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Apr 30 2012

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Little Red-headed Bird

You lot have ruined me. We went to Brown Point Lighthouse over the weekend. And what did I do most of the time? Spent it chasing birds. Also, cursing birds. I rather wish birds were rocks. Then they’d sit still. But then, you ornithology buffs probably wouldn’t have so much fun identifying them.

And I wouldn’t have quite as much fun presenting a triumph. Observe: a bird that is slightly more interesting than Little Brown Birds!

Mystery Bird I

It’s a little red-headed bird! How awesome is that! And it actually stayed on the log long enough for me to take four whole pictures of it.

Mystery Bird II

Here’s a crop of the first photo, so you can see the bird a bit better. It flitted down from the trees behind the boathouse in a lovely splash of color, a little bit of fire on a gray beach. I’d been busy photographing the rusted old ramp that goes from the boathouse to the Sound, which meant I was zoomed all the way out. And as the bird hopped about on the driftwood log and acted like it was about to make for the trees again while I slewed around and zoomed in, I was certain all my hopes would be dashed. The bastards almost always escape my lens. But not this time. It decided it liked the log just fine, and settled down.

It even gave me a chance to photograph multiple angles. Side view, back of head (obviously thinking of abandoning my ass):

Mystery Bird III

And a lovely back view:

Mystery Bird IV

Look at the color on that kiddo! I got inordinately excited over this one – it’s not often I get to see something outside of the LBB or crow categories.

Mystery Bird V

And a very nice profile to finish off. It’s too bad I had to snap from so far away, but by the time I started walking up the beach, it decided the photo shoot was over and took off. Rocks don’t do that. This is why I like rocks better than birds.

FYI to photographers: if the bird you’re shooting starts moving, curse fluently and look for another bird (which there won’t be one, because they’re all sniggering at you from the trees: “Ha ha, look at the fool with the camera trying to take pictures of us! Humans are teh funny”). If the rock you’re shooting starts moving, you might want to consider running away while cursing fluently, because if rocks are on the move, that’s generally a sign something bad is happening to the landscape. This could have unhealthy results if the bit of landscape in question happens to be one you’re standing on.

I spent more time on this outing stalking birds than geology, but that’s just because I’ve seen most of the geology around the South Sound. I did get a pretty sweet exposure of glacial deposits in a bluff at Marine View Park, which I’ll be sharing with you. Also, porphyry. And something that’s such a vivid green I’d swear it’s not natural. Interesting bits wash up on our beaches. Equally interesting bits hitched a ride down on the ice sheet. It’s some consolation for those moments after the bird I’ve been trying to shoot has flown tittering off into impenetrable thickets.

I’ve determined that next time, I’m going to bring birdseed and ambush the bastards whilst they’re feasting…

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Trebuchet

    Male House Sparrow. Although there are a couple of other similar species, that’s the most common type. I’ll post a couple of links in a minute, just want to try to get in first!

  2. 2
    Trebuchet

    AAARGH. House FINCH! FINCH! The house sparrow is, of course, the common “English” sparrow.

    1. 2.1
      Laura-Ray

      Haha I was about to say…

  3. 3
    Trebuchet

    Ok, here’s the wiki page:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_finch

    Also, I would like to take this opportunity to recommend what I think to be the best single resource for novice birders in the Northwest, Familiar Birds of the Northwest by Nehls. It’s not all-inclusive, which is good, and has great illustrations. I actually find bird books with paintings more useful than those with photos in most cases.

    http://www.amazon.com/Familiar-Birds-Northwest-Harry-Nehls/dp/0931686083

    Finally, here’s a nice photo feature of common birds of Snohomish County from the Everett Herald. You can probably just about see Snohomish County from your house!

    http://www.heraldnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=DH&Date=20120327&Category=LIVING&ArtNo=325009999&Ref=PH&Params=Itemnr=1

    1. 3.1
      Dana Hunter

      AT LAST! Trebuchet first out the door! Considering you’d been the first to request these, I figured I’d post at a different time to try and give you a chance. ;-)

      1. Trebuchet

        And don’t think I wasn’t waiting for it with bated breath! I’d have probably complained about the lack of lighthouse pictures except it’s not much of a lighthouse. In fact, not a lighthouse at all according to my definition, which requires a lantern room on top enclosing the lighting source.

  4. 4
    feralboy12

    Yeah, looks like a house finch. There’s a fairly limited number of red birds in the northwest, and these are pretty common.
    I usually recognize them by their song; they like to perch up high and sing for extended periods. To me, they always sound like they’re cussing everybody out.

    1. 4.1
      Dana Hunter

      Lately, they’ve sounded to me like they’re up there mocking me. “Ha ha there’s that idiot who does UFDs. We’ll sing at her from concealment and watch her go nuts trying to get a shot.”

  5. 5
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I didn’t get it at first…and said “sparrow” in my head. I’m not really a birder, y’know, but I have a few friends who are so I try to play – and it’s much easier than otherwise since I’m also in the PNW.

    But then a funny thing happened. Even though sparrows are common and not too dissimilar (though I don’t know of a local red-headed one), especially the wings/flank, when I looked again at the head/beak I thought to myself – Y’know, that kinda looks like Darwins finch drawings.

    And then I saw this thread and thought – sparrow was right, good instincts. Why did I think the head looked like a finch? I have to go look up sparrows.

    Then I read right underneath that it is actually a finch and thought, okay, bad instincts, but good thought process!

    Anyway, that’s a weird detour into the psyche of Crip Dyke.

    1. 5.1
      Dana Hunter

      Heh. I actually had the same thought when I was posting these.

  6. 6
    Worldtraveller

    House finches like this are pretty ubiquitous through most of the US. When I red the title, even before I looked at the pic, I would have guessed house finch (yeah, I’m that good. =P)

    Really, it’s one of the few birds with a red head that I know of that isn’t otherwise very distinctive, like the woodpeckers I’ve seen around here.

    This weekend, I saw an osprey and a juvenile bald eagle (no pics, though, I was pretty busy with other stuff).

    1. 6.1
      Dana Hunter

      Forgot to mention, we saw a bald eagle there, too. Flew over the car, nice silhouette with the white head standing out clearly, and of course I was driving, so no chance to snap it. If you ever get an osprey, feel free to send it in – I’d love to see it!

  7. 7
    The Bobs

    You didn’t recognize a house finch? Wow, you have been looking at a lot of rocks.

  8. 8
    hotshoe, now with more boltcutters

    Dana, the funny thing is if you had seen the female, it would have been an ordinary little brown bird. And possibly unidentifiable by the birdwatchers, even if you got good photos.
    I was fortunate to spot a (mated?) pair of house finches in one of the trees where I work. The male is so eyecatching I had a hard time not focusing solely on him, but after a while I realized he was relating to the inconspicuous female perched at the edge of the tree. They flew off together.
    I love that birds “escape my grasp”. It’s compelling to stop and watch them in the rare moments that they put themselves on display, because experience tells us we might not get another chance anytime soon.

    1. 8.1
      Trebuchet

      Yup, the female is about as generic an LBB as you can get. And of course, Dana could have fooled me with one of the other varieties of red finches — I immediately jumped to “house finch” (or I wish I had, instead of sparrow) because that’s what’s common. They used to be omnipresent at our feeders, before the accursed raccoons made it impossible to have feeders.

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