[mou] Woodcock, Snipe and Thrushes? YRW

Thomas Maiello thomas at angelem.com
Mon Apr 14 13:45:52 CDT 2008

Just got back from a good two hours in the woods next to my  
townhouse.  After getting some very good comments on my recent  
observations - this is how we learn - I decided that maybe the rust  
was not fully off my 2007 birding skills soaking indoors for a full  
winter - and went back out to confirm both the thrush types and the  
woodcock - why not see them again anyway.

I did not refind the American Woodcock and began to doubt that it was  
indeed that since I have never even seen a snipe.  Well, lo and  
behold!, while I stood for over 45 minutes in one spot in the woods,  
letting Brown Creepers nearly use me as tree trunk, fox sparrows  
nearly digging under my shoes, and both Ruby-Crowned and Golden- 
Crowned Kinglets dance about my head, up walks a Common Snipe!  My  
first ever!  The Muhammed Ali of birds if I ever saw one - bobbing and  
weaving as it strode through the leaf litter and fallen wood near a  
soggy bottom.  It finally figured out I was something "un-natural" and  
popped straight up and over behind a nearby log and stood motionless  
watching me with one eye from over the log.  Wow and amazing!

The Common Snipe (as I identified it) was different from the bird I  
ID'd as a woodcock in that the other bird (American Woodcock) was  
light colored on the breast and did not have horizontal markings  
through the eyes - that were so apparent with the snipe.  Plus they  
were in different habitats - one hear soggy water and the other in the  
woods with the soft, thawing soil.  I tried to distinguish between  
wing or vocalizations upon take off but the snipe made sounds too on  
take off although but the other bird's (supposed woodcock) sound  
lasted a bit longer.  I could be totally wrong with the ID and have no  
problem either way - and for now it goes down as a "have to see it  
again to make sure" bird list.  I will let you know.

As to the Swainson's Thrushes - I took books out with me and went over  
the differing markings on the very numerous thrushes that are around.   
The differences are subtle and in my mind could be variations within  
the species or completely different birds.  I clearly ID'd several  
Hermit Thrushes with their red tails, brownish to olive green back,  
bold spots and distinct eye ring.  Some however, had less than clear  
spots though not faded and had the eye rings but looked like whiter  
areas that I could construe as spectacles - perhaps Swainson's.  I  
could be wrong.  Plus their tails were not as red as the obvious  
hermits - but tinged red nonetheless.  Then I saw several that had  
faded spots, appeared all red on their backs and had less than  
distinct eyerings - Veery-ish.

My conclusion?  How would I know?  This is nature just messing with  
me.  Probably the same way I felt when I first tried to distinguish  
the sparrows that I actually got pretty good at last year.  I bet  
there have to be some Graycheeks in this population of thrushes just  
to keep me in the "I don't know" place in birding ID.  It is easy to  
be humble when you fumble.

Of additional note - Casually watching a Cooper's Hawk visit the tree  
outside my window and noticed how the overly numerous Fox Sparrows  
magically disappeared - and as I watched the remnants of the hawks  
tail disappear over the neighbor's house, a wave of Yellow-Rumped  
Warblers took over my wooded view and then they move on with a few  
stragglers for confirmation.  Warblers!   Yeeehaaaaw!  Plus some  
outrageous Red-bellied Woodpecker behavior and what felt like the  
Cooper's Hawk following me around as it seemed to show up in each area  
I went as I backtracked home.

Thomas Maiello
Angel Environmental Management, Inc.
Maple Grove, MN

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