Monday, September 26, 2005

WSO Wisconsin Point field trip Results

I had a great time during the WSO Wisconsin Point field trip this past weekend. Due to poor lighting and very windy conditions, I didn't do any digiscoping. So...the weather could have been a little better, but the birding was still excellent.

Some of the highlights included RED-THROATED LOON, WHITE-WINGED SCOTER, SABINE'S GULL, HARRIS'S SPARROW, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER, AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, AMERICAN PIPIT, LAPLAND LONGSPUR, PEREGRINE FALCON, MERLIN and several jaeger sightings. Perhaps the most exciting bird seen was an ARCTIC TERN that was spotted by Aaron Stutz and Jesse Peterson from the lighthouse. I was at the lighthouse with them and was rewarded with wonderful looks of this species.

On Sunday morning an immature jaeger flew nearly overhead our group assembled on the beach, but it still became an identification challenge. The "experts" debated and the prevailing thought was PARASITIC JAEGER due to warm-brown coloration, but there were a few holdouts for LONG-TAILED JAEGER given certain field marks. Last night while checking Cornell's Birds of North America on-line, I came across the following account regarding immature jaeger species:

"Immature and Basic plumages of Long-tailed Jaeger not readily distinguished from corresponding plumages of Parasitic Jaeger. No single character or possibly even combination of characters provides complete separation between these species in immature and adult Basic plumages."

(post-jaeger huddle/debate)

It's easy to get caught up in the passionate identification debate and forget the fantastic view of a species that rarely provides such great looks. Nevertheless, I logged onto Amazon and ordered Olsen's field guide on Skuas and Jaegers so I'll be better prepared for next year!

Arctic Tern image courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service

Huddle/debate image courtesy of Thomas Schultz

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