Wasn’t That a … ??

I’m amazed when an experienced birder identifies a bird from it’s song, at least when it’s a sound I don’t recognize. After all, even I recognize the sound of a bluejay, an eagle, or a widgeon and a few others, but most bird calls are indistinguishable to me. I’m even more amazed when birders can identify a bird by their relative size and their flight pattern.

However, after several years of photographing ducks and other water birds, I’m beginning to be able to tell which bird it is simply by how they dive, as grebes and certain species of ducks have distinctive ways of diving when spooked. My favorite disappearing act is the Pied Grebe who literally just sinks into the water, but unfortunately I haven’t seen any Pied Grebes lately, certainly not yesterday which I spent at the ocean and northern Puget Sound shooting these shots, though they’re not the shot I was trying to take.

More often than not, this is all you’ll see of this sea duck if it sees you first, and it usually does,

Bufflehead diving

resulting in this kind of shot of a Bufflehead.

This bird is larger than a Bufflehead, but perhaps equally shy.

Red-Breasted Merganser diving

You might recognize it as Red-Breasted Merganser, another bird I’ve been trying to get a good shot of lately.

This species virtually disappears into the water with little or no splash. You probably recognize it from yesterday’s post.

Horned Grebe Diving

Once you have really watch a Horned Grebe’s dive

Horned Grebe diving

you’ll never confuse it with any other sea-bird. Like me, though, you may wonder how it is able to launch itself into the air and straight down. (Might be time to haul out the tripod and set my Canon to movie mode, to really see if I can figure it out in slow motion.)

If you recognize this bird by its dive, you’re a better birder than me.

Pigeon Guillemot diving

I didn’t even recognize it as a Pigeon Guillemot in its non-breeding colors, but that’s a story for another day’s post.

Thought you might like to see how many "missed" shots I get. However, a digital camera lets you can shoot numerous shots without cost, except for the time it takes to sort them and discover how few of the day's shots are actually worth keeping.

3 thoughts on “Wasn’t That a … ??

  1. Very cool! Love these pictures! And good for you to be able to identify the bird with its feet up in the air! I’m afraid my only so-called expertise is songbirds; water birds I haven’t had enough exposure to. But I am able to often recognize birds by their songs and calls all because of a record my mom gave me as a kid – a recording called Birdsongs in Your Garden put out by Cornell. Sure, the really obscure ones weren’t on there but I still have never seen, but only heard, a Veery – and I know it immediately when I hear it. And I was proud I actually recognized a Hermit Thrush recently and was able to distinguish that it wasn’t the same as a Wood Thrush. One thing is for sure – the descriptions in the bird books do NO justice to the real sounds. You have to hear them on a recording to know what they sound like. When I was a young kid of 10 and really into birding, I heard a strange bird call early one morning at Cape Cod. From the sound described in my bird book, I decided it was a Least Bittern. I went wandering down the road getting closer and closer to the sound, only to finally realize what it was – a Rooster!

    • Obviously the key to identification like this is exposure, and even overexposure. It’s not the feet, though, so much as the “way” they dive that helps to identify them.

      And, like you, my initial identification has proven entirely wrong more than a few times.

What do you think?