A Hummer Quandary

Well, our trip to Mayo was successful. Linda checked out fine and we were able to get all of our questions fully answered with positive dispositions so SUCCESS on that front. Now we just need to take some precautions to make sure we didn’t inadvertently get exposed to COVID or any other rare transmittable disease. As Linda was verifying her tests/appointments before we left, she noticed that 1/3 of their total staff across all their medical facilities were sick or quarantined with COVID-19. We followed all protocols so not too concerned, but clearly it has made its rounds through the medical fields. I also thought of two more positives out of the pandemic (planting a lemon tree). First, from personal experience I can inform all married males that it takes roughly 8 months before the “ring dent” disappears. Linda and I have an agreement – I only have to wear my ring when out in public and Linda only has to wear her ring all the time. As our public engagements have been limited, my ring has sat proudly on my dresser for most of the year. Hoping for your wife’s sake that information won’t prove too useful. Secondly, if you happen to go into a cold environment (like Minnesota), my preferred mask, the gator, provides a nice extra bit of warmth to the neck and face. Now to take a sip from my glass of lemonade.

Okay, now for a call for help from all my birder friends.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

What we have here is a Hummingbird. That is the part of the identification I am absolutely sure about. No question about it, tiny bird, long pointy bill and often located near containers full of sugar water. It gets increasingly harder from there. Now, when it comes to Hummers, you can usually start eliminating a number of the species based on region alone.

Black-Chinned Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

Hit the jump for my super-useful Illinois Hummer identification algorithm and see my plea for help!

Continue reading A Hummer Quandary

To Check or Not to Check

I can’t believe it is October already!  Seems like this year is flying by way to fast – pretty soon it will be snowing in Denver.  What!?!  holy crap, it is snowing in Denver today.  Those Globull Warming dudes got some splaining to do.  I warned you on the last post we would once again be spending some time at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve  in the coming posts as I try to close out the second day of shooting there.  The good news is we are almost through that visit.. bad news is we had the opportunity to head back there a few months ago so we are far from over at that birding paradise.  To start the month off, I’m in need of some more help.  I am always amazed at how hard bird identification can be even with what I would consider unique features.  Two birds are featured here that gave me some troubles and thus not entirely sure if I have them right.  If I do, then there will be two new checks in the Bird List.  Always pleased when I can mark up the list and as you have seen in the past posts, this particular birding site was a goldmine of check marks.

First off I bring you this rather plain looking bird:

I suspect your first inclination is to ID it as an American Crow.  Pretty common bird around here so I have the advantage of seeing it just about every day.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time out in Yellowstone so I can definitely tell you how those compare to the mammoth Ravens out there.  But something just didn’t seem right about this one.  It was black (I can always get the easy ones) but the beak just didn’t seem to fit the large but blunter ones on the Crows around here.  The other part that was causing me some confusion was the tail.

It seemed to long and slender relative to the more stockier body frame of the Crow (and definitely smaller all around compared to those Ravens).  This concern sent me pouring over bird references looking for some other alternative.  Eventually I made my way to the Grackles.  Typically the Grackle is easy to distinguish due to the iridescent purple coloring when the light hits them right.  It is hard to tell in this picture due to having little sun at the moment this was taken but the shape is darn close from my perspective.  Post processing may have taken some slight shimmer out since I was thinking it was just a nicely posed Crow at the time.  The yellow eye definitely stands out which is a defining feature for the Grackle – the Crows and Ravens tend to have black on black eyes.  Now the hard part.. which Grackle.  The Common one is close but the images in the books definitely show more of a purple hue and/or more brownish than the full on black this one is sporting.  That left the Boat Tailed, but that is NO WHERE near where we were out in Nevada (more East Coast).  Could it be the Great Tailed Grackle?

To the web!

Take a gander at the set of images at AllAboutBirds.org (link here).  As mentioned, not positive, but it definitely looks similar to the Great Tailed Grackle shown there – and we can definitely dismiss the Common version. Would appreciate any help on this one.  I have no problem accepting that it is a Common Crow or possibly something I overlooked, but keep in mind that yellowish eye.  Definitely distinct.  Sorry I can’t give you any other angles, this was about the sum total of the shots.  With all the new birds there I likely didn’t spend much time on what I assumed at the time was a common bird.  Regardless of what the ID comes out as, the composition turned out nice especially with the first and this one.

The tail matched the twig angle and the head aligned with both the upper and lower branches giving a nice framing effect.  If you have time, take a stab at it and use the comments for any ideas.

Hit the jump for the second bird featured in this post!

Continue reading To Check or Not to Check