Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

My typing fingers are worked to the bone, my eyes struggle to remain open and my body has become one with the office chair.  Yet, I am pleased since this post brings me to the end of the wildlife shots from the Yellowstone vacation last year.  It is slightly embarrassing to have taken this long to get this done, but we literally have thousands (yes plural) of shots from that trip.  Needless to say I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great shots Linda took – especially the water fall silks.

This last set is an interesting one in the sense your guess is as good as mine as to what these birds are.  I probably went through the field guides about 30 times trying to pin these birds down with very little success.  As with the unknown ducks, these may be shots of females that are not sufficiently described in the guides or possibly migrated out of their standard regions and thus are not usually seen there.  If I am lucky, one of my millions of readers (you believing that?) will recognize one and drop me a comment.

Fasten your seatbelts, the mystery tour is starting.  Basically all I have to go on is the silhouette of this particular bird which is very little help when trying to identify a bird.  Based on comparing the head outline and the wider fantail, my guess is an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Admittedly, the tail is a little wider than the guide specimen, but other than that it appears pretty close.  It also says they sit on the highest twigs.. well, that appears to match.

I spotted this particular bird out in the middle of a large field (and pretty far out).  I was unable to get a good clean shot of the bird mainly due to the impressive air acrobats that were being executed at the time.  Twisting, turning, diving, loops, it was was quite impressive.  It may have been attacking prey but it never came up with anything.  It was probably just showing off to a potential mate.  It really didn’t match exactly like any of the hawks in the various books beyond the tail striping.  There is a lot of white on the underwings which doesn’t fit with my decision to identify it as a Red-tailed Hawk.

You know, I am still not sure about this one.  The red-tailed doesn’t really have the striping this one has and in this shot, the profile looks a lot leaner.  None of the other specimens really have the whiteness shown under the wings.  There is a chance it is an Osprey, but it would be much darker on top.  Just a second, this is bugging me, let me check another reference…..  sigh, I just can’t tell.  I am less confident it is a red-tailed hawk now and now considering a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk or possibly an American Kestrel.    Note I asked Linda for her opinion and she decided it was a never before seen bird and to name it after me.  This is the kind of help I’m dealing with people 8^(

The next one is probably a Tree Swallow.  It’s a crappy shot, but decided to include it because it was clearly an inspiration for something.  Any guesses?  If you said our stealth wing planes you’re tracking with me.  It would be interesting to know if this is where they got the idea from … or maybe not interesting to know if they’d have to kill me after telling me.

If the hawk above was hard to decide, this one is downright impossible.  As with the hawk, I’ve scoured my resources looking for some clue that would lead me to the proper identification.  There were a number of these birds flying around the rising steam pools around Yellowstone.  This particular one would fly around for awhile and then land in the rocks for a brief rest.  I almost with with a White-throated Swift, but the guides says it never perches.  Never is such a definite word but my pictures never show one clinging to the rocks.

The Violet-green Swallow does nest in colonies on cliffs which checks with my visuals.  Clearly there is room for debate on this one.  Well, not such much debate as I’d probably cave in to any viable alternative (that matches that region).

Strangely enough, this bird exactly matched none of the blue colored birds in the books.  It clearly has blue wings, but the head and body are sporting a pretty solid grey.  It is this grey that makes me throw out the Mountain Bluebird (which is all blue) .  It also lacks any orange which rules out the Western Bluebird, the Eastern Bluebird, the Blue Grossbeak and the Lazuli Bunting.

I also know the Blue Jay and the Steller’s Jay so that left me with the Western Scrub-Jay.  In contrast, it is suppose to have a bluer head the picture being compared to shows fatter in the body.  It did say it likes to hang around campsites and picnic areas which coincides with where these pictures were taken.

Here are two pretty poor shots of a interesting bird.  It is actually the first bird other than the finch I’ve seen sporting the bright yellow markings.  It refused to sit still for a microsecond in order to get the lens focused, but for the most part you can see the yellow on the rump and the second one shows some yellow on the head.  Based on those weak observations, I have officially called this a Yellow-rump Warbler.

Apparently the female is a little duller in the head (coloring fools 8^)  so the above one is likely a female.  The fuzzy shot below is likely of a male because it is smarter.. I mean sharper colored.

Okay, it’s audience participation time.  Hit the jump to see more!

Continue reading Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

It’s There, I Just Can’t See It

Things I am thankful for at the moment:

  • Voters in Massachusetts
  • My Chiropractors (unless  he is unable to get the feeling back into my four right toes thanks to a nasty snowboard crash a couple of weeks ago)
  • Burton product managers (just upgraded my snowboard boots and bindings to the latest advancements – can’t have any more of those crashes now can we?)
  • My parents made it down to Florida before the huge storm
  • All my blog readers out there (slather on the butter)
  • And most importantly that there are 31 days in January – and I needed every one of them to get 6 posts in this month

I am going to close out this month’s set of posts with a bird that posed a challenge for me in a couple of ways.  While out on our Yellowstone vacation, we took a short hike up a trail.  While taking in the beautiful scenery, I heard an interesting bird song coming from a set of trees.  It was a rather unique sound, but the point of origin was difficult to pinpoint.  Slowly the sound was vectored in and it slowly revealed itself.  What was this sneaky bird?  Well, it was this one:

The challenge of actually seeing this bird was matched by the difficulties in actually identifying it in my multiple bird books.  Turns out there are at least 6 variations of this Junco with varying coloring contrasts.  Some have a darker head, some have a larger brown spot on their back.  To be honest, at the time it looked like a shrunken robin without the bright orange belly.  Based on the picture above, it is obvious he had no trouble locating me.

This shot gives a better perspective of the side and belly feathers.  The belly t is a dull orange which lead to the robin reference.  From a photo perspective, I do like how these close up shots came out.  The coloring of the bird coordinated well with the bark of the back trees and the wisps of greenery give a nice depth perspective.  Here is another one that I probably like the best of all of them.  To his credit, even though I was moving around to get different angles he did not get concerned enough to seek safety in the deeper brush.

I hate the fact I have to reduce and compress the images for this website.  The full size raws look significantly better than the smaller versions used for the blog posts.  I might actually look into leveraging a photo service website to use as a repository for the larger images.  That way I could provide links to the full versions if you wanted to see those.

Unlike our friend the Mountain Bluebird the Junco blends in quite nicely with their habitat.  Based on the various pictures of the 6+ variations they all look like the colorings would hide it nicely among the limbs and brush common in the forest.  To demonstrate this, here are a couple of examples consisting of full scenes (reduced for space).  Try your hand at Where’s Waldo.

Now that you know what you are looking for it makes it a tad easier compared my struggle trying pinpoint the source of the chirp.  In case you did have some problems, here is a zoom of it:

I pulled a slight switcharoo on you.  This is actually one of the other variations that has a slightly lighter brown patch on the back.  How about another try:

It’s there, trust me.

Let’s hope they don’t figure out how to use that stealth trait against us. They would probably team up with the Ravens and wreak considerable havoc.  I recommend not making them angry!

Whew, that was a close one.  Wiping the sweat from my brow, I close out the 6th and final post of the month.

Let’s Hope His Enemy is Color Blind

Well, first off I would like to wish my Nephew a Happy Birthday!  This is a also a veiled reminder to my other brother that it is his Nephew’s birthday to.. hint.. hint.. I know he has been working a lot lately and it might have slipped his mind.

Well, I told it was going to be  a quick break.  We’ve gone to the birds again this particular post.  This particular picture caught me by surprise while reviewing all the pictures from the trip.  Often times I am snapping so many shots that I do not have a chance to go back and review them until later.  It definitely could be sharper but I am guessing I was fighting the limbs for focus control causing a less than tack sharp shot.  But with that said, this was a color photo that I only touched up a little bit to bring out the bird a little better.

This shot was actually taken in Yellowstone National Park at the Mammoth Hot Spring area.  I actually really like the gray of the dead tree on the backdrop of the gray mud and rock formed from the hot springs.  In stark contrast to this subdued setting is a beautiful bird called a Mountain Bluebird.  The full coloring indicates it is a male.  One thing for sure, if it is going to stay in this particular area, it better have color blind enemies or life is going to be pretty hectic for the little guy.  This is clearly one of those cases where evolution/adaptation is running a tad behind or it could just be passing through on a little site-seeing tour.  Or possibly trying to warm up a little since there was actually snow on the ground in other parts of the park while we were there.

Here is a slightly zoomed picture.

Again, not the sharpest on the actual bird itself, but I still like the contrast (and no, it was not gray-scaled).  The full 12M picture actually details the slight browns in the trunk which are still there if you look really close.  If I had known how interesting this was going to turn out I would have spent some time getting the bird sharpened up or minimally got the tripod out to prevent any hand holding artifacts.  Oh well, a lesson learned to take a quick look at the results while out on the shoot instead of waiting till later.  Although, to be honest, I usually when out on bird shoots I usually snap a few off as soon as I spot the bird regardless of how far away or the position in.  Once I have at least one shot of it, I begin the work of moving in to get the better shot.  This way I at least have something to prove the checkmark that goes into my bird book.

AAACCKK, it is already the 28th and I only have 4 posts including this one.  Maybe have to consider less Dragon Age and more Posting for the next few days.  Oh well, off to the P90X Ab RipperX – crunchy crunchy!