Thursday, October 8, 2009

Birding -on the Brink of Insanity

Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is for entertainment value only and not for educational purposes. Should you wish to be educated than please go to some other bird blog which you can find on the right hand section of your screen. If you are new to fall warbler birding and have come here for guidance than kindly back out as quickly as possible to avoid any long term damage that may be inflicted upon you after looking at this post and its associated content. Blogger is not responsible for any damage that may occur upon reading. Thank you.

And here they are- all the various fall warbler pictures I have taken in the past few days. Go ahead and admit it, they are not pretty. In fact, they are every birders definition of fall warbler hell (at least for the new fall warbler birder that is). Anyhow, I said I would be posting them once I was able to identify and have attempted to set aside some quality time with "moi", to tackle this impossible task, but it hasn't been easy due to work, sleep and more birding of course.

Allow me to introduce you to culprit number 1, which are the first two pictures above. Taken at Brierly Monday evening and the one I thought was a Common Yellowthroat when I saw it through my binoculars because all I could see at that time was its wee little head and yellow throat. I took some pictures of the bird (and often do not pick up on any details on the bird when picture taking because I am concentrating too much on the focus feature of my camera that often doesn't work), so was mortified when I blew the pics up to see very noticeable wing bars. Wrong again Kim! Anxiety starts to arise as I whip out my Peterson's and Sibley's to try and make sense of it all. The problem is, this warbler could be one of many (love the fact that Peterson posts one page for fall warblers with wing bars and streaks and one without though!).

My chosen method for this has been the process of elimination and getting it down to 2 or possibly 3 warblers. That is the easy part, the difficult part is now determining which of the 2 or 3 it is. My heart races and palms sweat, similar to how one feels during a final exam and multiple choice situation.

Anyhow, wishful thinking had me believe this was a Tennessee Warbler for about 2 minutes (due to how chubby it looks), analysis paralysis made me think perhaps Yellow-rumped Warbler or Pine Warbler, but I eliminated both due to various plumage and other things (habitat, shape, etc). So the last bird on the list was........

Blackpoll Warbler......The reason: The whitish undertail coverts, the faint streaking on the breast, the streaked back, (at least as far as I can see), the faint yellow on its throat, the short tail, the right habitat for a blackpoll migrating and pure desperation to make up my mind. My doubts: I don't see a narrow dark eye line, I think the bird may be too yellow on its flanks, I can't get a good look at its legs to determine if they are pale and/or yellowish and what the heck is up with the color of its bill?? Anyhow, I am done. I don't care if I ever look at this picture again seriously!

And the picture above and below is that of its accomplice who was located less than a quarter of a mile from culprit number 1. The first thing I notice on this bird are the very prominent streaks along its sides. I look at various warblers in both my Peterson's and Sibley's and narrow it down to Cape May Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler.

And this is where I basically remain...........Logic is going to tell me it's a Blackpoll based on the habitat, the streaked back (better seen in the picture below), the white undertail converts (but it appears as if the Cape May has this too) and the overall shape of the bird but?

What's up with the streaking which looks more suited for a Cape May Warbler.........Also notice what I think is a pale yellow on the sides of its neck in the picture above (and the yellow between the legs??!!), those streaks that do indeed look blurry gray to me and doesn't the picture of the birds rump below look greenish to you?? Also notice the bill is NOT decurved just to confuse me even more.

With that said, I have to make it a Blackpoll even though I'm not entirely convinced here Plus the bird above doesn't really look like the other bird I took a picture of so either one of them is not a Blackpoll or both are not a Blackpoll. But how could it be a Cape May Warbler as they prefer spruce trees and their are not that many at Brierly's so I don't understand why it would be there. The habitat is much more hospitable to the Blackpoll, but I still can't get over the streaks on its sides. These two pictures are what have been holding me up the most as every day, it's a different bird and it was hard for me to chose.

Keep scrolling down-as the next one's a doozy!

Look at the cute little warbler in the pine tree taken at St Philips Cemetery on Sunday evening. Don't you just love how warblers like to hide amongst the leaves like this and always as up high as they can go. As if it isn't difficult enough to begin with!! Anyhow, this cute little bird peeks over at me as I get my bins on it. Just as my eyes get into focus it decides to hide deeper in the pines. I whip out my camera because I have a funny feeling this one is not going to be sticking around too much so it's my best option given the situation. The First thing I notice is just how yellow it is. In fact, it is so yellow that it has to be a Yellow Warbler. After one shot, it decides to hide deeper in the pines and a little further down the tree. I pish it back into view keeping my camera on any kind of movement I see and..........

This is what stares back at me. Hmmmmmmm. What a funny looking Yellow Warbler I think to myself.......Never noticed how white its wings bars are.....In fact, they are too white. I am praying it will come out from the pine needles but it refuses so I put my bins on it which makes it only worse because all I see are magnified pine needles so I resort back to the camera.

The only bird I can think of is a Magnolia Warbler. Perhaps the head in the first picture looks that yellow because of the pine needles hiding it? In the second picture the birds head does look a little gray, I can see the white line around its neck just like Sibley's (page 335), the wing bars do look narrow and white, and the birds tail is indeed long, raised and fanned (in the picture below).

Magnolia Warbler??? Just don't tell me it's a Goldfinch please or I am throwing in the towel now!

You all may remember this little guy from Sunday when I said I was too tired to think and I wasn't even going to bother trying to identify. I woke up the next day and reviewed my post for errors while having my 1st coffee and I knew immediately what it was which was an Eastern Bluebird based on the shape of the bird and color on the breast. The bird does not have a mask, its just the sun I guess. I am convinced the Bluebirds at St Philips see my car coming and decide to mess with my head some out of sheer boredom. Let's all fly into the Warbler trees and strike bizarre poses for the crazy woman with the camera, it beats staring at the Mute Swans!! I still love them though even though they've been giving me a run for my money lately.

Last but not least, the other picture from Sunday that I said I wasn't going to bother trying to identify. After figuring out the Bluebird Monday morning I decided I could get this one too since my mind was fresh. These two birds are the same species, and both were in the warbler tree, the one with the spread wings has a bill the shape of a warbler as far as I can see and the one below that looks like a wingding has the shape of a warbler to me. Anyhow, I look at all of my guides for a warbler with orange, white wings and black on its breast and belly and guess what.............There aren't any!!! I decide to go through my Peterson's and look at other birds and none of them fit the bill either (pun intended)......So this one will go unidentified. Seriously, what could it be??? Completely stumped here. The only thing I can think of is the breast and belly are not black and the camera did it but the tiny little one looks like it has a black belly too?

OH AND JUVENILE PEREGRINE FALCON UPDATE: I spoke with Emily and she told me she saw one of the Juvenile Peregrine Falcons in Shrewsbury playing a little game of tag with some crows around a playground jungle gym! Guess it didn't migrate yet?? Who knows, maybe it will decide to make a pit stop up north before going south and fly by Barre Falls for a little visit. Donna if you see her send her my regards and wishes for a safe trip where ever she goes! ;-)

Take care all.


Andy said...

That is one of the best disclaimers I have ever read! :)

John said...

On the first bird, I agree with Blackpoll. That was my first thought on seeing it.

On the second, I would give a tentative Blackpoll, or maybe Dendroica sp. By the way, are you sure photos 3 & 4 are the same bird? The underparts in photo #3 look like a Black-throated Green, while the upperparts in photo #4 look like a Blackpoll.

Magnolia Warbler looks right for the third bird.

By the way, when field guides describe habitat or tree preferences, they are usually referring to breeding habitat. During migration birds often use a greater variety of habitats and food sources. The other thing is that individuals within a species can show a lot of plumage variation and may not all look typical in every detail.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

I agree: blogs are a way to make the writer think as much as inform the reader, and also get feedback. It's a way to inspire us to be more curious.

Kim said...

Thanks Andy, I have to cover my tracks you know as I don't want to lead any newbie astray. ;-).

John, There were two birds on the same branch but I only remember taking pictures of one. I never thought of that but am going to look. As if it can't get amymore confusing!! OMG. First thing I am going to do during lunch is whip out my guides to see for myself. And thanks for the tidbit on habitat, another birder emailed me last evening with the same observation and it would make sense.

Well said Robert! That's why I love the blogaspere so much!

Mary said...

Hey, Kim, I'm with you on the disclaimer! No one should EVER read my blog for educational purposes (HA HA!) - it's purely entertainment. Your blog, however, does have good educational value - I learn here. You know warblers. I don't even try to ID most of them...

Thanks for the PLANKS tip! I Googled it and can't wait to try. I need some help!!!!


Rich said...

Great disclaimer!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Kim. I can't help with any of the ID's BUT I wish I had your problem. Most if not all of our summer migrant Warblers have left the country & now we are waiting for winter Thrushes to arrive. FAB.


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