From Creeps to Witches

Howdy everyone!  Just back from a fun day of birding at Weldon Springs near Clinton IL.  Fun mainly in the sense I got to hang out in a nice day with my brother and sister-in-law.  Unfortunately, the feathered variety we were after were fairly scarce.  A possible +1 for the day along with a juvi (I’m sure Ron will correct) Bald Eagle, a Great Heron, plus more Titmice (yes, I verified that usage) and Nuthatches than I could count.  Beyond that .. not so much.  If that +1 turns out to be verified you will likely see that hitting the pages oh, about this same time next year hehehe.

But all that is in the present – we here at LifeIntrigue tend to live in the past – something Ron is beginning to have a good understanding why now that his productivity is outrunning his processing.  For this post at least I am in the same year – hell less than two months ago.  Just doing what I can to get my +1’s out and counted to try and stay within sight of my competition.

Short-Billed Dowitcher shot in Colorado Sept 2015

I have to give a lot of credit to Ron for this particular ID. I had incorrectly come to the conclusion it was a Willet but during our review it became apparent that it is really a Short-Billed Dowitcher.  How fitting to have a Witch to go along with the recent Halloween theme.  Like Last post, this specimen was shot on our September trip to Colorado – this time at Barr Lake near Brighton.

Short-Billed Dowitcher shot in Colorado Sept 2015

Hit the jump to see and read more about this water forager.

Most of our time there was spent traversing a really nice nature trail complete with boardwalks that took you out from the banks – this would have been awesome marsh shooting but it had been pretty dry out there and most of the water had receded out beyond the walkways.  It appears the Navy ROTC was having an initiation out there of sorts based on seeing what a group of them were doing to 4 individuals – basically seal team training them complete with a portable hot tub for submersions and constant hosing down when not being drowned.  After shooting what I could find there, we moved to the other end of the lake where the boat dock was.  That is where we found this feathered cutie.

Short-Billed Dowitcher shot in Colorado Sept 2015

It was so occupied with the feeding it didn’t really care how close I got to it – even with the big glass.  No worries, I did not put any stress on it and rarely did it ever even look at me.  The glass could have used a bit more light, but the sun was dropping very quickly by then.  All in all, I thought they came out pretty nice.

Short-Billed Dowitcher shot in Colorado Sept 2015

Out of pictures so time to get to the meat!  Let’s see what Cornell has to say about the Cyrano de Bergerac of the birding world.  The fact that is labeled with a short bill, is really only in relationship to the much longer Long-Billed variety – trust me, those bills are loooooong.  Looks like the male gets to play the stay at home dad with this species which is rather rare for the aviary world.  Beyond the additional fact they carry a Least Concern Conservation Status, there isn’t much to offer.  Now for audience participation time.  Although the specimen I have seems to fit the references we poured over, the region doesn’t really fit my shooting location.  They are very coastal and their migratory paths don’t even come close to Denver.  Is anyone willing to confirm this for us or offer some alternative suggestions!?!  Ron and I spent a significant amount of time on the phone to get this ID – it is only the concern over the region map that puts some question into it.

That’s all folks – hope everyone here in the Midwest got to enjoy this beautiful day in November.  We certainly did!

3 thoughts on “From Creeps to Witches”

  1. It sometimes amazes me comparing your final processed pics to the unprocessed low-res screenshots you sometimes send me early on. Here I think your Short-Billed Dowitcher shots look great!! They are somehow quite calming, evincing a peaceful early dawn if I knew what that looked like.

    That was quite an interesting trek through the web trying to ID these birds. Shorebirds are so hard to pin down, particularly in cases like this where I am told that a female Short-Billed Dowitcher has a longer bill than a male Long-Billed Dowitcher. I think one thing we took away from this search is that, at least for fall plumage, the length of the bill relative to the head size and its curvature are the best attributes to zero in on an ID.

    My Audubon app shows a migratory path that spans the Atlantic Coast in the east all the way to central Texas and Kansas and up to the eastern border of Wyoming, so it’s not that much out of the way to be in Colorado. Not as much by light years as a Common Ground-Dove in Chicago!

    Yes, as you know that “juvi” Bald Eagle we photographed last weekend is more correctly termed an “advanced immature” Bald Eagle, as it was blotched in white and therefore not a first-year juvenile but a second- or third-year-old. Just sayin’.



  2. I process my shots with vigor hehehe. Someone is waxing poetic! It was actually a peaceful sunset – just about 2 hundred Water Chickens (aka Coots) and this Dowitcher. It just occurred to me that I didn’t mention there is likely two distinct birds in these shots based on the white that showed up on the shoulders on a few of the shots.

    Yep, the first cut was the directional shape of the bill – straight, curved up, curved down. That seems to pair the options down to manageable sets. Next is definitely the head to bill ratio. Probably next is the color of the legs and then the size relative to body. It isn’t until that set is established that its really worth getting into the coloring and feather patterns. They are just too similar to really get a good identifier on its own – especially in fall/winter plumage.

    For the record Ron mentioned that Ground-Dove to rub it in that he got that rare specimen at Lincoln Park Zoo last week. I’ll admit, that is one nice add to his list and practically in his backyard!

    so what you’re saying is we took a picture of a juvi hehehe

    Thanks for commenting!


  3. Lincoln Park Zoo is actually far from my backyard, farther than even Chicago, which is a LONG way away! I was extremely lucky to drive there two days in a row and see and photograph the bird on my second visit, the day before all the storms, the cold, the blizzard, and the sub-freezing cold tomorrow.. Cutting it close!

    I forgot about the leg color as a shorebird ID parameter. That’s important, too.



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