It’s Not a Ba Ba Ba Ba Barn Swallow

I’ll start out this post with a great big SIGH.  When it comes to birds, I’ve developed some tricks over the years that help me out in the identification phase.  These aids include capturing as many angles as I can, focusing on any unusual characteristics it might possesses and making sure to take a few snaps at any birds in the vicinity.  Generally one of these will get me in the right ballpark and then it is just a matter of a little reading to narrow the two or three options to the right one… or rather the one I’m going with – ID are never guaranteed around here at LifeIntrigued and always graciously  welcome a discussion should a reader come up with a differing opinion.  Today’s post happens to be one of those situations where most of the tricks FAILED to deliver a quick  answer.  In fact, most of this month has been spent debating back and forth between all the reference manuals on my library shelf and any bird sites on the Internet that had something to say on the subject.  No reason to keep this a mystery any longer.  Again, heralding out of Henderson Nevada’s Bird Viewing Preserve we bring you a new bird to blog.

This particular bird does have some unique features that should have made it very easy to identify.  First and foremost, the long black beak seems like it should have narrowed the field significantly in itself.    Turns out there a few birds that fit this characteristic.

  • Common Sandpiper
  • Green Sandpiper
  • Solitary Sandpiper
  • Eastern Willet
  • Western Willet
  • Stilt Sandpiper
  • Short Billed Dowitcher
  • Long Billed Dowitcher
  • Yellowlegs
  • Dunlin
  • Curlew Sandpiper
  • Barn Swallow

I was not expecting a starting list this long.  Realizing this was not going to be as easy as expected, I settled into processing mode.  Okay, sticking with the bill, there is a definite downward curvature that should provide some list thinning

Hit the jump to continue following along with the identification process.. and see more pics!

Continue reading It’s Not a Ba Ba Ba Ba Barn Swallow

A Pied Surprise

I’m fresh off another successful Bix@6! I wasn’t exactly feeling at the top of my game at the start, but made it through at a fairly good time for a training run (2 minutes faster than usual). Typically I come in 4 to 5 minutes slower than I do on actual race day. Always seemed a little odd to me but this year I figured out why – I took the phone with me this year (sans headphones – it isn’t really a closed course – no reason to take unnecessary risks), so the RunKeeper app kept me (and everyone around me hehehe) informed of the pace and distance. To my surprise, the 6-course is LONG. Not by a mile like the Chicago Marathon, but a few tenths enough to explain some of the time difference. I’m sure the rest of the time is due to adrenaline from being out there with 17K plus others. Not sure what to expect at the moment from the actual race, but the faster Bix@6 might just be a good sign – now if I can just get the cloud gods to cooperate again!

Are you getting the picture (pun intended) the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve is quite awesome when it comes to the diversity of birds available for photographing? At this point it is a little hard to rank this spot as my favorite thanks to the number of checks it has given me on the bird list or instead a lagoon in Florida where we were able to see less variety, but the larger species. Note, there is more to come of the Florida shoot but for now let’s spend some time with ANOTHER new bird from Henderson.

Anybody want to take a stab at what this interesting little waterfowl might be? No cheating by image hovering, but the post title might give a hint. Honestly, I thought this bird was simply a juvi of one of the other birds that were near it, but upon further research believe this to be a species unto its own. Better yet, a species that I can now check off my bird list. With the aid of the Stokes Field Guide, I was able to match the first two pictures with the adult Winter plumage of the Pied-Billed Grebe. The region matches up perfectly with our location and time frame so pretty confident the classification is correct.  True to the old adage, I got the water beading up on the duck’s (er Grebe’s) back.  Not to mention I was able to put a cross body shot in the tin as well.

Hit the jump to read a few interesting facts about this chicken beaked Grebe

Continue reading A Pied Surprise

A Sparrow I Can Actually Identify

For the record, I’d like to proclaim that it is currently miserable outside. I know this because I had to complete a training run tonight and by mile 2 I looked liked I had taken a swim in the local pool. The truck temp gauge registered 84 but if that was true the humidity must have been adding at least 20 degrees to the “feels like” temp. The remaining 3 miles (a short run tonight) eventually dripped by. At least the body is finally getting some heat conditioning for the upcoming Bix7 race. I mention this primarily because hot days like this remind me of Vegas – we were once there in the 114 to 117 degree range – and when I think of Vegas the memories of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve now quickly follow. Keeping the string alive, here is ANOTHER new bird for the checklist. Ironically, this happens to be a bird that is local for us .. in fact, one of those birds that typically gets ignored because it is a member of the Sparrow family.

Typically, this translates to a brown and gray bird, medium to small sized with white highlights adorning the wing feathering. Unfortunately, there are at least 20 different species of Sparrows that look nearly identical. Followers of this blog will probably remember cases where a shot of these birds is simply referred to as … a Sparrow. Taking the time to figure out what it is exactly is not a good use of time because after all it is really just a Sparrow. When this adult was spotted hanging out in the brush it looked distinct enough to give a go at classifying it. That meant it was worth taking a few shots – the composition looked appealing as well, especially since it was giving the classic cross body pose (above) that typifies my personal style. Of the three shots, the first one is my favorite with the nicely blurred background and glint in the eye.

This is one of those birds that tends to look quite different depending on your viewing angle. You can really see the crown on the top of the head when looking at it straight on, but from the side it tends to provide a more common domed profile as in the shot below.

Hit the jump to read a little more about this new bird to the Blog

Continue reading A Sparrow I Can Actually Identify

A Bad Day to be a Shoveler

Greetings everyone. I am currently under the influence of my new deep tissue foot massager I just purchased with my 2nd place finish gift certificate (link here). As a result, I cannot be held accountable for the contents of this post because quite frankly, this feels quite yummy and might just dose off from time to time. Honestly, this thing is awesome! My main hope is it will help relieve some heel pain I’ve been dealing with since the Steamboat Race. A fellow runner at work recommended it so figured I’d give it a go00…zzzzzzzz … Sorry, dozed a bit.

Today we are back at the Henderson Nevada Bird Viewing Preserve, but this time our primary subject doesn’t come with feathers or a beak. Turns out we were greeted with another resident in the area, one we were admittedly not expecting in the least.

Surprise! This Coyote crept up on us mid-morning while we were heading out to an observation platform built on one of the Henderson ponds. We were checking out some birds hanging out on one side of the raised walkway oblivious to the fact this natural born killer was stalking us from the other side. The color palette of this creature blended perfectly into the surroundings and if it wouldn’t have moved slightly I would have likely never seen it. Before the Beast could draw a bead on it (and thanks to taking the time to excitedly explain my find to Linda), the Coyote slinked back into the brush. Curious we started tracking it from the platform where it eventually popped into view again having traversed directly under it. Probably less than 20 yards away, it turned back at us – standing its ground against our unappreciated intrusion.

As you can tell, it seemed truly pissed off! A quick look around confirmed we were the only ones out in preserve at the time which gets you to wondering if you were “take out” that day. This was going to be a little difficult if that was the intent because it didn’t appear to be “packing” – as in there wasn’t any other pack mates in the vicinity and it wasn’t sporting a holster we could see. In my excitement I failed to really take in the composition of the shot. 5 feet to the left would have helped the shots tremendously – note to self, composition, composition composition. This Coyote would walk a few feet, look back at us, walk a few feet, look back at us, veer off in a different direction, look back, return to the original direction and look back. This was getting pretty weird. Eventually it found its way behind a thick brush concealing most of what it was doing. All we could tell was that it was digging in the ground. A few minutes later it revealed its motivation.

Hit the jump to reveal the mystery

Continue reading A Bad Day to be a Shoveler

A Noncommittal Diver

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Hopefully you live in a state that trusts it’s serfs to know how to handle fire and thus can enjoy the holiday as it was meant to be – as opposed to some of us who are subject to state administrations that is more worried about someone lighting a firecracker than they are passing a budget that keeps the state out of debt — but I digress.  In celebration of our independence from an oppressive government (hmmm starting to sound ironically familiar)… I bring you another great find at the Henderson Nevada Wildlife Viewing Preserve.  This bird immediately brings to mind all the festive colors we typically associate with our proud country.

Ummm okay, maybe not.  Actually it doesn’t even seem to be that well associated to Independence Day now that I take another gander at it.  Well, it sounded good anyway (editor’s note, for the record, it does look like it is “independent” in the since that it is alone – that way if I was for some reason to be called in front of a Congressional hearing I can say I was telling the truth unlike the Head of Intelligence who conveniently claims he “forgot” about the Patriot Act as his excuse for lying under oath – sorry, more digression).  So, you are probably thinking this specimen is a Redhead Duck because that is exactly what I thought it was when I came up on it enjoying one of the ponds.  It wasn’t until a few minutes ago that I realized that initial assumption was wrong.  Based on validation with all my references, I have changed my classification to … a Canvasback.  The Redhead and the Canvasback have almost identical color schemes – brownish heads and black highlighting at the same locations, but they differ in  few key areas.  First of all, the Redhead has a body feathering that is more gray contrasted with the Canvasback which has a much brighter/whiter coloring.  A closer look at the beak also show differences with the Canvasback being pointier and darker instead of the blunter and more stylized bill sported by the other duck.  They do have nearly identical region maps, but based on the other factors my money is on a Canvasback.  For the detailed oriented people out there, the Canvasback is about 2 inches longer and a little larger weight wise, but that is impossible to distinguish in the field.

Hit the jump read more about the Canvasback!

Continue reading A Noncommittal Diver