Alabama & Mississippi: Fall 2021
Fall 2021: 1 Aug–30 Nov
Greg D. Jackson
Jackson, G. D. 2022. Fall 2021: Alabama & Mississippi <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-drU> North American Birds.
Birders in our region enjoyed an exciting fall season, replete with good numbers of standard migrants and plenty of rare prizes. General migration of water, shore, and land birds was moderate to good in most areas. Though a few birds were early, later-than-normal departures became more common. Rarities included second state records for both Alabama and Mississippi, as well as many other fine discoveries of lesser magnitude.
Temperatures this autumn were normal in August, a bit cooler than usual in September and again in November, but warm in October; precipitation varied across the region but increased in most areas during August. The big weather news, as it often is in the fall season, was the cyclones from the south. Tropical Storm Fred, originating near the west tip of Cuba, pushed north along the Alabama-Georgia border 16–17 August, but with a relatively small influence on regional birds. Hurricane Ida, a deadly Category 4 monster arising in the Caribbean Sea, was another matter entirely. The storm traversed western Cuba then crossed the Gulf of Mexico squarely into southeast Louisiana, with painful destruction and loss of life. Landfall occurred on 29 August with peak sustained winds reported at 150 mph (240 km/h). Progressing into southwest Mississippi 30 August, the weakening beast churned diagonally across the state to the far northwest corner of Alabama before continuing toward the northeast U.S. as a soaking extratropical low. Impact on birds and birding was significant, with prominent displacement events from the coastal areas through the northern reaches of the region. Rare sightings occurred not only around the time of passage, but unusually, there was a noticeable delayed component. Several rarities were discovered only after several days had passed, suggesting that these were far-flung birds returning to the Gulf after being driven much farther north.
Greg D. Jackson (Alabama), Terence L. Schiefer (Mississippi).
Blakeley I. (Blakeley Island, Mobile Co, AL); Dauphin (Dauphin Island, Mobile Co, AL); Eufaula NWR (Barbour Co, AL units); Ft. Morgan (Fort Morgan State Historic Site, Baldwin Co, AL); G.C. (Gulf Coast region, Mobile/Baldwin Cos, AL); I.C.P. (Inland Coastal Plain region of south and central Alabama); M.R. (Mountain Region of north central Alabama); Noxubee NWR (Noxubee/Oktibbeha/Winston Cos, MS); Ross Barnett (Ross Barnett Reservoir, Madison/Rankin Cos, MS); T.V. (Tennessee Valley region of north Alabama); Sardis L. (Sardis Lake and Sardis Lower Lake, Lafayette/Panola/Marshall Cos, MS); U.E.C.M. (Upper East Central Mississippi—seven-county region near Starkville: Oktibbeha, Webster, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Winston, and Choctaw Cos); Wheeler Dam (Tennessee River, Lauderdale/Limestone Cos, AL), Wheeler NWR (Limestone/Morgan/Madison Cos, AL), Wilson Dam (Tennessee River, Lauderdale/Colbert Cos, AL); p.a. (pending acceptance by state bird records committee); acc. (accepted by state bird records committee); ph. (photographed); vt. (videotaped); v.r. (voice recorded); b. (banded).
Waterfowl through Rails
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck continues to establish its hold on the region, with inland expansions in numerous areas including northern sections. Fulvous Whistling-Duck is now a notable rarity in either state but formerly was more regular. Individuals were sighted 15 Aug at the famed Seaman Road Lagoons, Jackson Co, MS (Gene C. Knight, Andrew Bell, p.a.), and there again 21–28 Oct (ph. Brian Johnston, m. ob.); two were in the same county at Greenwood I. 17 Sep (Abby Darrah, ph. Collin Stempien, Timothy Guida, p.a.). A couple of rare Cackling Geese appeared in Tunica Co, MS 17 Nov (ph. Gene C. Knight). Setting local early arrival dates, six Northern Shovelers were in Adams Co, MS 6 Sep (Barry Tillman), two Gadwall were in Lowndes Co, MS 8 Sep (Terence L. Schiefer), and a male American Wigeon was on Dauphin 1–2 Oct (ph. Joe Wujcik et al.). Mottled Duck is a rare but regular visitor inland in the Mississippi River Valley; two or three individuals were reported 29 Aug–6 Sep in Washington Co, MS (Mark Bonta, Jeremy Speakes). Up to 1200 Green-winged Teal was a notably high count in Adams Co, MS (Bob Strader), and an estimate of 1000 in Jackson Co 26 Nov (Geoff E. Hill) provided a seasonal Alabama maximum.
Scoters of any species are rare inland, appearing erratically year to year. This autumn, a Surf Scoter was found 22 Oct at Wheeler NWR (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger), another was at Ross Barnett 8 Nov (Andrew Bell), and up to two were at Neely Henry Dam, St. Clair/Tallapoosa Cos, AL 14–16 Nov (ph. Skip Smith et al.). A White-winged Scoter was at Ross Barnett 31 Oct (ph. Andrew Bell) and three Black Scoters were discovered 4 Nov in Lowndes Co, MS (Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer, Dianne Patterson, Jim Patterson et al., ph.). Long-tailed Duck is always a sweet find in our area; a female was spotted 20 Nov in Limestone Co, AL (ph. Wayne Baumgartner, m. ob.). The estimate of 200 Hooded Mergansers in Greene Co 25 Nov (Satchell Watts-Kerr, Eugene Huryn) broke the previous fall tally for south Alabama, and 55 Red-breasted Mergansers 22 Nov at Neely Henry Dam, St. Clair/Talladega Cos (Skip Smith) gave the M.R. an autumn maximum. An unidentified immature flamingo, thought to be American, was certainly a surprise fly-by with Hurricane Ida 30 Aug on the Dauphin I. Causeway, Mobile Co (Ben C. Garmon); Alabama has a single accepted record of American Flamingo.
Inca Dove continues to expand in the region. Multiple reports were received from Mississippi where more established, and on the Alabama coast there were four occurrences 7–24 Sep in areas where not regularly seen (Kathy Hicks, Mason Currier, Jimmy Stevenson, Mike Stempien, ph.). Another burgeoning species is White-winged Dove, which is becoming regular in many inland areas—especially in the coastal plain— and increasing steadily. Up to two birds beginning 3 Nov in Oktibbeha Co, MS (Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer) were less expected at that latitude. On the Mississippi coast, Groove-billed Ani occurs in small numbers in fall and winter, but this season it was particularly prominent: nine anis appeared at seven sites beginning 9 Oct (Lori McDonald, Pamela Rupert, Brian Johnston, Holly Cox, Gary Herritz, Doug McWhirter, m. ob., ph.). Calliope Hummingbirds, rare but regular, were in Forrest Co, MS 2–8 Nov (ph. Lillie Gibbs) and Jackson Co, MS 25 Nov–5 Dec (Kyle Shephard, Susan Stachowski, b.). Even more unusual, a Broad-tailed Hummingbird was in Warren Co, MS 15 Nov (ph. Sean Mickal, p.a.).
Virginia Rail is infrequent in U.E.C.M. in autumn; one was in Noxubee Co beginning 27 Nov (Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer, v.r.). Rare in north Alabama, but now regular and breeding locally in Wheeler NWR, up to 24 Common Gallinules there 24–25 Sep (Charles W. Boley, Sue R. Moske et al.) established a new high count for the upper reaches of the state. Latest on record inland in Alabama, a juvenile Purple Gallinule was at Eufaula NWR 12 Nov (ph. Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Louise Hewlett). Locally scarce, a Black-necked Stilt was in Limestone Co, AL 5 Aug (ph. Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Louise Hewlett), and up to five were noted in Noxubee Co, MS 6 Aug–13 Oct (ph. Jeffrey Harris et al.). The careful count of 124 stilts in Adams Co, MS 14 Oct (Bob Strader) was noteworthy. American Avocet is a rare-but-regular visitor to our inland areas; amongst many reports this fall, notable occurrences were of an individual 1 Sep in Tishomingo Co, MS (Randy Schultz), another 17 Sep in Chambers Co, AL (ph. James White), and four in Lee Co, MS 30–31 Oct (ph. Wayne R. Patterson).
Plovers through Phalaropes
American Golden-Plover is expected in fall in small numbers; the individual in Lowndes Co 29 Nov–7 Dec (Terence L. Schiefer) set a new U.E.C.M. departure date. Also unprecedentedly tardy, a Semipalmated Plover was in Lowndes Co, MS 12 Nov (Terence L. Schiefer). Only occasional inland in Alabama, a Piping Plover was spotted 14 Aug in Lauderdale Co (Damien J. Simbeck et al.). At the same site 12–18 Aug, a far-out-of-place Wilson’s Plover (Greg D. Jackson, Damien J. Simbeck, ph. Bala Chennupati, m. ob.) provided the second inland record for Alabama, and the first for the northern half; there was no clear predisposing factor. Another displaced Wilson’s, this bird likely related to Hurricane Ida, was at Ross Barnett 30 Aug (Andrew Bell, Tom Moorman, ph.). Seven Whimbrels in Baldwin Co 6 Sep (Dan Miller) furnished a fall Alabama top count. Long-billed Curlew, formerly more regular, is now rare along the Gulf. One was in Pascagoula, Jackson Co, MS 19 Aug (Abby Darrah, Collin Stempien, Timothy Guida), and another was at Bayou La Batre, Mobile Co, AL 19–20 Oct (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, m. ob., ph., p.a.).
Two Marbled Godwits, which are scarce away from the coast, were noteworthy in Yazoo Co., MS 31 Aug (ph. Andrew Bell), as were another two were in Adams Co, MS 31 Aug–6 Sep (ph. Barry Tillman). Godwits of any ilk are only occasional inland in Alabama, and an unidentified bird was seen in Colbert Co 14 Aug (Joseph Olson et al.). Inland Ruddy Turnstones, rare, were spotted 7 Aug in Colbert Co., AL (ph. Joseph Olson), and two appeared in Yazoo Co, MS 31 Aug (ph. Andrew Bell). Sanderling is expected inland each fall in small numbers. In conjunction with Hurricane Ida 31 Aug, there was an impressive total of 15 birds at six sites in both states (Eric C. Soehren, John A. Trent, Geoff E. Hill, Greg D. Jackson, Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer et al., ph.); an additional three Sanderlings were noted 17–18 Sep in Colbert Co, AL (Greg D. Jackson et al., ph.) and two were in Yazoo Co, MS 25 Sep (Cullen Brown, Jason Hoeksema et al., ph.).
Baird’s Sandpiper is a regular, low-density transient through the region in autumn, with many reports this season, particularly with Hurricane Ida. A tally of 121 Pectoral Sandpipers in Baldwin Co 7 Aug (Craig Litteken) set a fall G.C. maximum, and the report of 180 Long-billed Dowitchers in Adams Co, MS 21 Nov (Barry Tillman) was also impressive. Migrating Willets occur inland each fall, usually in small numbers, and there were reports of at least 13 individuals 15–31 Aug in Adams, Yazoo, Oktibbeha, and Lowndes Cos, MS (Barry Tillman, Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer, Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight et al., ph.), as well as 31 Aug in Lowndes Co, AL (Geoff E. Hill, Ken Hare). Wilson’s Phalarope is an expected fall migrant in small numbers in the region. The species is more often found in Mississippi—particularly in the Delta and along the coast—than in Alabama. The highest reported count was up to six birds on “Tern I.,” just off the Pelican Peninsula of Dauphin 11–14 Aug (Andrew Haffenden, J. Van Remsen, Daniel Lane et al., ph.). Red-necked Phalarope turns up much less frequently; this season, most were associated with Hurricane Ida. One appeared at Ft. Morgan 30 Aug–1 Sep (Craig Litteken et al., ph.), and as many as four were observed in Yazoo Co, MS 31 Aug–5 Sep (Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight et al., ph.); the single Red-necked 31 Aug in Colbert (Greg D. Jackson, Debra G. Jackson, Jeff T. Garner et al., ph.) provided only the fifth record for the T.V., and the third in autumn. An additional Red-necked showed well at Coldwater NWR, Tallahatchie Co, MS 11 Sep (ph. Larry Pace). Red Phalarope is representative of an even higher tier of rarity. Only occasional in the G.C., two adults were at Ft. Morgan after Ida 31 Aug (ph. Lawrence F. Gardella).
Jaegers through Gulls
Jaegers are rarely noted in the region and most records are coastal, though Pomarine is thought to be regular well offshore during the colder months. This fall was unusually productive for jaegers of all three species, with many reports connected to Hurricane Ida. Two Pomarine Jaegers were photographed 30–31 Aug at Ross Barnett (Andrew Bell, Tom Moorman, p.a.); an immature appearing at Guntersville, Marshall Co 1 Sep (ph. Bala Chennupati, Sue R. Moske, p.a.) was the fourth for the T.V. and seventh inland in Alabama. Parasitic Jaeger reports were all from Mississippi. One, an Ida bird, was spotted at Biloxi 30 Aug (ph. Holly Cox, p.a.), and Ross Barnett yielded at least three Parasitics 18–26 Sep (Andrew Bell, Tom Moorman et al., ph., p.a.). Long-tailed Jaeger is a fine prize indeed, and Ida bestowed coveted sightings of a sub-adult 31 Aug at Ross Barnett (Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight, ph., p.a.) for Mississippi’s second record, and a juvenile 1 Sep at Guntersville, Marshall Co (ph. Bala Chennupati, Sue R. Moske, p.a.) for Alabama’s fifth and second for the T.V. An unidentified jaeger was in Lowndes Co, MS 31 Aug (Marion H. Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer, Paul Mack, Jeffrey Harris, Dianne Patterson, ph.), at Wheeler Dam that same day a possible Pomarine was seen (Damien J. Simbeck), and a probable Parasitic flashed by Dauphin 28 Sep (ph. Lawrence F. Gardella, p.a.).
Finding a Black-legged Kittiwake in our region is a thrill that occurs just occasionally. A first-cycle bird was at Columbus L., Lowndes Co 5-8 Nov (Gene C. Knight et al., ph., p.a.), providing the fifth and earliest U.E.C.M. record; another youngster was photographed on Dauphin’s Pelican Peninsula 18 Nov (Cynthia Freeman), the 13th for the G.C. Another regional scarcity is Sabine’s Gull, which is found mostly in early fall along the coast or at large inland reservoirs and usually involves first-cycle birds. Two sightings were associated with Hurricane Ida this season: a surprising adult at Ross Barnett 1 Sep (ph. Tom Moorman, p.a.) and a juvenile 4 Sep at Wheeler Dam (Damien J. Simbeck, p.a.), the latter Alabama’s ninth and only the fourth for the T.V. Another juvenile Sabine’s was at Ross Barnett 30 Sep (ph. Andrew Bell, p.a.). Laughing Gull is a rare but regular inland wanderer, and it is particularly prominent after tropical storms. Sometimes, large numbers carried from the coast are scattered far and wide. Of numerous inland reports this season, several were associated with Tropical Storm Fred but far more were connected to Hurricane Ida. The largest reported totals were of 31 birds 31 Aug in Lowndes and Clay Cos, MS (Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer et al., ph.), at least 13 at Wheeler and Wilson dams that day (Greg D. Jackson, Debra G. Jackson et al., ph.), 10 at Tuscaloosa 31 Aug (Eugene Huryn, Kevin Shaw, Satchell Watts-Kerr et al., ph.), and 11 Laughers at Guntersville, Marshall Co, AL 1 Sep (ph. Bala Chennupati, Sue R. Moske).
In late autumn, Franklin’s Gull usually appears in the region, more in the west than the east, and occasionally the species shows in moderate numbers. This year’s reports included four at Wilson Dam 18 Oct (Sue R. Moske), up to three in Baldwin Co, AL 4–19 Nov (Greg D. Jackson, Lawrence F. Gardella, ph.), one in Washington Co, MS 12 Nov (Mark Bonta), and another on Dauphin 16–17 Nov (ph. Andrew Haffenden et al.). Continuing a gradual upward trend over recent decades—more markedly in Alabama than Mississippi—Lesser Black-backed Gull showed well this fall at multiple areas in both states; several were quite precocious in arrival. There were six reports of singles scattered on the Mississippi coast as early as 14 Aug (Gene C. Knight, Lori McDonald, Timothy Guida, Chris Walters, Collin Stempien, Gary Herritz et al., ph.). Up to three were at Wheeler Dam from 4 Sep (Rick L. Kittinger, Sue R. Moske, Bala Chennupati, m. ob., ph.), as many as four were seen on Dauphin beginning 6 Sep (Amanda Keevan, Hayley Keevan, m. ob., ph.), and up to four were at Wilson Dam starting 13 Sep (Greg D. Jackson, Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger et al.).
The exotic Brown Noddy is an occasional visitor to our coastal areas in conjunction with tropical storms, and both Alabama and Mississippi had nine records prior to this fall. Hurricane Ida changed the game, bringing far more noddies than usual. In fact, for only the second time, a few turned up inland this season. In Jackson and Harrison Cos, MS, seven birds were discovered at five sites 30 Aug (Holly Cox, Lucy Jacobson, Timothy Guida, Collin Stempien, Melinda Averhart, Brian Johnston, ph., p.a.). Alabama received at least six individuals 30 Aug at three outer coastal sites (Craig Litteken, Andrew Haffenden, Ben C. Garmon, ph., p.a.), and another was at Fairhope on the east shore of Mobile Bay 33 km to the north 31 Aug (Karen Chiasson). A noddy well inland along the Chattahoochee R. at West Point L., Chambers Co 31 Aug (Geoff E. Hill, p.a.) was observed in both Alabama and Georgia. On 4 Sep—surprisingly, four days after passage of Ida— two noddies were as far north as Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee R. (Damien J. Simbeck, m. ob., ph., p.a.).
The pelagic tern most frequently seen with tropical activity, and far more often carried well inland, is Sooty Tern. Ida didn’t disappoint, casting individuals widely in both states. Five sites on the Mississippi coast produced 31 Sooties 30 Aug (Holly Cox, Collin Stempien, Brian Johnston, Jimmie Dufault et al., ph.), with an impressive 20 birds at one site in Jackson Co east of Biloxi (Collin Stempien, Abby Darrah, Timothy Guida, ph.). In Alabama, coastal reports 30–31 Aug were of six Sooties at Dauphin (ph. Andrew Haffenden) and five at Ft. Morgan (Craig Litteken et al., ph.); an additional juvenile was well up Mobile Bay at Daphne, Baldwin Co 1 Sep (Lawrence F. Gardella). Reports of Sooty Terns far inland in Mississippi 30 Aug–2 Sep included at least three at Ross Barnett (Andrew Bell et al., ph.), a juvenile in Forrest Co (ph. Lillie Gibbs), and an adult at Hattiesburg (Nancy Donald, Lillie Gibbs, ph.). Non-coastal Alabama totals 31 Aug–4 Sep included at least six at Wheeler Dam (Damien J. Simbeck et al., ph. Bala Chennupati), an adult in Chambers Co (Geoff E. Hill et al.), and three adults at Tuscaloosa (Satchell Watts-Kerr, Kevin Shaw, Eugene Huryn, ph.).
Bridled Tern, regular well offshore in summer, is no stranger along our coastline with tropical storms, though it occurs with less frequency and in smaller numbers than Sooty does. Bridled is far less likely to be transported inland, though, with only one prior non-coastal record in Mississippi and two in Alabama. Coastal occurrences 30–31 Aug with Ida were of eight at Dauphin (Andrew Haffenden et al.), two at Ft. Morgan (Craig Litteken, Lawrence F. Gardella, ph.), and six birds at two sites in Jackson Co, MS (Brian Johnston, Lucy Jacobson, Jimmie Dufault, Timothy Guida, Collin Stempien, Melinda Averhart, ph., p.a.). The only inland Bridleds reported were two adults well after Ida’s transit 5 Sep at Sardis L. (Gene C. Knight, Cullen Brown, p.a.). An unidentified Onychoprion tern in Lowndes Co, MS 31 Aug (Dianne Patterson, Paul Mack) was the sixth for the genus in U.E.C.M. A count of 158 Caspian Terns at Guntersville, Marshall Co 20 Sep (Amber Hart) set a new inland Alabama high. Two Black Terns at the same site 31 Oct (Doris Gertler, Anne G. Miller, ph.) were the latest for inland Alabama. While Royal Tern is abundant on the coast, inland records are scarce and generally associated with Gulf storms. None were reported away from salt air in Alabama, but Mississippi saw at least five at Ross Barnett 30–31 Aug (Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight, ph.) and two at Sardis L. 5 Sep (Gene C. Knight). Sandwich Tern is even less frequent inland than Royal; one was in Forrest Co, MS 30 Aug (ph. Lillie Gibbs) and at least one bird was at Ross Barnett 31 Aug (Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight, ph.).
Loons through Pelicans
Red-throated Loon is rare but expected in the T.V., and a juvenile was spotted 27 Nov at Guntersville, Marshall (ph. Greg D. Jackson). Regular annually at the coast and on large inland lakes, Pacific Loons were at Guntersville 24–26 Nov (Geoff E. Hill et al.), and in Tishomingo Co, MS on 28 Nov (ph. Wayne R. Patterson). When Ida roared ashore it left two wrecked Great Shearwaters in its wake. Both were found 31 Aug in Harrison Co, MS and taken to rehabilitation centers. The bird from Pass Christian subsequently succumbed (fide Maggie Marquez-Wooten, Nick Winstead, ph., spec. Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, p.a.); the other bird, from an unknown site probably in the county, survived and was released into the Gulf 8 Sep (fide Maggie Marquez-Wooten, Michael Mavar, vt., p.a.). Mississippi has five prior records of this shearwater. Though Wood Storks can be locally abundant in the Black Belt region and the Mississippi Delta, they remain sparse in the T.V. and G.C. regions of Alabama. Up to seven were observed 7–29 Aug in Lawrence and Colbert Cos (Ellen Martin, m. ob., ph.) and one was at Ft. Morgan 2 Sep (Franklin Chalk).
That master of the air, Magnificent Frigatebird, is frequently carried aloft during tropical events. Hurricane Ida was no exception, ushering large numbers along the coast. Inland records are more unusual, however, particularly those occurring great distances from the Gulf. Mississippi saw multiple occurrences of frigatebirds inland 30 Aug–9 Sep. Most notable were up to 12 at Ross Barnett (Tom Moorman, Andrew Bell, ph.), a peak of 16 at Natchez (Bob Strader, Barry Tillman et al., ph.), 18 frigatebirds in Lamar Co (ph. Nicole Phillips), and up to 21 in Forrest Co (Nancy Donald, Lillie Gibbs, ph.); singles 30 Aug and 31 Aug in Lowndes/Clay Cos (Terence L. Schiefer et al., ph.) provided third and fourth records for U.E.C.M. Alabama’s far inland observations, all single birds, came from Lauderdale Co just prior to Ida on 27 Aug (ph. Jeanene Daniels), and then well after passage on 10 Sep (Damien J. Simbeck). These furnished the fifth and sixth records for north Alabama; an adult male 31 Aug at Tuscaloosa (Satchell Watts-Kerr) was the 10th for the I.C.P.
The rare but increasing Brown Booby continues to appear, with lone birds on 30 Aug in west Jackson Co, MS (Collin Stempien, Melinda Averhart, ph., p.a.) and 25 Sep at Dauphin (Marybeth Lima, Lynn Hathaway, Linda Lee, ph.). Anhingas away from normal haunts in Alabama included singles 11 Aug–4 Sep in Colbert Co (Damien J. Simbeck, m. ob., ph.) and 14 Aug in Randolph Co (Steve Patterson, Debra Patterson, ph.). Neotropic Cormorants continue to amass in the Delta region of Mississippi, exhibited by an estimate of 500 at St. Catherine Creek NWR, Adams Co 14 Aug (Abby Darrah); in contrast, surprisingly, the species is still accidental in Alabama. An immature Brown Pelican at W. F. George Dam in Henry Co 17 Aug (ph. Geoff E. Hill) with Tropical Storm Fred was rare for the I.C.P., though the species has been seen several times at this site over the years. Another immature was found at Wheeler Dam 31 Aug with passage of Ida (Greg D. Jackson, Debra G. Jackson, m. ob., ph.) and remained through 30 Oct, joined 2–25 Sep by an adult (Peter Kappes et al., ph.); Brown Pelican is only occasional in north Alabama, with 5 prior fall records.
Herons through Kingfishers
Damien J. Simbeck, counting large waders coming to roost at Wheeler Dam late in the day 11 Aug, tallied 242 Little Blue Herons for an autumn inland Alabama maximum, a Tricolored Heron (fifth for the T.V. in fall), and a high north Alabama fall tally of 2150 Cattle Egrets. Another unusual inland Tricolored was spotted 22 Aug in Coahoma Co, MS (Matt Sutton). Setting an I.C.P. seasonal maximum, nine Yellow-crowned Night-Herons were in Perry Co 17 Aug (David P. George). A White-faced Ibis, rare but becoming regular in fall in the G.C., was at Meaher SP, Baldwin Co 11–20 Nov (Lawrence F. Gardella et al., ph.). Scarce in U.E.C.M. and anywhere inland in Alabama, unidentified Plegadis ibis were noted 11 Oct in Noxubee Co, MS (Terence L. Schiefer) and 25 Nov in Limestone Co, AL (ph. Amber Hart). Roseate Spoonbill is rare but increasing in the T.V.; a juvenile was in Colbert Co 7–31 Aug (Joseph Olson, m. ob., ph.), and a spoonbill was viewed distantly in Lauderdale Co 9 Sep (Damien J. Simbeck); another juvenile was at Huntsville 25 Aug–9 Oct (Grace Simms, Amy Hessler, m. ob., ph.) and likely was the same individual found impaired not far away 14 Oct and captured for rehabilitation (ph. Kelly Smith). Regular each year now in the I.C.P., a juvenile spoonbill was in Elmore Co 23 Sep (ph. David Hanks).
Swallow-tailed Kites put on a good show well north of the usual post-breeding dispersal. Prior to this season, there were only 10 T.V. records, five of these in autumn. Thus, it was a surprise to find 7 birds at five sites this season: in separate Lawrence Co localities 12 Aug (ph. Greg D. Jackson) and 31 Aug–1 Sep (Greg D. Jackson, Debra G. Jackson et al., ph.), in different Lauderdale Co locations 14 Aug (ph. Jeff T. Garner) and 23 Aug (Damien J. Simbeck), and farther east in Jackson Co 25 Aug (ph. Jeff T. Garner). Rare in most of the M.R., four Swallow-taileds were in DeKalb Co 22 Aug (Michele Reynolds et al., ph.); the only part of the M.R. where this elegant aerialist is regularly enjoyed is in the far southeastern corner, and from 20–24 Aug up to 14 were admired in Randolph Co (Cathy Lawrence et al., ph.), furnishing a fall M.R. high count. Infrequent in U.E.C.M., a Swallow-tailed, the 12th fall record, appeared 8 Aug in Oktibbeha Co (Larry Box, Florence Box, Terence L. Schiefer). Golden Eagle is a low-density wintering species in Alabama, generally found in remote locations; more unusual were sightings 1 Nov in Birmingham (ph. Denise Jeter) and 7 Nov at Daphne, Baldwin Co (Craig Litteken). The Northern Harrier 3–5 Sep in Adams Co, MS (Barry Tillman, Bob Strader) was early. Mississippi Kite continues to slowly increase in north Alabama; of multiple records this season in non-regular locales, most notable were counts at separate Lauderdale Co sites of nine birds 21 Aug (ph. Jeff T. Garner) and seven kites 1 Sep (Peter Kappes).
The tally of 14 Red-shouldered Hawks 25 Sep on the Wheeler NWR area count (fide C. Dwight Cooley) set a T.V. fall maximum. Swainson’s Hawk is regular in small numbers on the coast in late autumn, especially in Baldwin Co, AL, where particularly noted at sod farms away from the Gulf. Two Swainson’s were spotted at Ft. Morgan 8 Oct (Geoff E. Hill et al., ph.) and another appeared on 18 Oct (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Augusta Herre); at a regular Baldwin Co sod farm site up to two were present 17 Oct–13 Nov (Lawrence F. Gardella, Craig Litteken, m. ob., ph.). Finding a Burrowing Owl in our region is cause for celebration; one of these impossibly cute imps was a treat 17 Oct at Dauphin (Howard E. Horne, m. ob., ph.), representing the 21st for Alabama. Another fun bird is Short-eared Owl, seen most years in certain locales in the northern parts of the area, but erratic and usually in limited numbers. One in Shelby Co 6 Nov (ph. Todd DeVore) was only the fourth for the M.R., and the first since 1958! Providing a high count for the T.V. in fall, 16 Belted Kingfishers were tallied on the Wheeler NWR area count 25 Sep (fide C. Dwight Cooley).
Flycatchers through Vireos
Ash-throated Flycatcher turns up sparingly on the coast in autumn, but is much more unusual well inland in our region. Coastal reports this season included three in Jackson Co, MS 18–30 Oct (Gary Herritz, Brian Johnston, Abby Darrah, ph., p.a.) and another in Baldwin Co, AL 18 Nov (Ron J. Kittinger, Rick L. Kittinger, ph.). A vocalizing Tropical Kingbird spiced up birding at Biloxi 10–12 Oct (Holly Cox, m. ob., ph., p.a.), establishing Mississippi’s sixth identified to this species and 11th of the complex (this total includes three identified Couch’s). An uncommon visitor along the coast, Western Kingbird is much less expected well away from the Gulf. One was in Clay Co 28–29 Aug (Terence L. Schiefer, Marion H. Schiefer, Jeffrey Harris, Dianne Patterson, Jim Patterson, ph.), providing the 10th U.E.C.M. record, and a surprising three birds were found in Washington Co, MS 6 Sep (Frank John Serio). Gray Kingbird is scarce on the Mississippi coast, so individuals in Jackson Co 13–22 Aug (Andrew Bell, Gene C. Knight, Holly Cox, Nancy Donald, Pullen Watkins, ph., p.a.) and in Harrison Co 10–16 Oct (Holly Cox, Collin Stempien, Shelia Murphy, Tia Offner, m. ob., ph., p.a.) were notable.
Early on during most falls, several Olive-sided Flycatchers usually look down from high perches—more commonly in Mississippi. Rare-but-regular Alabama reports were of singles 11–26 Sep in Madison Co (J. Milton Harris, Robert Goss), Lee Co (Ralph E. Mirarchi), Tuscaloosa Co (Satchell Watts-Kerr, Eugene Huryn), and Mobile Co (Marybeth Lima et al., ph.), with the most unusual Mississippi sightings 27–28 Aug in Lowndes Co (Paul Mack, Terence L. Schiefer, Dianne Patterson, ph.) and 18 Sep in Yalobusha Co (Walter Valley, Gene C. Knight). A late Acadian Flycatcher calling at Noxubee NWR 20 Oct (Terence L. Schiefer) set a U.E.C.M. departure date. Alder Flycatcher is probably regular in early fall in the region, though most candidates are silent. Calling birds were reported 17–21 Aug in Oktibbeha Co, MS (Marion H. Schiefer, Terence L. Schiefer, Jeffrey Harris, v.r.), 3 Sep in Jackson Co, MS (Timothy Guida, Collin Stempien), and 23 Sep at Ft. Morgan (Lawrence F. Gardella, Craig Litteken). Willow Flycatcher is rare but regular in early autumn, and more often reported to species than is Alder. Vocalizing individuals were noted 3 Sep at Ft. Morgan (Lawrence F. Gardella, Craig Litteken) and 25 Sep at Eufaula NWR (Geoff E. Hill).
The Say’s Phoebe present last winter north of Eufaula in Barbour Co, AL returned to the site beginning 12 Nov (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Louise Hewlett, m. ob., ph.). A perennial crowd-pleaser, Vermilion Flycatcher is rare but expected on the coast in fall and winter, much less so inland. Coastal reports this year included 21 Sep in Jackson Co, MS (Tom Butera et al, ph.), at two Harrison Co, MS sites 25 Sep (Holly Cox, m. ob., ph.), 5 Oct in Jackson Co, MS (Gary Herritz et al., ph.), and 8 Oct in Mobile Co, AL (Eric C. Soehren, m. ob., ph.); four returning individuals were at two sites in Baldwin Co, AL 18–19 Oct (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Stephanie Pluscht, m. ob., ph.), and a returning female was in Mobile Co 11 Nov (Eric Haskell, m. ob., ph.). Alabama had only seven prior inland records in fall, so males 30 Sep in Montgomery Co (David McVay et al., ph.) and 7 Oct in Chambers Co (ph. Geoff Sorrell) were significant; a returning female was noted at Eufaula NWR 26 Nov (ph. Sam Krah).
The 75 White-eyed Vireos on the Wheeler NWR area count 25 Sep (fide C. Dwight Cooley) broke the prior T.V. autumn maximum; an individual 12 Nov in Lauderdale Co, MS (Rachel Barham, Winston Barham) was unusually late to depart. Bell’s Vireo is rare but regular on the Alabama coast in fall, but only occasional inland anytime; one at Monte Sano SP, Madison Co 23 Sep (J. Milton Harris) was just the second for the T.V. and the first in fall. The latest record of Yellow-throated Vireo for northeast Mississippi lingered in Tishomingo Co to 5 Oct (Randy Shultz). Warbling Vireos, rare but regular in Alabama in early fall, were noted 7 Sep in Shelby Co (ph. Joe Wujcik), 23 Sep both in Cullman Co (ph. Amber Hart) and at Dauphin (Ben C. Garmon, Patsy Russo), and 28 Sep at Montgomery (Alban Guillaumet). An extraordinary surprise, a Yellow-green Vireo, was banded 21 Sep at Orange Beach, Baldwin Co (ph. KS, p.a.); the only previous occurrence in Alabama and the region was in October 2003, though there are multiple records from adjacent northwest Florida. Another excellent vireo find was the Black-whiskered Vireo studied 24 Sep at Dauphin (Andrew Haffenden), only the fourth in autumn for Alabama.
Larks through Blackbirds
Horned Lark is rare in the I.C.P. though the species sporadically nests; one was in Lowndes Co 7 Aug (Geoff E. Hill) in the general area where breeding was documented as recently as 2000. Larks are occasional on the Alabama coast though they recently appear to be increasing; as many as 17—only the 7th record for the G.C. and representing a new high count for that region—were noted southwest of Foley, Baldwin Co beginning 4 Nov (Greg D. Jackson et al., ph.). The 20 Bank Swallows in Perry Co 23 Sep (David P. George) tied the prior I.C.P. maximum, and two in Pickens Co 17 Oct (Geoff E. Hill) were the latest for the I.C.P., tying the late date for inland Alabama. An estimated 200 Tree Swallows in Talladega Co 30 Oct (Fred Carney) matched the M.R. fall peak count. The M.R. gained new fall late dates by Shelby Co observations of two Northern Rough-winged Swallows 2 Nov (ph. Todd DeVore) and two Barn Swallows 30 Oct (Pullen Watkins).
The Red-breasted Nuthatch 6 Sep in Lee Co (ph. Wayne R. Patterson) provided a northeast Mississippi arrival date. A White-breasted Nuthatch 18 Nov at Daphne, Baldwin Co (Lawrence F. Gardella) was only the ninth for the G.C. and second in autumn. Ten Brown Creepers in Limestone Co 31 Oct (Robert Goss) were the most in fall for Alabama. Another surprising count was of 350 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers 11 Aug in Adams Co, MS (Teri Tillman, Barry Tillman). Setting a fall T.V. high, 190 Carolina Wrens were recorded 25 Sep on the Wheeler NWR area count (fide C. Dwight Cooley). Two Gray-cheeked Thrushes, the earliest for U.E.C.M., were in Lowndes Co 8 Sep (Paul Mack), and the two Swainson’s Thrushes 6 Sep in that same county (Paul Mack) tied the prior arrival date. On the Wheeler NWR area count 25 Sep, 33 Wood Thrushes broke the T.V. fall maximum, and another in Limestone Co 31 Oct (Robert Goss) was latest for that region.
Scaly-breasted Munia, that little brown thing with so many aliases, is not yet officially on the Alabama list, but they increasingly breed on the coast and are expanding rapidly. Recently, the species has shown limited extension into inland areas, and the immature in Houston Co 13–18 Nov (ph. Renea Simpson) was the first for southeast Alabama. A Lapland Longspur at Ft. Morgan 31 Oct (ph. Franklin Chalk) was the seventh in autumn in the G.C. Lark Sparrows are scarce but slowly increasing locally in the M.R. Up to two were noteworthy 16–17 Sep in Oxford, Calhoun Co (Skip Smith, Susano Medina, ph.); nesting evidence was documented at a nearby site in 2013. Clay-colored Sparrow is rare but regular on the outer coast in autumn but unexpected inland. Coastal reports were of singles at different sites in Jackson Co, MS 8 Oct and 30–31 Oct (both ph. Gary Herritz). The individual 25–26 Sep in downtown Birmingham (Greg J. Harber, Grace Simms, Greg Simms, ph.) was a surprise, and another notable inland appearance was 10 Oct at Tupelo, Lee Co, MS (ph. Wayne R. Patterson).
An immature Harris’s Sparrow 17 Nov at Dauphin (Hayley Keevan, Amanda Keevan, ph.) was the 16th for Alabama and fifth in the fall period. A LeConte’s Sparrow, rare but regular in the T.V., was seen at a traditional site in Swan Creek WMA, Limestone Co 15 Nov (Sue R. Moske). Though Forrest Co, MS, is within the wintering range of Henslow’s Sparrow, this retiring species is only infrequently detected in the autumn period. Up to two were in De Soto NF 10–15 Nov (Lillie Gibbs, Nancy Donald). The existing local fall maxima for Savannah Sparrow were toppled by tallies of 95 in Baldwin Co, AL 20 Nov (Craig Litteken) and 200 in Tuscaloosa Co, AL 23 Nov (Eugene Huryn, Satchell Watts-Kerr). A Lincoln’s Sparrow, regular but spotty in autumn in the M.R., was observed in Shelby Co 17–23 Oct (K. C. Nishant et al., ph.). Yellow-headed Blackbird is rare but regular in fall on the coast, and this year reports came from Biloxi 6–9 Sep (ph. Holly Cox) and Gulf SP, Baldwin Co, AL on 15 Sep (Augusta Herre); even more special was a female in Oktibbeha Co 25 Nov (Terence L. Schiefer), the 13th for U.E.C.M.
Up to six Bobolinks—scarce in fall—were in Calhoun Co, AL 5 Sep–9 Oct (Susano Medina et al., ph.), two were spotted in Madison Co, AL 11 Sep (Wayne Baumgartner), and another was on the Wheeler NWR area count 25 Sep (C. Dwight Cooley, Thomas V. Ress). A Western Meadowlark, Alabama’s 11th in autumn and the G.C.’s eight during that season, was a good find 17 Oct at Dauphin (Howard E. Horne, m. ob., ph.). Bullock’s Oriole is rare but increasingly noted in our region; two striking adult males returned to a favorite set of feeders in Foley, Baldwin Co, AL beginning 27 Oct (Michael J. Jordan, m. ob., ph.). The estimate of 30,000 Red-winged Blackbirds 24 Nov in Baldwin Co (Michael J. Jordan) tied the fall Alabama high. The state’s 25th Bronzed Cowbird, a male, appeared at feeders in south Baldwin Co on 1 Nov. This, the 13th fall record, was joined by another 5 Nov (Becky Humphries, Donald Dehm, m. ob., ph.); all Alabama records have been coastal.
Warblers through Dickcissel
A late Worm-eating Warbler was spotted 10 Oct in Forrest Co, MS (Timothy Guida). An exceedingly late Louisiana Waterthrush was photographed 23 Oct at a breeding site in Jefferson Co (Craig Wilson), representing a new departure date for Alabama, and the Northern Waterthrush 27 Oct in Shelby Co (Joseph Olson) was later than previous in north Alabama. Working both ends of the spectrum, Golden-winged Warblers established an early arrival date for the T.V.—9 Aug at Monte Sano SP, Madison Co (J. Milton Harris)—and then a late date for north Alabama on 23 Oct in Calhoun Co (Skip Smith). Surprising numbers of rare-but-regular Blue-winged Warbler x Golden-winged Warbler hybrids were reported this autumn. Falling within the more frequent Brewster’s range of the spectrum were Alabama individuals 10 Sep in Jefferson Co (ph. Kay Dantzler), 14 Sep at Monte Sano SP, Madison Co (J. Milton Harris), 15 Sep at another site in Huntsville (Charles W. Boley), and 25 Sep on the Birmingham area count (John M. Imhof, Jeremy Bearden, Jess Searcy). A Lawrence’s-type bird, much more unusual, was discovered 4 Sep at Petal River Park, Forrest Co, MS (ph. Logan Firman).
Late Prothonotary Warblers were in Conecuh Co 7 Oct (Mayra Seitz) and at Montgomery 8 Oct (Alban Guillaumet), both later than priors for the I.C.P. Conversely, the Orange-crowned Warbler described at Birmingham 4 Sep (Rick Remy) was the earliest for Alabama, and another 11 Sep in Baldwin Co (Kit Plughoft) furnished south Alabama an arrival mark. Nashville Warblers, rare in the I.C.P., were spotted 18 Oct at Montgomery (Alban Guillaumet), 23 Oct in Pickens Co (Satchell Watts-Kerr, Eugene Huryn), and 27 Oct at Tuscaloosa (Satchell Watts-Kerr). Mourning Warblers were nice finds at sites in Jefferson Co, AL 21 Aug (R. Scot Duncan) and 1 Sep (ph. Kay Dantzler), and in Lauderdale Co, AL 6 Sep (Damien J. Simbeck); surprisingly, two Mournings were discovered 18 Sep at Montgomery (ph. Alban Guillaumet). This species is only occasional in the I.C.P., and the record is the first fall observation of more than one individual in inland Alabama. A lingering female-type American Redstart 17 Nov at Huntsville (ph. Herbert Lewis) was the latest in the fall period for inland Alabama (though there are two winter records).
Cape May Warbler is rare in autumn, so Alabama birds were noteworthy on 30 Sep in Madison Co (ph. Jamie Dalton), 2 Oct at Huntsville (ph. Herbert Lewis, Greg J. Harber, m. ob.), 6–7 Oct at Ft. Morgan (ph. Franklin Chalk), and 9 Oct both in St. Clair (ph. Caroline Poli) and at Birmingham (Rick Remy). Cerulean Warblers were numerous early in the season; seven at Monte Sano SP, Madison Co 13 Aug (Rick L. Kittinger, Ron J. Kittinger, Louise Hewlett, ph.) set a fall inland Alabama peak, and four at Birmingham 2 Sep (Greg D. Jackson) tied the autumn top count for the M.R. Two Northern Parulas spotted 24 Oct at Swan Creek WMA, Limestone Co, represented a late T.V. departure date (ph. Robert Goss). The Bay-breasted Warbler 6 Nov at Tuscaloosa (Satchell Watts-Kerr) was the latest for the I.C.P. Occasionally noted in fall, a Blackpoll Warbler was banded 1 Oct at Ft. Morgan (Amanda Carpenter et al., ph.).
The flashy Black-throated Blue Warbler is rare but regular in north Alabama. Individuals were enjoyed at Birmingham sites 1 Sep (Rick Remy) and 23 Oct (Jo Hoffman), while another was found 13 Oct at Guntersville, Marshall Co (ph. Amber Hart). Establishing a seasonal maximum for the I.C.P., six Black-throated Green Warblers were in Tuscaloosa Co 17 Oct (Matthew Press). The Canada Warbler 17 Oct at Wheeler NWR (ph. Robert Goss) was the latest for inland Alabama. An immature male Black-headed Grosbeak, occasional in autumn, was a great visitor to a Ft. Morgan Peninsula feeder 30 Oct (ph. Janice Neitzel). In the I.C.P., Painted Buntings are rare, though there are scattered breeding sites. One 3–8 Aug in Geneva Co (Odis H. Johnson) was unusual, and a female type was in Houston Co beginning 22 Oct (Renea Simpson, Bob Kornegay, ph.) at a fantastic bird-friendly yard that’s becoming a regular winter site. The Painted Bunting 23 Sep in Neshoba Co, MS (Sandy Dillard) was locally unprecedented in autumn. 30 Dickcissels in Hale Co 2 Aug exceeds prior I.C.P. fall counts (Anne G. Miller, Doris Gertler, Todd DeVore, ph.), and 15 were at Tuscaloosa 6 Aug (Mary Burke).
Report processed by Alison Világ, 14 Jun 2022.