One less LBJ for me

LBJ. Little Brown Job. My field ID skills with sparrows are poor. I have honed those skills some over the years. Everything sparrow is not simply "LBJ" for me anymore, but I find that if it is not Song, White-throated or Chipping, then I am either stumped, or very unsure.

The camera helps. If I can take photos of it, and those photos are reasonably clear, then I can spend lots of time comparing my pictures to other people's pictures. I no longer have to rely on my (highly fallible) memory of the LBJ and its seemingly infinite brown patterns. I can let the picture remember for me.

So it was with my trip to DGCA this past February. There were plenty of sparrows around. Most were White-throated and Song. There was another variety, however, that I knew was neither of those two, but that I could not identify in the field. Nothing rare or spectacular. Just me, taking one more step on the path of improved sparrow identification. I recognized enough differences from what I was used to seeing to not pass them over as the tried-and-true Song or White-throated.

I took a guess (that turned out to be correct). To test my guess, I used the "Bird ID Help Line" thread of the Field Guide: Birds of the World group within Flickr. The answer I got there matched mine. My tiny personal struggle was with the little ol' Savannah Sparrow. Here are two photos of two different Savannah Sparrows, plus a third of a Song Sparrow for comparison. Unfortunately, all three were taken from above the bird, so the markings on the breast are not completely visible. In looking at these pictures, I find it hard to believe that I used to see Savannah Sparrows and likely dismissed them as "just another Song Sparrow". The difference in tail alone is substantial. Next time I am out in the field, I am hoping that I can confidently carve one more sparrow species from the giant, generic pile of LBJs.

Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Ring-necked Duck

Today was a beautiful day, and as I hinted in my previous post, I did make it out for some birdwatching and photography. I took a trip out to one of my favorite local birdwatching spots: Dutch Gap Conservation Area (sometimes referred to as Henricus, because DGCA is right next to the historical site). I am happy to report that, according to the birds, spring has sprung. There were plenty of just returned Tree Swallows flitting about, and I heard and saw my first of season Yellow-throated Warbler. The song of the Yellow-throated Warbler is one of the first I learned, and is one of the first I hear each spring. Whenever I hear it, I think spring and migration.

So, why is this post called "Ring-necked Duck"? I am usually a bit (and sometimes a lot) behind in the steps I follow to cull out what I consider decent photos. Add to that my usual two-posts-a-week blogging pace, and I am typically posting photos that I took a few weeks ago. Today is no exception. Today I am sharing a photo of a Ring-necked Duck that I took on a different visit to DGCA. I did not take this photo today, but back in February when it was colder and there were still lots of ducks bobbing about the marsh, waiting for their cue to head north. I was lucky to have great light, and my photo shows the chestnut colored ring (on the male) from which this species gets its name.

Ring-necked Duck

Birds fly. So does the time.

In my last post, I lamented about how time outdoors was sparse for me these days. I was not really sure if I would get another post in before this upcoming weekend. But then Hannibal, who writes a blog called Hannibal's Animals, tagged me with the latest nature blog meme. I was not familiar with her blog, so I took a few minutes to read, check out her pictures (I like the owl!) and add her to my list of blogs to watch.

Anyhow, back to this meme thing. This is actually my first ever invite to a meme. When I recognized the magnitude of this event, I pondered for a moment whether I would, some years from now, fondly think back to my first ever meme. I wonder if all future memes will be measured against this meme, and be judged lacking.

Or maybe this is some blogger's idea of self-realization. Start a meme and watch with glee as it ripples across the blogosphere. Nah...that would be the cynical side of me coming out.

Of course, if you really have no clue what a meme is, or what a blogosphere looks like, then this is all probably a bit confusing, and highly boring to you. If you fall into this category, then you can click those last two links and read about each of them, or just quickly scroll down and look at the pretty picture of the Black Skimmer :-)

Here are the rules for this particular meme:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4. Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

My six word memoir is the title of this post. Perhaps it is just a bit boring, but I felt like it captured my mood at the moment: not enough time to watch the birds do what they do. The picture below was one I took many moons ago at Chincoteague NWR. It is one of the few photos where I managed to get a decent photo of a flying bird, which seems to fit my memoir.

Update: I tagged these other blogs: Nature At My Doorstep, Arkansas Birding, Confessions of a Backdoor Biologist, the Northwest Nature Nut, and The Flying Mullet. Hopefully they will rejoice at the wonderful meme goodness I have shared with them. Why did I pick these five? I liked their photos, or the word mullet, or the pictures. Just sort of random. And remember...I am powerless against the meme. Do not taunt the meme. :-)

Black Skimmer

Little Blue Heron

This has been a busy week for me. Unfortunately it was busy at work, and not busy outside watching birds or taking photos. The result is that it has been a week since my last post. Even now, as I write this, I am pressed for time, so I have quickly scanned my images and found one that I want to share. It is nothing spectacular..."just" a Little Blue Heron that was conveniently close to the boardwalk within Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. I really like the color of their plumage, and the contrast of that yellow eye.

I think this is my last post related to the January trip to Florida. I have accumulated a lot of pictures since that trip, but startling few of them are worth sharing. This just means that I will have to go outside, do some more birdwatching and take some more photos so that I will have more stuff to share here. And that is a good thing...I need the time outside. Alas, it will have to wait one more weekend. I will use this coming week to continue being busy at work, and to decide where I want to visit next weekend. In the mean time...enjoy this heron.

Little Blue Heron


As you follow the boardwalk through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you will pass several marshy areas. These are great places to see several different species of wader. Often the birds do not react to the human traffic on the boardwalk, and are sometimes super close. In my case, it was a great place to see and compare the two species of Night-Heron that occur in North America. Several of each species were in the same area, giving the opportunity for side-by-side comparisons. I snapped these two photos from the boardwalk while my targets ignored my presence. The first is a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron perched in a tree. The second is a Black-crowned Night-Heron standing in water.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

Black-crowned Night-Heron

White-eyed Vireo

After I got my photos of the Painted Bunting, I stepped out of the way to allow others to get their look. As I moved to the back of the crowd, several of us noticed that a mixed flock of birds was passing through the trees and underbrush right next to the feeders. One of the birds in that flock was a White-eyed Vireo.

As the flock moved through, it was interesting to me how close these birds were to us. In fact, the White-eyed Vireo was so close that I had to put my camera down. He was too close to photograph. I was using a 100-400mm lens because I expected to need it to get close to the birds. But not for this vireo. As he hopped around the brush just in front of me I had clear looks at the white eye from which he gets his name. As he moved away from me into the brush, I did manage to get a photo of him. The second photo is of another White-eyed Vireo, found later in the day.

[edit: fixed weird formatting caused by using Safari instead of Firefox]

White-eyed Vireo

White-eyed Vireo

Painted Bunting

One of the other day trips that Tammy and I took while in Florida last month was to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. If you did not see my previous Corkscrew post showing a hungry Anhinga gulping down what I think is a young catfish, check it out here.

Corkscrew is a very birdy place. One of the treats on this particular trip was seeing Painted Buntings at the bird feeders. A crowd of people were waiting near the feeders in order to "ooh" and "ahh" and take photos whenever one of these vivid birds stopped by for a bite. Tammy and I were no different than anyone else. These two photos were my favorites.

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting