Quick Change Artist

Today comes with a bit of sadness as we are officially on our way back to the broke state of Illinois. Texas has seen fit to help us get acclimated to the cold weather my bones have been subjected to for the past (now) 55 years (yep, had a birthday recently). Been kind of zigzagging our way a bit. Bounced up to San Antonio to see where nearly 40 years ago the Prince of Darkness desecrated a sacred memorial dedicated to those who died at the Alamo whose remains are elsewhere. For those wondering, he did not actually take a leak on the Alamo itself rather across the street in the Alamo Plaza. According to Loudwire (link here), he was also wearing his future wife’s dress because she had taken his clothes to prevent him from doing something stupid. Doubt many people look at Ozzy Osbourne and think “genius”. While there, Linda checked the weather, saw the coming snow/sleet warnings and spun up the crazy train to get us back to South Padre Island to keep our water lines from freezing. Stayed above freezing thankfully, but definitely not conditions we drive all the way to Texas for! Make the most of it as I was able to add not one, but TWO lifers yesterday. While those are awaiting their stint in the digital darkroom, decided to get back on the bird wagon and feature this creature.

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Our colorful specimen today also represents a +1 lifer for me. Unfortunately, not eligible for my “Average Year” tally as this Warbler was found on our trip to Dauphin Island last April. That trip is still paying off dividends and a quick look at my queue indicates it will be for many more posts this year as well.

Hit the jump for more on this secretive Warbler.

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

I’ve given a lot of flak to the bird naming org(s) for some of the crap monikers that have been placed on some of our North American birds. Especially annoying is the descriptive names for a feature you can’t even see with the naked eye (even aided by scopes/binoculars). Kudos to some degree for giving us a name that at least somewhat fits for our feature. What would be your guess for the first name of this New World Warbler? (contest not open to experienced birders)

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

If you answered Black Throat, I will happily nominate you for the American Ornithological Society’s North American Classification Committee (or AOSEJQUVAQWIZPTCC). Now I know why the bird names are so screwed up, they can’t even give their own org a realistic name – like “Birds Named Here”. By my quick count there are at least 9 in the Parulidae family (of 47) that possess a black throat, but only three have the black throat moniker. Pretty easy to get there from here. Is the bird bluish.. nope. Is the bird grayish..nope. Pat yourself on the back, you just identified today’s specimen as a Black-Throated [Green] Warbler. Sorry, I had to sneak in another adjective in there.

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Seems like going with Yellow was just too damn easy and therefore “right out”. I can relent on this a bit as the chosen qualifier does refer to the back and crown of the Warbler. If you look at the two images before or the one below, you will notice those two features do have a greenish tint – your host would prefer “olive”, but I am not going to split feathers. Now, if you decided to ignore the obvious name approach and went purely feature by feature (yellow face, black eyeline, black streaking on body… black throat of course), you might come to two options as the Golden-Cheeked family member is pretty close. If you need to distinguish between those two options, the Golden has a black cap and surprise, a black back and not a green back. The fact I didn’t link to the Golden is a clue I do NOT have a Golden yet – apparently that one only hangs out in a small slice of Texas heartland (someday it will be mine and I shall call it “Cheeky”).

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Always trying to be as accurate as possible with my readers (okay, maybe the acronym alphabet soup was a bit of a fib). I was surprised to see this bird in my tin. Yes, I was at Shell Mounds (with Ron I shall add), I was indeed shooting a Warbler, and yes, one predominantly yellow and black. Problem is, I was originally shooting a Yellow-Throated Warbler (link here). Super stoked at the time to finally improve on those previous weaker shots. Somewhere in that series, there was a switcharoo and next thing I see in the darkroom I’m staring at a +1. Will have to check with Ron and see if this happened to him as well.

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

On the Galveston Island Ferry now and need to call it a post so I can hunt for Bottlenose Dolphins. Actually, I need to put the laptop down so I can hold Ruger while HE hunts for Dolphins. That Poodle loves him some jumping Dolphins. Before I do, some quick tidbits. These Warblers, like many, are long distance migrants. Winter in Central American, South American and across the Caribbean before migrating around/through the Gulf to their summer home mostly in mountain forests of northeast US and Canada. Cornell also confirmed these birds are difficult to get a glimpse of as they prefer the high canopy level – in truth, they carry Yellow-Throat costumes underneath their feathers and quick-change into it if anyone spots them. Apparently this one thought it was clear of my camera and revealed himself too early!

Time to shoot some Dolphins – catch you again real soon!

20 thoughts on “Quick Change Artist”

  1. Very colorful post. The AOSEJQUVAQWIZPTCC could use some lessons from the BNH Department while naming birds. Interesting that the black throat was chosen for the name instead of that brilliant yellow noggin’, but that would have made it the Brilliant Yellow Noggin’ Warbler.

    But what are all those green things on sticks around our BYNW? We aren’t familiar with those time of year up here.

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    1. Brilliant Yellow Noggin, now that would be an intriguing name for a bird although it might get some confusion with a few of the other Warblers – especially the Prothonotary (a name I can NEVER spell right) has the most brilliant head I’ve ever seen (oops might have just given something away there ha). I heard you only have balls of cotton on your trees these days. Sorry to say, we will have to deal with that cold stuff very very soon. Turn the heat on up there for us.

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  2. We stayed at the Menger Hotel next to the Alamo in 2004. I had an urge to pee on the Cenotoph. Just seems to be a natural urge no matter what condition you are in. I did manage to photograch a ghost at the Menger. Nice catch on the Warbler. He’s really a beauty.

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    1. Decided not to use the Cenotoph reference assuming no one would know what that was – I was wrong ha. Will have to tell Linda there are ghosts (with official shots) at the Menger. She is a huge ghost fan and will assuredly want to check that place out the next time we are over there. Ghosts and the supernatural do not bother her, but Snakes do.. what’s up with that!?! Appreciate you stopping by.

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      1. We have ghosts. Kleptomaniac ghosts at that. The cats can see them. We hear them and smell them, and they steal stuff. If you are out this way book a tour of the old penitentiary in Santa Fe. I’ve heard tell there are ghosts from the 1980 riot, and probably from other inmates who had died there over the years.

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        1. Sounds cool, although if I keep telling here about these places it will start cutting into my birding days ha! I can imagine how spooky that penitentiary is – we have an old insane asylum in a small town south of Peoria that creeps me out just looking at it (old limestone walls, broken windows.. I just shivered). We do plan to get over there someday, in fact, we almost went to New Mexico for this year’s trip, but Linda saw the temps on the places I wanted to go and vetoed it for Florida.. which then got canceled due to inability to reservations down there thanks to everyone flocking there. Not complaining too much as we have had a great time birding Texas once again.

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          1. You need to come to NM in the spring, summer or fall for birds. Unless you want to see a whole bunch of Sandhill cranes and Canadian geese.

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          2. Will do. I definitely have enough of those back home to get my fill – ironically I have yet to get a Canada Goose for this year’s checklist. Did manage to get the Sandhill checked while I was focused on the Whooping Cranes that they were hanging out with.

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  3. I concur with the naming of birds, us birders make it so much simpler. “Birds Name Here” is so much better. I love the name of your dog as well.
    We just left Louisiana and if you are driving that way, we found a Wildlife refuge that was full of birds and alligators. Called Lacassine National wildlife refuge. I was in bird heaven, the most birds I have ever seen in one area. I have been wanting to see something like this my entire birding career. 🙂 There are lots of different ducks that I have not found the name to yet. It is in the queue like yours. But flocks of snow geese and thousands of Ebis, the ebis were out in the farmers fields when we went for a drive. The locals say they get spoonbills there plus the Red Gnat Catcher. Those two were not there yet, might be a little early. Are any of those on your list? The park is south east of Lake Charles LA, and there is a great little park called, Lorrain Parish park, it has 8 sites there. I put a picture of it on one of my last post. 🙂

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    1. I can’t take credit for Ruger’s name – all our other Toy Poodles have been named after Egyptian and Roman Gods of the dead (gotta have a name that the other dogs in the agility ring will respect ha). His titled name has like 50 names in it with all the champion breeder names in it and then ends with Lil’ Pistol which Linda immediately translated to his call name. We spent last night in Baton Rouge and just missed seeing your comment. Sounds like Lacassine National wildlife refuge is quite the place – already added it to our must see the next time we are back down here. I must say I have not heard of a Red Gnat Catcher before. Will have to look into that one. On our way down we actually stayed in Lake Charles (owner had Covid at the time and was being careful to stay away from us thankfully). We are currently in Jackson Mississippi at one of my favorite birding locations – LeFleur’s State Park. Huge amount of birds here and a very nice nature trail. Can always count on getting Hooded Mergansers here and the have the largest Red-Headed WP populations I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for the tip on the new birding location – safe travels.

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    1. Thank you Sam. Linda is definitely tired of hearing me rant about the names when we are out and about – she agrees, just tired of hearing it ha! Brad’s suggesting is building steam, if we try hard enough we just might be able to make it happen. Definitely got some Dolphin shots in the tin (while we were taking shots of a new rather large lifer gliding over the Port Aransas canal – more to come on that). Thanks for coming by Sam, appreciate it.

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    1. Thank you Donna. Sometimes we go to way too much trouble to find a bird that is actually living in our backyard. I am always shocked when I’m looking at reference book and their region map includes my area yet I’ve never ever seen that particular bird – one of us is wrong hehehe. Appreciate you dropping in and especially for making me laugh.

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  4. Lovely photos of the warblers! ❤

    I have a bird-related question for you. A friend up North says he has cardinals all year round at his bird feeder. In February, our SW Florida cardinals appear in great numbers in our neighborhood, which is largely empty wooded lots. This seems to be the beginning of their mating season. A saw a pair of them in our yard a few days ago, though the male did not seem to be as bright red as they eventually are. I don't know where they may be spending the summer and fall. I thought maybe you could tell me. 🙂

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  5. Great, I love bird questions – let’s see what you got for me. Well, I can tell you Northern Cardinals do not migrate. They may become more active in a given month (especially around mating season), but if you are in their range (for ease, let’s say the eastern half of US), then you get to enjoy them all year long. I wasn’t sure on the molting, but did confirm they do not molt to a more subdued plumage. Males sport their bright red and females continue with their more drab coverings all year round – note juveniles are very dull grey with hints of red so you might be seeing more of them at that time. Now, here is an interesting thing – there is a bird called the Pyrrhuloxia (don’t worry, NO ONE remembers how to spell it and few people can even pronounce it). I simply refer to it as the Punky Cardinal. Much more subdued coloring with a yellow (not red/orange) bill and a more distinguishing (longer) plumage. These usually stay more southeastern, but wander from time to time. I struck out finding one this year while we were along the Texas border. Now, as a caveat to this, I was in Dauphin last year and thought their Cardinals were actually duller than ours – questioned a local birder there and he swore there was no difference and squashed my hopes there was a different species down there. The birder hypothesized there may be some food impacts much like the differing levels of pinks in Spoonbills. Hopefully that helps you out some. If that didn’t help you or you have any other questions related to birding feel free to bring them my way – if I can’t answer them, I’m sure Ron would be willing to take a crack at it as well or any of my other birder readers. Take care Cheryl.

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    1. Thank you so much, Brian. You have given me a lot to consider. I will have to step up my walks around the neighborhood and pay closer attention. I think your comment about cardinals being more active during the mating season explains a lot. During the coming months, the woods around here will be filled with cardinal calls and they will be quite visible everywhere.

      Where we used to live, we had delightful mockingbirds in our yard and in the neighborhood around us, but here, beautiful cardinals dominate. Walking quite a few streets away, I have seen a few mockingbirds.

      Thanks again for taking time to respond to my question. ❤

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      1. Glad I could help! I will say, that Cardinals will never get to the racket levels of Mockingbirds, but you will get a lot more variety of “mocked” tunes out of them. Feel free to give me any other birding questions that might come up. May not be able to answer them completely, but always willing to try (I usually learn something in the process as well).

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