Low Grade Past Weekend Birding

Let’s get right to it. I gave myself the low grade of D for birding this past weekend. I would have received a F except for taking good notes.

Saturday’s goal was to observe species that will be leaving soon. Birds like ORCHARD ORIOLE, YELLOW WARBLER, HENSLOW’S SPARROW, and YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT. I knew it wouldn’t be easy since they wouldn’t be singing. The plan was to walk Driftwood and Johnson County Park looking for these species.

The walk through Driftwood produced a Yellow Warbler but no Orchard Oriole. Odds are slim I’ll see one the rest of the year…

YEWA (2)

Most of the summer Yellow Warblers are thick at Driftwood SFA. By mid-August they are hard to come by as this was the only one seen last Saturday. Driftwood SFA 8/13/16

After waiting out the strong thunderstorm, checking out the shorebirds that had put down, I finally got around to walking Johnson County Park. Most of the birds were still wet.

WIFL (4)

A Willow Flycatcher and a House Finch were out after the rain subsided. Johnson County Park 6/13/16

NOMO

A soggy Northern Mockingbird wasn’t interested in flying very far. As I approached it moved a little farther up the fence. Johnson County Park 6/13/16

 

NOFL (2) low grade

This damp Northern Flicker showing the name sake yellow-shafted variety. Johnson County Park 6/13/16

The Low Grade

As I walked the fence row following the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD a yellow bird popped out of the vegetation and onto the fence farther up the road.

  1. The bird was Green above and Yellowish below. Maybe one of the Willow Flycatchers I had just seen?
  2. The bird flew a little farther up the fence and landed. A better look showed it had Olive Green above and Brighter Yellowish below. No wing bars or other marks could be determined. From the habitat a female/young Common Yellowthroat was now the thought.
  3. It flew a little farther up, landed again on the fence, and flashed bright white outer tail feathers, like a Dark-eyed Junco. This was definitely not a Common Yellowthroat BUT WHAT WAS IT? Of course it flew away without a further look or photo.

I should have known, but I had no clue. I wrote down everything I could remember and proceeded to continue birding. Back at the car an hour and half later I looked through Sibley’s Eastern Birds. First I looked at the vireos and next warblers.

Then I read the following:

HOODED WARBLERS – “with tail often raised and fanned” and “mostly white tail distinctive”.

So was it a young Hooded Warbler? By process of elimination it probably was but I’m not sure enough to call it one and log into eBird. In my defense – what was it doing at Johnson County Park on a fence instead of the deep woods? Was it migrating and the heavy rains knock it down like the shorebirds? Probably.

The point is I should have known Hooded Warblers flash their white outer tail feathers. And I didn’t.

Thus the low grade.

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2 Responses to Low Grade Past Weekend Birding

  1. Matthew WK says:

    I know where you’re coming from! As birders, we’re always tougher on ourselves than we should be. Missing an ID or mistaking an ID seems to stick with us longer than it should. Even if you’re an experienced birder, you make mistakes – the key is trying not to make it again. Whenever this happens to me (often) I always think of Pete Dunn’s quote: “The difference between a beginning birder and an experienced one is that beginning birders have misidentified few birds. Experienced birders have misidentified thousands.”

    • BobC says:

      Thanks for the reply Matthew. I think what made me mad was I feel I should know the 2-3 key ID marks for the 200 or so regular birds that come through the area. My excuse is we didn’t have Hooded Warblers in N. Illinois so I didn’t learn it properly. 🙂 Anyway I’m going to use this as a stepping stone to change a few things as you’ll see in the next few blogs.

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