“People often ask me how it is that I seem to be so much at peace. There is a primary reason — and it is available to all who wish to have it. Here’s a simple prerequisite to attaining peace at that level. I invite you to observe the beasts, birds and fish and let them teach you. Let this be a daily routine and life, as you know it, will never be the same.”
– Eddie Bo

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 236 - An Unusually Early Fall Migrant

I had a brief window this morning to go look for birds so I headed down to the Santa Barbara waterfront.  First I checked the Mission Creek Outflow, where surprisingly there were no sandpipers to be found.  There were no fewer than 4 immature Black-crowned Night Herons hanging around.  They nest near the harbor (not far away) and it seems the youngsters are beginning to leave their nests.

I continued on to the Andree Clark Bird Refuge.  For the most part I found only the expected birds.  I did notice a number of young Ruddy Ducks which have either arrived recently or avoided my attention previously.

When I got all the way to the end of the path I could see a couple of interesting looking ducks way back in the far reaches of the refuge.  They were smaller than nearby Mallards, had relatively large dark bills, and one had a fairly weak crescent behind the bill.  The one with the white patch definitely looked like a Blue-winged Teal, though not in the normal breeding or non-breeding plumages.  I thought it might be in eclipse plumage (aka: confusing plumage).  When I entered Blue-winged Teal in my ebird report it came up as rare.

When I got home I checked my field guides and did some internet searching regarding Blue-winged Teal in eclipse plumage.  There was very little information to be found.  According to Paul Lehman's book "The Birds Of Santa Barbara County" it would be very unusual to find a Blue-winged Teal here this time of year, and ones that are found would be in eclipse plumage.

I posted the top photo below to the local birding list hoping to shed some light on the ID of these birds.  I sent the 2nd photo to the folks who commented on it.  Some local bird gurus have put forth their opinions.  It seems unanimous that the bird with the weak white crescent is a male Blue-winged Teal.  There is some disagreement about the other bird, it could be a Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal.  Since these birds in this plumage can be difficult to positively ID, I include some comments below.  I have left the ID of the 2nd bird as Blue-winged/Cinnamon.  This has turned into a good educational experience for me!


For Cinnamon Teal:

The bird looks a bit more robust and with a more spatulate bill. Since male ducks have bigger bills than females, to me it suggests the front bird may in fact be a Cinnamon. At least I don’t think the “crescent-faced” bird can be a BW and this bird also be a BW, unless there is some photographic effect going on making the closer bird (in the 1st photo) appear bigger-billed than it really is.

After examining 2nd photo:

I am even more in the Cinnamon Teal camp on the righthand bird (in 2nd photo) now! I would think we have one of both species.

I'd call the bird on the right a Cinnamon. Bill looks perfect. And young Cinnamons--if that's what it is--can show more of a face pattern than do adults, and thus look

For Blue-winged Teal:

I lean towards BwTe for that front bird because the color tone of the breast is exactly the same as that of the bird behind it (in 1st photo), the facial marking are of equal strength, and the pale feathers toward the bill are extensive and not confined in a spot (I hope I'm not imagining a plumage character state here that doesn't exist). Seeing the spatulateness of the bills is very difficult in these photos, and being certain of it in any situation is a challenge.

It seems to me that the closest bird has too patterned a face for Cinnamon, with that darkish line back from the eye. It was my impression that Cinnamons do not have this, although of course they do have spatulate bills. I’m wondering if this bill just appears bigger because it’s closer? I think this is a BW Teal pair.


I had seen both these species earlier in the year but it is still interesting to me to see new birds arriving from their summer breeding grounds.

Just goes to show, even on a quick jaunt close to home you never know what may turn up!

1st Photo: Blue-winged Teal (left) and Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal (right)

2nd Photo: Blue-winged Teal (left) and Blue-winged or Cinnamon Teal (right)

A couple more photos from this morning:

Cassin's Kingbird

Spotted Sandpiper - with spots!

After today the year's total still stands at 239. 

Today I rode a total of 13 miles

More later,

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