Saturday, July 25, 2009

Photo Quiz Answered

This week's quiz photo (above) becomes a lot easier when it is uncropped so that the bird in question is seen with its male partner (below).

But how does one identify the female on its own?

I'll assume that one would know it is a songbird of some type. You have a bit of size reference with the hand in the photo to know that the bird pictured is a fairly big songbird. The bill on the bird is also very long. It may be difficult to tell since it is open mouthed, the bill is actually straight. It is also clearly pointed. This is very typical of the family Icteridae which includes the popular boldy marked black and orange/yellow/red Orioles.

Most of you got this far. From here you want to notice/think about a few things:

1. This bird is really contrasting, the color is sharp - not a drab bird
2. The wing bars are very distinct/well defined

The most "similar" options are drab female/young male Baltimore, female Hooded, and female Orchard Oriole.

In a drab female/young male Baltimore Oriole one would expect brownish sides to the neck and brownish scapulars. One would expect a young male to be more orange-ish, and a drab-female to be brightest on the breast where as this bird is bright overall.

A female Hooded Oriole is much closer to this bird; however, they also tend to be much drabber overall and with much less distinct wing bars.

A female Orchard Oriole on the other hand fits all characteristics: yellow bird (maybe a bit "greenish"/yellow-green) with well defined wing bars.

Female Orchard orioles are small and have a much shorter bill than a Hooded Oriole. This explains why there was some confusion and question as to whether the bird could have been a Warbler by some.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Quiz Bird!

So I sort of fell off the map recently due to getting sick, having a visitor, and working a lot after returning from NY. It may be a day early but I figured why not get the ball rolling now and post another quiz bird because last week I sort of dropped the ball. OOPS!

Here goes....

Monday, July 13, 2009

Answer to Quiz Bird

This weeks quiz bird was a juvenille Gray Jay. It is a dark gray bird with white on the malar. Structurally identical to the adult but without dark slaty gray overall.

Northern Mockingbird was another answer suggested by a few people - Northern Mockingbird juvenilles are almost the same as the adult but have some light spots on the breast for a brief period of time. The bill shape is also very different between Gray Jay and Northern Mockingbird.

This bird was seen in Pittsburg, NH on June 23rd, 2009.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Quiz Bird #6

Have at it folks...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Tale of the Sabine's Gull

With this post I'm starting to do a bit of what I promised not long ago and tell some stories of birds I've added to my yearlist. Tales to follow include:
  • Tale of the Great Gray Owl
  • Tale of the Northern Hawk Owl
  • Tale of the Greater White-fronted Goose
  • and more!
So with that.... I shall begin.

Tale of the Sabine's Gull

On Friday, June 26th 2008 I woke up and headed to the store to pick up some plastic tubs to organize my gear in so that my car would no longer be a mess. Recent losses of a GPS inspired this move. After picking up the necessary items I returned home to promptly unload every item in my car onto my patch of yard. My cell phone made its familiar text message tone. I checked my phone - happy for the break to re-coop and plan the next step. "Royal Tern in Hampton Harbor" read the text from Ben. Wow. Not a common sighting in New Hampshire at all. Although Royal Tern sightings are becoming much more frequent they have been described to me as a bird you can "expect" to show up "every other year or so". However, one had already been reported a few weeks previously and I was fortunate enough to make it down to the coast in time to be one of the half of dozen people who saw it.

But what if I hadn't? What would have I done with piles of clothing, gear, etc. on my lawn when a bird I would have needed for the state and for the year was 30 minutes away. Fortunately, I was not faced with this dilemma. I was able to continue to clean, organize, and clean.

Once finished I debated heading to the coast to poke around at my favorite spots. The idea of traffic kept me away. So I settled down organizing some of the things I did not want to keep in my car when suddenly the phone rang. "There's a Sabine's Gull off Pulpit Rocks," stated Ben. "What! I need to get in the car right now don't I then!" I responded. "Yes, let me know when you get there and if you get it".

Rapidly I called every birder I new to make sure they got the call. At some point while talking to Ben I even attempted to text the message to one birder, but managed only to get out the message " Yes. Sabine's Gull pulipit" which didn't make much sense until further conversation. The yes meant yes I'd like to go on a whale watch tomorrow.... and the rest was just really out of context.

Panic set in as I rolled onto the highway. What if I didn't get there in time, what if I miss this bird? Meanwhile phone calls started rolling in on my end including one from Jessie who needed a ride as I was passing their exit. Fortunately they told me to continue on, or else, I'm not sure I would still be breathing to this day. I may have not been quite as worried had I not just received a call saying that the bird had moved south down a few pull offs from Pulpit Rocks to just north of Walis Sands. Shoot! Now the bird is moving I thought... I need to get there NOW!

Mom, don't worry I didn't speed, pass on the right, or do anything that would warrant getting a ticket etc.

Ok, I did speed a little.

As I followed individuals going 10mph under the limit I tried to remain calm but my entire body was shaking. As I rounded down the coast I spotted JoAnn and Mike on the rocks looking through scopes. I pulled my car over parking 3 individuals in. They could make me move AFTER I saw the bird.

I bolted out of my car and said "OK let me see it then I'll go park legally" As soon as I got on the bird it started to fly providing the best look I would have all day at the bird.

As luck would have it, someone pulled out at this point and I was able to park my car right there. I pulled out my scope and diligently watched and studied the bird knowing that others would be arriving and as some of the others had to leave, I needed to be prepared to follow the bird.

I was still shaking at this point but people started to arrive: Len, Steve, Jason (who got it for his 300th life bird), and more. At this point Jason and I called another birder who lived near where Jessie was and who could give her a ride!

Ben was in a hail storm worse than any other storm he had been in but managed to live through it.

5 hours later people were getting out of work so a new wave of birders arrived (along with those like Ben who were a bit further away - ie 2+ hours). And at some point I did stop shaking.

Fortunately, everyone en route got to see the bird. Unfortunately some people were unable to leave that night and did not get to see the bird as it was not re-found the following morning.

Yet, one week later, on Friday July 3rd - I got another phone call. This time there was a Sabine's Gull in Hampton Harbor.

After a week of birding in the fog and trying to get over a cold... here was something no one would have expected. With that I headed down to Hampton and was fortunate enough to spend more time with such a fantastic species.

Both bird"s" are first summer birds. Rare for Sabine's on the East coast (which is rare in and of itself!). Its NH's first ever first summer record, and it is around NH's 4th record (the number of records depends on who you talk to). All previous NH records are from offshore near Jeffery's Ledge.

It's not for me to say that this bird is or isn't the same. But odds are its the same bird and just hasn't been seen due to the weather. I'll be sure to update as more details unfold. But I hope for now the story has made you laugh.

With the initial sighting of Sabine's Gull I hit the following numbers:
  • 400 ABA birds,
  • 414 life birds,
  • and 263 year birds (now 264)