Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Incursion Of Boobies..."Never Tell Me The Odds"...The Goldmine of Melodrama


No, a small orange butterfly did not land on the tip of the bill of this White-breasted Nuthatch...the 'hatch is hoarding grubs in its bill, probably for some nuthatchlets in a nearby tree cavity. Laguna Campground, Laguna Mountains, CA.

Making booby jokes never gets old. We don't have many tits here in the states, so booby jokes prevail. Part of the title of this blog post comes from Uberblogger Nate Swick, who writes for 10,000 Birds, the ABA blog, and his very own Drinking Bird. How he has the time to do all this writing and research, have a real job (allegedly), and have a family is a mystery to me.

My field season has officially peaked folks. The Least Terns I've been monitoring are now officially doing horribly, and my work days will only be getting shorter as the weeks progress. It's pretty depressing. A lot of chicks are hatching, but only a tiny fraction are surviving, at least at the site I spend most of my time at. The Snowy Plovers seem to be doing a bit better at least...I got to band 5 adorable little plover chicklets yesterday.


This Steller's Jay was getting in on the maggot action as well. It was literally raining maggots from the trees, I've never experienced anything like it. Laguna Campground.

Otherwise, my status as Number 7 in the Nation continues to inspire people, birders and nonbirders alike. Some people could really use some of the education I can provide. To wit (whit?):

Last week, a singing Alder Flycatcher was reported in Northern California, and it was noted that its song was recorded. This is an exceptionally rare bird here, and nothing seals the deal of this staggering rarity like a recording of its song. Shortly afterward, it was decided that bird was actually an Eastern Wood-Pewee, which is fine, because this species resides on the same pleateau of crippling rarity here in the west. THEN, someone who actually knew what they were doing looked at the bird, and it was a fucking Eastern Phoebe...still a good bird here, but not a bird that would cause blood to boil (like the Curlew Sandpiper I saw on Sunday).

HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? The misidentifications, the communication breakdowns...I feel sorry for anyone who went out of their way to look for this thing. No, I'm not shit-talking inexperienced birders (not that I can remember what that's like, hey-oh!), I'm just wondering how this phoebe was presented to the birding community on the duel delicious platters of Empidonax alnorum and Contpus virens...apparently sound recordings of this bird do exist, but as far as I can they are not privy to the birding masses. Although I have seen and heard  Alder Flycatcher all of once, I have run into the other species of this disastrous train wreck many a time, and I can tell you they do NOT sound alike.


It's an Alder Flycatcher...it's an Eastern Wood-Pewee...oops, no, its a Steller's Jay.

Perhaps the birding community is suffering...suffering from AN INCURSION OF BOOBIES!

No I'm just joking about that, I just had to say it. Anyways, to continue...Alder Flys and Eastern Wood-Pewees do look somewhat alike, yes...but NEITHER look like an Eastern Phoebe. All of these species are in different genera, for Christ's sake. A clusterfuck for the ages....only someone like C3P0 could calculate the odds of this chain of events unfolding at a relatively unknown fish hatchery in northern California...

Right. Speaking of clusterfucks and a big waste of time, I highly recommend you go check out the death of a cyber birding community in Maryland.......something like the Human Birdwatcher Project ("Birders are people too!") could probably do years of research on the goldmine of melodramatic and straight up hateful messages on there. The Drinking Bird has already linked to it, but I think this "discussion" really is funny to look at...check it out here!


Lark Sparrow. It has a face anyone can love. Laguna Campground.


California Ground-Squirrel...right? Laguna Campground.


This Western Fence Lizard is doing a stand up job (literally) at defending his piece of fence. Look at the height of that push up! Look at the hanging blue throat flap! I love it.


Lesser Goldfinch. They seem more dignified when not ravenously attacking a bird feeder. Old Mission Dam, San Diego, CA.


White-tailed Kite in regrettable light. I do like the affect it has on it the different shades of darkness coming through it's primaries and secondaries...it took me a while to realize/appreciate that. Old Mission Dam.


Forster's Tern. Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, Imperial Beach, CA.


Marbled Godwits, a couple Whimbrels and a Willet. One of the Coronado Islands (Mexico) lurks/looms invitingly in the background. As you may be aware...there are boobies there. Tijuana Slough.


Pied-billed Grebe. It was probably trying to catch something with more fins or legs, not flossing with algae. Old Mission Dam.



Ok, I know some of you came here expecting to see some boobies, so here is a giant, white booby for you. Judging from the horror stories I've heard from other researchers, you do not want these boobies in your face though. This vicious Masked Booby was at Midway Atoll.


26 comments:

  1. Awesome post! All kinds of birder drama. Fun stuff.

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    1. Birder drama is beautiful when viewed from afar, up close, its quite ugly.

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  2. Ugh people that make Id mistakes are the worst! I have to get up every day and stare that loser down in the mirror. That being said, I guess I feel better that there are people out there, with internet access and telephone and jean pants and stuff, who can still confuse Alder Flycatchers with Eastern Phoebes.

    On a related note, someone submitted a bunch of photos to the eBird rarity Flickr account last week. The sightings came from upstate New York, and the prodigy had some pretty wonderful mis-IDs, calling juvenile RWBBs, Swamp Sparrows, and Song Sparrows all Vesper Sparrows. I can't remember the others but it was fun. Alas, the photos have since been taken down.

    That Kite photos is pretty cool. The shadows and lighting in the feathers is neat, and I like how the tail looks like a clothes pin.

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    1. Give it a few years Laurence, and the depths of this bungling treachery (with multiple guilty observers, mind you) will be clearer.

      Ebird is a great place to watch misidentifications! So is the bird photo id group on facebook...mostly entertaining and sometimes educational.

      Yeah I thought the tail did look a bit strange too, but maybe Im not used to kites lurking directly overhead.

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  3. Interesting that you are losing least tern chicks. I don't know statistically how ours are doing in central Florida but there is success with them breeding on a floating raft. Usually they nest on rooftops. Three years ago rafts were put in a lagoon at Fort Desoto and this year they are breeding. News from around the country have been picking up the story. See attached video about the rafts http://www.9news.com/news/sidetracks/272220/337/Bird-rafts-a-success-at-Fort-De-Soto

    Cool shots. Yes, I love the booby. Never seen a real one in person.

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    1. It was even worse today! Crows and ravens wiped out over 200 nests! Insanity...maybe they need a floating raft...

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  4. Correct on the Cal Ground Squirrel, Spermophilus beecheyi. The western fence lizards were some what recently split so you are actually looking at a different subspecies than in the yay-area. Sceloporus occidentalis longipes THE Great Basin Fence Lizard.

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    1. Shit, they got split? Thanks...I must learn more now.

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    2. At least it wasn't a S. magister. Their taxonomy is all kinds of F'd up right now and has escalated the civil between Lee Grismer and Ted Papenfuss, which from afar can actually be quite entertaining.

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  5. Thanks for your funny post... it made me laugh and I needed that today.

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  6. Isn't San Diego to Irongate Dam just about one of the longest chases one can make in California? I was considering the chase myself as singing vagrant empids are awesome, like a quiz with the answers written in! Just nabbed a Least Fly "singing" away up on the Smith River in Del Norte myself. Chased it on the nwcalbird posting by local birders up there. So we shouldn't ignore such reports, perhaps wait a day for the dust to settle. Wait a day I hear you say - oh yes that's when they fly away! So it's chase at your own peril I guess.

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    1. Yes, San Diego to Irongate must be a long, long way...

      Both my only Least Flycatchers for the state were in Humboldt!

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  7. ...and that is why if I ever think I have found a singing Alder Flycatcher I would first send all evidence to you to analyze before even making a peep in public...

    I want to hear more about these raining maggots...

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    1. If you find an Alder, I won't be the only one calling you Flycatcher Jen.

      Maggot rain. Not much else to say. They were numerous, but small. Gross, but not to point of being disturbing.

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  8. Another great post. Always enjoyable to stop by and check out the blog.

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    1. Thanks a lot Larry...chime (or chip? get it?) in anytime.

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  9. I've long thought of getting into the bird misidentification game. Fuck, I mean, I own a thousand dollar pair of Nokia optics, that qualifies me to horribly dick up a bird sighting right? My sibleys is on my dash board always, the Brit of Nay can verrify the sighting of it.

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    1. Nokia. The cell phone company? Are you misidentifying your binoculars?

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    2. A good way to start misidentifying birds is to ignore the range maps in field guides. If you sharpie those all out you will be well on your way.

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    3. Caught me, Nikon. I should have texted that comment while driving, like I am now, so I could have glanced over to their case.

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  12. The secret is training your child to go to bed early and dnot watching TV. Also, too, accepting that the quality of your writing is going to degrade somewhat...

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    1. Hmmm, I better just stick to 2 blogs then.

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