Why I Try to Spot the Y

Greetings everyone! I must say, this has been a great month for my bird count. At the end of October I was sitting at 290 which isn’t stellar by ANY means when it comes to the birding community, but something that has taken a decent amount of work to get to – note each of those had to be photographed at an identifiable level of quality. That number put me a mere 10 from a goal I set at the beginning of the year. For simplicity I spread that over the two remaining months making intermediate goals of 5 new additions to my count for each remaining month. I learned early in life to set a goal and then immediately focus on smaller accomplishments that get you to the end point. That strategy has served me well at work, home and my numerous hobbies. Want to get through an ultra-marathon race – NEVER think about the total amount of miles to the end – focus on getting through maybe 5 miles marks or hell, the next tree when the mental darkness starts to set in. The uplifting feeling of accomplishment on the little goals is what keeps you motivated to keep pushing. Well folks, I am happy to say with today’s featured feathered friend I’ve made it to November’s target.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Today I am excited to bring you #295, the Blue-Winged Warbler. It should be no surprise by now, this cute little Warbler comes to you thanks to our trip to the Alabama Gulf Shores. We made our way down there back in April of this year. Like several of the recent posts, this addition to the life list was found at Dauphin Island. I would have been in a world of hurt if we had not caught the fallout down there as that visit really gave a steroid shot to my count. I have to give big kudos to Linda who planned our spring trip around this previously unknown birding location.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the “Y” bird.

We were actually alerted to this place thanks to a kind birder we met earlier in the year while visiting Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco TX. Apologies, but I cannot remember their names, but we met two ladies while I was tinning the Elegant Trogon that had a made a surprising visit while we were there (link here). While chatting, one of the ladies recommended we check out the island and even invited us to come to her house to check out her feeders complete with address and phone number. I’ve heard horror stories about how “competitive” some birders are and always refreshed when I have a wonderful encounter with a complete stranger that shares the same enthusiasm about birds.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

She did caution us to avoid the second week in April as the place is crazy congested with their annual bird festival. Taking that advice, Linda scheduled us down there the third week which ended up being absolutely the best week thanks to storms that raged over the two weeks prior. This Blue-Winged was one of those Warblers that were replenishing after fighting the storms as they migrated up from Central America.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

In my last post on the Chestnut-Sided, Brad M. commented that he liked the shot where the bird was looking right at me. I responded that I rarely show my straight on shots because they generally “creep” me out. If you don’t believe me, check out an American Bittern from the front with its bill up …shudder! Whoa, stop the presses – apologies, I thought I had already posted the American Bittern shots from earlier in the year – went to reference it and was shocked to see I had forgotten it – will definitely get on that!. You will have to trust me on how goofy they look until then. Anyway, I wrote my response hesitantly knowing this post was on deck which included not one, but two straight on shots. The primary reason for including these head on shot is it provides a distinctive field identifier for this Warbler. They have a very defined black eyeline that starts just behind the eye and extends to the bill which is also black on adults giving them a full face mask look.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Now, if you can get them to tip their head downward a bit – that is when you will notice the large ‘Y’ against the yellow background. When I see that, I am fairly confident I have a Blue-Winged in the tin. Follow it up with two rather large white wing bars and then the bluish grey coloring on the wings. Now for some nitpicking on Cornell’s site. As a general rule, I have no issues with digital darkroom manipulations to refine a particular shot. I might correct white balance, remove a piece of trash in shot or try to pull the subject out from the background and other techniques to present a better product. What I try very hard not to do is mis-characterize a bird especially when it comes to coloring. That means, being very careful with saturation, hues and vibrance. I can tell you for a fact, the bluish hue in this Warbler’s wings does not look like the bright blue that Cornell has in their 7th image and the same image used farther down when it describes the coloring on their ID Info Page (link here). When their black eyes go blue, that’s a clue you are going rogue with the saturation/vibrance slider.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

I’m sure you realize I tend to rely a lot on Cornell’s Overview page for interesting tidbits to pass along in appreciation for you spending time reading my post. One of their Cool facts was related to the hybridization that occurs between Blue-Winged and Golden-Winged Warblers which produces two distinctive and apparently common versions – the Brewster’s and the Lawrence’s. One line caught me by surprise. “Brewster’s have golden wingbars and a white belly (Golden-winged features), but a white throat (a Blue-winged feature).” It is possible they really meant a white “undertail” and not a throat as Blue-Winged do NOT have a white throat. Note, my specimen is not a hybrid. There were Golden-Wings in the area, however, I did to come away empty tinned on that species (you can verify with Ron, but that was not for lack of trying hehehe). I did learn from Cornell that the Blue-Winged and Golden-Winged are 99.97% genetically identical (does that mean I can take 99.97% of a check for the Golden-Winged on my bird count hmmmmm). As a last bit of reference, the Blue-Winged migrates from their wintering grounds in Central American and the Caribbean to the upper eastern half of the US (minus the states north of New York). Once again, a Warbler supposedly available locally but NEVER seen here.

Hope you enjoyed the latest addition to my birding list. I know I am excited – thanks to this post I now know how to get another +1. Time to go process a certain set of pictures from our January Texas trip!

27 thoughts on “Why I Try to Spot the Y”

    1. Hahaha – cute. I was thinking the exact same thing when I was writing the post – this Warbler probably annoys the hell out of the other migrants passing through – “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.” Will have to get Spunk to put him in his place! Appreciate you coming by Timothy.

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      1. Little birds seem to be a bit like little dogs. You seem to do well with both. How many birds sightings/photo captures is the most you have done in a year?

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      2. That is an excellent question Timothy, I honestly can’t tell you what my personal big year number is – I’ll have to go back and see if I can actually figure that out. It would have to be “new” species as I do not track sightings of birds I already have beyond an outing count so the total sightings of unique species is significantly higher – I do know Ron and I broke our one day unique species while we were in Dauphin – I want to say we made it to the 70 mark one day.. will check with Ron on that so don’t hold me to that exact number yet. Our previous day record before that was 56.

        UPDATE: Talked to Ron and he corrected me – our best outing so far is 60 and that actually came from a trip to the Chain ‘O Lakes area – I actually recall now him having to run over to a McDonalds to take a picture of a House Sparrow to get us to the 60 mark – apologies for the erroneous info above.

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    1. Thank you Reed! Again, I’d have to say that number in a very low sheepish voice in a group of real birders, but I’m pretty happy with the steady progression. Retirement has sure helped on my opportunities. Appreciate you coming by Reed and really enjoyed your Tricolored shots.

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  1. VerY pretty little bird. Love the color, description and back storY on each featured feathered friend. You should create a birding storY book. I know I would buY one.
    Keep up the work towards Your 300 goal and beYond. I for one look forward to everY post.

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    1. I see what you did there heheheh. I actually thought post retirement I’d have all this time to devote to a the possibility of “another” book, but holy cow, I can’t figure out where these hours are going and I am certainly not purposely wasting them. We’ll see, right now the laser focus is getting across the goal line. Stay tuned, I’m sweating bullets in the digital darkroom. By the way, we need to start seeing your wildlife pictures!!

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    1. Definitely some Warbler discussions in that book – one of the things that always caught me off guard while reading those chapters is when I realized I had been birding in some of the exact same places he wrote about – made those parts really personal – although, I just had Linda drive me there vs hitchhiking all of this country (and snacking on cat food.) Guess that is why I am celebrating 295 and Kenn tallied up 666 in one year (quite the ominous number). Hey now, stop listening to Brad- that is a bad idea, very very bad!!!! Question, as a transplant in Dutchland, do you still celebrate Turkey Day in honer of the American tradition (possibly dropping a frozen bird into a deep fat fryer) , or do they have an equivalent day of thanks you’ve adopted since you moved over there. Let’s hope they didn’t adopt our Black Friday mess.

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      1. OMG! Black Friday! They have no idea about where it came from but everyone advertises it! Makes me crazy!!!! We have opted not to take frozen turkey and drop it in a deep fat fryer.😬 Bit risky.
        We do celebrate the overeating of turkey and all the other stuff. This year it will be a small affair in Saturday due to a shift schedule if the Hubby. I was able to purchase a nice turkey roast at the American store. The one traditional thing I won’t give up until the US gov. tells me I can’t shop there anymore, seems it could happen due to lack of support at our leaderships highest levels for people who serve or have served!
        Keep those posts coming as we are still on lockdown here…

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      2. Smart to be safe – those Turkey oil fryers have sent their share of people to the hospital. Glad you will be able to celebrate the day with your hubby – the actual day is secondary to being able to spend time with the ones you are thankful for. I didn’t server myself, so secondary to all the issues you have to deal with from the military hierarchy, but my father was a veteran and I know what he had to go through … starting with insisting his war was just a “conflict”, like a small insignificant disagreement between gentlemen (right….my ass). Already working on my Thursday post – something to appropriately honer the holiday. Stay safe through the holidays… wait, that’s stupidly restrictive, stay safe ALL the time!!

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    1. Thank you! We are truly blessed with colorful Warblers in the Americas – if there is a downside, they are usually small and hyper making their tinning quite the endeavor with big glass. A mere 5 more to go. Appreciate you coming by and have a wonderful rest of the week.

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    1. Thank you Donna! By the way, wonderful BiFs (Birds in Flight) in your recent post. Your title image of the Osprey fit that theme perfectly so technically you didn’t cheat ha! Have a great rest of your day/week.

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  2. First I went to your home page to get to know you and your wife and went over to your photo gallery. And the first shot that pops up is my all time favorite bird, the Bald Eagle and my second favorite is the White Pelicans. Great shots by the way. I know I am going to get to see a lot of new birds on your blog. Funny that you photographed this beauty at Dauphin Island, that is where we are right now. We come down here every winter, one of these days we will come here for the April run. There are not a lot of birds here this time of year, but I did get to see 3 new ones so far, the Tri color heron, thanks to you telling me that is what it is, a Tern which is a very pretty bird and my husband and I have lots of fun comments about the name of that bird. ( Who’s turn is it to take a picture of this Tern) and so on. The Osprey, my first sighting of this one. I downloaded a list of birds to start checking all the ones I have photographed as well.
    Oh, and I had to watch the movie the Big Year again last night. Just love that movie. 🙂

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    1. We have the luxury of having easy access to Eagles and definitely the bird that really gave my interest in birding a jump start when I returned to it in my adult life (that and tracking down the endangered Whooping Crane). We usually head up to the Iowas side of the Quad Cities (Davenport/Bettendorf) and shoot the Eagles that hunt the waters of the Mississippi – that is an incredibly fun time, although it can get a bit bitey as the cold winds blow off the icy waters. We have also been noticing them moving further and further south – we have a few of them hear wintering along the Illinois River, but they are definitely starting to take up residence here year round. There is one that is a less than a mile from our house that stays here and simply hunts the surrounding farmlands and another a couple of miles of way that has built a huge nest on the backside of a large pond. Love to see those majestic birds being more accessible. We definitely have easy access to the White Pelicans, they are on every body of water around here and some stay year round. I always smile when we go down to Texas and everyone is in awe at the Whites while I am focused on the Brown Pelicans which never come up here. Do you happen to know what type of Tern you saw? I can usually identify the males, but those juvis and females can be harder than trying to properly identify a Gull! I always have to “Tern” a few pages in the reference manuals to figure out what it might be.

      Hope you enjoy Dauphin as much as we did. The April visit was the first time we had been down there and looking forward to many more trips there. I can highly recommend the Shell Mounds area and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Shell has a variety of different habitats that attract an array of birds and if you look across the road, there are feeders in the backyards that attract the Painted and Blue buntings. If you go to the back of the Bird Sanctuary (coast side) you will likely see the Osprey hanging out on their man-made nest platforms – they were in their nests when we were down there, but not sure how they spend their winter months. There was a nice bench area where Ron and I sat and enjoyed watching a pair coming and going.

      Loved that movie – think I’ll grab it off the shelf and have Linda watch it with me in preparation for our annual January birding pilgrimage down south. Thank you for coming by Sandra and have a great birding time on the island.

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      1. Isn’t it something the people we meet on this thing called word press. We lived in the quad cities for over 15 years, that is where most of my eagle photos and all of my white pelican photos came from, there on the Mississippi river at lock at dam 14 or down on Credit Island. There used to be a lot of eagles at that Lock and Dam, but they quite going so much after they cut down those dead trees in their park area where they liked to perch on.
        I just looked up the type of Tern we photographed. It is the Royal Tern and we just discovered a new bird mixed in with them, the African Skimmer. We are going back to get some better photos of that one.
        Yes, shell mound does not have a lot of birds this time of year. There is a pair of eagles building a nest now near some homes on the south side of the island. We see them flying now and then. I will be putting photos of this area on soon. 🙂

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      2. Absolutely stunning what a small small world we live in! My wife is from the Quad Cities (Davenport) so we are up there a lot. You are absolutely dead on with regards to ruining the lock and dam 14 by taking down the trees – the Eagles did not take to those fake platforms they put up. The good news is they seem to have migrated down to the lock and dam in downtown Davenport (in front of Arsenal Island). Last time we were there over 30 Eagles were hunting the waters there – in the past we have had limited success there – links here

        https://wildlifeintrigued.com/2021/02/22/find-em-relax-em-cock-em-stab-em-and-lift-em/).

        Progression – Eagle Perspectives Part 2

        Shooting Behavior – Eagle Perspectives Part 3

        Featuring Fresh Friday Finds for Followers

        Triggered

        Royals Terns are a nice find! Their tuft of feathers on the back of the head always makes me chuckle – reminds me of a balding man trying to hold on to the last little ring of hair ha!. Wow on the African Skimmer! Never seen one of those before. I was able to get the Black Skimmer thanks to our trips to Galveston. your African must have gotten blown off course – definitely go back and get shots of that. Thanks for the info on the limited birding opportunities down there in the winter. We are heading to the Florida shores soon and was wondering if we should make a stop there on our way down. Oh, and you might try to find the Seaside Sparrow while you are down there. Ron and I tried and failed while we were down there – they have a very limited range and I know they are on that island.

        Can’t wait to see your upcoming photos!

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      3. The one thing about finding these new birds here, one day I see a lot of them. Then we go back to that same spot hoping to get better pictures, and the 2nd time there is not one bird. But, that is also the fun of looking for them. We walked about 7 miles yesterday to find the Skimmers and the tide had changed and there was only herring gulls there. But we will go back again and again. 2 years ago I saw the most eagles ever down on Credit Island and there is a nest on the left side of the road when you go past the park sign. That is quite the new fancy bridge they built across the river. I never did like that old bridge, made me nervous going across that one but I find the old bridge was much prettier. Thank you for your link, that is a beautiful series of photos.

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      4. Just to let you know, I was researching the African Skimmer that I thought we saw, but it is a Black Skimmer, but both look very similar and the same family. The African skimmer has an all orange bill. I am so thankful for the internet when it comes to finding bird species. 🙂

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      5. The Black Skimmer is still a very nice capture – a joy to watch when they are hunting (guessing I should call it skimming) and I am always taken back when I get a view from straight on and realize just how thin their bill is.

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  3. Such a cheerful little bird! Great tip on looking for the “Y” – now that you’ve educated me, I can’t un-see it! Perfect! I totally agree with you on disliking “pushed” color photos. When Cornell does it, it diminishes their status as a “go-to” reference, and it also encourages other photographers to do the same, threatening a wave of cartoon bird photos.

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  4. Glad I was able to provide you with an useful field tip Sam! When it comes to all those yellow colored Warblers, it is always good to have some other feature to help identify them. Usually I let it go, especially since I rely on Cornell’s site quite heavily, but the coloring was pretty egregious on this one and then they went and used it as the reference in their coloring section – someone looking for that color of a bird is going to be looking a looooong time ha. I didn’t think of the concept of giving other bird photographers liberties to go cartoony. Not a problem if they are going for an artsy look, but not for situations where realism matters. Appreciate you coming by Sam – Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.

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