[mou] Carolina Wren? Northern Mockingbird? Tufted Titmouse? Rice Lake Refuge

Richard Wood rwoodphd at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 24 09:01:32 CDT 2008

I would say it's more likely a Carolina Wren than a Mockingbird.  What could have been interpreted as "Peter Peter Peter", I suppose, could probably easily have been "Teakettle Teakettle Teakettle,,,".  

When I was out on the Ravenna Trail a few weeks back, looking for Prothonotaries (which I found (one, a single female)), I was standing on the side of the road, near the swampy area, and in the woods to my west, I could have sworn I heard, "Teakettle teakettle teakettle...", but I said to myself, (hearing the voices of the doubters in my head), "there are no Carolina Wrens here..." (but who knows?).  Sometimes in our quest to be "careful" with the identification of an unknown bird, we let the doubters (those that know more than us?) get to us and cloud our judgements/instincts.

As an aside, being a scientist, not letting the doubters get in the way is what leads to scientific breakthroughs.  Sometimes I wonder why birding can't be like that.  We let our judgements on species ID's be limited by what we "can't possibly see" because someone who supposedly knows more than us has decided that we couldn't see, say, a Great Auk here in Minnesota.  After all, we don't have Golden-winged Warblers in Dakota County, even though hybrids have been born (and seen) here (who's convoluted logic decided that? (as an aside, it's a fact for many species that the young return to the area in which they were born)).  

I'm not saying I've seen Golden-winged Warblers here in Dakota County, but I was wondering why I've seen a Brewster's but couldn't have "possibly" seen a Golden-winged (or so I was told).

As they say, too many doubters spoil the pot.  The only thing I've learned from it is to enjoy birding less and less each time it happens.  They think they're teaching me; well, they are teaching me the wrong things.  To me, it's more than just the high price of gas that has kept me from only birding a couple of times this year.

I still think back to the first time I was at Schaar's Bluff last year and some woman asked me where I was from and when I said I had just moved here from Maryland, she told me, "I was in Maryland once and I saw a Black-whiskered Vireo...".  Now, I could have told her, "You couldn't have seen that there...", but I didn't.  I figured, what was the point?  So, I just looked at her and said, "Really?  That's nice....".  Maybe the doubters should try this tactic.  I've been birding almost ten years now, so I'm no longer a beginner.  Yet, each time I have an ID questioned, with a "We don't have those here....", how do you think it makes me feel?  Or does one even think of that?  Probably not.

I guess I've gotten off my point about Father Al's post.  My advice to father Al is to go with what your gut tells you about a bird ID and not to fall back on the "prevailing wisdom".  If you think you hear a Carolina Wren, don't be afraid to call it that.  Don't be afraid to stick your neck out there and risk getting your head chopped off by those that "know more than you about birding".  Birding is not supposed to be an elitist thing.  Maybe it's about time we all acted like it's something everyone can do.  After all, MOST beginners CAN tell the difference between a "pigeon" and a "seagull".

Good birding,

 Richard L. Wood, Ph. D.
Hastings, MN
rwoodphd at yahoo.com

----- Original Message ----
From: Pastor Al Schirmacher <pastoral at princetonfreechurch.net>
To: mou-net at moumn.org; mnbird at lists.mnbird.net
Sent: Monday, June 23, 2008 9:48:12 AM
Subject: [mou] Carolina Wren? Northern Mockingbird? Tufted Titmouse? Rice Lake Refuge

There has been some excellent dialogue on the identity of the heard bird on 
the Aitkin field trip Saturday.

The bird sang repeatedly for a couple of minutes, then shut down.  The song 
could easily be transliterated as "Peter, Peter, Peter", but with an 
occasional two note ending as well, and much more musical than Tufted 
Titmice that I've historically heard in southern Wisconsin over the years 
(former residence).  It was very loud/emphatic.

About half the group joined searched visually for the bird, but we were 
hampered by the ponds and under/overgrowth.  We did glimpse furtive movement 
around a cavity, but never had anything like definite views (as noted in the 
original email).

We came to the conclusion that the closest song was a Carolina Wren after 
playing a CD - believe it was the second or third set of calls on Stokes (?) 
that was a match - one person noted a short response from the bird while 
playing it.

Today I read an equally plausible audio ID:  Northern Mockingbird.  This 
comes from the gentleman who originally heard it while doing a BBS last 
week.  Mockingbirds have been seen in this refuge on a number of occasions 
by staff (and others) - whereas Carolina Wren is a statistical anomaly 

So we need a good visual ID!  The bird was singing in the (right side of 
road) pond with dead snags a few hundred yards or so before one completes 
the loop and begins heading out again.

Good birding to all!

Al Schirmacher
Princeton, MN
Mille Lacs & Sherburne Counties 

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