Thursday, December 1, 2011

An Amazing Albino Ruby-Throated Hummer

My birding friend, Doug Koch, forwarded me yesterday several photos taken by Marlin Shank, who is only 15 years old, of an albino ruby-throated hummingbird. I have seen so few albino or leucistic birds during my many years of birding, and these 2 photos were just so amazing.

Today is December 1st which I remember well from last year during my big year. I posted an entry talking about having dinner in San Francisco with Bob Ake and Wes Fritz to celebrate mine (12/1) and Bob's (11/30) birthdays. We had just been in northern CA trying to see the brown shrike but had fallen short. Fortunately, we all were able to see the shrike 2 weeks later. Sometimes a birder has to make more than 1 trip to find a special bird since you are not always lucky on your first try.

John Vanderpoel knows this all too well as he enters the last month of his big year. In my last post I described our unsuccessful efforts to see a graylag goose near Montreal. Right after Thanksgiving, John flew up to AK to try for the redwing that was found in Seward on Nov. 17th. It was seen everyday thru 11/26. John arrived in Seward on the 27th but the bird was not seen that day, or any day since. After 2 days of looking he got back on a plane to fly to south TX in hopes of seeing the golden-crowned warbler that was found there last week.

Updating my discussion on his chances of passing Sandy Komito's 1998 record of 745, John is still at 734 species of birds seen so far in 2011. During the last month of their respective big years, Sandy saw only 4 new birds for the year, and Bob Ake and Lynn Barber 8 each. All but 5 of these birds John has already seen this year. Those 5 birds are baikal teal, northern lapwing, rufous-capped warbler, aplomado falcon and white-cheeked pintail.

The warbler is a code 3, and the teal and lapwing are code 4 birds. The aplomado falcon was extirpated in the US in the 1930's, and like the condor is now in a multi-year program begun over 20 years ago to reestablish the species in TX and NM. As a result, most birders do not count the aplomado falcon today because the ABA has not yet concluded that the south TX population has been successfully reestablished as a breeding bird. And as I wrote last year after seeing a white-cheeked pintail in NC, because they are raised as exotic ducks, very few white-cheeked pintails seen in the wild are ever accepted by state bird committees as being wild birds.

The point I am trying to make is that John's window/chance of successfully passing Sandy is definitely narrowing. But as he said in his last post, "this dog still hunts". We are rooting for you John. Stay tuned!

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