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Posts posted by simonthetanner

  1. 1 hour ago, simonthetanner said:

    (Just for comparison, here is a photo of a Gray Flycatcher at this same site on July 16 of 2020. This one was an easy ID due to tail-wagging and calls.)


    Correction: the date for this photo was June 27, 2020.

    Anyway, after looking through more Dusky Flycatcher photos I see that a fair few do have distinct yellow on the lower mandible — some even looking yellow with a black tip, like a textbook Gray. So the bill coloration of my original flycatchers is within normal for Dusky. But maybe it's best to simply leave them as "Empidonax sp." rather than trying to identify them to the species level.

    • Like 2
  2. 27 minutes ago, DLecy said:

    Habitat alone should help rule this bird out as a GRFL during the breeding season. Dusky and Gray are very similar (and can have small overlap in breeding habitat), but during the breeding season Gray Flycatchers are generally birds of the Great Basin, and are typically found in dry areas of mixed conifer, open pinyon-juniper and big sagebrush habitats. In Oregon in particular, GRFL are abundant where western juniper has invaded former sagebrush shrub-steppe (BOW). Based on the photos, this is not juniper habitat.

    Dusky, on the other hand, breed in varied habitat but areas that are less dry, such as aspen groves, willow thickets, open coniferous forest and mountain chaparral. In California, mixed coniferous forest with a chaparral understory and found in pine forests with relatively dense understory of conifer seedlings (BOW).

    I also agree with this.

    I agree that habitat and breeding range point away from Gray, but as I mentioned the unique habitat of this site has led eastern OR species to appear there. It's very open and scrubby, and I have documented Gray Flycatchers at this site in June/July in both 2019 and 2020 (for example, https://ebird.org/checklist/S70910898 ). So while the site is in western OR where Gray is not expected, we have had individuals singing at this site for 2 of the last 3 breeding seasons. Probably due to increasing drought conditions in the Klamath basin, we had several pairs of Gray Flycatchers that breed here in the Rogue Valley last year, in atypical habitat. So, all that is to say season and habitat would not entirely preclude Gray.

    The bill is short, and that was part of my initial reason for thinking Dusky. Is it too short for a Gray? I haven't seen many Grays, and I'm used to identifying them by call rather than structure; but at least compared to most Duskies I've seen, this seems like a lot of yellow on the bill. And again, there's that vest-like pattern to the breast. I can't quite tell from my shots whether there is yellow on the belly, but the overall pattern is interesting. I just don't have enough experience with Gray to know what is normal variation for that species. Hammonds and Duskies are enough to challenge me, without throughing Gray into the mix!

    Thanks again for the thoughts so far!

    (Just for comparison, here is a photo of a Gray Flycatcher at this same site on July 16 of 2020. This one was an easy ID due to tail-wagging and calls.)


    • Like 1
  3. I was birding in southwestern OR yesterday at fun mountain lake that I try to visit every year. It's loaded with birds that are relatively hard to find locally like Canada Jays, White-Headed Woodpeckers, & Green-tailed Towhees, and once in a while we'll get a rare bird from eastern OR up there because the habitat is vaguely similar. Anyway, I found a pair of empids up there that, in the field, I decided were Dusky Flycatcher (as opposed to Hammond's or any of the other expected western OR flycatchers). But now that I'm looking at the photos, I don't think that's right. The bill seems too yellow, and the bird has a bit of a "vest" on the breast. I'm wondering if it is a Gray Flycatcher. Normally I look for downward tail-wagging to solidify my ID of Grays, but these birds were not doing a tail dip. So, they have to be identified the hard way...

    Anyone else able to weigh in on these little guys?




  4. 'Tis the season for sorting out dowitchers, and I'd love some feedback on this individual I found this morning in the Rogue Valley of southern OR (where Long-billed is the expected species). Earlier in the morning I and several other birders heard a definite short-billed calling at a local pond, so I went back in the afternoon to see if I could locate it. Other than a large flock of obvious long-bills, there was just one lone dowitcher off by itself. It never called so I don't feel comfortable making the call, but to me it looked interesting and I'd like some help with it.

    Obviously it's looking pretty ratty, and that may be part of why it stood out so much from our usual long-bills. But I also notice it is relatively pale underneath and there is spotting on the sides of the breast rather than barring. But I don't really know much beyond that for trying to separate the two species since I rarely see short-billed in our area, and I'm not positive if I'm just seeing some transitional plumage as its molting. Would love any insights!






  5. Hey all, I just wanted to get some other opinions on this goose that showed up in the east Rogue Valley this afternoon in southwest OR. It was originally identified locally as a Ross's Goose (a rarity), but my views and photos weren't the best and I'm hesitant to report it as such. I'm not used to separating Snow from Ross's, and it looks an awful lot like Snow Goose to me.

    Anyone else comfortable making the ID from these shots?




  6. 51 minutes ago, HamRHead said:

    I like your name! A Bible reference I presume? Do you happen to live by the sea?

    It is indeed a reference to the Bible character. My given name is Tanner, so I've always had a bit of an affinity for Simon the tanner. I'm about 2 hrs from the Oregon coast, so it might be a bit of a stretch to say I live by the sea but it is pretty accessible and one of my favorite places to visit!

    • Like 3
  7. Hi All,

    I was down in south Texas (Hidalgo county) in February of this year and took quite a few cormorant portraits. Now I'm editing my way through those photographs and I'm having some difficulty distinguishing Neotropic and Double-crested, at least on a few individuals. My gut feeling is that the first is Double-crested, while the second seems more petite and strikes me as more like Neotropic (although it has less white on the gape than shown in my bird books). I'm not used to distinguishing these species, and would appreciate some ID help on these two. Thanks much in advance!


    • Like 1
  8. Hi all, here's a fresh accipiter challenge! I found this fellow just this morning in southeast Oregon up in the Siskiyou mountains. I heard a Goshawk call earlier in the morning, and then about an hour later this accipiter flew over. Initial Impressions: Big bird, very fast gliding, and very dark. The flared undertail coverts should rule out Sharpie, so I believe it's either the Goshawk I heard or a Cooper's that flew in. 

    In favor of Goshawk: Very heavy appearance, heavy speckling below, distinct supercilium, big thick tail, and broad wing with narrower tip.

    In favor of Coopers: Still fairly pale beneath in some lighting, no pale bar on greater coverts, and the fact that it didn't strike me as being too big for a female coopers.

    Thanks much for any help!







    • Like 1
  9. 11 minutes ago, Tony Leukering said:

    Did you really mean this? I ask, because Bank Swallow is the smallest of the seven regularly occurring ABA-Area swallow species.

    However, the wing base looks too broad for that of Bank; I'd go with Tree.

    My impression was that it was smaller than the others, but it was not near any of the other swallows and that impression could easily be wrong. I agree the wings seem awfully broad for Bank... Tree is far and away the most likely option, but I'm just not used to seeing such a dark breast band on them.

  10. Hey all,

    Here's a swallow from Southwest Oregon (Rogue Valley region), just a bit east of the normal range for coastal Bank Swallow but within reasonable range for the odd migrating vagrant. I was surveying a massive swallow flock when this little fellow flew through briefly, standing out from the surrounding Tree, Cliff, Violet-Green, and odd Northern Rough-winged Swallows with a darker grey-brown coloration and (my impression) smaller size. I'm pretty sure it is just a young Tree Swallow, on the basis of the fairly "thick" wings and tail and the bright white flanks, but the breast band does seem a bit dark compared to most Tree Swallows I've been seeing. Should I be considering Bank as an option for this guy, or is it just a young Tree Swallow?

    Thanks much in advance!


  11. These are older shots from a pelagic trip I did a few years back, off the Oregon coast in September. It is a shearwater, either Sooty or Short-Tailed; the former is abundant in the area, but our group had at least 2 SRTS on that trip. I'm submitting these here for ID help by others with more experience differentiating shearwater species.

    Image #1:

    What catches my eye about this bird is the steeply-slated forehead, rounded head, and short, stocky neck. 

    I don't know what to make of the bill: Seems shorter and finer than that of most of the other SOSH I photographed that day, but I'm not sure it's short enough to support SRTS.

    Underwing coverts are a bit hard for me to evaluate, as the lighting is very dull. Sibley's notes that SRTS should show generally darker and more uniform coverts, and Howell & Zufelt emphasize the lack of contrast between primaries and coverts. This bird seems quite muted and generally consistent with SRTS, but I'm not confident enough with shearwaters to make an ID based on this.

    I don't see a pale chin on this individual

    Image #2:


    Taken almost 40 minutes later at the same general location. I'm not sure this shot is IDable, but it shows many similar features in body-shape.

    Any thoughts are welcome. I'm particularly interested in *how* to systematically work through IDing these. Thanks!

  12. Just had an interesting gull flyover on my walk this morning, and I need some help nailing down an ID. Odds are it's CA, but I'd like some confirmation from some gull gurus. I'm located in southern OR in Grants Pass, well inland from the coast and far from any large bodies of water. It was the briefest of flyovers, as it was just trying through and was probably driven over by the poor weather. We do not regularly have any gulls (except for a few RBGU in late March/April), so whatever this is it is an excellent bird for the county. 

    It's a faded, younger bird, with plumage and head-shape generally matching a 1st winter CAGU; however, the beefy bill seems to fit HERG and my photos show a distinctly light eye on the bird. My impression in the field was that this was a rather large gull, and it was striking as it flew directly overhead and disappeared to the south.

    Any suggestions?




  13. 5 hours ago, Tony Leukering said:

    That is a *very* informative article, thank you. The scaup in the later case-study images seems to be a comparable example to the one here. 

    So if I am following correctly, the argument for Lesser would be a somewhat shallow angle of the jowls meeting the head visible in the frontal shot? 

    That's certainly a new field mark to me, but I can kind of see that now that I'm re-comparing to Sibley's scaup diagrams. What still confuses me when looking at those drawings though is how slender the depicted Lesser's head is compared to the Greater. Based simply on Sibley's and without considering the angles, I would have thought the head was too broad for Lesser. Is it fair to say that the Sibley's comparison is a bit exaggerated for emphasis?


  14. So I believe I found the same scaup again today, feeding oddly enough in a fly casting pond at the same park from a week ago. Conditions were better, and I was able to get a couple closer photos.

    A lot of things about this scaup are still inconclusive to me, but that head profile sure looks like greater and the bill is quite broad. 



    • Like 2
  15. 11 hours ago, Phalarope713 said:

    I'd say Lesser based on lack of black nail at bill tip and peaked crown.

    It doesn't show on these shots, but it did have a black nail tip. It's obviously not an especially pronounced one, but it's there. I can look for a shot that shows it if it'd help.

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