Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Institute Park in the Rain and fun with Bird Guides.

I decided to get out for a bit at lunch today as I just couldn't take it anymore. The rain is getting really old and I'm sick of staring at walls, so off I went to Institute Park if only to clear my mind. The rain had disappeared, but was followed by a persistent drizzle that just didn't want to ever seem to end today. The first thing I noticed was how many Common Grackles there would be today and in the front of the park vs. the way back when I was there last time which was nice to see. The weather didn't stop either them or the Red-winged Blackbirds from singing because that's all I could hear when I got out of my car.
They would see me coming and fly away toward the direction on the ONE Mute Swan that was on the pond today. Didn't see the partner but guessing perhaps she is on her nest?? The others seemed to be gone thank goodness, but they will soon be replaced with some new young I'm sure.
While making my way along the edge of the pond I could hear an Eastern Phoebe nearby. I used my ears to guide me to it and it stuck around long enough for me to get a photo before it proceeded to fly across the pond, while hawking for insects which is something I had never seen a phoebe do so it was really interesting.
Of course the Red-winged Blackbirds were out in full force which was again different from the last time I was there so I guess they arrived en mass the past week or so.
There would only be a couple of Song Sparrows on the ground and perhaps a 1/2 dozen American Robins . I would soon spot one lone robin along the water trying to dry off by preening and shaking off some.
He would be in the midst of preening and then stop abruptly to give himself a really good shake but not sure what good it did him as it was still damp everywhere.
One thing I have really picked up on since the robins who migrated came back recently is how different the male and female actually look if you take the time to look at them through your binoculars. The male will usually have a blackish head and tail and a solid deep, reddish breast vs. the female who tends to be more gray on the head and have a duller breast. I think I'm noticing it more now because I have trained myself to use my binoculars first and camera last to take in every detail of the bird before I attempt a photo. May not be doing that with the warblers though as you need to be ready with that camera finger of yours before the darn bird goes back into hiding. ;-)
And while we are on the topic of noticing detail, check out the Common Grackle above. I was looking at this bird and was impressed the color variation I would see compared to how they usually look to me which is usually darker with some purple undertones thrown in.
I decided to look at some of the bird guides I am now keeping at work to see if they would note any color variations on Common Grackles.
And this is what I would get. Here you have the Bronze Purple phase below and the Brassy Green phase above. Huh?????? Hmmmmmm....... Had never really noticed that before I thought to myself. Most likely due to the fact that I never really looked at any grackles before in my field guides as who doesn't know what a grackle looks like so there was really no need for me to look at it in detail in a book.
I then go to my 2nd field guide the old Peterson edition and this is what I would get.
No mention of the Common Grackle at all, just something called a Bronzed Grackle or Purple Grackle.........
I then go to the book below and see a paragraph on these particular grackles above. Grrrrrrrrr..... And one wonders why birding can be so confusing seriously. To make things even more bizarre is my Audubon guide has a copyright of 1949 vs the Peterson copyright of 1947. Did something happen in that two year period that I wasn't aware of, seriously!!

I would finally come across this on the Cornell All About Birds web site "The “bronzed grackle” race of the Common Grackle, breeding roughly west of the Appalachians and in New England, has the characteristic bronzy back. Birds of the Southeast, from North Carolina to Louisiana, often called the “Florida grackle,” are darker green on the back rather than bronzy, and they're purple on the belly. An intermediate race along the Eastern seaboard is sometimes called the purple grackle." .

So there you have it all, you learn something new everyday!

And speaking of the book above I wanted to show you another name for my favorite bird of all time and you all know what that is.
Allow me to introduce you to the Duck Hawk, aka Peregrine Falcon. Just when you thought you knew everything. ;-)

Take care all.


Rick said...

You might get something out of an article I published in Birding a few years ago, titled "Grackle's Backs and Harlan's Hawks." You should be able to find the full citation on line.

forestal said...

Great post - i have a guide from 1912 by Frank Chapman and some old audobon 10c pages on birds and its fun to look at these and often they have a lot of details not seen in the newer guides (as newer ones are often for beginner levels and up)

Anonymous said...

I got used to using Stokes and found them to be better than average.

Over the years I have had three kinds of Grackles here, and one shouldn't have been here - the Boat-tailed - but it was. Bronzed. And Common.

grammie g said...

Now matter what you call a Grackle I can't get past every time I see them the old ""Alfred Hitchcook"" movie's come to my mind!! They have that evil eye look!!Ha-Ha!! I've always know them as the boat tailed grackle around here!!
Like the shot of the redwinged blackbird there bars are so bright!!

matthew houskeeper said...

As a complete novice, I like to keep a field guide aboard, but most of the ones I have seen are not really that helpful.


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