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Jim W

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  1. A couple of years ago, I was trying to ID a picture of a similar lizard I took at Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico. After finding contradictory information online, I reached out to someone from the NM Herp Society. With the caveat I am working with brief notes I kept from 2 years ago: I believe there are three species of lizard in NM that are extremely hard to tell apart. In fact, they used to all be lumped into one species and were only split apart based on DNA studies. These are Prairie Lizard, Plateau Fence Lizard and Southwest Fence Lizard. He referred me to the published study that split the species into 3. It included a high level range map. In my case, Capulin Volcano is close to the border between Prairie Lizard and Plateau Fence Lizard. We (the herp expert and I) concluded my lizard was most likely a Prairie Lizard (closer to Prairie Lizard range), but may have been a Plateau Fence Lizard. PS... don't forget the caveat. I am far from an expert. But I believe the species of your lizard depends on where in NM you took the picture.
  2. Is it my imagination, or was this Gray Catbird mooning me?
  3. For about a week in mid-May, I had a male Scarlet Tanager visiting my back yard a couple of times a day. During that time period, I also photographed the following bird (unfortunately on a crappy, cloudy day). I'm wondering if this might be a female Scarlet Tanager? Maybe the male's main squeeze? First three pics are the bird in question (I brightened the pics considerably). The fourth picture is the male on a different day just to show it is not always cloudy and dingy in my back yard! Thanks in advance! First three pics: May 17, 2020 - West Chester, PA And the male on May 13:
  4. I'm at a loss on this one. Taken 5-18-20 in West Chester, PA. Pic 1 shows wingbars, a brown back and maybe a dark crown. Pic 2 shows a plain white/gray face. Don't see any eyeline. Pic 3 shows clean white underparts and throat. Also a thin bill. Pic 4 makes the face look gray and the wingbars yellowish. Also shows a dark crown. Pic 5 shows brown patches on the flanks and white UNTC. And all this makes it a complete mystery to me! I was leaning towards Golden-crowned Kinglet (with the eyeline washed out in the crappy pics), but it the upperparts color seems off. Appreciate any thoughts on it. Thanks in advance! Pic 1: Pic 2: Pic 3: Pic 4: Pic 5
  5. Pics taken today in my back yard (West Chester, PA). Whenever I see an accipiter in my back yard I assume its a Cooper's. Mostly because every single one I've gotten good pics of was a Cooper's but also because Sharpies are less likely to come to back yard feeders. Having said that, my neighborhood is wooded and the land behind my property is open ground with a pond and lots of trees. Also, I'm not far from some fairly expansive wooded areas. So Sharpies are certainly possible. When this bird flew into my yard, my first strong impression was "that is a really small hawk". I realize size estimations of single birds is fraught with peril, but it is my back yard and I've seen several Cooper's. Since it looked small, I decided to grab some pics in spite of the crappy lighting. After looking at them, I am leaning towards Sharp-shinned. However, I am not confident with this assessment. Since it would be my first back yard Sharp-shinned, I thought I'd check. My confusion: Legs look thin. In most pictures, the head looks small relative to the body and I don't see a cap. The top of the bill forms a small angle with the forehead. All of these favor Sharp-shinned. However, the eyes do not look especially big to me and don't look centered on the head. Also, on one of the flight pics, the white band on the tail looks pretty thick. These favor Cooper's. I can't even decide if it is an adult or immature. The iris look pretty light (like an immature's yellow iris), but the pics are so bad I'm not sure. On the flying pics, the undersides look streaked like an immature. However, on the perched pics, the undersides look more like an adult. So two questions: Cooper's or Sharpie? Adult or immature? Thanks in advance!
  6. I never would have guessed John James Audubon would take the time to post on these forums. 😉
  7. I took a crack at brightening the picture. Doesn't really look like an American Robin to me... but I'll defer to the experts.
  8. I'm curious what folks think this might be. Picture was taken in Cape Coral, FL a couple of weeks ago. The bird was near the edge of a pond (I assume freshwater), but within a few hundred yards of saltwater canals. Unfortunately, the picture was taken from a 12th floor balcony through a screen. When I first saw it, I assumed it was a heron. Now I'm wondering if it might be some sort of rail. If it is a rail, I'd imagine it will be impossible to nail down the species with this crappy picture. First attached picture is unedited. Second picture is cropped, brightened a bit and sharpened. Thanks in advance!
  9. Two pics from the Everglades. The red-shouldered hawk nest was about 50 feet from the spot where I photographed a La Sagra's Flycatcher (pics in the ABA Code 3+ thread). I guess the La Sagra's doesn't feel the hawks are much of a threat because it has been seen at this spot for several weeks.
  10. I am in Florida on holiday and was planning a visit to Everglades National Park. I stumbled on a rare bird alert (I rarely check these) for a La Sagra’s Flycatcher (ABA 3) that has consistently been seen over the last several weeks not far from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. The location was only about 1 mile out of the way from my planned route so I decided to give it a shot. The night before, I studied up on the La Sagra’s distinct “weet” call. When I got to the location yesterday, I saw a couple of cars parked on the side of the road and saw three birders looking into the treeline next to the road. As soon as I got out of my car, I distinctly heard the “weet” call. It was so crystal clear and identical to the recordings I had studied that I thought “crap, one of the birders is playing a recording to draw it out” (I am not a fan of using recordings to attract birds). Turns out the birders were not playing recordings and I was hearing the bird. Eventually it came out to the trees near the road. It was nice enough to perch on a branch directly above me and call out. It then sat there for some pictures. Ten minute stop and I had my first ABA 3...
  11. Hi all, I've been going back through some poor pictures from last summer's drive across the continent that I had set aside for later. I've decided this bird can be ID'd but need a little help. The picture was taken on 8-31-18 in south-central Saskatchewan. My thoughts after a little research: White wing stripe looks pretty good for a scaup. White belly looks good for scaup as well. This location is in the breeding range for Lesser Scaup. It is in the "scarce nonbreeding" range for Greater Scaup. Per Birdsna, Greater Scaup migrate from Oct-Dec so there should not be any in this area at this time of year (eBird confirms that) The white wing stripe on Greater Scaup extends out onto the inner primaries. On Lesser, the white stripe is usually only on the secondaries (the inner primaries are more grey). Tough to tell in these pics, but I would say it favors Lesser. So, I think this is a Lesser Scaup. But the million dollar question which I need help on... Is it safe to call this a scaup based on the wing stripe and belly alone? I can't think of other birds with a wing stripe like this, but maybe some of you veterans can think of other candidates? PS... these pics where taken at great distance and the light was poor. The pics were cropped and lightened. Thanks in advance!
  12. Thanks everyone! Because of the head, Mourning Dove or Pigeon had crossed my mind too. I had discounted them because of the flight pattern. However, I suppose it is possible there were two birds there ( I did have to look away and get my camera). Thinking back, it didn't hover for very long... maybe it was just a random odd occurrence. No way to know with this washed picture, but I'll file it a "possible" Rock Pigeon. In my vernacular, that means 50% chance (my lowest rating). That's also the safe call. Great Crested FC would be a new one for me and I wouldn't want to use these crappy pics to try to call it.
  13. Whoops, spotted a typo. My estimate for wingspan of the mystery bird is 26-30"... not 26-20".
  14. I'm not sure this one can be identified from the pics, but I'm hoping I have enough added info to give it a shot. Here is what I know and some analysis I've already done: These pictures were taken in West Chester, PA in early August. Unfortunately, they were late afternoon which meant most of the pond was in shadow. The bird happened to be in bright sunlight. The result is pretty washed out. The bird had been hovering just before I grabbed my camera and fired off a few pics. By hovering, I mean holding its spot in the air by rapid wingbeats (not gliding on a wind draft). I googled hovering birds. Other than hummingbirds, other birds known to hover include American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Osprey and Kites. As far as I know, there are no kites in my area of any kind. So I am focusing on Kestrel, Harrier and Osprey. (PS... if anyone knows of any other candidates that hover, let me know). If there is one thing I've learned from this site, its that judging size is fraught with peril. However, these pictures were taken standing in my kitchen looking at a pond about 200 yards behind my house. I have several other pictures of birds in this pond. Measuring these other birds, I've estimated the mystery bird to be 11-13" long with a wingspan of 26-20". American Kestrel is pretty close to this. It is too small for Northern Harrier and way too small for Osprey. On the 2nd and 4th pics, I think you can make out a tail band. This doesn't differentiate Kestrel from Harrier, but it makes me feel better that it might be one of those. I also might see a faint cap on its head, but that might be wishful thinking. I do not see a harrier's white rump. But that area is washed out by sunlight so I don't think you can draw any conclusions. Head and neck do not look blocky enough for either raptor. However, I'm thinking that might be an illusion caused by the lighting. Anyhow, I am leaning towards American Kestrel. Any thoughts? Thanks in advance!
  15. If it immerses its head in that beer I'll be doubly impressed!
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