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Blake Mathys
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Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2012 on I Don't Know at ABA Blog
I was expecting a few more replies from ID-Frontiers. Perhaps most people didn't have a strong opinion on the identification. A better picture of the tail would probably have increased the response rate...
Toggle Commented Oct 19, 2012 on Certainty, Experts, and Confirmation at ABA Blog
A couple of friends and I were birding around Jamaica Bay in New York a few years ago. We came upon a couple of people, a man and a woman, looking out over the water and discussing a bird perched in plain view, but a bit distantly, out in the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2012 at ABA Blog
I find these suggestions of 'looking at the bird while it's singing' interesting, because I have heard this before from others. I've certainly try it...but it doesn't seem to make much difference for me. I have never tried taking field notes of bird song, as Greg Gillson suggested, but I'm not sure what I would write down. When I listen to music, I never have any idea what instrument is being played, and I think I have a similar problem with bird sounds. I hear the sound, but my mind doesn't separate out the parts and pieces. I'm going to try to take field notes over the next couple of weeks, and see if I can make some progress. My next blog post will contain the results.
Toggle Commented May 1, 2012 on Why Is Sound So Hard? at ABA Blog
Ahh, yes. You make a good point, and I realize I was a bit hasty here. Seabirds of course have interesting and diagnostic sounds (I always enjoy playing Atlantic Puffin sounds for non-birders). My point, I suppose, is that we rarely use sound for seabird identification, except near nesting sites. The majority of my seabird encounters, and I think this probably holds true for most ABA-area birders, have been visual observations from a coastline, lake shore, or pelagic boating trip. To quote David Allen Sibley: "Generally silent at sea".
Toggle Commented May 1, 2012 on Why Is Sound So Hard? at ABA Blog
One of the skills most birders use is the ability to recognize birds by the sounds they make. In most bird groups (seabirds being an obvious exception), each species (and sometimes subspecies or regional variations or even individuals) can be recognized by the sounds that it makes. If you've spent... Continue reading
Posted Apr 29, 2012 at ABA Blog
As birders, our goal is to find and identify birds. That is what we do when we are out in the field, driving, doing yard work, or just glancing out the window. Our overriding urge is to see and then identify birds. Fortunately for us, birds are everywhere. No matter... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2011 at ABA Blog
Imagine heading out to Hawk Mountain for a day of watching hawk migration. If you've ever been to this well-known migration spot, it will be easy to envision the hike through the trees and the anticipation of what avian wonders might pass by over the course of a day's vigil.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 4, 2011 at ABA Blog
My hope with this post was to suggest that you can be reasonably certain, because you can use uncertainty as a "field mark". When identifying birds in the field, we must accept that we won't always be right (and genetic testing would probably reveal many stealth hybrid individuals that look like stereotypical examples of normal species). My idea for this post is to suggest a further identification clue that will help lead us to the correct identity. If used with caution and concern, I believe this approach is appropriate for many identification challenges.
Toggle Commented Jul 8, 2011 on I've got it narrowed down to two... at ABA Blog
"I can't decide; I saw it well enough, but I'm not sure which one it was!" This is a common identification challenge for various pairs of common birds. It is easy to narrow it down to two species, but taking that last step becomes much more difficult. In eastern North... Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2011 at ABA Blog
Thanks for sharing Mike, I appreciate your willingness to admit your mistakes and learn from them. And as we can see from Orion's response, you can certainly be excused for misidentifying this bird. I looked very closely, and I think I see where the confusion is coming from, at least based on the picture. The length of the bill is not obvious, due to blending in with the fence post behind it. The dark spot toward the end of the bill is not actually at the end. The light tip is a similar color to the fence post behind it, giving the appearance of a shorter bill. Once I realized how long the bill actually is, it made the identification as a Little Blue much more obvious.
Toggle Commented Apr 14, 2011 on Overcoming Expectation at ABA Blog
About a year after I began birding, when I was still very much in the beginner phase, a Red-necked Grebe was reported on a reservoir not far from my undergraduate school. We don't get a lot of Red-necked Grebes in Ohio, and I had never seen one. My friend Tom... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2011 at ABA Blog
Thanks for your comment. I remember a conversation I had with my birding friends once; I asked: "If you quit birding, how long would it take to forget what a Bufflehead looks like?" Although it seems impossible, it would happen eventually. The key is to keep remembering, through field experiences and any other means available (books, internet, etc.); anything to remind ourselves. As long as we keep doing that, most identifications will be as easy as recognizing an old friend.
Toggle Commented Apr 5, 2011 on How do we identify birds? at ABA Blog
Editor's note: The ABA blog welcomes New Jersey birder Blake Mathys as one of a group of regular contributors on the subject of Bird ID and field skills. Blake is presently a professor at Stockton College in New Jersey, and is also a part-time lecturer, teaching Ornithology, at Rutgers University.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2011 at ABA Blog
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Apr 1, 2011