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Jim W

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Everything posted by Jim W

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. Whoops, spotted a typo. My estimate for wingspan of the mystery bird is 26-30"... not 26-20".
  4. 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!
  5. If it immerses its head in that beer I'll be doubly impressed!
  6. I saw this bird yesterday near Corolla, NC (Outer Banks). The bird was flying on a south-to-north beeline over Currituck Sound. I'm thinking it is a Mississippi Kite, but this is a bit out of range for them. eBird shows only a few historical sightings for the Outer Banks in May so I thought I'd post to look for some confirmation. The second picture shows a hint of banding on the tail, so maybe a juvenile? Thanks in advance! Both pictures are cropped and brightened (the bird was backlit).
  7. lonestranger's thought it might be a bird flying the other way got me thinking about challenging what I was first seeing. Now I'm also thinking what first looks like a black bill might not even be part of the bird. I was thinking it could be something floating in the water, but John's idea of a small fish could do it too. Based on Benton Lake's bird list, I'm leaning towards Western Grebe and assuming we don't actually see its bill. The good news is I got much better pictures of a Western Grebe on this trip so its not a lifer. I don't need to sweat this one.
  8. Wow, I just downloaded the "original picture" back off the site as well. The upload really did mess it up. It looks nothing like the original. Unfortunately, I don't do flickr. I think the picture in the OP is as good as i can provide. Zooming in on the original picture is not much different than the crop in the OP.
  9. Here is the original picture (uncropped and unedited). Maybe it will zoom better. This boardwalk is a National Recreation Trail and whenever I am on one, I take pictures to post on the NRT database so hikers can preview the trail. I didn't notice the bird until I was posting the picture.
  10. This was taken at Benton Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in Montana last summer (July 20). I didn't actually photograph the bird, but noticed it later in a landscape shot. So I never zoomed in on it. Here is a cropped shot. It sort of looks like a pied-billed grebe to me, but the white throat is throwing me off. The bill looks too short for other grebes. Any thoughts on it? Thanks in advance!
  11. These pictures were taken at Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta on July 22. On my first pass I was thinking they were the same bird and decided Yellow Warbler was the best fit based on field marks from both pictures. However, as I'm going back through and checking, I realized the pictures were taken 10 minutes apart. Therefore, they could be two different birds. Now I'm not sure about either. Both pictures are cropped but otherwise unmodified. Bird 1 has me confused. Looks like it is molting which isn't helping. The tail looks yellow which is good for Yellow Warbler. However, it is showing a lot of white on its underparts. Can Yellow Warbler have white underparts like this? On the other hand, is there any other bird with a yellow tail like this? Bird 2 still looks OK for Yellow Warbler to me based on yellow edging to its wings and its overall yellow color. However, if it is a different bird than Bird 1, I no longer have the tail as a field mark so I am less sure. I'd appreciate help on both pictures. Thanks in advance! /edit: Unfortunately, no other pictures than these two. Bird 1: Bird 2:
  12. I took these pictures this morning at Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida on the park's Osprey Trail. I scored a nesting triple play... three large predators nesting within roughly 1 mile. First pic is a pair of Osprey (one is hunched over on the nest). Second pic is a female Great Horned Owl. A ranger told me she has been nesting for a couple of weeks but nobody has spotted chicks yet. I saw the male in a nearby tree. Third pic is a Bald Eagle adult and its chick. The adult has just landed carrying a tasty fish. There are at least 2 chicks in the nest.
  13. Just saw this Sanderling a few days ago at Fort DeSoto Park in FL. I didn't notice the band at the time, but discovered it when I was going through my pictures. It was banded 5-30-16 at Chaplin Lake, Saskatchewan and has been seen every year since in the Fort DeSoto area.
  14. Funny you should ask. I just took this picture today in Clearwater, FL.
  15. This is probably the ugliest picture on this thread. But I had waited over 2.5 hours to get a picture of a male Painted Bunting. I barely got this shot before he hopped around to the far side of the feeder and did not show itself again. Bad picture, but it is my favorite shot of the day!
  16. I already had some nice Osprey pics from this trip and the sun was not in a good spot for this one. So I wasn't going to stop. Then I thought "Wait. This could go on the Bird on a Wire thread". The Osprey doesn't look particularly impressed with the opportunity to gain Whatbird fame.
  17. I still have not finished going through all of my pictures from my mega-drive to Alaska last summer. Now I am in Florida adding to the backlog . Here is my favorite from today. Female or immature Anhinga taken at Sand Key Park in Clearwater.
  18. I have posted one picture on the ABA facebook page (a while back). I had tried it on this forum first. I got some opinions here, but they didn't feel like strong opinions. So I decided to try facebook (I got confirmation to the opinions I heard here). One of the respondents to my post on facebook had an very similar name to our @akiley . I guess akiley had missed the original post on this forum. The facebook group has a gazillion members. I think this is a two-edged sword. Obviously the page provides access to some outstanding experts and in my case I got a good result. However, there are lots of people on facebook who seem willing express confident opinions in spite of an apparent lack of ability. It is hard to know who to believe. One thing I like about this forum is the smaller, focused population. You "get to know" everyone and can figure out who are experts pretty quickly. Better yet, people on this forum seem very willing to say "I'm not an expert on these, but...". I appreciate everyone's opinions, but it is nice to know who has relatively more experience. I also feel there is more discussion here (e.g. sharing rationale for one species vs another). Its a better place to learn.
  19. Yeah, I wish it was on Windows as well. All of the pics I'm going to keep go to my PC where they automatically get backed up to cloud. My phone can directly access the cloud drive. Since they are date sorted on the cloud, it is easy to find the picture I want and download a copy to my phone. An extra step for sure, but not too painful.
  20. I think the value of the tools depends on how you use them. I run almost every picture I am investigating through Merlin for two reasons. 1) it is a data point like any other and 2) more important, it gives a noob like me a starting point, including several alternatives. I like seeing the alternatives because it helps keep me from being tunnel visioned. I get the same benefit from Allaboutbirds and birdsna "similar species" lists (which I look at every time). But I never, never take Merlin's pick as gospel. As Akiley noted, it is incorrect a lot although it does usually get the correct bird somewhere in the list of alternatives. I research every bird in birdsna and Allaboutbirds and often in one of several hardback books. Since I am a noob, I'm probably spending 30-60 minutes per bird (which is why I am still going through pictures from my mega-trip last summer 🙄).
  21. 😄 I think that's photo sleuth's way of saying "Jim next time get a picture of the bird with the sun at your back!"
  22. One of my favorite critters is the American Pika. They are not especially easy to find because they live in alpine talus fields above the treeline. I've only seen or heard them on higher altitude mountain hikes. Usually you hear them first (they make a loud "eep" call). They are speedy so even if you hear one, it isn't always easy to get its picture. Believe it or not, all of these pictures were taken with an old, small (but decent quality) pocket sized camera I carry on long hikes. First two pictures were taken at Grand Teton National Park, WY on the Cascade Canyon Trail in 2010. The pika popped out less than 10 feet away from me. I had stopped and was taking pictures of the mountains so I had my camera ready. The third picture was taken at about 50 feet on the Stanley Glacier Trail in Kooteney National Park, AB on Aug 25, 2018.
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