Sunday, November 30, 2008

Latin quiz answers

Below are the answers to last week's Latin trivia quiz. Hope those that didn't comment guessed as well.
I have color coded the answers: 
#10 and letter "I" do not match. 

Quiz 1.
Below are 10 names. Each in Latin and in English. Match the Latin name to the common name.
Here's the catch, 2 of the names don't have a match. Have Fun!

1. Charadrius alexandrinus (C)        A. White-rumped Sandpiper

2. Larus dominicanus (F)                B. Yellow-rumped Warbler

3. Columbina passerina (E)            C. Snowy Plover

4. Calidris fuscicollis (A)                  D. Boreal Owl

5. Dendroica coronata (B)              E. Common Ground-Dove

6. Aegolius funereus (D)                 F. Kelp Gull

7. Myiarchus crinitus (H)                G. Marsh Wren

8. Cistothorus palustris  (G)          H. Great-crested Flycatcher

9. Peucedramus taeniatus (J)        I. Botteri's Sparrow

10. Nyctidromus albicollis        J. Olive Warbler

For quiz 2, I have put the letter next to the number:

Quiz 2.
Here are ten Common names. Below them is the literal English translation of their Latin name. Match the translation to the common name.

Common names:
1. Gyrfalcon (H)

2. Common Redpoll (J)

3. Red-throated Loon (A)

4. Northern Gannet (B)

5. White-necked Petrel (G)

6. Violet-green Swallow (C)

7. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (F)

8. Tennesee Warbler (E)

9. Harris's Sparrow (D)

10. Bobolink (I)

Literal Latin name translations:
A. "The seabird who is covered with stars"

B. "The stupid one of Bass Rock"

C. "The swift mover who resembles the sea in color"

D. "The banded thrush who is always full of complaints"

E. "The foreign worm-eater"

F. "The absolute ruler who possesses scissors"

G. "The White-collared Wing runner"

H. "The Rustic falcon of the farm"

I. "The Long-clawed Rice eater"

J. "The Goldfinch of Flame"

Thanks to everyone who posted an answer.  I'll post a new latin quiz sometime in the next few weeks.  I might also post a bird trivia quiz. 

Happy Birding! 

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Siskin photos

Here's some photos of yesterday's Pine Siskins: 

I also came across this article. It was posted on Mike McDowell's bird digiscoping blog. 
Very interesting. I kind of wonder how many species I lose in the background noise. 

Happy Birding! 

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pine Siskins

I had four Pine Siskins at me feeder this morning!  That's the first time this season that I've had them at my feeder. Hopefully they'll stay and maybe they're bring more friends, and their cousins! The Redpolls! 

I'll post pics tomorrow sometime. 

Happy Birding! 

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Just a quick question for all my readers out there: 

Of all the gulls in North America, which species do you think is THE #1 most difficult to accurately ID? 

Post your answer in the comments section. 

It's Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Herring Gull vs Iceland Gull vs Thayer's Gull.

Adult breeding plumage Herring Gull

3rd cycle Herring Gull

3rd cycle Ring-billed Gull

Adult breeding plumage Ring-billed Gull

Herring or Thayer's? 

Gulls. Herring and Ring-billed are pretty simple.  They're your everyday "seagull". 
But what about the other gulls? Well, Great Black-backed is fairly easy. It's much bigger than anything else.  Adult Lesser Black-backed is also fairly simple. It's darker backed than the surrounding Herring Gulls and is bigger than the Ring-bills.  What if you added Slaty-backed or Kelp Gull? again, they are much much darker mantled than most of the other gulls you'll see around here. Slaty-backed is dark dark black and Kelp is even darker. 
Then what happens if you added Glaucous, Glaucous-winged and Iceland you say. Same thing except backwards.  GLGU, GWGU and ICGU are all much lighter in color than Ring-billed or Herring. Neither do they have black primaries which makes ID all the easier. 

But what about the tricky ones.  Let's try Thayer's Gull.  Thayer's Gulls are identical to Herring Gulls in every way, except for three small differences.  Adult Thayer's Gulls have dark eyes, no black on the underside of the primaries, and brighter, richer pink legs. 

How many times have you picked through a huge flock of gulls at a dump while looking for a Thayer's Gull?  Has someone reported a Thayer's minutes ago only for you to miss it?  Why is this? Imagine that the other birder has exactly the same skill level you do. He picks out the Thayer's. You can't. Why? 

Because if you take into account the variations in plumage and regional plumage variation in both species, you will find that the two species are impossible to tell apart with any certainty. 

Now, add a dark Iceland Gull and a light Thayer's Gull. Once again, they are practically impossible to tell apart.  
Now think of all the things that to you, constitute a Thayer's Gull. 
Bright pink legs? Dark eye? Lack of black on the underside of the primaries? Amount of white on the "windows"? 
Then think of all the variations in gull plumage that you've ever seen. Think of all the reports of aberrant gulls and weird looking gulls and darker-backed Herring Gulls, Herring Gulls with a minimal amount of black on the underwing tips......  
Taking all that into account, are the field marks that you use to ID a Thayer's Gull really sufficient to actually confidently ID a Thayer's Gull?  

I didn't think so.  

Ask yourself, do we even know much about Thayer's Gulls?  Look at all the other Gulls in North America and then compare to Thayer's.  Compared to other gulls, we have very little idea about where Thayer's nest, how they nest, what the incubation period is, what the fledging period is, or even the exact time of year they start nesting.  Why is this? Surely not because they nest in remote areas.   
Here and here you can read what little we know about these birds. 

You can probably see where this is heading.  Ok, I'll get to the point. 


Should it?  But even if we lump it, it doesn't completely solve the ID problem.  
If it should be lumped, it would be lumped with ICELAND GULL.  This doesn't help us at all. 
Now, instead of trying to ID Thayer's vs Iceland, we'll be trying to ID the Thayer's subspecies of Iceland Gull from Herring (which by the way, is considerably harder). 
That leaves us back at square one.  

So then what about Iceland?  Should Iceland be considered a full species?  Most people would reply yes.  Iceland Gull is considerably easier to ID. Most Icelands are missing the black primaries of Ring-billed and Herring. 
So leave Iceland alone. 

Let's try lumping another two species. THAYER'S AND HERRING. That would solve all our ID problems.  Larus argentatus thayerii would be much easier on us birders than Larus glaucoides thayerii. 

Why not? it's easy, it's simple.  The two species are identical anyway so why try to ID a bird that you can't ID with any certainty? 

Let's hear your thoughts on the subject.  Anyone?  Post your thoughts in the comments section.

You can vote your answer in the polls just to the right of this post. 

Monday, November 24, 2008


So this morning, I woke up to 2 inches of snow on the ground. 

The new snow was sticking to everything so it was really pretty outside. 

I love it right after a new snow when everything is white! 

The birds were a bit chilly this morning. 

It had mostly melted by the middle of the afternoon.  I could go for another 100+ inches this winter!  I actually was able to ski down the hill behind my house for the first time ever last year! Usually there's not enough snow to cover all the underbrush so that your skis don't get caught in it. Last year, there was! Let's hope the same for this year! 

Til next time, 
Happy Birding! 

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Get ready, it's Latin trivia time!

Just how well do you know the Latin names of birds?  You're going to find out. 
Today I have 2 separate quizzes designed to test your knowledge of Latin names.  

Post your answers in the comments section. Good Luck!

Quiz 1.
Below are 10 names. Each in Latin and in English. Match the Latin name to the common name. 
Here's the catch, 2 of the names don't have a match.  Have Fun! 

1. Charadrius alexandrinus          A. White-rumped Sandpiper

2. Larus dominicanus                   B. Yellow-rumped Warbler

3. Columbina passerina                C. Snowy Plover

4. Calidris fuscicollis                     D. Boreal Owl

5. Dendroica coronata                   E. Common Ground-Dove

6. Aegolius funereus                      F. Kelp Gull

7. Myiarchus crinitus                     G. Marsh Wren

8. Cistothorus palustris                H. Great-crested Flycatcher

9. Peucedramus taeniatus             I. Botteri's Sparrow

10. Nyctidromus albicollis            J. Olive Warbler                    

Quiz 2. 
Here are ten Common names. Below them is the literal English translation of their Latin name. Match the translation to the common name. 

Common names:
1. Gyrfalcon

2. Common Redpoll

3. Red-throated Loon

4. Northern Gannet

5. White-necked Petrel

6. Violet-green Swallow

7. Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

8. Tennesee Warbler

9. Harris's Sparrow

10. Bobolink

Literal Latin name translations:
A. "The seabird who is covered with stars"

B. "The stupid one of Bass Rock" 

C. "The swift mover who resembles the sea in color" 

D. "The banded thrush who is always full of complaints" 

E. "The foreign worm-eater" 

F. "The absolute ruler who possesses scissors" 

G. "The White-collared Wing runner"

H. "The Rustic falcon of the farm"

I. "The Long-clawed Rice eater" 

J. "The Goldfinch of Flame" 

Hope you have fun and Good luck! I'll post the answer in about a week. 

Today's Blog of the Day is: 
Why? Refer to one of his posts here

Happy Birding! 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Twitching" the Rufous Hummer

Yep, that's him. That's Petey, the Rufous Hummingbird. He showed up at a feeder near Madison about a week ago. Today, I finally got to go down and see him. 

I put my camera on my tripod and attached a flash to brighten things up.  As it was, I was shooting at ISO 800-1000. 

One of the problems with using a flash is that it sometimes reflects in the subject's eyes. 

Usually though, the angle and/or distance is such that it doesn't affect the subject negatively. 

I hope Petey pulls through ok. He must be using a warm air vent of some kind at night. 
He looked pretty cold this morning though. 

More of my photos of Petey can be found here

Today's Blog of the Day is:
The blogger is Daniel Edelstein from the Oakland area of California. 
Dan is a Biologist, Ecologist and Environmental scientist. He has a Masters degree from UW-Stevens Point and a Bachelors' from Marquette university.  You can read more about him here

Happy Birding!

Friday, November 21, 2008

WI river bottom

Today, I puttered around near Spring Green in the WI river bottoms.  I quickly bagged a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Cemetery on County JJ. I thought that was going to be the best bird of the day until a stop at Arena boat landing saw my FOS Snow Buntings.   Then, I got lucky. As I cruised down Helena Rd, heading back towards the river, I came to the Kraemer Inc quarry.  A quick look at the water proved that there were no ducks around but as I turned to leave, I spotted my FOS. N SHRIKE perched at the top of a small pine overlooking an open field.  

After I crossed the river, I checked out the pine stands around Bakken's Pond. No finches, but I did bag a Great Blue Heron and 8 Bald Eagles.  

Otherwise, it was pretty quiet and pretty cold.  I think the high today just barely topped 22 degrees with a windchill of around 10. 

Tomorrow, hopefully I'll have some photos and a post about a special bird. 

Oh yea, today's Blog of the Day is:
It's run by Amy Hooper from Orange County CA. She's the editor of Wild Bird magazine. 

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Birds, Bins and Birders

Are you buying your first binoculars? your second maybe? or your tenth?  No matter what, have you always had enough information about your binocs? Have you always been sure that the ones you bought are the ones you really need? 

Today, I have another resource to help you decide.  The Binocular site is the all in one information center about Binoculars. whether you want them for birding or hunting, large or small, Steiner or Leica, they have all you need to make a purchase.  

So you're new to the birding world, you just got your first pair of binocs, you want to go birding. You vaguely remember some birding spot that has an obscure name that someone told you is one of the top birding spots in the USA. Can't remember where it is or what the name is?  The Binocular site has the answer again.  This page is for you! Whether it's Bosque Del Apache, St Mark's NWR, Bentsen-Rio Grande SP, Bombay Hook, Salton sea, Madera Canyon, you'll find it there. 

So you have your Binocs, you know where to go, but you can't quite ID that little shorebird with your bins cause it's too far away. You need a spotting scope. Once again, The Binocular site comes to your rescue

Now, do you need a place to buy your scope and Binocs? couldn't find a good price online?  
Check out Eagle Optics.  They not only have the best prices, but they have the best service. 

You've had your optics for a year or two. Suddenly an accidental bump knocks out a lens, or maybe you dropped them in the water, most optics warranties will cover this. 
But what if you've had your optics for 30+ years. They've served you well and they're your favorite binocs and one day a lens goes out. Normal warranties don't cover this. Eagle Optics does! If you bought them at Eagle Optics,  not only will they fix your optics but, many times, they will do it free of charge!  Who else out there does this?  Not many if any. 

Today's Blog of the Day is:
The Bird Digiscoping Blog. The blogger is, who else, Mike McDowell. 
Mike is a birder and is a nationally (if not internationally) known digiscoper. 
Do you have a question about digiscoping? Ask Mike! 
So what is digiscoping you say? Just holding your digital Point and shoot (or sometimes DSLR) up to the lens of your spotting scope.  It's effectively the same as putting a 1000-1500mm lens on your DSLR camera for less than half the cost. 

Happy Birding! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another mega-rarity in the USA!!

So, this came to me yesterday and I saw the photos this morning. By this afternoon, it was confirmed.  The famous Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico is now playing host to, what else, a bird! But not just any bird. This is the first species of it's FAMILY to turn up anywhere in the USA.  So what is this bird? If you've been keeping track, you know by now. 
It's Heliornis Fulica. The SUNGREBE.  
This bird is approx 1000 Miles away from the nearest population of these birds. 

Here's what Wikipedia has to say. 

The AZ/NM birdlist has been buzzing with the excitement. 

Here it is on the ABA Bulletin 

Here's a little more about Sungrebes

What? photos you say? ok, Here is THE bird. Here it is again. 

Ok, let's see what David Sibley has to say on the subject.


Sunbitterns yes, Sungrebe NO!  

Here is what Texbirds has to say: and here, and here, and finally here

Crazy! If this bird is accepted, it would be the 3rd ABA 1st area record just this year! 

Makes you wonder how many birds we miss
Here and here is David Sibley's take on the subject. 

Here is another blogger's point of view. 

Ok, I know, I've just given you all your summer reading for next summer but, do check out the photos. This is one cool bird! 

Anyone have $158? (the current amount for a plane ticket to NM if I left on Fri... lol) 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Loony days

After a Pacific Loon was found on Lake Mendota in Madison yesterday and refound today, I decided I needed to try for it.  I had found a similar looking bird this past Sat when I was checking the lakes around Madison and wanted to make certain of my ID. 

This is what the lake mostly looked like.

There were several large rafts of Bufflehead present along with Canada Geese and Mallards. 
I saw 8 Loons. All Common. I did have one candidate for Pacific, but it was so far out on the lake and there was so much distortion from heat waves, that the bird was unidentifiable to species. The GISS looked good for PALO though. 

I still think the Loon I saw on Sat on Lake Monona could have been a Pacific. 

Today's Blog of the Day:
The blogger is Bill Mueller. He's an ornithologist and writer from Milwaukee WI. 
His latest post is about fluctuations in Redpoll populations

Monday, November 17, 2008

more snow

We received a little more snow today. 

Here's what it looked like

Here's what it looked like 15 mins later

Hopefully we'll get more soon. I'm ready for another 100+ inches this winter.

Today's Blog of the day is:
Brdpics This blog is run by Bird Photographer Bill Schmoker from the great state of Colorado. 
His pictures turn up in various publications including Birding Magazine and Birdwatchers Digest.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saw "what" Owl?

This Owl of course.  I photographed this Saw-whet Owl back in Oct when I went up to the Linwood Springs research station for an NRF field trip. We learned all about the banding operation they have and all about Saw-whets.  They are soo cute! ;) 

Today's Blog of the Day is:
Jeff Fischer is the blogger. He lives in St Paul MN and is a good birder and blogger. 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lake Monona today

Today, I checked a few spots around Lake Monona in Madison.  Present were:
several thousand Coots in various rafts, many Gadwall, Good numbers of Pied-billed Grebes, a few flocks of Gulls. All mixed Ring-billed and Herring.  Two Loons on the lake. One Common and one probably Common. 

Yes, that's California coastline. 

These are a couple pics I took while out in Cali visiting the owner of: 

Today's Blog of the Day:
OC Birding. This blog belongs to my friend Neil Gilbert. Neil is a young birder like myself. 
He's originally from Michigan but moved to Orange County CA last year where he started a blog about his adventures in Southern CA. He was also on my second World Series of birding team.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Birding and a few unexpected surprises.

Despite the rather chilly weather, I spent all day today out birding.  I found a total of 28 species (unless I go back out to look for a Barred Owl) and a couple species I didn't expect at this time of year.  

Besides most of the usual birds, I found a lingering White-throated Sparrow, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a single Song Sparrow.   

Here's a pic of the Song Sparrow:

And here's a Junco that posed long enough for a picture: 

Today's blog of the day is:
600 birds. This blog belongs to Ben Lizdas, the sales manager of Eagle Optics. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

'Snow Dream

Snow. What a wonderful miracle that we have it. Somehow, the liquid water vaporized in the clouds, freezes and falls as beautiful crystals.  When there's enough of it, we get to go skiing! 

Last year, we received over 100" of snow. That was a record amount for this area. 
hopefully this year will be just as good.  There's no snow yet (it's currently raining outside) but the snow will come eventually, and I can't wait!

In the meantime, here's a video of all the things you should NOT DO while skiing because I guarantee it will ruin your day:

P.S. The first clip is my favorite. 

Bird Wing photos

A recent post on Wisbirdn asked about a website where you can find photos of birds' wings. 
That website was soon posted and now we all have access to a quite valuable resource. 

Here's the link to the website:

The site is based out of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma WA. 

It's quite a collection and is alphabetized according to the first name of the bird.  The photos show both the underwing and the top of the wing.  I don't know how many species they have, but they have a lot! 

Another Elaenia?

This morning, I was reading the Stokes birding blog ( when I came across this post:
They mentioned that an interesting flycatcher was found in Rode Island. I did a little searching and came up with this:

It was originally IDed as a possible Willow Flycatcher by the finder.  Subsequent IDs from people looking at the photos suggested an ELAENIA SPECIES. 

It was also suggested by some people that the bird is just an Empid Flycatcher. 
If the bird IS IDed as an Elaenia it would be either a first N American record, or, it would be a 2nd ABA area record (If IDed as White-crested) 

The first N American record of any Elaenia species was a Greenish Elaenia in High Island TX on May 20 1984: 
The first AOU area record of a WHITE-CRESTED ELAENIA was found on South Padre Island in TX this past Feb.

I posted a few pictures and a little bit about Elaenias among other things about the White-crested Elaenia back in Feb:

I believe that the bird in question resembles an Elaenia species more that an Empid. 
The angle is such that the bird may just be an Empid. However, the head shape seems to match White-crested Elaenia more closely than an Empid would. 

Hopefully, the bird will turn up again. 

Among other things, CAVE SWALLOWS are being seen in WI, MI, OH, ON, ME, RI, MA, NJ, N.S. and several other States and Provinces. Keep on the lookout if you live in the Midwest or Northeast. 

Today's Blog of the Day is, of course, The Stokes birding blog:
Don and Lillian Stokes live in NH and are the authors of the Stokes field guides to birds, The Stokes audio field guide to birds, Eastern and Western, and they even have their own line of optics. The Stokes series Binos and scopes. 

Happy Birding! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More rain

Ok, so this is what it really did look like outside on Mon morning. 

It was coming down pretty heavy. Nothing was sticking though.  It's supposed to rain, snow or sleet for the rest of the week so I doubt I'll be doing much birding. 

Today's Blog of the Day:
This blog belongs to Bill Thompson III. Bill Thompson (or Bill of the Birds) is the editor of Birdwatchers Digest magazine.
Bill has some great stuff to blog about and he's currently in south TX so he has some cool birds up right now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dreary weather and some blogging changes

This is what it looked like outside the other day. Well, sort of. This photo is from last year though. The other day, the snow was coming down a bit finer and thicker than that.

I told you I'd try to post daily from now on so here you go. Hopefully, more people will read this if I post daily. I'll try to put at least something in each post. Doesn't have to be about birds, but I'll figure something out.

Today was pretty miserable outside. Winds were fairly light but the the rest of the weather wasn't so good. It was cold, wet, raining/sleeting/snowing/icing/ who knows what out there. The birds felt the weather too. My feeder was jam packed with birds today and the ground underneath was similarly outfitted. When the seed gets low enough, some of the smaller birds have figured out that they can slip up in between the roof and the side panels and actually get into the hopper itself. This little trick keeps them dry, out of the wind and rain and snow, and has a ready supply of food. Those little guys are smart eh?

Many of you know that I'm also partly a photographer as well as a birder. My photos can be pretty good but here are a couple people who are birders first and photographers second that get some pretty decent shots:

The first link belongs to my friend Tom Prestby. Tom is a birder and digiscoper who lives in Madison WI. His setup works quite well for bird photos.
The second link belongs to Nico Sarbannes (I hope I spelled that right). He lives in Baltimore MD. I've never actually met him but his photos are quite good. He uses a Nikon D80 and a Tamron 200-500mm lens with some spectacular results.

The other thing I'm going to try to do with some regularity is The Blog of the Day. I'll randomly select a birding or nature blog and post the link as well as a little bit about the blogger.
Today's blog of the day is:
The Birdchick blog. This blog belongs to Sharon Stiteler. If you haven't heard of her, I highly recommend reading her blog and visiting her website. Sharon lives in Minneapolis MN. She's a birder, blogger, naturalist and park ranger. She currently works for the Upper Mississippi NWR system. Her motto is: "To show the world that you can be a birder without being a geek".

Happy Birding!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ok, I promise......

I'll try and post more often.

Here's a quick summary since the last time I posted something:

Went up to the Linwood Springs research station with the NRF trip and learned about Saw-whet Owl banding. Got so see how they did it, and got to hold and release an Owl.

Went up to the La Crosse area and then to Trempealeau NWR in search of waterfowl. Saw thousands and thousands of ducks, geese, swans, ect. Am Wigeon, Gadwall, Coots, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, N Shoveler, Pintail, C Goldeneye, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked, Tundra and Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, Am White Pelicans, Bald Eagles.

Other than that, not too much. I'll post some pictures later. I actually did try and post some pics here. I really did. But every time I did (over the last few days, I'd get distracted waiting for them to upload and not finish, or the computer would suddenly close the browser or I'd have to restart the computer for something so it didn't work out this time.

This last week, I heard some flyover Pine Siskins a couple times. I have Purple Finches at my feeder (like I do every winter) and the winter boreal bird invasion is on. There have been a bunch of Snowy Owl reports throughout both WI and MN and MN has had 4 N Hawk-owl reports. They have also been banding Boreal Owls at a few stations. This should be a fun winter. Some friends and I are thinking of doing a N WI trip for boreals. Hopefully that will pull through.

Til tomorrow, Happy Birding!