Sunday, December 6, 2009

The three worst words in birding

Edit, Dec. 12: Added some better photos and bird ID's. How'd you do?


"It just flew."

Surely this is the worst thing any birder could hear when she or he is working like mad to get on the bird that everybody else can see. All around you, people are giving you directions, some helpful, some less so. "It's right there. Right in front of me, high in that tree. Not the big tree, the smaller one, with all the green leaves. Can't you see it?"

No, I can't see it! And why not? Because, IT JUST FLEW!

So, to celebrate the worst phrase in birding, here are some less-than stellar photos of the birds that just flew. Just for fun, how many of them can you identify? (All photos enlarge with a click.)

Bay-breasted Warbler
Magee Marsh, May, 2009

Blackburnian Warbler
Cranberry Glades, W Va., April 2009

Black-throated Green Warbler
Cranberry Glades, WVa., April 2009

New River Gorge, WVa., April 2009

Dark-eyed Junco
Wildacres, N. Carolina, June 2009

Green Heron
Crooked Run Nature Preserve, Sept. 2009

Great Egret
Magee Marsh, May 2009

Canada Warbler (I think)
Magee Marsh, May 2009

Red-headed Woodpecker, immature
Clermont County, Ohio, Dec. 2009
Next week, we commenorate my second-least favorite birding phrase: "You should have been here yesterday (last week, last year.)"


Two quick stories. The junco is the first one I have ever heard singing, and I recognized the song. At least, I recognized it as "something different." Because we only get juncos as winter visitors here, I had never heard them sing before. While walking along a road at my pottery retreat this June, in the mountains of North Carolina, I heard a sweet chipping song. At first, I wrote it off to yet another one of the
hundreds of singing Chipping Sparrows I had been listening to that week. Then, I stopped and really listened. The junco was sitting at eye level with me, and I got to watch it for quite a while and take several photos before it flew.

About the "maybe Canada Warbler:" That photo is dated May 16, and I had labeled it as a Canada. I have a memory of seeing a Canada Warbler that day and it's on my check list, but have no other photos documenting it. I have many photos of Magnolia Warblers from May 18 of this year, but none from May 16. Until my beloved Science Chimp weighed in, I was confident in my label. Now, I doubt myself. Compare the Maggie below with the Mystery Warbler above - you be the judge.