Sunday, 2 May 2010

Promise fizzles in the drizzle

Great - the wind's got some south in it, it's drizzling - surely some diurnal migrants would give themselves up today? (I was up 'late' and had stuff to do, so any early morning searching was out of the question)

I went to Holden Creek and scoured the marsh. There were even fewer birds here today, just two small groups of least sandpiper totalling fewer than 20 birds (one of which is pictured, badly, left). No westerns at all.
The spotted sandpiper was still present, as were 4 killdeer (confirmed that there are actually 4 chicks).
Raptors included northern harrier, 2 peregrine, merlin, bald eagle & red-tailed hawk. Turkey vultures were also floating around.
9 white-fronted geese were still in the fields, with an attendant cackling goose.
I suppose, if nothing else, I was able to add weight to my thoughts that low tide is crap for many waders here, as they've got tons of other suitable feeding habitat to go at. (I guess that only applies to those prone to feeding in intertidal areas, whereas more 'marsh-loving' species wouldn't be too affected by tide times.) I'm supposing that given a smaller area in which to feed, the birds will become more concentrated and therefore, on a dropping tide there may well be more shorebird activity at Holden Creek. Incidentally,where do these migrating peeps, etc roost?
A quick visit to the estuary was pretty birdless, bar the zillions of swallows and good numbers of golden-crowned sparrows, seen along Raines Road.

Bad identification confession no. 1 (in a series of, probably lots, to come)

Oh, one more thing (as Columbo might say) I've decided that my identification of 3 semi-palmated sandpipers the other day was absolute bollocks. Having spent a few more hours in the field, and reading lots, I am pretty confident that they were westerns. Embarrassing, I know... but a lesson learnt, if nothing else. Every day's a school day, etc etc. D'oh!

Mystery bird revealed!

Well, it looks as if sparrows present some of the more interesting responses to these mystery bird pics than I might have expected.
So; house sparrow didn’t really come into play and took just a measly 10% of the vote.  I thought that more might have gone for this, but I was obviously doing the readers of this blog something of a diservce!
So, why not house sparrow?  One of the most obvious things is the length of the tail, our mystery bird has a pretty long tail, while house sparrow’s is significantly short. And that deep notch too, is a no-no. Given that this would be a female were it that introduced species, the wing pattern too would be clearly different to the bird in the photo.
Also with 10% was Brewer’s sparrow and structurally our bird is all wrong for this species, plus it’s a bit too colourful!  Even at the angle of the bird in the pic, it clearly has a ‘plain’ face and a Brewer’s would surely show some sign of a pattern? I’ve seen very few Brewer’s myself, but the sheer bulk and warm-tones of this bird clearly say no, to me.    
White-crowned was favoured by a significant 36% of contributors. Not too surprising as there’s a lot here to suggest that species. Overall, the structure’s good, as is the general colouring but I reckon that yellow bill would be more obvious and even on a 1st winter  bird surely there would still be a discernable eye-stripe? And some darker feathering at the rear of the crown?    
Golden-crowned just sneaked through as favourite with one more vote than white-crowned, and took an impressive 42% .  Well, that’s because it is one! It’s quite featureless at that angle – something that aids its identification, ironically. I’ve attached another pic of the same bird at a slightly different angle, just for proof!
If anyone has anything to add to my rather poor descriptions here, please feel free to comment – I need to learn as much as I can (as proven by semi-p-gate)! 
A new mystery bird will wing its way onto this page shortly...  

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