Appreciating the subtleties

After you’ve been birding for a while (she says with a world-weary sigh) you run out of new flashy birds, and at last have to get down to the subtle not to say niggling details. One of the first for many beginners is the difference between Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers. These guys (well, ladies and one guy) were very cooperative in showing off relative body and beak size. Not so visible here are the plumage cues. Look closely and you can see Downies have dots, as they say — the outer tail feathers have small spots or bars, while Hairys’ are clear white. Also, Downies descend. Their whinny drops down at the end, while Hairies call on a more constant note.

IMG_5601

I have long maintained* there are only four types of Gull — Great Black-backed, Ring-billed, Laughing, and All The Rest aka Herring. Turns out I’m wrong, and given a push I can acutally ID one more! Iceland Gull is a not-too-uncommon visitor in winter.  One of our club members had posted pictures of a few hundred gulls and sort of challenged us to pick out the odd bird. After lots of squinting, enlarging, flipping through books and images, and squinting again, it’s true what they say. The bird did suddenly leap out at me and I wondered how I couldn’t see it before.  Given the rare combination of ice on the Mohawk and mild temperatures, I ventured out. When I saw the gulls so close to shore I whipped out the binocs and really focused.

Can you find it here?

Somewhere in here is a pale-winged gull.

Somewhere in here is a pale-winged gull.

OK, I can’t either. Try these.

Iceland Gull snoozing

Iceland Gull snoozing

And another!

And another!

Dark bill, allover light buffy color, no gray ‘mantle’, and no black on the wingtips. Immie Iceland! In all I saw three Iceland Gulls, got a good feel for relative size (between Herring and Ring-billed) and once again had the importance of pay attention driven home.

The only thing cooler than a new life bird is finding and IDing the bird myself. With the generous help, always, of more experienced birders.

*out of sheer laziness.

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Categories: Bird photos, Life bird!, New bird, NYS 2013, What am dat bird? | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Appreciating the subtleties

  1. i’m impressed by the iceland sighting but I’m way more impressed by the nice posing of the woodpeckers. I might actually be able to tell the difference now – thanks!

    • Yeah, I’ve been trying to get a shot of both woodpeckers together for a long time. Nice to finally get some cooperation.

      • Now that was pretty darn amazing – I saw your reply to my comment on your website on MY wordpress blog dashboard and it is letting me comment back to you! woot technology!

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