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December Rare Birds: Late warbler is a 1st for state CBCs

Myles Hurlburt photographed this Summer Tanager that local birders got a chance to see in early December at a private residence in the Wausau area.


By Mark Korducki

The mild weather of November continued into mid-December before a low pressure front moved in right before Christmas. This strong system produced blizzard conditions and plunged temperatures well below zero. This unusual weather produced a number of rare birds as well as several late sightings in December.

Black-and-white Warblers are not rare in Wisconsin but the one that frequented a feeder in Racine County was record late by three weeks and was recorded for the Racine Christmas Bird Count. This is the first time this species has been seen on a Wisconsin CBC. It disappeared with the blizzard’s arrival.

RARE BWWA photo 1 23

This Black-and-white Warbler showed up at Jenny Wenzel’s feeders on Dec. 4, which turned out to be a late record for the date. While she was on the Racine CBC on Dec. 17 her husband David saw her at the feeders again; it may be the first Black and White Warbler recorded for a Wisconsin CBC! She’s been back every day since then. (12/22)

An exciting state rarity in any season, a Say's Phoebe was a great find and was photographed in Dodge County. A more expected Eastern Phoebe was quite late in Door County.

A very cooperative Summer Tanager visited a feeder in Marathon County well into December. A Spotted Towhee was frequenting a thicket in a Milwaukee County lakefront park.

RARE <b>Pacific Loon</b> photo 1 23

Aaron Holschbach found and photographed this Pacific Loon in the Wisconsin River below the Prairie du sac Dam. It was eBirded for both Columbia and Sauk counties.

A Pacific Loon was a great find below the Prairie du Sac dam. This bird was seen quite close to shore and was present on both the Sauk and Columbia County sides of the river. A late Eared Grebe was present in Dane County.

It was a good month for gulls. The highlight was a very cooperative Black-legged Kittiwake frequenting the Port Washington Harbor in Ozaukee County. There was one prior record of a kittiwake that spent the winter in Port Washington so perhaps this individual will continue for a while. An amazing group of four Black-legged Kittiwakes was seen in Grant County on the Mississippi River. This concentration was amazing and this species is rarely seen away from the Great Lakes. A Slaty-backed Gull was photographed in Dane County. A California Gull was picked out among the many gulls at the landfill in Johnson Creek and was enjoyed by several birders over a few days. A Franklin's Gull was seen early in the month in Sauk County.

RARE Kittiwake photo 1 23

Braden Meyer photographed this juvenile Black-legged Kittiwake seen in the Port Washington harbor (Ozaukee County) for at least 10 days in mid-December.

A Purple Sandpiper was a nice find in Manitowoc. A Dunlin was quite late in Milwaukee and did remain long enough to be found on the Christmas Bird Count there. Late Semipalmated Plovers were found in Sauk and Sheboygan counties.

The group of Harlequin Ducks continued in Sheboygan, and another more unexpected one was found in Brown County on the Fox River. A group of three was found in Milwaukee.

RARE <b>Bohemian Waxwing</b> photo 1 23

Bryan Lenz photographed this lone Bohemian Waxwing (left) in a flock with about 40 Cedar Waxwings on the Newburg (Washington County) Christmas Bird Count Dec. 17.

Rare but somewhat regular in winter, a Black-billed Magpie was seen briefly in Barron County. Bohemian Waxwings and a few Pine Grosbeaks were scattered across the state in decent numbers. The only Varied Thrush report was a birdf ound in Door County.

Happy Holidays to everyone. The year 2022 was an incredible one for rare birds in Wisconsin. Here's hoping for a fun and exciting start to 2023.

In addition to compiling this monthly report, Mark coordinates Wisconsin’s 92 Breeding Bird Survey routes.