct–12 Nov (KH, GS, DM, CE, LE, m.ob., ph.). The discovery was a family affair, of sorts, with relatives of one of the finders responsible for the first state record in April 2017, also on Dauphin. The individual this year was in a famous migrant trap, the heavily-vegetated Shell Mounds, a habitat similar in appearance to the dense hammocks favored for foraging in south Florida; it was often observed feeding in palms in the area. To the sorrow of several birders hoping for views of this sometimes reclusive visitor, it likely was predated by a locally marauding Cooper’s Hawk. Meticulous collection of feathers at the site was followed by careful reconstruction into a convincing representation of the ill-fated creature (BS, * Auburn Univ.).

White-crowned Pigeon breeds regularly in much of the Caribbean Basin excluding South America. The U.S. population is limited to southern Florida, with the center of nesting activity in Florida Bay. Post-breeding wandering occurs a short distance up both Florida coasts, and most Florida birds migrate to the Bahamas or Cuba for the winter; both factors increase the potential for vagrancy. Long-distance visitors have been recorded in both spring and fall around the Gulf of Mexico. Other than Alabama, documented occurrences have been in the Florida Panhandle (April-May 1997 Okaloosa, August 1999 Walton, and an unknown date 2003–2005 Okaloosa), Mississippi (April-May 2006 Jackson), and Texas (October 2017 Galveston and October 2018 Cameron). A far-flung individual even appeared on the Virginia coast (June 2013 Accomack)! As all nine northern vagabonds have been discovered since the mid-1990s, with five in the last decade, it would seem prudent not to ignore an oddly-shaped, dark pigeon along the Gulf Coast!

End S. A.

DOVES THROUGH SHOREBIRDS

Inca Dove continues to both expand boundaries and fill in territory in the region. The species is fairly widespread in Mississippi, though as yet limited to s. Alabama, especially the coast but slowly increasing in the I.C.P. One at Blakeley I. 7 Aug (ph. LFG) was not at a regular site, though sightings of 2 Incas east of Ft. Morgan 31 Aug–3 Sep (ph. JN) and 5 in the city of Mobile 4 Oct (JD) had erratic precedence. Another increasing columbid, mostly in the s. zone of the region, is White-winged Dove. Approximately 25 throughout the season represented an increase in Washington, MS (FJS), and 10 at a traditional spot at Montgomery 26 Nov (DMy) gave the I.C.P. a fall high.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo in Lowndes 30 Oct (TLS, PM) was unusually late in U.E.C.M. The stealthy Black-billed Cuckoo is not often spotted inland; one was in Madison, AL 22–23 Sep (CWB et al.) and another was noted 26 Sep in Lowndes, MS (PM). Seemingly out of place in a modern world, the bizarre Groove-billed Ani is rare but regular on the Mississippi coast; singles were enjoyed 2–3 Nov in Harrison (CS, SW, SWh, MS, mob, ph.), 7 Nov in Jackson (DM, SM, BJ, OG, mob, ph.), and at a different site in Harrison 23 Nov (ph. HC, LM). A tardy Chuck-will’s-widow 26 Sep at Tuscaloosa (SW-K) yielded an I.C.P. late date, and a new departure for inland Alabama was provided by the Eastern Whip-poor-will there 17 Oct (SW-K, EH). Setting a late U.E.C.M. record, a Chimney Swift was observed 30 Oct in Lowndes (TLS, PM); even less swift was one in Baldwin 5 Nov (EB), for a late G.C. date and second-latest in Alabama. Another individual behind schedule was an immature Purple Gallinule 9 Oct in Geneva (OHJ), tying the prior state record. Rare in n. Alabama but now expected locally at Wheeler N.W.R., continuing Common Gallinules were shown to be nesting 24 Aug with 3 adults and 4 young noted (SA, m.ob.). Regular in U.E.C.M. only at Noxubee N.W.R., one bird 28 Aug in Lowndes (PM, TLS) was notable. A rare and erratic nesting species in Mississippi, an adult and young American Coot were significant 23 Aug–5 Sep at Noxubee N.W.R. (DMR, TLS). The Limpkin 20 Oct at Wheeler N.W.R., Limestone (ph. JW) was the latest of 15 in Alabama, only the fourth in fall, and the second for the T.V. Furnishing a new n. Alabama arrival date for Sandhill Crane, at least 8 were watched in flight at Wheeler N.W.R. 16 Oct (RG).

Black-necked Stilt is usually rare in U.E.C.M., but this season saw a surge in visitation, with seven reports of up to 41 total individuals 1 Aug–1 Sep in scattered locations in Noxubee (JH, TLS, ph.). Occasional in the I.C.P., single stilts were discovered 27 Aug in Escambia (JC, MC) and 8 Sep in Tuscaloosa (ph. EH). It was also a great season for inland American Avocets. Mississippi reported five observations of six birds 11 Aug–11 Nov in Lowndes and Oktibbeha (JH, TLS, MHS, PM, ph.). To the east in Alabama, the period 1 Oct–12 Nov yielded seven reports of up to 27 avocets, with a high of 13 at L. Purdy, Jefferson/Shelby 23–26 Oct (RJK et al., ph.) tying the M.R. seasonal peak. Infrequent in the I.C.P., a Black-bellied Plover was in Perry 20 Sep (ph. JWu). For a first U.E.C.M. record and only the sixth inland in the state, a Long-billed Curlew was outstanding in stature and significance 19 Aug in Noxubee (TLS et al., ph.). Amazingly, 2 Marbled Godwits joined the curlew that day for a conference of buffy giants (JH, MHS, ph.), providing an eighth U.E.C.M. record. These large shorebirds typically grace our inland areas in response to weather events, but curiously no association is gleaned from review of weather data, and only scattered thunderstorms were reported that day by the finder.

Two Stilt Sandpipers gave the I.C.P. a new departure date 12 Nov in Montgomery (JW). Quite early, though possibly summering locally, 3 molting adult Dunlins were in Colbert 24 Aug (KW). Uncommon in Mississippi, Baird’s Sandpiper becomes scarcer to the east in Alabama. Regular in autumn in the T.V., up to 3 were observed in Colbert 14 Aug–6 Sep (SRM, ph. BC et al.); more sporadic in the I.C.P., single Baird’s were noted 17 Aug in Hale (GJH) and 25 Sep in Montgomery (JW). Only occasionally identified in fall in the I.C.P., a juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher was in Elmore 4 Oct (GDJ), and another 4 Nov in St. Clair (ph. JWu) represented one of few seasonal M.R. occurrences. Unusual inland, a Willet was in the tall shorebird parade 19 Aug in Noxubee, MS (TLS, JH, PM, BP, ph.). The estimate of 80 Greater Yellowlegs at Blakeley I. 13 Oct (CF, TO, KCl) set a maximum for s. Alabama in autumn. Wilson’s Phalarope is uncommon to rare in the region in fall, most often seen in Mississippi (particularly along the Mississippi R. and on the coast). More unusual were up to 2 at Blakeley I. on multiple days 16 Aug–14 Oct (CL, TR, LFG, AY, CE, ph.), in Noxubee and Oktibbeha, MS 19 Aug–11 Sep (TLS, JH et al., ph.), and in Colbert, AL 28–30 Aug (DJS, BC, SRM et al., ph.). Several notches up the rarity scale, a Red Phalarope was a delight at that Colbert site 28 Aug–4 Sep (DJS, m.ob., ph.).

JAEGERS THROUGH STORKS

Any jaeger is an unexpected gift to birders in our region; a probable Parasitic Jaeger was described from Dauphin 5 Nov (KM, p.a.). The juvenile Sabine’s Gull observed mostly in Georgia waters at West Point L. (WFC, m.ob., ph.) occasionally graced Alabama airspace 1–3 Sep in Chambers (GEH et al., p.a.) for a first M.R. and eighth state record. Another juvenile Sabine’s materialized 28 Sep at Waveland, Hancock (CS et al., ph., p.a.), for a 14th Mississippi occurrence. Rare but unsurprising in the T.V., there were four reports of at least 7 Laughing Gulls 14 Aug–20 Oct; a single bird in Chambers 3 Sep (SRM, BC) was more atypical in the M.R. Franklin’s Gull occurs most autumns in the region, usually more numerous to the west and along the coast. Scarce in U.E.C.M., up to 6 were at Columbus L., Lowndes 23 Oct–13 Nov (TLS, MHS, PM). The species is more often found in the T.V., with up to 2 first-cycle birds noted on multiple dates 29 Sep–29 Nov in Marshall (MM, m.ob., ph.), and at least one first-cycle individual seen at Wheeler Dam 12 Oct–29 Nov (AL et al., ph.). Oddly, an alternate-plumaged adult Franklin’s was described from Wilson Dam 1 Nov (RJK, RLK, FS). Ring-billed Gulls appeared early in large numbers, with a fall G.C. maximum of 1200 established 14 Nov in Baldwin (LFG), and a state seasonal peak provided by 3500 at Wilson Dam 27 Nov (AP). An I.C.P. autumn high was exceeded by 18 Herring Gulls in Montgomery 13 Nov (RD).

A juvenile Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull was hiding in plain sight at Guntersville, Marshall 16–25 Nov (ph. GDJ et al.); this was the state’s fifth Thayer’s in fall and the seventh Iceland (sensu lato) at that season. At Sardis Dam, Panola 24 Nov, a first-cycle Iceland (Kumlien’s) (ph. AB, p.a.) was discovered; Mississippi has 12 accepted records, 10 of these Thayer’s and two Kumlien’s. Lesser Black-backed Gull continues in small numbers, far more in Alabama than Mississippi. Northwest Alabama again hosted many, with highs of up to 7 at Wilson Dam and 6 at Wheeler Dam beginning 5 Aug (DJS, SRM, m.ob., ph.) giving a new inland early date. Another regular T.V. spot is Guntersville, Marshall, where an adult was present starting 1 Oct (ph. BC, AH, m.ob.) and 3 juveniles were spotted 16 Nov (ph. GDJ). The only G.C. report was of a first-cycle bird 15 Nov at Dauphin (AHn). Mississippi sightings this season included an adult Lesser at Ship I., Harrison 27 Oct (DR, ph. SMu), a juvenile 3–10 Nov in Madison (ph. AB), and an adult in Panola 24 Nov (ph. AB). Latest for the G.C., and tying the state departure date, a Black Tern was at Ft. Morgan 29 Oct (MJJ). Locally scarce, 9 Common Terns were notable in Oktibbeha, MS 22 Sep (TLS, JH, MHS, ph.).

Rare but regular in the T.V., single Red-throated Loons were discovered 9 Nov in Marshall (GDJ) and 27 Nov at Town Creek Pt., Colbert (DJS). Pacific Loon holds a similar status in the T.V., and one was noted 27 Nov in Marshall (MM). Storm-petrels are expected in small numbers in the warmer months well offshore Alabama, especially at the break of the Continental Shelf. A pelagic birding trip 10 Aug found 3 birds 99.3 km south of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Baldwin, with one clearly identified as a Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (GEH et al., ph.). Wood Storks in our region range from abundant to rare depending on the area, with large numbers concentrated in the Delta region of Mississippi and in the Black Belt shared by both states. Atypical in Alabama away from the I.C.P., noteworthy records included up to 9 in Shelby 27 Aug–5 Sep (DG, m.ob., ph.), 2 storks in Colbert 2 Sep (ph. BC, MSt, AS), one in n. Baldwin 4 Oct (MJJ), and 20, setting a G.C. fall maximum, in s. Baldwin 19 Oct (ph. ER). A lone stork 27 Oct in Noxubee (JH, TLS, ph.) established a new U.E.C.M. departure date.

SULIDS THROUGH FALCONS

In recent years Brown Booby has materialized at unusual spots in our region, sometimes well away from salty air. An adult was discovered 7 Sep in the Tennessee R. at the ne. corner of Mississippi in Tishimingo, then wandered just across the line into Alabama waters of Colbert 10–12 Sep (RS, VS, m.ob., ph.). Mississippi has six accepted Brown Booby records, three of these inland (and possibly involving the same wandering, long-staying individual); while Alabama has had at least 31 coastal occurrences, only two have been away from the Gulf. Rare in the T.V., an Anhinga was spotted at Wheeler Dam 17 Aug (DJS, WJ). Continuing to gradually increase, 500 American White Pelicans gave the I.C.P. a new fall top count in Henry 14 Nov (BK). An American Bittern 27 Nov in Colbert (ph. DJS) tied the T.V. late date, though there are nine winter records of this stealthy wader. Also tardy, a Snowy Egret in Barbour 26 Nov (ph. JW) was the latest for inland Alabama. An adult White-faced Ibis, rare but appearing more often in recent years in the G.C., was at Ft. Morgan 13 Oct (ph. GDJ, DGJ, RSH, DCH et al.). The unidentified Plegadis 3 Nov in Noxubee (MMc, JH, TLS, MHS, ph.), and 3 at Noxubee N.W.R. 21 Nov (LS, JB), were not only unusual but the latest of this genus for U.E.C.M. Rare but regular now in the I.C.P., 2 Roseate Spoonbills were in Montgomery late September–27 Sep (CT et al., ph., vt.), and another was spotted along the Alabama R. in Autauga 27 Sep (ph. JHo).

A multitude of 300 Black Vultures leaving a roost in Lee 30 Sep (JW) furnished a fall Alabama maximum. Notably late, an Osprey lingered to 23 Nov in Noxubee, MS (JH). Five Swallow-tailed Kites 4–7 Aug in Chambers (ph. BKF et al.) were rare for the M.R. but at a frequent site, and tied the fall high count for that region. Three of these elegant kings of the sky were in Lawrence 24 Aug (ph. BC), only casual in the T.V. and the fourth occurrence in autumn. Mississippi Kite continues a rise in n. Alabama, especially in the M.R., though remains noteworthy. Singles were seen at two uncustomary M.R. sites in e. Jefferson 3 Aug (ph. MD). Of several scarce T.V. reports, most notable was of 21 kites in Lawrence 24 Aug (ph. BC et al.), far exceeding prior numbers for that region. Counts of 6 Red-shouldered Hawks 30 Aug and 13 Sep in Covington (TWS) and 14 Oct in Geneva (OHJ) gave the I.C.P. a new seasonal high. Swainson’s Hawk is a rare but regular visitor along the coast, sometimes aggregating locally in late fall just inland from the Gulf in Alabama. Singles were noted 17 Oct (EBl, ph. AY et al.) and 11 Nov (ph. JN) at Ft. Morgan, and 13 Nov in Hancock, MS (NRB, acc.); as many as 12 Swainson’s at a familiar site in s. Baldwin 4–16 Nov (DP, m.ob., ph.) provided an Alabama peak.

The Short-eared Owl 25 Nov on Dauphin (ML, LH) was an unexpected treat. There were sleepless nights again this year in Marshall, MS, with nocturnal banding operations 18 Nov adding another Northern Saw-Whet Owl (KMi, ph. HM et al., p.a.); Mississippi has five committee-accepted prior records. Ten Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers in Madison 15 Oct (ph. RG) tied the prior T.V. fall high. A new autumn top count for s. Alabama, 9 Pileated Woodpeckers were noted 27 Sep in n. Baldwin (LFG). An exciting third occurrence for Alabama, and the first at this season, a Crested Caracara appeared at Ft. Morgan 9 Oct (LFG et al., ph.), disappointingly not caring to participate in the state ornithological society meeting the following days. Four Merlins, scarce in U.E.C.M., were spotted in Noxubee, Oktibbeha, and Lowndes 6–26 Nov (MHS, JH, TLS, PM); a locally rare Peregrine Falcon was in Noxubee 31 Aug (ph. DW).

FLYCATCHERS THROUGH VIREOS

Ash-throated Flycatcher is nearly regular in fall along the coast but only occasional inland. One was a great find 3 Nov well inland in DeSoto N.F., Forrest, MS (ph. LG). An Ash-throated was discovered 13 Nov in East Pascagoula, Jackson (ph. BJ et al.), and at least one individual was at Ft. Morgan 16–27 Oct (BS, CN, DPo et al., ph.). A minimum of 10 Great Crested Flycatchers in Geneva 29 Aug (OHJ) represented a high for Alabama in fall; one in Lowndes 7 Oct (PM) was the latest for U.E.C.M. A Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird, probably the latter, was found and heard vocalizing at St. Catherine Creek N.W.R., Adams 18 Aug (ph. PW, BT, p.a.); the species complex is occasionally encountered in the region, and Mississippi has two accepted Couch’s records. Vagrant magnet Ft. Morgan continued to produce 5–7 Sep, when a Fork-tailed Flycatcher graced the park (BS, m.ob., ph.). This was the sixth occurrence for Alabama (three of these at Ft. Morgan), but prior records had been in the period 20 Apr–21 May; the finder was the discoverer of the state’s first Fork-tailed at that spot in 1988!

Rare but regular in early fall, and more numerous to the west, Olive-sided Flycatchers were found at seven sites in Mississippi (four coastal) 16 Aug–25 Sep (HC, BJ, JH, AB, LT, ph.), the last date in Oktibbeha giving U.E.C.M. a new departure mark. The tree-topper also was noted at three Birmingham sites 1–28 Sep (RR, BK, PHF). An Eastern Wood-Pewee in s. Baldwin 16 Nov (ER, EB) was the latest for Alabama. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a low-level transient in fall, showed well in Alabama this year, with at least 33 individuals 24 Aug–24 Oct throughout the state, but with a minimum of 18 in the G.C. in the same date range (9 b.). Most significant was in n. Baldwin 24 Aug (MJJ) for an early s. Alabama record. The Acadian Flycatcher at Wheeler Dam 13 Oct (AL) tied the latest for the T.V., and another at Ft. Morgan 3 Nov (ph. EHa, LFG) provided a new state endpoint. On the flip side, a Least Flycatcher in Birmingham 16 Aug (GEH) was the earliest for the M.R. Vermilion Flycatcher is a regular rare transient and wintering species, mostly near the Gulf. Singles were at five spots scattered on the Mississippi coast beginning 25 Sep (BJ, HC, CS, NB, m.ob., ph.), and at single sites in both Alabama seaside counties from 1 Nov (PR, BCG, LFG, m.ob., ph.). Well inland, the third and fourth U.E.C.M. occurrences were in Lowndes starting 29 Oct (JPR, m.ob., ph.) and at Noxubee N.W.R. 10 Nov (ph. JH).

Tallies of 40 White-eyed Vireos 11 & 30 Aug in Covington (TWS) established a fall I.C.P. maximum, and 60 at Ft. Morgan 19 Oct (ER) in conjunction with Tropical Storm Nestor gave the G.C. an autumn top count. The seasonal peak in s. Alabama for Yellow-throated Vireo was furnished by 12 in Geneva 31 Aug (OHJ), with 5 at Ft. Morgan on that rainy 19 Oct (KC et al.) representing a new fall high for the G.C. Tardy Yellow-throateds set local departure records 19 Oct in Madison and Limestone, AL (CWB) and 28 Oct at Noxubee N.W.R. (TLS). A Philadelphia Vireo 24 Oct at Wheeler N.W.R. (FS, RLK, RJK) was past the “sell by” date in the T.V. Rare but regular in fall in Alabama, Warbling Vireos were spotted in Birmingham 31 Aug–5 Sep (ph. GEH et al.) and 24–30 Sep (RJK, RLK, FS et al., ph.), and at Dauphin 11 Oct (LFG). A Warbling at Wheeler N.W.R. 12 Oct (AL) was the latest for n. Alabama, and one at Dauphin 1 Nov (BCG, PR) was tardiest for the state (one winter record). Continuing the thread, a Red-eyed Vireo 12 Oct in Dale (RW) tied the I.C.P. end date.

CORVIDS THROUGH BLACKBIRDS

An astounding Clark’s Nutcracker appeared in an area of rugged terrain north of Birmingham 24 Sep (TC, ph. NK, p.a.) but was not reported subsequently; the only other regional occurrence was also in the M.R. in 2002. A fall G.C. high, 97 American Crows were vocalizing in Baldwin 12 Aug (JL), and a seasonal area top count was produced by 57 Fish Crows 17 Aug at Wheeler Dam (DJS, WJ). A least one Cave Swallow was photographed in a swirling flock of Petrochelidon brethren in fog at the summit in Monte Sano S.P., Madison 8 Oct (RG); this wayward swallow established the sixth inland record for Alabama, the fourth in fall inland, and the ninth at this season in the state. Autumn reporting area maxima in Alabama were furnished by counts of 9 House Wrens in Birmingham 6 Oct (RSD, SB), 4 Sedge Wrens in Geneva 12 Oct (OHJ), and 30 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers 23 Aug in the Bankhead NF, Lawrence (FS, RLK, RJK). The gnatcatchers dallying to 1 & 11 Nov at two sites in Lowndes (TLS) were unusually late for U.E.C.M. A count of 25 Eastern Bluebirds in Tuscaloosa 16 Nov (EH, SW-K) exceeded the prior fall mark for the I.C.P. Providing a new arrival date for inland Alabama, unless an unprecedented summering bird, a Swainson’s Thrush was in Huntsville 6 Aug–6 Sep (ph., vt. HL), and 2 at Montgomery 4 Nov (BCa) set a late date for the I.C.P. Topping prior M.R. counts at this season, 11 Hermit Thrushes were recorded at Birmingham 4 Nov (RR).

Unusually behind schedule for U.E.C.M., a Gray Catbird was seen at Noxubee N.W.R. 25 Nov (LJ). Showing value in tallying even the lowly House Sparrow, local autumn maxima were bestowed on 40 birds in Baldwin, AL 26 Aug (CL) and 48 in Hale, AL 19 Oct (RJK). An estimate of 100 American Pipits 10 Nov in Baldwin (EH) was higher than prior G.C. counts in fall. Sprague’s Pipit is erratic in Alabama, primarily found coastally in s. Baldwin; one was seen in typical habitat in this area 2–9 Nov (GEH et al.). Rare and unpredictable in the G.C., and providing an early state date, a Lapland Longspur was obliging at Ft. Morgan 27 Oct–3 Nov (ph. FC et al.). Five Bachman’s Sparrows in n. Baldwin were still singing 18 Aug (SJ, EL et al.), representing a fall Alabama maximum. Clay-colored Sparrow often appears in small numbers in autumn along the Gulf. Mississippi sightings included an unexpected inland bird 13 Oct at Hattiesburg, Forrest (ph. LG), and on the coast 20 Oct in Hancock (ph. HW) and 9 Nov in Harrison (ph. HC). Lone Clay-coloreds were spotted at separate locations on Dauphin 26 Sep (ph. JW) and 19 Oct (LFG, BCG, PR et al.), with another at Ft. Morgan 29 Oct (MJJ). The Vesper Sparrow 12 Oct at Eufaula N.W.R. (BK, RS) was ahead of prior I.C.P. arrivals, and a Savannah Sparrow 8 Sep at Ft. Morgan (SW) was earliest for the G.C. Ten Song Sparrows at Blakeley I. 16 Nov (LFG) exceeded the G.C. fall high. Locally rare Lincoln’s Sparrows were found 28 Oct at Tuscaloosa (ph. WJ), 5 Nov in Perry, AL (ph. JWu), and 6–10 Nov north of Auburn (REM). Tardiest for the T.V., Yellow-breasted Chats were in both Madison and Limestone 19 Oct (CWB).

A rare-but-regular fall G.C. visitor, a Yellow-headed Blackbird was discovered 16 Nov in s. Baldwin (ER). Of several scarce autumn Bobolink reports, most notable was of 20 in Hale 21 Sep (ph. JWu). The 105 Eastern Meadowlarks in Madison 29 Sep (CWB) furnished a fall T.V. top count, as did 7 Orchard Orioles in Morgan 16 Aug (MSG). Two Orchards in Geneva 8 Sep (OHJ) were late for the I.C.P., and a new departure record for Alabama was provided by one on Dauphin 11 Nov (ph. EHa, RM). A male Bullock’s Oriole was a great find at Ft. Morgan 7 Sep (ph. JBr); this stunner was the sixteenth for the state (fifth in fall) and eighth for the G.C. That was the beauty, now for the beast: a flock of 6000 Brown-headed Cowbirds at Wheeler N.W.R. 17 Nov (KW, SRM, HV) tied the T.V. seasonal maximum.

WARBLERS THROUGH CARDINALIDS

Behind the pack, a Northern Waterthrush 12 Oct at Wheeler N.W.R. (CWB) was the latest for the T.V.; male Golden-winged Warblers 20 Oct near Birmingham (LN) and 25 Oct in Dale (RW) were unprecedented so far into the calendar in the M.R. and I.C.P., respectively. A Blue-winged Warbler 15 Oct near Starkville (LT) tied the U.E.C.M. exit date. A day with a rare hybrid Brewster’s Warbler is always special; what was likely a backcross male was at Noxubee N.W.R. 26 Sep (TLS). Seven Prothonotary Warblers 11 Aug in Covington (TWS) and 12 Aug in Perry (EC) were above previous fall period numbers in the I.C.P., and a locally late bird was spotted in Limestone, AL 12 Oct (AL). Four Swainson’s Warblers 8 Aug in Lee (GEH) exceeded the prior M.R. fall top and tied the Alabama mark. Way ahead in the race south, 2 Tennessee Warblers were at Huntsville 2–3 Aug (RG, RLK, RJK, FS), matching the previous Alabama arrival and preceding the inland date. On the other hand, a Tennessee at Tuscaloosa 12 Oct (SW-K) was the slowest to depart for the I.C.P., and one in Lowndes, MS 11 Nov (TLS) was tardy as well. Rare but regular in the M.R., a Nashville Warbler was spotted at Birmingham 28 Sep (GDJ); less frequent in the I.C.P., 2 were noted in Covington 5 Oct (TWS).

Not often located by field birders in fall, a Mourning Warbler was a nice reward for banding efforts 20 Sep at Ft. Morgan (TJZ et al, b.); an immature Mourning was notable in Marshall, MS 24 Sep (ph. RH, p.a.). Five Hooded Warblers 9 Oct in Lee (RM) were unusually plentiful at this season in the I.C.P., and late local records were set by males 26 Oct in Houston, AL (AVN) and 30 Oct in Lowndes, MS (DPa, PM, TLS). Adding to the list of stragglers, an American Redstart was observed in Limestone 19 Oct (CWB) for a late T.V. record. Cape May Warbler generally migrates in fall east of our region. Interestingly, 27 Oct yielded one in Houston, AL (ph. BK, RS) and another in Noxubee, MS (TLS, JH, MHS). Examination of weather maps for the period leading to this date shows low pressure areas and a front advancing through the region, with only mild easterly winds on 24–25 Oct, not clearly correlating.

Four Cerulean Warblers in Lawrence 23 Aug (RLK, RJK, FS) tied the fall M.R. high, and another 22 Sep in Oktibbeha (TLS) was rare for the season in U.E.C.M. A count of 25 Magnolia Warblers 5 Oct in Tuscaloosa (EH) gave the I.C.P. a new peak. The Bay-breasted Warbler east of Huntsville 2 Sep (SRM) was the earliest for the T.V. and tied the inland Alabama date; a count of 5 Bay-breasteds at Dauphin 22 Oct (BCG, PR) exceeded the prior seasonal mark for s. Alabama. An early state arrival, a Blackburnian Warbler was spotted 2 Aug at Huntsville (FS, RJK, RLK); another 29 Oct in Noxubee (TLS) well exceeded the U.E.C.M. departure mark. Also well behind for U.E.C.M. was a Yellow Warbler 28 Oct in Noxubee (TLS, MHS). Black-throated Blue Warbler is a regular, low-level, but oft-sought transient in Alabama, with the bulk of migration spring and fall farther to the east. This season saw M.R. reports of flashy males from Jefferson 28 Aug (RR), 29 Sep (RR), and 19 Oct (LN); only occasional in the I.C.P., a female was spotted at Tuscaloosa 17 Oct (ph. SW-K, EH). Providing an autumn T.V. maximum, 46 Palm Warblers were in Madison 29 Sep (CWB).

Tying reporting region fall highs, 4 Yellow-throated Warblers were observed 29 Sep in Madison, AL (CWB) and 24 Oct in Geneva, AL (OHJ); singles 29 Oct in Noxubee, MS (TLS) and 17–27 Nov in Shelby, AL (ph. JM) were lingering well beyond norms for those areas. The 10 Prairie Warblers at Huntsville 23 Aug (RG) were the most for autumn in the T.V., and tied the state seasonal count. Dawdling Prairies 12 Oct at Wheeler N.W.R. (CWB) and 30 Oct in Lowndes, MS (TLS, PM) set new local area dates, as did a Black-throated Green Warbler 14 Nov at Tuscaloosa (SW-K, EH). Canada Warblers furnished T.V. arrival and departure records 1 Aug at Huntsville (CC) and 12 Oct in Limestone (AL), respectively; surpassing the latter was a Canada sluggishly remaining in Baldwin to 3–4 Nov (ph. EB, JR) for a new state exit date. Wilson’s Warbler is rare but regular in fall in the M.R., with one spotted on the early date of 13 Aug in Birmingham (RR), but the singles at Montgomery 14 Oct (BC) and in Pike 17 Oct (GEH) were less expected.

Associated with the deluge from Nestor 19 Oct, observation of 27 Scarlet Tanagers at Ft. Morgan (FC, ER) set a new s. Alabama maximum. Three Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, 2 appearing to be juveniles, on the exceedingly early date of 6 Aug at Huntsville (ph. HL) raised the question of unprecedented Alabama nesting. Feeders at Shorter, Macon, AL hosted a lingering adult male Rose-breasted to 30 Nov (ECS), similar to the last two years but involving a different individual. Black-headed Grosbeak is rare in Alabama and only occasionally recorded in autumn; one was on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, Baldwin 24–27 Oct (EHa, JN et al., ph.). Up to 2 Painted Buntings were at a feeder-filled avian paradise at Ashford, Houston, through the end of the season (BK, RS, ph.); this beloved and brilliant species is only occasional in late fall and winter in the I.C.P., though is becoming regular at this site.

Report processed by Eric DeFonso, 15 Feb 2021.

Photos–Alabama and Mississippi: Fall 2019

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