Friday, May 18, 2012

#220: Gotcha! (magpie-crow)

I realize that everyone else is going warbler-wild right now, but I have a couple of other birds of personal note this week. I haven't had much time to dedicate solely to birding in the last few weeks but I did spot my first rose-breasted grosbeak and American redstart of the year (I'm probably a little behind!). On the way home from my Pathfinders' camp, Matt spotted this beautiful hawk on the roadside wire. It let us get pretty close! I'm sure I've posted sharp-shinned hawks before, but it looks like I never counted one. This one seems to be a juvenile, and while the legs look pretty thick, I think it's pretty clear by the barring that it's a sharp-shinned.

UPDATE: What would I do without my readers? Robert @ Field of View kindly corrected my mistake. Now it makes sense why the legs are so thick!

#120: Sharp-shinned hawk Broad-Winged Hawk; near Christie Lake, Ontario; May 13, 2012



Some helpful sharp-shinned/cooper identification tips:
    (I'm silly)
Now, here's something I'm pretty excited about. I've had this guy on my radar for a while now, and have been out looking for him a few times this week. The first time I saw it was quite a while ago while out geocaching on lunch...I saw a bird that looked a heck of a lot like a magpie. Of course this makes no sense, since we don't have magpies here, but the white on the wings so clearly looked like a magpie that I was confused.

Then my IT guy at work who knows I'm into birds mentioned a bird he saw that looked like a magpie too, in the same area that I had seen it, so this was getting pretty interesting. The plot thickens...

Then, a few weeks ago I was waiting for someone to pick me up in that area, and I was standing on the corner (haha ok stop laughing), and what do you know, I look up and that bird is sitting about 10 feet away from me, and I can clearly see that it's a crow! It just happens to be partially leucistic symmetrically on both wings in the same spots that magpies have white. Mystery solved! As it turns out (and as I learned recently, here), it's quite common for birds in the blackbird family to have leucism or partial leucism, i.e. feathers with no pigment. It's funny, I also saw a grackle last weekend with one white tail feather.

Now, as you can guess, up to this point, I hadn't had a camera with me to shoot this unique bird (go figure), and so the search began for this clever crow that disguised itself as a magpie.

WANTED: American crow masquerading as a magpie!
This meant carting in The Beast to work, hoping that I would spot it. And we all know what that means--the more effort I go to spotting a bird and the more prepared I am, the less likely I am to see it. Let's add that, for maybe the first time, I wasn't just looking for a kind of bird, but one specific individual. Now that's upping the ante. Lucky for me, this bird is pretty well established at a pretty specific location! Yay for creatures of habit and predictable beahaviour!

My first attempt was after work earlier this week. I got off the bus on the way home and checked the spots I had seen it before--nada. Then I stopped by again today after another coworker mentioned that she had seen it recently too at another nearby location, so I started there today. I got off the bus, heard crows, and followed. Never before have I been so tuned into the sounds of crows! I watched the Nature of Things episode on crows (fascinating! check it out...there's lots of interesting stuff on how they communicate, and it's David Suzuki and how can you not love him?) and I really tuned in, not just to where the sound was coming from, but listening for others that might be responding. Within only a minute or two I found my target! It was flying right in front of me camera was still in the bag. Quickly and clumsily I put the book I was carrying away and got the camera out--the bird flew off nearby and I followed. It perched up on a lamp post and I got some good looks while it sat there, but you can't really see the full effect of the white wings. 
 So lucky for me it spread them out, and then took off. I followed. (repeat x 3).
  Oh, come on, how could I not?....interlude!!

I still didn't get the flight shot I was hoping for, but this pic gives you a good idea:
crow, not magpie!

Here's a magpie in flight for comparison. Obviously it has the epaulettes in white (and also white on its stomach), but strikingly similar right?
Magpie, not crow. (also not my shot)
Funny thing is a young couple saw me beside the road with my camera and did a u-turn and got out with their camera too to come check it out. The girl asked me what it was, and they thought it was pretty cool too. Then, I'm pretty sure one of the peregrines flew over being mobbed, and a heron flew over too. Downtown birding not so bad eh? If anyone is interested in having a look, it is usually in the Lebreton Flats bus stop area--either in the sort of abandoned parking lot by the empress, or by the one-story building by the condos on the way to the bridge.

In other news, I'm happy to say that I'll be making my first pilgrimage to Pelee this weekend, which is kind of a big deal for me. Stay tuned...I have a feeling there will be some meaty posts coming up!

1 comment:

dwaynejava said...

Jenna, nice work! I like the photoshop work you did! Wow... you are going to Point Pelee? Feel free to send me an email ... I don't want to jinx your trip, but...Its been slow this year :-(