Blog Birding #67
by Nate Swick
Bob Lefebvre, writing at Birds Canada, offers a useful tip for finding one of the most desired birds of the mountain west, the Northern Pygmy-Owl:
But I’m getting ahead of myself. When I first started going out on Nature Calgary field trips, I was excited to find out that one of these owls had been reported in the Shannon Terrace area of Fish Creek Park. I went on a couple of field trips to that area but we had no luck. I started going to Shannon Terrace and Bebo Grove by myself or with one or two friends on the weekends, just to look for that one bird. Later, after I had seen my first owl, I calculated that I had spent about fifteen hours looking in one relatively small area for a bird that was regularly reported there. In my defense, I hadn’t yet discovered the Advanced Birding Technique.
David Sibley tackles what may be one of the most underrated ID issues in North America, variation in subadult Herring Gulls:
One of the things that prompted me to start looking at these birds was seeing a first-winter Herring Gull at Cape May with lots of white at the base of the tail, more like the European subspecies. I called the first one a “European” Herring Gull, because it had an obvious tail band and also showed these other differences – sleek, neatly-checkered, pale-faced, pale rumped – and it was only after seeing two more and some intermediates that I started to think this was a variation of American Herring Gull.
At Bourbon, Bastards, and Birds, Seagull Steve picks up a stunning Iceland Gull, a heck of a good bird for California:
Iceland Gulls are exceptionally rare on the West Coast of the United States; their scarcity is due to a mix of genuine rarity, a sad and poorly understood clusterfuck of a taxonomic nightmare (Is a Thayer's Gull an Iceland Gull? Is a Kumlien's Gull part Thayer's Gull? Is a Kumlien's an Iceland Gull? Is Kumlien's Gull its own species? Yadda yadda yadda...), debatable field marks, and people being horrible at identifying gulls.
The always fascinating Earbirding.org, looks at vocal differences between eastern and western Blue-gray Gnatcatchers:
The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher sounds different in the West than it does in the East. As with geographic song differences in other birds, the differences in gnatcatcher songs might be of biological interest, perhaps encouraging the two groups not to mate with one another where their ranges meet. However, the differences in song are not well understood by most birders, nor particularly well described in most field guides. It doesn’t help matters at all that gnatcatchers are some of the most vocally complicated birds in North America. The longer one listens to them, the more confused one might get.
Neil Gilbert at Obsessive-Compulsive Birding looks to find the sweet spot between birds seen and money spent:
The Bum Code of Birding has but three rules:
1. Never spend money on unnecessary luxuries (e.g., hotels, showers, food, etc).
2. Pay for necessities (bridge fares, parking fees, coffee) with scrounged change.
3. Avoid plans. Drift.
Follow the rules, and you will enjoy abundant success.