Yesterday I saw a pair of birds out on the lake. Even though they were a ways away from the shore, I could tell there was something different about them. They didn't look like the usual suspects, so I got out the big guns – the most powerful bins I have. That brought them in range of an ID – stubby head and bill, the abundance of white, the long tapered tail. I said to myself, “I bet those are Oldsquaws!” Too bad they were out of camera range, because they just sat there, dozing and floating for a long time. I decided to look them up in my field guide, just to be sure; it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any. Living in Alberta for up until just a few years ago, I’m still am a little rusty on some of my Eastern birds, and I wanted to double check everything.
Once I found them, I saw that they’d changed the name from Oldsquaw to Long-tailed Duck. Well, I have to say, I applaud that. The term “squaw” certainly is on the list of culturally and ethnically offense and insensitive words. So now I will happily adapt my vocabulary for these birds, if I should be lucky enough to see them again. The range map in my field guide shows them as “just passing through” this area during spring and fall migrations, and the Point Pelee checklist classifies them as “noteworthy,” so I don’t expect to see them often.
Then I saw Sandy’s November 6 post at the gardenpath blog; she’s got some terrific shots of a Dark-eye Junco (or, Slate-colored Junco to the old-timers). I have just about given up on getting the name of Juncos right. We had quite a variety in Alberta, and keeping the names straight when you’ve been birdwatching for a while can be confusing. They keep changing things around for several kinds of birds: Warblers, Orioles, Flickers, and of course, Juncos, just to name a few. They (the bird naming officials, whoever they are) flit from separate species to sub-species to color variations to -- no wait,they hybridize -- oops, no they don’t… Those guys must check more DNA than a CSI! Serious birdwatchers (I’m old school, I don’t use “birder”) have to keep their field guides up to date, that’s for sure! In the end, the birds are blissfully oblivious to all this. It's just the humans (and the occasional cat at the window) who get all riled up about it.
Photo from www.rivernen.ca
11 hours ago