Friday, November 7, 2008

KEEPING UP WITH THE BIRDS

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 comments:

Poetikat said...

What a cool looking duck! I've never heard of the Oldsquaw, but I kind of like that name. I don't mean to be insensitive to any culture, it's just the native connotation I like, I guess.

We get loads of juncos around here. I always know the Fall has begun and Winter is right around the corner when the first one lands on my back porch. In the Spring, of course, it's the robins.

Kat

Lin said...

I like the new name better-what a fun bird and the colors are amazing. thanks for sharing info on it.

bobbie said...

Your long-tailed duck is one I've never seen. An interesting looking creature.

Sylvia K said...

What a lovely bird! I've never seen one like that and he is different as well as beautiful, whatever they call him. Thanks for a glimpse, it's always such fun to find out, see something new!

gardenpath said...

I knew that junco name didn't sound quite right when I looked it up!

My book still says OldSquaw. It is the Audubon New England Field guide, 2000. In the past few years, though, the state of Maine has renamed everything with Indian names like this. I do understand why, don't you? We have them here, for sure.

magiceye said...

that sure is a very pretty looking bird!

SandyCarlson said...

What beautiful ducks. I am glad they were there for you. And I'm glad you found out their name! I love the way bloggers help each other out with the right info!

Shellmo said...

That is one of the most handsome ducks I have seen!

Kelly said...

I have never seen anything like these! Amazing!!! I'm also glad that the re-named them! Great post and sure loved learning about them! Thanks for sharing!! Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!!!

Geraldine said...

What an unusual bird! I've never seen these before. Thanks for sharing Deborah.

www.mypoeticpath.wordpress.com

Kathiesbirds said...

How beautiful! I like the name, "Old Squaw." It's more earthy. I like the name "Bald Pate" too, for the American Widgeon. I let the namers do their thing and I do mine. I keep my own lists and my own names. It only matters to me in the end anyways. I'm not competing with anyone esle, which is the way I like it!