Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Birding Observations by me

If you click on the photo above, you'll see a bird in between the second and third window to the left on the top of the ledge. Do you see it? That my friends is no other than Mr. Peregrine himself. I'd never seen him here before as it's rather far away from me and is actually an apartment complex, but it appears to be another one of his favorite places to hang out and view the urban world that surrounds him. I found him completely by accident. You see, it was my lunch hour and I took out my binoculars to scan around when suddenly I could see something that very much resembled a butterfly so I decided to follow it. It was fluttering about, being carried by the wind as I traced its every move. It flew toward a building when suddenly, I could barely make out something in a form that very much looked like a falcon. I froze, adjusted my focus some and there he was!!

He stuck around for a while and then finally flew off. Every hour I would take out my bins to see if he was back and soon enough he was. Two minutes, later, at 3:07 I could see the female decide to join him below an awning directly above the WCRN AM 630 building. Hmmmmmm......perhaps she is a Howie Carr fan? Anyhow, while the pictures are downright lousy, I still thought it was a good demonstration on the very noticeable size differences between the two falcons. The female is approx. 15 feet away from the male, but she's easier to see due to her massive size. She also holds herself differently when relaxed. The male takes relaxation to the max and like to lounge which is obvious. The female remains flexed and alert even while chilling.

Click on the picture above and you will see the female directly below the awning on the upper left hand corner of the photo. The male is barely noticeable on the right side of the photo in between the 3rd and 4th window on the ledge. I was very happy to see them both together as I have not seen it for a while. It gave me the opportunity to really study them and their behaviour which I never tire of.

The downtown area also includes a flock of 4 Ring-billed Gulls (Note: I took these 2 pictures at Brierly last evening). Anyhow, they like to fly around the downtown area which is fun to watch when I can squeeze a little time in here and there. While they certainly use the thermals and updrafts that you get from all of the tall buildings in downtown Worcester, I can clearly see the difference in their flying style now vs. raptors.

It was a little windy in Worcester yesterday which seemed to please the gulls as they spent a lot of their time taking advantage of the "free ride" if you will. They are not powerful flyers, that's for certain, but more like opportunistic flyers and would let the wind do most of the work, similar to kiting. It almost reminded me of a tissue you would see getting upswept by the wind, being carried higher and higher until the wind died down and they would quickly drop in altitude. This is exactly how they were flying. Also really fast wing beats when needed and the wing beats were constant as they were weak.

Last but not least a warbler picture where I am not certain of the species. I went to St Philips last night and it was the first bird I saw, high up in a pine tree. The tail totally threw me off because it's so short but the bill told me it was indeed a warbler or a kinglet. It didn't resemble a kinglet to me, but it didn't really resemble a warbler either so I decided to get a couple of pictures of it. I was really far away at this point so I tried to slowly make my way toward the bird for better shots and off it flew. I put my bins up to it and it is actually a lot more yellow than what appears in the photo above.

Anyhow, I went home, blew up the pics on my computer screen, and pulled out my various bird guides. My verdict is........Drum roll please.........

A Northern Parula(?????)

Reasons are as follows:
1. Short tail (check)

2. Distinct Broken Eye Ring and pale eye-arcs (????Not sure, but its eye ring is rather large just like the pictures I used to make my decision)

3. Blue-Gray Head (check, as far as I can see)

4. Orange Lower Mandible (check!)

5. Sharp Bill (check)

6. Dark Necklace (check)

I also really noticed how white the bird was on it flanks and undertail coverts, so that is my final answer!

So what do you think. Do I get an A or do I need to go back to birding 101?

Edited to Add: Got an email from Alan earlier and just got an email from Dale in NY and Steve from PA and they too think it's an Eastern Bluebird based on the shape of the bird and the lack of wing bars (which I thought I saw at one point but am not sure now).

Anyhow, lesson learned again. If you look at my original writing, you will notice that I said that my first vibe of the bird didn't remind me of neither a warbler nor a kinglet and that was most due to the shape of the bird, especially the head as it is more pronounced in my opinion. I put my bins on the bird and could see yellow on the neck and breast (most likely a trick on the eye due to the sun), the bird also looked rather small to me (due to distance and the fact that I am still getting used to my bins I guess). So instead of trusting my gut when I first saw it w/ the naked eye, I went on the field marks I thought I saw with my bins and then afterwards, my camera.

Ironic because I am currently reading the BEST bird field guide book I have ever owned thus far which is "Hawks in Flight" by Pete Dunne, David Sibley and Clay Sutton (thanks for the suggestion Donna!). Anyhow, it is all about hawk identification obviously, but all of the pictures are in black and white which forces you to look more at the shape of the bird, than field marks that may be obscured or wrongly represented by factors such as distance, sun, etc. I am trying to practice this not only with raptors, but other birds as well so this is yet another lesson for me.

So with that I humbly go back to birding 101 and am glad that another case of the unidentified bird was once again solved, thanks to the help of some of you. Tune in next time, because you know there will be a next time!

Take care all!


MaineBirder said...

I would go with Northern Parula also Kim. (I did some pixel peeping)

It's wonderful that you keep watch on the Peregrines! I just heard yesterday that the pair on the MERC tower in Biddeford, Maine has left for the year. No sightings since last Wednesday.

Kim said...

John, I am not even sure if the ones in Worcester migrate or not as I didn't track them this past winter. I do know they were here on January 1st though so I am guessing not. I will be crossing my fingers they migrate safely. The male peregrine in Worcester is actually originally from Maine but he ended up here which I am thrilled about obviously!

Thank you for your opinion on the Northern Parula. It was between that and and RC-Kinglet but I am just not getting that vibe from the bird. All other opinions welcome. I DO accept anonomys comments so feel free to comment even without a blogger id!

Ginnymo said...

I'm glad you still see your Falcons Kim!!

Kim said...

Got an email from Alan asking if it could be a bluebird. I had thought that at first, but thought it looked too small. Put my bins on the bird when it flew into another tree and could see a pretty yellow on its neck and breast as mentioned in my blog. also noticed the short tail and what I thought was a necklac. In fact, I think I have a better picture of it on my home PC.

Just looked at my Sibley's guide for Eatern Bluebird and do see a resemblence of orange flanks in my pics which is a good fieldmark for a bluebird. Eyering as well. No visible wingbars in any of my pics. Question would be: Where the hell did the yellow come from (sun?). Why did the bird look so small? (distance). Why couldn't I have taken up a hobby less stressful like bungee jumping or kickboxing or something.

Hilke Breder said...

You are so lucky to have peregrine falcons in Worcester. They are really making a come-back and I am looking forward to one day seeing them on one of our many church steeples in Brattleboro.

Richard said...

Welcome back to 101...I was getting lonely...:-)


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