Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Slight Headache

White-faced Ibis
When one is addicted to birding, one will do whatever is necessary to find the birds.  On today's post, I drove a long way to find some birds.  It was a big deal, but it was also going to be one of those birding days.  I couldn't sleep the night before because there were potentially 3 new lifebirds to be found south of Tucson in the Willcox and Safford areas.  I got up at 4 AM and drove.  These birds weren't birds I was truly excited about seeing, but they were new birds for my Arizona list.  I left Pat at home to sleep while I did my job.
Forster's Tern
It was a tricky morning full of ID hell.  There are some birds out there that look similar to one another.  There's the Pacific-slope Flycatcher vs. the Cordilleran Flycatcher.  There's the Baird's Sandpiper vs. the White-rumped Sandpiper.  And of course, there are many many more that present challenges for birders. Today's challenge was......Forster's Tern vs. Common Tern.   While the Forster's Tern wasn't a lifebird for me, it was my first find for the AZ list.  I began to doubt the Common Tern label.  The marks were slightly different.  It came down to the primaries(the tail feathers) and absent black patch on the wings that helped me ID this bird as a Forster's Tern. It reminded me of my studies on the gnatcatchers.  Same type of issues, but the behaviors and sounds are different between these two birds.
Luckily the White-faced Ibis are easy to ID as they are common this time of year around Arizona.  BUT they can also present challenges when the Glossy Ibis are found in the same areas.  Luckily for me, they aren't.  A few sometimes will make it to Arizona, but today, they were the easiest to ID:)
Laughing Gull
But then we get to the gulls!!!!!  Thankfully gulls aren't very common around our areas.  Nor are there many.  I look at them as lifebird gifts.  Some are easy to ID while most are not.  One of my target birds was this Laughing Gull.

Tricky tricky.  It's obviously not in full plumage, but turns out that it does resemble another bird!!!!  The Franklin's Gull!  This bird in its first year plumage looks almost exactly the same!  Again it came down to the tail feathers for me.  The long black tail feathers at the end are signs of the Laughing while with the Franklin's Gull, we'll find some white "dotting" mixed into the end feathers. Putting that all aside, the easiest way to ID is from the gull's call.  It sounds like a laugh which helped me pick up this lifebird number 338.
Black-neck Stilt, Laughing Gull, Killdeer
This is a terrible pic above but I had a good laugh.  They are all so different looking which made for an interesting shot.
Blue-winged Teal
For some reason on this blog, I've never shown people the Blue-wing Teals.  They are never in great numbers here, but they can be found around our waterways.  They are some of our most timid ducks.  Green-wing Teals and Northern Pintails can also be very shy around people which makes getting pics of them tricky at times.

Back to the Terns.  Another tern was also reported at Roper Lake State park.....the Least Tern.  This bird also changes in appearance over the years. This is a Juvenile below.  Normally, this bird will have a yellow bill. I always question the birds being reported.  Was this a Least Tern?  After 30 minutes of reading/research, I could easily say YES.
Least Tern
It's definitely a small tern compared to the larger Forster's Tern that was flying around the lake. This lifebird was number 339 for me.
I know I've seen a lot more birds than this in my lifetime, but since I didn't document any of it, I had to start from scratch.  Speaking of scratch, I scratched my head on the sandpiper below.  It wasn't a Western.  And then I realized another Baird's Sandpiper popped up!  I was finally able to obtain an ID shot of this bird.  Some sandpipers are major headaches!
Baird's Sandpiper
Birding is mostly fun, but sometimes it's tedious work.  A simple post like this can take hours of time to put together.  After I got home from this 4 hour trip, I went to bed and slept!  Mission accomplished.
More to come from Las Aventuras......


  1. Nice outing, Chris! You saw a variety of birds and getting great at id-ing. The terns and all the gulls are tricky to me. I love the Ibis shot! Happy Birding and have a great day!

  2. Warto było wstać tak wcześnie, bo miałeś znowu wspaniałe spotkanie z ptakami. Bardzo podobają mi się ibisy. Pozdrawiam.
    It was worth getting up so early, I had a great meeting again with the birds. I love the ibises. Yours.

  3. Those are all excellent shots Chris!

  4. I can only imagine how much work goes into a post like this Chris, the photos the do it in a very entertaining way, its always a pleasure to read about your adventures. I must admit the more bird shots I take the more I'm getting hooked :)

  5. the terns are awesome! ibis, too! i love the pic of 3 different ones!

  6. Forget the headache from identifying and researching, you had me at getting up at 4:00am!!! That's an instant headache for me :) You are very dedicated!

  7. The Black-neck Stilt, the Laughing Gull and the Killdeer seem to have discovered on how to live under the same roof... great example!

  8. You amaze me as to how far you have come as a Birder... I love my birds but don't have nearly the passion or interest that you do.... BUT--I do have a true passion for finding waterfalls.... ha

    Great group of photos, Chris.

  9. Great post well worth the trip.

  10. I truly respect how thorough you are in IDing. I'm guessing you love the research as much as the birding.

  11. :) I know well the time it takes to put up a bird post when you are a stickler for identification,but so worth while when done. It makes us all better birders and photographers. Ah, the joys of birding!

  12. Great post Chris - I can imagine all the hours and hard work you put into your posts. Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures :)

    Had to smile re: gull id. I must admit I find them a nightmare !!

  13. Your post is full of marvellous understatement - and you've SO nailed the identification difficulties that make birding an intellectual challenge as well as all the other things that keep us doing it!! Look forward to more!!!

  14. That is beautiful Chris...Great work

  15. I keep telling you that you are getting even better than me at finding and identifying birds. This post proves my point. Good job!

  16. Well, you made quite a day of it and cam back with some pretty amazing shots. Love them all.


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