Summer is over and while some birders might lament the departure of our summer birds, I welcome it.
This summer, scorching temperatures made birding past 9 a.m. somewhat difficult. I strayed away from my “enter an ebird list daily” goal and focused on other things, like swimming, reading, assuming an editorship, and planning for fall migration (i.e., staying close to the AC).
(What’s ebird? We’ll get there in another post.)
The toughest birding day of my summer yielded the best results. While I’m not going to share everything from that day (I’m still digesting it), I will share this photo of a Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia).
Bank Swallows are a commonly misidentified bird. Often, young Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are mistaken for them because of their plumage and, what I like to call, their “false collar”, add to that, the fact that they flock together — joy!
My rule of thumb is, “If you’re not sure of the collar, it’s definitely not a Bank Swallow.” Why? Because, as you can see below, the collar is obvious, complete and extends down the center of the chest. Also, they have a very round head and they look like they have two black eyes. When you see a Bank Swallow for the first time, you’ll go, “Ooooh, so that’s what she means…” — promise.
If the image below looks fuzzy it’s either because of the haze from the heat, or this Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) chick was just too fluffy (I’m going with the latter). Killdeer are a dime a dozen over the summer, and in some areas they’re year round residents, but who can resist sharing an image of a chick?
Great White Heron
I often say, “You can definitely have too many photos of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias).” (I do!) But now I ask myself, “What about a Great White Heron?” The answer is “no” — obviously. This bird took several visits to finally see. It’s a rare occurrence to see a Great Blue Heron white morph in Maryland. I’ve always wanted to see one. It was spectacular!
“Great Egret!” was what some were saying when an image of the bird below was posted to Facebook. NO WAY, JOSE!
I immediately knew it wasn’t a Great Egret (Ardea alba). What sold me (for better or for worse) was that heavy bill. Regardless of whether or not this bird is “countable” (I’m a birder first), I had to see it for myself.
The bird spooked very easily, but not just from the birders stopping on the side of the road. It had some competition from another Great Blue Heron, high-speed traffic zooming past, and plenty of activity from the grazing animals.
Other notable field marks are the straight culmen, short head plumes when compared to Great Blue Heron (Sibley, 76), leg color (Great Egret leg color is black, Great Blue Heron white morph color is not), and the off-white plumage (brownish/rosy on some parts).
It was a “Great” experience with my best birding buddies. Added bonus: it was in my county!
Wood Storks (Mycteria americana) live in the Southern United States, Central America, and the Caribbean. Birds that travel outside of their normal range are known as “vagrants”. Having a vagrant Wood Stork in Maryland was quite a treat! The bird was out of sight when I arrived but then, all of a sudden, it emerged from behind a large mound of dirt. This bird was found on private property and the property owner graciously allowed Maryland Birders to visit.
It was a struggle to get to this bird, even though it was only about an hour away from where I live. Parking was at the bottom of a big hill and I was sick with wicked cold (horrible cough included). Thankfully, I have good friends and was dropped off at the top of the hill so that my lungs could be spared. In the rain, with a fever, a terrible cough, and because of the team effort, I was able to capture this bird.
Check out this range map, it will give you an idea of how rare it is to see a Wood Stork in Maryland!
Henslow’s Sparrows (Centronyx henslowii) are compact, secretive sparrows. This photo was made possible because of hormones! Seriously. This Henslow’s Sparrow remained on this perch for about 30 minutes, belting out its short, metallic, hiccup of a song — it was incessant! A few weeks before I took this photo, I had visited another location with several individual birds and they were not as vocal as the birds in this field. I walked past this one twice because I couldn’t believe it was so visible. Here’s a link to my Instagram photo of the bird.
Fun fact: John Stevens Henslow, for whom the sparrow was named after, was a good friend of John James Audubon and a teacher of the Father of Evolution, Charles Darwin.
All birds are good birds, but the birds in this post are particularly good for Maryland and great for my Big Year! Don’t forget to follow my hashtag #BigYearO across all social media platforms to keep up-to-date with my progress!
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Featured Image: Two Great Blue Herons in dispute over feeding grounds.
Originally posted on BirdsNatureLife.