Compiled by Sarah Toner

October is the beginning of the rarity season, and while I’ve been missing out on all of the sandy Sandy-driven birds, I can’t complain after my lifer Sabine’s Gull two weeks ago (although that Dovekie report in Berrien, Michigan, is making me envious). From a migratory viewpoint, October also signals the transition from diversity to numbers: the last dregs of warblers come through at the beginning of the month, while large numbers of common late-migrants such as Hermit Thrushes and Yellow-rumped Warblers start.

At Birding Bros. Blog, Robert sees the change:

Winter is coming. I first noticed when I got out of my car in the Mason Farm parking lot. The air was cool and crisp, with a clear blue sky overhead. A flock of Cedar Waxwings flew in the trees above the creek, and my first White-throated Sparrows of the season chipped away in the brambles. The whole place was surprisingly birdy, perhaps because everything was trying to fatten up before it got really cold. While the winter birds began trickling in, the migrants were trickling out. At first we couldn’t find any real migrants, and instead contented ourselves with a lagging flock of Palm Warblers that flitted through a field of Queen Anne’s lace, picking at chaff and working its way along the tree line.

This season has also been great for mega-rarities. Nathan G., of Birding Illinois and the USA, helped kick it off by finding a mega in Chicago:

Our group made it down to the beach and began walking towards the large Cottonwoods, walking towards the lakeshore. As we got up near the top of the hill, Josh turned to his right, saw a bird in flight, and called out, "OWL!" I frantically scanned to see where he was looking and saw a smaller owl that appeared to be a small Short-eared Owl. I only was able to see it for about 2-3 seconds before it landed on the ground. Josh and I exchanged glances, and he stated, "I think that was a Burrowing Owl." That sure got the adrenaline pumping…

John Shamgochian, from John's Birding Blog, finds a more local rarity, a flock of ABA Birds of the Year:

Minute Number Three runs its course in a startling 60 seconds. In this time I watch the grosbeak flutter about in a Sugar Maple where it’s distinguished plumage sets off a seeming blast of flames; its colors blending with the red and yellow of the maple's last few brilliant leaves. I can almost hear the crackle of the fire.

The big news in rarities and birding at the moment is Hurricane/Superstorm/Frankenstorm/Perfect Storm/Post-Tropical Depression Sandy.

Alex Burdo at Flight of the Scrub-Jay has pre-Sandy birds and musings:

My first stop was my grandfather’s house along Pine Creek Beach. The waters offshore were relatively calm, and (at that time) the wind remained rather subdued. Birds of note included 7 Common Loon (including three birds right in front of the house) and a flyby Red-throated Loon heading east….It’s certainly strange to walk through scenes like these and wonder what the status of things is going to be like 48 hours from now, pondering what shape the beaches and homes will be in, or whether or not the actual large-scale geography of Fairfield will have been permanently altered.

Courtesy of Sandy, in Ontario, David Bell of Birding In Sault Ste. Marie shares a crazy day of rarities and birding:

Yesterday though, I decided to try my luck with this hurricane – and my first taste of hurricane birding was a pretty big success! If you haven't checked out the list I posted yesterday I'd recommend it (but be prepared to be a little jealous…).
5 Black-legged Kittiwakes out of our total of 88 (includes 2 ADULTS, and which may be an undercount) – a new high count for Hamilton (and maybe Ontario???) – before this date I had seen 3 (juveniles) in my entire life! (2 in November, 2008 and 1 in January, 2012)
LEACH'S STORM-PETREL – to put this in perspective a bit, there are 2 previous records for Southern Ontario – one in 1939 and one in 1955 – both specimens – There is also one record for Northern Ontario back in 1981 – crazy bird!!!!!

More rarities are to be expected as November arrives. By the time the next Blog Birding comes, winter will be here, and with it, more birds! Good birding!