I decided to do a little birding after work today and head to St. Philips in hopes for early puddle ducks and anything else of interest. Being late afternoon, bird activity would be quiet except for the small flock of Blue Jays who all seem to have found their voice after their silent summer as they've been squacking since this past Sunday and today would be no different. I'd make my way to the area that gives you the best view of the wet lands and be happy to see a small flock of Green-winged Teal in the general area the Mallards were in.
Lousy photo but what else is new. I'd search for a hopeful Gadwall as well as a stray and early Coot but no such luck. I'd be in the same general area when I'd suddenly see a small raptor with some white on its back land on a tree fairly far away. I'd get my bins on it and the first thing I'd think was Merlin as I've had them here before and it just gave me that feeling.
Still frustrated by my lousy binocular view I decided to take some record shots including the one above as I was really interested in the white (molting??) I was seeing near its wing and that white made me doubt my gut feeling of Merlin .
Taking off to the other side of the wetlands! But before it did so it flew with pistol like wing strokes real low to the waters so knew right then in there it was no Coops which was the only other bird I thought it could be with that banded tail with the white at the tip.
It would do it's low flight again for me and then land once again but this time closer to allow me a better look.
To confirm what I knew when I first saw it as I trusted my gut which I've found has really worked for me this year so try and remember it when ever I get out there and bird (that and don't make every bird you see in question into a rare bird out of range and out of habitat of course!! ;0) ). It would be then I'd realize that while it's slower than I'd like, I've done a lot of growing in my birding the past couple of years. I'd fondly remember this bird here in 2009 and 2010 and both times I'd struggle with the ID despite getting better looks and pictures than I did today. I was so unsure of myself I'd spend hours pouring over field guides and emailing photos to others for opinions that if often took the fun out of birding so I'd go through periods where I gave up as it would be too overwhelming. Now I'm a lot easier on myself and am trying to spend less time chasing birds and more time studying birds. That's not to say I don't chase, but now when I get a FOY it's no longer a check and onto the next, but an opportunity to study as much as I can of it to remember next time I see it. It also means going to St Philips and not being disappointed when I don't pick up a new bird for the year as it allows me the opportunity to study the birds I know as I always pick up something I didn't seem to realize before. Today it would be the fast, low flight of the Merlin as well as the buffy tail edge of the Green-winged Teal which you can see in my photos. That's something I'll remember next time I run into a group of teal when I'm doing the process of elimination between a Green-winged and Blue-winged as the Blue-winged lack it. If you look at your Sibley's that's a stated field mark of the Green-winged but never seemed to notice it before until I saw it with my own two eyes.