Wednesday, October 24, 2012

IDing Challenge: It's time to do or Dowitcher

This is the ultimate for me. It's not that the Dowitcher complex (Short-billed vs. Long-billed) is the most difficult to discern in the bird world. Differentiating silent Trail's Flycatchers or Pacific-Slope/Cordillerans in overlapping range can be more challenging, or at least there's less to tell them apart. And yet when trying to compare these two Dowitchers in photos and field guides, in the wild and in memory, I cannot keep them apart. Living in Phoenix, I have it pretty easy. There's a 99% chance that any Dowitcher in the middle of Arizona is a Long-billed. 

But earlier this autumn I went to the Salton Sea, where the two species are known to intermingle in this overlapping range. With excitement and trepidation, I set out to tell the two apart, and to definitively add Short-billed to my life list. It is now at great risk and with much anxiety that I submit these photos to you all. For my money, they're all still Long-billed...

13 comments:

  1. Great photos Laurence, but this is not a bird I know well enough to comment on ID, i usually say, yup it's a dowitcher

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    1. I think yours is the wise approach Dan :)

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  2. I believe your worst fears may be realized...

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    1. Well, I guess it's a consolation then that I didn't get it wrong exactly.

      Thanks for bringing some of that Florida rain back for my parade, Seagull...

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  3. From what I have read, if itis molting in the fall in the interior, it is a Long-billed Dowitcher.

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    1. Yeah, LB seems to be the mojo here. The Salton Sea is notorious for attracting the Short-billed too, since it's a large salty body that's close to coastal. but I don't think that's what we're looking at here anyway.

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  4. Oh my gosh, you beat me with this pic. Do you know HOW MANY times birders have been stuck around our recharge ponds discussing this topic??!!!! I am not there yet and have ignored the issue until I'm "at that point" on my life list where it will matter. I'm still at "Bobolink":)

    I had the same issue on the birding ID. BIG LOOOOONG list of "Is this a Hammonds or Cordilleran, etc etc?" At some point, I think it was determined that it was a Hammonds but one of the bird gurus believe that they may eventually be listed as the same species but got lost in the DNA discussion. Flycatchers, Dowitchers be damned!:) Just kidding. I like them just fine...I don't like the hours spent researching them though.

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    1. I know what you mean Chris. Some folks, the research and data-oriented ones, who have football stats memorized and so forth, really love that aspect of the IDing.

      At that point it no longer becomes enjoyable for me, for the most part. Sometimes the possibility of a new or rare bird is extra impetus, but yes overall when it's that tricky I more focus on the aesthetic of the bird and not the specific ID.

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  5. All I can say is that it's a completely charming bird, whatever it is. I would kiss it, if it would let me, the dear, sweet, lovable thing.

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    1. Aww shucks Mama K.

      That would do wonders for its confidence :)

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  6. I'm afraid I can't help with seeing a Short-billed in these images. But I love Dowitchers any way!

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