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Philistine birder

September 19, 2010

I was recently told that real birders don’t use the word seagull. Apparently, the only people who refer to gulls as seagulls are readers, and not birders. In other words, when I falsely identified a Ring Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) as a Seagull, I was exhibiting true signs of my identity as a philistine birder. I guess I’ll chalk it up to another birding misdemeanor.

Here he is in all his glory. I might now start referring to Chekhov’s Seagull as the Ring-Billed Gull. Infinitely more precise that way, don’t you think?

We’re currently in the throes of fall migration, which is a wonderful thing, except for the tiny detail that the warblers all look exactly the same. And I’m hardly kidding when I say exactly the same. Yellow belly, olive/greenish brown back, a few black stripes here and there: there you go — that could describe any one of over 20 different species. Have a look at this bird blog for a fall warbler ID quiz, if you don’t believe me! (If you’re into screech owls, you’ll want to become a diligent reader of the blog I just mentioned; the author wrote his PhD dissertation on screech owls.)

I did get a great look at the Magnolia Warbler out at Hanlan’s Point on Toronto Island.

The magnolia warbler (Dendroica magnolia) was perfect. It chirped, it eyed me from above, and, most importantly, it sat still for about 4 seconds, which was long enough for me to get a good look at it. The problem with warblers for a beginning somewhat birder is their speed and the fact that they blend in with the foliage. Warblers move around so quickly, I swear they must have ADD. And in mid-September, things are compounded by the fact that it’s also Monarch Butterfly migration season! Almost every time I thought I saw a warbler, it was actually a monarch.

My most humbling experience this weekend was when I thought I was looking at a bright red bird, a unique fall warbler that wasn’t yellowish brown and…it turned out to be a ripe apple on a tree!

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