Saturday, April 13, 2013

Birding Bolton Flats and Other Locations April, 2013

I decided to head to Bolton Flats today in hopes of getting both Yellowlegs on my list for the year but made a quick stop to a place close to home for a hopeful Pine Warbler on my way to the transfer station.  I'd get out of my car and hear a call that had me convinced it was the Pine and was glad to see I was right after locating it.  I'd attempt a photo and this is what I'd get.  Realizing my camera doesn't want to cooperate before sun rise so won't even bother going forward.  I was glad to be able to tell it was a Pine by song only at first considering we also have Chipping Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and yes even Palm Warblers who all make a similar trill call so was happy to see I could tell the difference when it comes to the Pine.

Lesser Yellowlegs (left)  Greater Yellowlegs (right)

I'd then head to Bolton Flats and be happy to see Alan there already and ever happier when he told me both yellowlegs were nearby which would mean it would be the perfect opportunity to test out the new theory I devised in my mind last night while looking at my shorebird guide to get a refresher on distinguishing between the two.

Now before you scoff my theory just hear me out for a moment and see where I'm going with it before you pass the idea off as crazy.  Anyhow, I'm a big fan of black and white movies and think I've seen most of them and have my favorite actors and actresses including both Audrey and Katherine Hepburn (see where I'm going with this?)

Pictures are from Wikipedia and Vogue

Hepburn's=Yellowleg's= Genius !!  Seriously, forget all about bill size and call notes and all that jazz and just ask yourself when your'e looking at some yellowlegs through your bins or scope which does this yellowlegs most resemble and behave like and you have have your answer!!  Let's take the Lesser Yellowlegs as an example.  The Lesser is tall, slender and delicate, exactly like Audrey Hepburn!!  Both the Lesser and Audrey don't stab at their food, they don't clumsily run  for it either but take graceful strides and pick at it because that's what delicate creatures do!

Photos:  Wikipedia
 Now let's look at the Greater Yellowlegs who's a little larger, gangly and sturdier  proportioned just like Katherine Hepburn!  They're more aggressive and confident when feeding and take no crap from any one just like the great Katherine did.  Who has time for gracefully picking at food when running and stabbing is more efficient (think of Bringing up Baby).

I'd run this by Alan and if I'm not mistaken he totally got it (though he did want to know what bird is Spencer Tracy and have to think of that some as it has to be a shorebird)!  Anyhow, I'd use his scope and it wouldn't take me long to pick out the Lesser among the Greater using my Hepburn analogy so do think it works!!!  No need to thank me, really as that's what I'm here for!

A couple of other birders would join us as we looked at some Wilson's Snipe, Killdeer and the Osprey above that was flying overhead.  Other highlights would be a Virginia Rail doing it's "kidick" call as well as one lone American Pipit foraging on the mud flats mixed in with the shore birds which would be an unexpected bonus.  All in all not a bad spot as I'd pick up 7 FOYs here!!!  I'd then head to Pine Hill Road with Alan in hopes for the Ruffed Grouse but would strike out but was happy to hear my 1st Field Sparrow which is always a sign of spring for me!

After a brief stop at Sterling Peat (lots of Palms and Tree Swallows there but not much else), I'd head to St Philips and see one of the Herons on top of a snag with what appeared to be nesting material and wouldn't feel good about it given the size of the branch.  I'd run into Beth and Nancy and they'd agree that this heron will be chancing it if they do decide to try and build a nest.  The other issue is that it's close to the bank to the left of the wetlands which would mean killer views for us, but not much peace for the herons I'm afraid.  We watched the heron for a bit and were thinking maybe it's a young, inexperienced heron, or just has the instinct to arrange sticks as that's what these two were doing last week while the other two were already busy making babies!  Should be interesting to see how it unfolds.  The other highlight would be the many Green-winged Teal and one lone gorgeous drake Gadwall which is always a treat.

And lastly a hawk that continues to mystify me even though I saw it over 2 hours ago.  This would be before I ran into Beth and Nancy and I'd be checking out the Tree Swallows hoping for a Barn when something told me to look to the sky and I'd see a hawk circling overhead with strong, confident wing beats making its way past the tree line and out of view.  I'd get my bins on it and no field marks would jump out and all that would click in my mind was the overall size of the bird which was pretty large and I knew it wasn't a Red-tailed Hawk.  I'd consider Cooper's but the size threw me off as well as the how the bird was flying as it reminded me of a Gos.  Out would come the camera where I'd only get one half way decent shot before it flew out of view.  I'd look at the picture through my view window and I'd dismiss Gos and think female Cooper's Hawk.  I'd come home and blow them up on my screen and at first I'd go with accipiter sp until I saw what may be crescents on the wing tips so was playing with Red-shouldered for a bit considering how it was flying but don't know for certain as I never got a decent look at its tail.  Also notice how pale it is with no streaking neither my bins nor camera could pick up on.

 The only other picture I would manage before it flew off but do think I see some reddish coloring to it which makes me think Red-shouldered again but it never gave me that vibe when I saw it in flight.  I share this with you as a reminder that it's okay to not be able to identify every bird you come in contact with.  I do wish it would have stuck around for a while as I so want a Red-shouldered or Goshawk but there's always next time. While frustrating it's why I love raptors so much as they make me think which means progress.

Take care all.

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