Potential Additions to the Palearctic List…

… from the EAST

by Paul Lehman

Every fall since 1999 I have spent between 5 and 6 weeks at Gambell, Alaska, an eskimo village of about 650 persons located at the northwest tip of St. Lawrence Island, in the northern Bering Sea. Gambell is some 200 miles WSW of Nome, Alaska, and only about 45 miles SE of the closest point on the Chukotsk (Chukotskiy) Peninsula in extreme northeast Russia (see map). The lure here is the frequent occurrence of both regular and mega Asian avian strays (including nine first North American records since 1999), as well as major rarities for Alaska from well to the east in mainland North America, plus a fantastic seabird spectacle, and the presence of many western Alaska and arctic specialties.

One of the bigger surprises that has come out of all this time spent here in fall is the occurrence of some very unexpected North American vagrants, a good number of which would be first records for Russia, Asia, or even the entire Palearctic region if they continued northwestward for only those additional 45+ miles—and IF there were active observers stationed on the shores of the Chukotsk Peninsula, which there are not….

So, here is a list of what landbirds have been recorded at Gambell during the autumn since 1999 and which would mostly qualify as “mega’s” on the nearby Russian side. It does not include very regular strays such as several sparrow species (e.g., Savannah, Fox, White-crowned, Golden-crowned). If there is more than one record, that number follows in parentheses:

Northern Saw-whet Owl
Common Nighthawk
“Yellow-shafted” Flicker (2)
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (4)
Warbling Vireo (5)
Philadelphia Vireo
Tree Swallow (4)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (22)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (4)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (26)
Swainson’s Thrush (8)
Hermit Thrush (15)
American Robin (6)
Varied Thrush (4)
Northern Waterthrush (5)
Tennessee Warbler (2)
Orange-crowned Warbler (42)
Nashville Warbler
MacGillivray’s Warbler
Mourning Warbler
American Redstart (4)
Cape May Warbler
Magnolia Warbler (2)
Yellow Warbler (22)
Blackpoll Warbler (2)
Palm Warbler
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler (9)
Townsend’s Warbler (3)
Wilson’s Warbler (31)
American Tree Sparrow (20)
Chipping Sparrow (24)
Clay-colored Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow (9)
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco (21)
Black-headed Grosbeak
Bullock’s Oriole (4)
Purple Finch (3)
Pine Siskin (38)

So, if there are any enterprising birders out there who would like to add a slug of species to the Palearctic list, the eastern Chukotsk Peninsula in autumn awaits!!

Paul Lehman  (San Diego, California)

One thought on “Potential Additions to the Palearctic List…

  1. Steve Lister

    Looking at the map I would suggest that Gambell should really be considered as part of the Palearctic region as it is clearly nearer Russia than Alaska. Obviously the map does not show continental plates but equally obviously faunal regions are not governed by political boundaries.


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