Viewed From Afar (and a request for identification help)

First off, I’ve decided to go ahead and merge in my wildlife observations. I was investigating the option to have a secondary blog out there just for the wildlife stuff, but then decided I really didn’t want to manage another website. I think it still fits the overall theme of observations I see from day to day. I will tag these as Wildlife and likely a subtag with the specific category like birds, snakes (yeah, you’re getting some of those soon), frogs, bears, deer etc.

So… keeping with the South Dakota trip theme, I thought I would start out with some birds we snapped while traveling out there. I’ll start with a flesh eating variety call the Black Billed Magpie. We were touring the Bear Country USA Drive Through Wildlife Park and I saw this fairly pretty blue and white bird on the side of the road.

Black Billed Magpie

I actually didn’t know what it was until I returned home and found it my brand new Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I finally broke down and bought an updated guide, but more on that in a future post (I actually selected this book because it finally had a picture of the woodpecker I could not identify in a previous post). As we traveled a little further, I became slightly horrified by the fact that the previously considered “cute” bird was actually a flesh eating demon.

Black Billed Magpie

I had visions of it attacking me, sticking his beak in one of my eyeballs and ripping it out of my head as it flew off into the air leaving a dangling mass of entrails oozing out of my shrieking face – hmmmm in retrospect, I might need to lay off of the late night horror movies. Based on the description in the book, it appears to simply feed off of carrion so likely little to fear here. Although, this shot looks like he is scraping an eyeball of his beak.

Black Billed Magpie

There is another bird (Spotted Towhee) after the jump along with a blue bird I am currently unable to properly identify.

… so you want to see the Towhee. Another apology for a poor shot. It was actually raining at the time and I was shooting through a car window. He also wouldn’t stand still for two seconds so I could focus better. This is probably the least fuzzy of the shots

Spotted Towhee

Pretty cool bird with some definite variety in coloring. However there is one feature that comes out a little better in the following two shots

Spotted Towhee

Spotted Towhee

If you look close you will notice it has red eyes. Blood red eyes capable of a searing gaze that can burn through the gelatinous mass of visual evolution we call the eye leaving the victim with a bloody orifice that once gazed upon it with admiration – sorry, I had this vision of the pathetic Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park show where Paul Stanley could emit laser beams out of his eye – probably just dated myself, but it’s a rarity an image from that crap show EVER pops up so I went with it. Anyway, I thought it was a pretty cool bird.

This brings us to the bird I need some help on. I photographed this bird at a wayside near Custer State Park. We were admiring a scenic lake it was built on when I saw a blue bird fly by. By the time I was able to get the cameral out, the bird was pretty spooked and was basically flying back and forth without landing. This made if very difficult to get a shot off and basically gave up and started heading back to the car when it landed on the roof of a picnic area. I doubled back and managed to get this shot off which quite frankly came out much better than expected – and definitely better than the Towhee.

Blue bird but not sure what yet

I thought this would be pretty easy to identify, but neither of my two guides or the ones I looked at yesterday in Borders showed an accurate match. Clearly it has a white belly (actually could possibly be a real pale blue), some black on the back, but more specifically, has the same white (or light blue) running under its eye. This latter tidbit seems to dismiss the Western Scrub-Jay. It is really to light colored to be a Tree Swallow .. and probably too big. Anyway, any help would be greatly appreciated!

That’s all for now, hope you enjoyed.

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