2002 & Prior Year Summaries

2002 and Prior Year Summaries


Old RIOC records for which we have Information.

Some pre-2002 records that RIOC did not review.

The Rhode Island Ornithological Club (RIOC) collected and evaluated records through 2002. After that, there was an informal method of gathering and collecting records. In 2008 the Rhode Island Avian Records Committee (RIARC) was formed to once again gather and record documentation of rare birds occurring in Rhode Island. In that process of gathering records, RIARC has found photos and documentation of a few old RIOC records, along with a few 2002 and prior records that RIOC did not record.

On this page are listed all of the old RIOC records for which we have documentation. Also included are a few 2002 and prior records for which we have documentation, but that RIOC did not review.


RIARC Number Vote (Accepted-Not Accepted-Natural Status Uncertain; RIOC=evaluated by RIOC): # of birds reported; location; date(s); reporters (I = initial observer, R = report submitted, P = photograph submitted).


ANHINGA (Anhinga anhinga)

2002-1 (RIOC): Swan Point, Providence; 12-May-2002; Dan Finizia (I,R), Sue Talbot (I,R)

Late in the morning of 12-May-2002 an Anhinga was observed flying over Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. A detailed written description along with a sketch was provided by each of the two observers who reported.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

2002-5 (RIOC): One; Little Compton; 23-28-Oct-2002; Geoff Dennis (I,R,P)

WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

2002-2 (6-0): One; Block Island; 11-Nov-2002; Bob Emerson (I,R), Dan Finizia (I,P), Sue Talbot (I).

During a Veteran’s Day Bird Count on Block Island, Bob Emerson, Dan Finizia, and Sue Talbot found this Western Tanager at the north end of the island. After following this bird from shrubs to trees for several minutes, they were able to get good looks through the scope. Dan was also able to get photos of the bird.


WESTERN TANAGER (Piranga ludoviciana)

2002-3 (RIOC): One; Ninigret Park, Charlestown; 26-Dec-2002 to 18-Jan-2003 Carlos Pedro (I)

An uncommon western vagrant from the 2002-2003 winter season was a Western Tanager found at Ninigret Park in Charlestown. It stayed for a few weeks, and was seen by many observers. Interestingly, a Western Tanager (2002-2) was recorded in November on Block Island only fifteen miles or so away from the location of this bird.



WHITE-FACED IBIS (Plegadis chihi)

2001-7 (RIOC): Middletown; 20-26-Apr-2001; Dan Finizia (P)

This record of White-faced Ibis may be only the second in Rhode Island (the first being in 1998). This bird was photographed as it foraged in a field with Glossy Ibis.

BROWN BOOBY (Sula leucogaster)

2001-1 (7-0): One; Cox’s Ledge; 5-May-2001; Keith Mueller (I,R,P).

On an overcast May day, Keith Mueller went out on the Gail Francis cod-fishing boat to Cox’s Ledge for a day of birding. At one point a brown bird appeared out of the mist. It circled the boat several times but then disappeared. About an hour later the bird reappeared and landed on the top deck railing. Keith was able to slowly approach the bird and eventually get to within a few feet. All the while Keith was taking photos. Those photos along with a detailed written report were submitted.

RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

2001-3 (RIOC): One; Newport; 10-Dec-2001 to 23-Jan-2002; Rick Enser (P)


WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL (Pelagodroma marina)

2001-6 (RIOC): One; 80 miles south of Block Island, 30-Aug-2001, Kim Gaffett (R,P)

A Storm-Petrel landed on a sport-fishing boat about 80 miles south of Block Island. It stayed on the boat until the boat docked at Payne's Dock on Block Island. A call for assistance went out, and was answered by Kim Gaffett. Kim picked up the bird and found its feathers to be matted by some substance. She cleaned the bird with dish detergent, and fed the bird tuna fish. The next day this White-faced Storm-Petrel was take to Grace's Cove beach and released.

ROSS'S GOOSE (Anser rossii)

2001-2 (RIOC): One; Trustom Pond NWR, South Kingstown; 4-8-Dec-2001; Jan St. Jean (I)


Jan St. Jean was doing a winter waterfowl survey for Fish and Wildlife at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge. From across the pond she observed a white goose. When she went over to the other side of the pond she was able to get much closer to the bird, and quickly identified it at the first Ross's Goose recorded in Rhode Island.

BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis)

2001-4 (RIOC): One; Portsmouth; 15-Dec-2001; Dick Ferren (I,R)

During the Newport-Westport Xmas Bird Count of 2001, a Barnacle Goose was spotted in a large flock of Canada Geese east of Middle Road in Portsmouth. It was estimated that this group of geese was part of the 800 to 1000 Canada Geese that were spending the winter in St. Mary's Pond. Snow Geese are frequently seen among these geese, and on this day 47 Snow Geese were counted. No photographs were taken, but a detailed written description was submitted.

LARK BUNTING (Calamospiza melanocorys)

2001-5 (RIOC): One; Middletown; 15-Dec-2001; Chris Raithel (I,R)

Three observers found this bird in a brush pile in a shrub nursery while they were doing the Newport/Westport CBC. The bird was observed for 15 minute or so at close range. A detailed report was written describing this Lark Bunting very well. Lark Bunting is extremely rare in Rhode Island, with this record being only the fifth for the state.


SWALLOW-TAILED KITE (Elanoides forficatus)

2000-4 (RIOC): One; Turf Fields, North Kingstown; 4-5-May-2000; Peter Paton (I,R), Corrie Heinz (I)

Two birders in the car noticed this Swallow-tailed Kite flying over turf fields in North Kingstown. The bird flapped and soared and eventually flew directly overhead providing the observers excellent views of the shape and pattern of this bird.


2000-3 (RIOC): One; North End, Block Island; 9-May-2000; Michael Wagner (I,R), Scott Cummings (R)

Two birders who were experienced with Fork-tailed Flycatcher in the neotropics observed this bird in the pines at the North End of Block Island. The bird was observed and compared with a few Eastern Kingbirds nearby, and was described in a written report.

PAINTED BUNTING (Passerina ciris)

2000-2 (RIOC): One; Lincoln Feeder; 26-May-2000; Susan DiMasso (I,R)

The written report for this bird described a bird a little larger than a goldfinch, with a blue head, a red breast, and lime green wings. It was on a feeder about 65 feet from the house, where it fed with some House Sparrows.

ARCTIC TERN (Sterna paradisaea)

2000-1 (RIOC): One; Charlestown Breachway; 4-Jul-2000; Chris Raithel (I,R)

A detailed written report with sketches described this first-year portlandica Arctic Tern from the Charlestown Breachway.

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

2000-5 (RIOC): One; Block Island; 21-Dec-2000; Dan Finizia (P)


A Brown Pelican was seen by many birders on the 2000 Block Island CBC. At one point it was seen feeding offshore with Black-legged Kittiwakes. It was reported that the bird was likely brought in by a southwest gale the day before. It was not relocated the next day.


BREWER'S BLACKBIRD (Euphagus cyanocephalus)

1999-1 (RIOC): One; Swan Point Cemetery; 13-Oct-1999; Rachel Farrell (I,R), Dan Finizia (I)

Two observers located this bird in an area of Swan Point Cemetery used as a leaf and vegetation dumping ground. Close observation from a distance of 25 feet for four minutes allowed the two observers to observe and discuss those field marks that confirmed this bird as a Brewer's Blackbird. A detailed description of the observation was submitted.


PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus)

1998-2 (6-0): One; Little Compton; 11-Jun-1998; Stephen Merriman (I), Geoff Dennis (P)


Stephen Merriman was a student at the Wilbur McMahon School in Little Compton when he found this bird at the school. It had a broken leg and made no attempt to fly. He and his friends corralled it into a stairwell where he captured it and brought it to his uncle, Geoff Dennis. Geoff took the bird to a rehabber who held it until it healed. Five weeks after its arrival, the Purple Gallinule was released back into the wild.


1998-1 (RIOC): One; Little Compton; 26-Nov-1998+; Geoff Dennis (I,R,P)


RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

1996-1 (RIOC): One; Little Compton; 8-11-Nov-1996; Geoff Dennis (I,R,P)


MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD (Sialia currucoides)

1995-1 (RIOC): One; Southern RI Roads; 1994-1995; Chris Raithel (R,P)

A local birder was collecting road killed birds during the winter of 1994-1995, and brought the bag of specimen to Chris Raithel at RI Department of Fish and Wildlife the following spring. When the bags were examined, it was discovered that the bird in a bag marked as Tree Swallow was actually a female Mountain Bluebird. The specimen was preserved and sent to the American Museum of Natural History.During the winter of 1994 to1995 several Mountain Bluebirds were seen in the east, some of which over-wintered on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. This bird may have been part of that movement in 1994.RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (Selasphorus rufus)

1995-2 (RIOC): One; 22-Oct to 3-Dec-1995; Little Compton; Geoff Dennis (I,R,P)


FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER (Tyrannus savana)1994-1 (RIOC): One; Central Beach, Charlestown; 20-29-Oct-1994; Dick Bowen (P)The second Rhode Island record of Fork-tailed Flycatcher was a bird at Central Beach, Quonochontaug that came to the attention of the birding community on 27-Oct-1994. Reported by local residents to have been present as early as the 20th, this individual remained through the 29th and was seen and photographed by many observers.



PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus)1993-1 (RIOC): One; Wakefield; 14-Mar-1993; Chris Raithel (R,P)

This Purple Gallinule was found dead in a snowdrift after a strong blizzard in March 1993. The bird was turned over to South Kingstown High School where it was reportedly mounted and added to a collection used to study birds in a biology class. At this time (2018), the whereabouts of this specimen is unknown.



NORTHERN WHEATEAR (Oenanthe oenanthe)

1992-1 (RIOC): One; Block Island; 25-29-Sep-1992; Dick Bowen (P)

Early Northern Wheatear observations apparently were not well documented until the 1970s. This record is one of the earliest well-documented Rhode Island records that we have. This bird was seen by many observers, and photographed by Dick Bowen. This photograph comes from a scan of a book of Dick's photos.


COMMON-RINGED PLOVER (Charadrius hiaticula)

1991-1 (RIOC): One; Ninigret Pond; 15 & 22-Sep-1991; Paul Buckley (I,R), Bob Conway (R)

Paul Buckley discovered this Common-ringed Plover on the Ninigret Pond mudflats on 15-Sep-1991. During his 3-hour continuous observation from as close as ten feet he was able to record fine details of the bird's appearance and behavior. Those details were recorded in his two and a half page written report of the encounter. The bird was identified as a juvenile bird with an injured right leg. The injury resulted in the bird hopping around on its left leg, with its right leg sticking out, toes splayed. He reported "it was evident that the right foot had not a trace of webbing between the inner and middle toes, but did have a tiny patch of webbing (that appeared more substantial than Calidris webbing) between the outer and middle toes".

"Knowing from the webbing pattern that I had to be watching a Ringed and not a Semi, I very much wanted to hear its call, as voice is

probably the quickest way to separate the two species. But despite flushing it 3-4 times (cautiously, because the very last thing I wanted was for it to leave), it refused to call. Finally after 3 hours without the bird making a sound, I left, leaving it still feeding with the Semis and hopping along on its left leg with its right still sticking out, toes splayed apart."

During the following week several birders searched for the bird with no success. Then, on 22-Sep, Bob Conway was studying a group of Semipalmated Plovers for about half-an-hour when he heard the Common-ringed Plover call as it flew in with a group of 5 other plovers. In Bob's 4-page report he described how when the bird landed it hopped on its left leg, keeping its right leg held out in plain view. With the sun behind him and the bird within 20 feet of him during the observation, Bob recorded the event in great detail.



CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea)

1986-1 (RIOC): One; Quicksand Pond, Little Compton; 23-28-Aug-1986, Dick Bowen (P)

Curlew Sandpipers were not documented in Rhode Island until the 1970s, despite over 50 records in Massachusetts by that time. This bird, photographed by Dick Bowen in 1986, may be the fourth documented record for the state. This photograph comes from a scan of a book of Dick's photos.


YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD (Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus)

1985-2 (RIOC): One; Block Island; 4-9-Oct-1985; Dick Bowen (P)

During the 1970s and 1980s Yellow-headed Blackbird occurred almost annually in Rhode Island. Most of the records occurred along the coast, although some occurred well inland. This record from Block Island fit into the coastal pattern.



1985-1 (RIOC): One; Block Island; 9-Oct-1985; Dick Bowen (I,P), Doug Kraus (I), Dave Emerson (I)

The photograph of this Fork-tailed Flycatcher is documentation of the first Rhode Island record of this species. The discovery was made by three people who were pillars of the old Rhode Island Ornithological Club (RIOC). They helped to document and record the bird sightings of their generation, and served as mentors to many birders of future generations.



ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus cinerascens)

1979-1 (RIOC): One; East Providence; 12-30-Nov-1979; Hugh Willoughby (I,R), Bob Bushnell (I,R), Dick Bowen (P)

This might be only the third record of Ash-throated Flycatcher for Rhode Island. The previous two had come from Block Island. Most subsequent records have come from the south coast of Rhode Island, making this record in East Providence somewhat unusual.


TOWNSEND'S SOLITAIRE (Myadestes townsendi)

1978-1 (RIOC): One; Warren; 19-Nov-1978 to 11-Feb-1979; Dick Bowen (I,R,P)


RUFF (Calidris pugnax)

1960-1 (RIOC): One; Newport; 30-Jul to 8-Aug-1960; Dick Bowen (P)

This rare fall vagrant from Eurasia was photographed by Dick Bowen in 1960. Later in life, Dick put his photos into a book of bird photographs. Bob Emerson obtained scans of some of the photographs, and they are being entered into the record here. As of 2018, this is the oldest rare bird photograph that we have in the files. Hopefully we will be able to collect more such photos before they are lost to history.


In an article in American Birds, March 1979, Dick Bowen reports that this Townsend's Solitaire appeared to be the first photographed or specimen-documented record in New England. It was certainly the first record for Rhode Island.It was found along the Kickimuit River in Warren, as Dick was continuing a forty-year traditional late-November count of this 500 acre tract. "The bird was found in an uninhabited hillside of mixed junipers and deciduous trees, with open spaces, leading down to a salt water river. It contains an abundance of berries, providing an ample food supply that has kept the bird reasonably confined to a small area of approximately five acres."

In the days after the sighting, large numbers of birders were able to locate the bird, and Dick was able to locate the Townsend's Solitaire on 20 of 22 subsequent trips. The last reported sighting was 11-Feb-1979, in the middle of an extreme cold snap that the bird may not have survived.