Monday, April 30, 2012
Solution by Tony Leukering
With apologies to Francis Pharcellus Church -- No, Peter, there are no remains of a dead Gray Catbird.
Peter Wilkinson reported spending hours searching this week's quiz photo for another subject, perhaps one in the middle of the frame. He suggested that there might be the remains of dead Gray Catbird in it, but he could find no other birds than the one for which he submitted the correct species name. As far as I know, there is only one bird in the image. Previous tricky quizzes with well-off-center subjects have gotten the regulars being quite careful with photos such as this. In one respondent's case, perhaps a bit too careful, as that person provided an answer with two species. Another respondent, this one providing the correct answer, thought that, perhaps, the autofocus had focused on the wrong subject. But, as can be seen here, the subject -- which is the quiz bird -- is in focus. Manual focus, considering all the other stuff in the frame on which autofocus could focus and the well-off-center position of the photo's subject. In fact, I took this picture specifically this way specifically for this venue.
Our quiz bird has a long neck, long legs, and plumage that is nearly uniformly blue. While Reddish Egret and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron might be considered, the former is more blue-gray with a reddish-orange neck and the latter has extensive pale fringing on wing and upperparts feathers. Great Blue Heron is also ruled out by the uniformity of color, as adults have a neck paler than the back, while youngsters -- which have darker necks -- have grayer body plumage. This leaves us with Little Blue and Tricolored (notice the lack of a hyphen!) herons as options. While having a better view of the front of the bird would make it quite simple to decide between these two, we have enough features to make a decision. Careful scrutiny of the neck might reveal a strong maroon or purple aspect to the color, but even a quick glance at the tertials area shows the all-blue plumage of a Little Blue Heron, not the buffy patch of a Tricolored. Additionally, the bird's legs do not seem to be either reddish or yellow and even with the awkward view, we would probably see some indication of the pattern on the side of the neck of a Tricolored if it were so.
I took this picture of an adult Little Blue Heron at Cox Hall Creek WMA, Cape May Co., NJ, on 27 April 2011.
Incorrect species provided as answers:
Limpkin - 1
Tricolored Heron - 1
Congratulations to the 25 of 27 getting the quiz correct:
Answer: Little Blue Heron