Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Who needs a last second gift idea?

If so, then the Offshore Sea Life ID Guide may be for you!  Fair warning, Princeton Press sent me a free review copy.  This one deals just with the East Coast.

I was ill-prepared from a sea-sickness standpoint for the pelagic we did this last summer.  I would expect that by the time next spring rolls around I'll have forgotten the depths of misery that I (couldn't quite) stomach and will be willing to re-try it.  Written by Steven Howell and Brian Sullivan, it's more of a handbook, checking in at a mere 64 pages.  The first 10 or so are intros, the next 10-15 pages deal with whales.  Pelagic birds account for pages 26-50.  Here's a sample plate.

Basically it's a cross between Sibley and Crossley, using Sibley's format but with pics.  It wouldn't surprise me if this approach becomes pretty standard in field guides moving forward.

There's another 5 pages on flying fish which I would certainly have appreciated on our pelagic; we saw a good number of flying fish and I would have liked to have known more about them.

Finally the book deals with some of the billfish, rays, and sharks that are possibilities to encounter.

The book is a fun mix of fairly targeted plates dealing with some difficult to identify birds along with more general info about some of the other sealife that could be encountered on a pelagic.  While I was surprised when I received it how short the book is, the small size will definitely increase it's usability in the field.  At $14.95, I think this is a worthwhile investment for a birder planning to return to the Atlantic seas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The apex predators of Berrien Co

Beware, the Lesser White Shark:

 Don't worry, it's actually just a Bonaparte's Gull

 Which is probably bad advice to give a minnow...

Bald Eagles are the real enemy when trying to sort through the New Buffalo gull flock.
 This one was circling the harbor which led to a nice concentration of gulls ... a mile out on the lake.

New Buffalo has at times had good numbers of gulls and many people have come to look for the California that's been seen sporadically.  I've been hoping to get some decent Thayer's portraits (actually I've been hoping to get some decent Mew portraits), but this Glaucous was one of just a couple I've seen this fall.

And surely no one gets tired of drinking in the beauty of Gull-nasty.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Sibley 1% Herring Gull

This bird was on Silver Beach last week.  It stood out to the naked eye with an apparently slightly darker mantle, and darkish eye.
 As it flew away it showed some narrow strips of black on the primaries.  Boom. Thayers. Done. Right?
 Well, not so fast.  If you look carefully at the spreadwing you'll notice that the outer 2 primaries are pretty solidly black.  (Note the darkish marks in the tail aren't actually pigmentation, just areas where the feathers are worn and the background is showing through).

And if you look a little closer you see that the dark eye is actually light (which some Thayer's can actually have), but this bird has a Herring Gull's head shape and facial expression.
 A look at the underwing, a pretty close match for what Sibley shows that 1% or so of Herrings will have.

Here's a real Thayer's from a few years ago.
The smaller bill, gentler face, and true Venetian blind primaries stand out as pretty different from the bird on Silver.