Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Prognosis Negative (24-29Sep2015)

I might as well tell you all that I have limited time on this planet.  I have been diagnosed by Dr. T (not a proper medical doctor but I think he has a PhD) as having a terminal case of Rarophyllia.  Don't bother looking it up, it is not in the literature.  It is a hidden disease that lasts a lifetime.  Rarophyllia causes the afflicted to see rarities everywhere.  My case has a negative prognosis, but I am happy to say it is not as bad as some unnamed others.  In the recent past we have had some fellow North Carolinians afflicted by such a bad case that they have completely fabricated birds in order to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for rarities.  I hope my particular case never causes me to crash so hard that I have to resort to finding my fix in other communities such as Lepidoptera or god forbid start hanging out with the Herp community (no offense to you snake and lizard seekers, my son is right there with you).

Exhibit A

When I saw this hummer next to my feeder with a red central throat patch, I immediately thought female Anna's Hummingbird.  After consultation with my Rarophyllia support group, I found that sub-adult male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds can frequently have the central throat spot and also the white edges on tails.

Exhibit B

During one of the storms we had this week, I took a trip on the Spit at Ft. Fisher.  In amongst a group of shore birds was this strange looking bird.  Sometimes I can combat the urge to place a bird into a rare category by looking at my Sibley's guide.  This time I was able to figure out this Red Knot just looked weird because it was trying to be aerodynamic to fight the wind.

This dowitcher did not fall prey to my disease, I had him pegged.

Exhibit C

The Plover on the right was different than the rest.  It was clearly not a breeding male, but it did have a darker belly than the rest.  It looked smaller too.  I know BB Plovers are frequently misplaced by persons with my disease, so I was especially wary.  American Golden Plovers can have darker bellies, but this bird did not have a particularly smaller bill and the defined supercilium and cap was missing.

Even someone with a very bad case of this disease cannot deny this bird has the black axillaries of a BB Plover.

If I were in Texas, I might have tried to change this bird. Luckily we don't have this problem in NC.  This Belted Kingfisher was seen at Lake Waccamaw, NC.

Exhibit D

This bird was trying to take advantage of my affliction and make me think it was a Nashville Warbler.

Then just as I was rejoicing it turned to a profile view and laughed at me.  It was in a flock of 3 other Magnolia Warblers and they had a good laugh at my expense.

Unmistakable tail pattern with wing bars make this a Magnolia Warbler just to name a couple field marks.

Exhibit E

Olive-sided Flycatcher!!!  That was the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw this heavily  "vested" bird at Ft Fisher this week.  And no I don't mean he had a good 401k plan. I mean that he has a dark shadow on both sides of the breast giving the appearance of a vest.   Unfortunately this bird left quickly so to be honest my rarophyllic brain is still trying to make this an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Seeing that my affliction is probably clouding my judgement, can one of my faithful readers tell me this is simply a dark Pewee? Is the bill too small for an OSFC?

I knew better than to do anything with this bird.  If  the black plumage on a male with breeding plumage remaining does not extend to the vent, even my disease addled brain will not dare to call this anything other than a Black-bellied Plover.

Someone with my disease can spend hours on a flock of peeps.  This flock at Ft Fisher was attacked by a Peregrine Falcon but unfortunately in my impaired condition I was not fast enough to capture the attack.  Darn.... I needed Peregrine for my year list!

Surely there was an Eurasian Oystercatcher mixed in here? Sadly there was not.

There was more Caspian Terns than Royals!

Exhibit F

Whats this?? A large black-backed gull with yellow legs?  That back is much darker than a Lesser Black-backed Gull and why is it's head so clean.  A LBBG should have a dirty head this time of year!

He looks just as big as this Herring Gull to the right and boy that back is dark!! Could it be a Kelp Gull?

Dr. T has been helpful in developing coping mechanisms to combat my condition.  One such mechanism is to focus on the species that the bird is most likely to be and then check off the field marks rather than looking for the field marks of the rarity.

This closer look in different light shows a much grayer back, a yellowish eye (not gray-yellow), some head streaking and if you look very closely, the gape (innermost corner of bill) is reddish and not yellow like a proper Kelp Gull.

Also the primary projection was quite pronounced (long winged).  Thank you Dr. T!!! Using your skills, I am learning to live with this disease.

The more I looked at this bird the more I saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I will never be cured, but maybe I can use my support system and 12 step program (Dr. T's patented program designed to combat the debilitating effects of Rarophyllia) to lead a somewhat normal life.

Ok I am starting to tire of this lark (no pun intended) so I will just tell you these are Knots and peeps.

This Avocet is all American.  I didn't even have to check it's birth certificate.

I could not choose the best pic, so here is a few more. I love when a bird let's me into it's world and shows no concern.

Don't even suggest this is a Common-ringed Plover, I wasn't even thinking it.  Semi-palmated Plover.

And you thought the Northern Lights did not come to Wilmington.  Just kidding, its a rainbow over Zeke's Island.

Another Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I had 3 on the Spit the other day.  What is this world coming to when these are becoming common.

Turn away of you don't want to see a horrible pic.  It was taken through my office window.

I was surprised to see this Painted Bunting on my feeder in the middle of a conference call.  I almost had to hang up on my client, luckily I didn't.  He is still coming to the feeder today.

Airlie has a bunch of cool sculptures now.  I am glad they are using my membership dues for something constructive instead of paying a bunch of people to drive around with ATVs 24 seven.

Another Magnolia Warbler!  WTF, I didn't see one all last year in Wilmington, now I have to push them aside to find something else.

A male Redstart is a good bird.

Yellow-crowned NH

Steel-plated Woodstar

Giant Asian Mantis - this species eats Steel-plated Woodstars

This Bluebird is not a Western Bluebird.

EMPID!! Oh I can go so many places with such a bird. No real eye-ring to speak of, and it just did not have the jizz of a Pewee.

Luckily this bird was humoring me and not going anywhere.  I had it in multiple snags in different positions and light.

The bill was kind of bi-colored like a Least Flycatcher but this bird did not look like a Least.  The primary projection was too long for a Least but not long enough for most of the other species (Acadian).

In addition it's tail was straight edged and relatively thick.

One thing it did not do was fly lower so I could get a proper look from above.

Ok, last thing you want to do is trust someone with Rarophyllia, but I swear my intuition was saying Willow Flycatcher.  I could have sworn I heard the Wit calls, but my ears are not very reliable. What do you think dear readers?  Willow Flycatchers are never reported in Wilmington, but I am not sure why because there are plenty of reports in coastal SC.

Short to Moderate Primary projection?  To me the bill is too large for Least, the projection is too short for Acadian or Pewee.

This morning early I headed to Carolina Beach SP and right when I pulled in was treated to 6 Common Nighthawks feeding above the visitor's center.  If anyone has tried photographing swallows or swifts in flight, they will know my frustration.  With actively feeding Nighthawks, they fly very erratically and it is very difficult to photograph them despite their ample size.  I was happy to come away with one decent shot.

Don't worry I am over it, I did not even try to make this a Lesser Nighthawk or even an Antillean Nighthawk.

This peep was trying to convince me it was a Stint, but I told him I with Dr. T's help I would not be tricked.

Great times.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Buff-bellied Hummingbirds are the Bomb! (23Sep2015)

A report of the second Buff-bellied Hummingbird ever reported in NC was too much of an enticement to not go on the chase.  So after wrapping up some stuff for work, I managed to get on the road.  The great thing about my job is I can do 95% of my job while on the move, TCs and emails (have to stop driving for those but I can do them from anywhere).

This pic is from Basin trail the previous day.  Lots of egrets.

Once we got to the Hummingbird stakeout, it did not take long....

This Ruby-throated HB showed first.

Then this bad boy showed up.  Buff-bellied HB - rufous tail, red bill, green gorget and nape and of course, buff belly.

I hate feeder shots, but the most crisp shots were on the feeder.

Based on patchy gorget and breast, I think this is an immature bird. Hard to tell because the species is not especially sexually dimorphic. The male usually has a brighter bill and gorget.

He/she appeared to be molting one or two wing feathers on each side.

Thanks to the Connors for opening up their backyard to strangers!

On the way home, we tried for the Buff-breasted at Ellerbe Creek thinking that would be a NC first to get a Buff-bellied and Buff-breasted on the same day.

There was plenty Pectorals, but no Buff-breasted.

This Pectoral was nicknamed El Gordo.

We left once some hunters started shooting the place up.  It appears they were targeting a flock of BW Teal but the birds were all mixed up so I would not be surprised if they killed some sandpipers.  Also, I don't even think it is duck season, so WTF?   We put bins on the hunters and I don't think they liked that and were glaring at us so we hightailed it out of there.

Great times followed by not so great times.  But without the not so great, the great would have no perspective.