Monday, June 27, 2011

Quiz #405 (2011-2-13) Solution

Click on picture(s) for a larger view.

Solution by Tony Leukering

From Chishun Kwong: "This is probably the hardest-to-spell set of names in all the answers I've submitted over the years. ;)"

Perhaps, instead of "The one species of cormorant present is truly pelagic," I should have had the caveat put up with the quiz picture read The sole species of cormorant present is truly pelagic. I apologize for not anticipating my caveat being misunderstood, as it obviously was. That caveat/hint was to serve two purposes, one of which was to let folks know that there was only one species of cormorant in the picture. I did this primarily because at least three of the cormorants are represented only by heads or just a bit more than heads.

This quiz picture also has two bits of birds that I consider unidentifiable: the white blob in the middle of the row of swimming birds (if it's even a bit of a bird) and the brown thing on the right end of that row. While the latter might be a shearwater, it could be something else entirely. Or, rather, some part of something else entirely, and I do not believe that that something else is at all definitively identifiable.

As far as identifiable birds, I'll start with the bird in the front of the picture, in the bottom right. The combination of orange bill, white facial stripes, all-dark wings, rotund body, white belly and vent, and -- oh -- the erect white "horn" between eye and bill leaves only Rhinoceros Auklet as a viable ID option.

While one respondent, from the wording of the response, would obviously quibble with my meaning behind the phrase "truly pelagic," I intended that phrase to mean that it is regularly found very far out at sea, unlike most cormorants, which tend to stick fairly close to land. It is a widespread birding joke on the West Coast that Pelagic Cormorant is the least-pelagic cormorant along the West Coast, typically not venturing far from land -- though that land may be an island fairly far offshore (e.g., Southeast Farallon Island, CA). The "truly pelagic" cormorant that I was hinting at is Brandt's Cormorant, a species that is regularly seen >30 miles from land. The two book-end cormorants show the buff-yellow patch of color at the gular that is so typical of the species and the other bits and bobs of cormorants are all Brandt's -- at least, they were when I took the picture well off Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara Co., CA, on 1 March 2009. While a couple of the heads seem to be smaller and/or with smaller bills, I believe that to be illusion, at least partially due to the varying angles of the heads relative to the camera. Also, Pelagic Cormorant always strikes me as odd-looking, because the bill looks like it doesn't belong to the head, it's just been shoved into it. That is, the front part of the head does not taper at all to the bill -- there's a head, then, suddenly, a sticky-out thing poking out of the head. Regardless, while I'm positive that all the cormorants were Brandt's when I took the picture, some may not actually be definitively identifiable given this single view.

The last species present is just about my favorite gull, Heermann's Gull (and there are three of 'em), as evidenced by the orange-red bills, dusky to whitish heads, very dark upperparts plumage, and underparts plumage a variable shade of gray.

Two respondents got no incorrect species, but did not provide enough correct ones.

With this being the last quiz of the quarter, it is time to announce the winner of the quarterly competition. In a stunning come-from-behind victory, Chishun Kwong eked out a win by one bonus point over Christopher Hinkle, both of whom scored 11 correct answers during the quarter. Six others were one correct answer behind. Congratulations to Chishun for winning a year's membership to the Colorado Field Ornithologists!

Incorrect species provided as answers:
Sooty Shearwater - 2
Pelagic Cormorant - 5
Pink-footed Shearwater - 2

Congratulations to the 6 of 15 getting the quiz correct:
Robert McNab
Joel Such
Chishun Kwong
Marcel Such
Su Snyder
Bryan Guarente

Answer: Brandt's Cormorant, Heermann's Gull, Rhinoceros Auklet