Saturday, August 19, 2017

Not Magnificent anymore!

The former “Magnificent Hummingbird” complex has now been split into two species, firstly by the IOC and more recently by the AOU, Clements and eBird following suit.

Here is a comparison of the two very similar looking species created by this split. On the left, a male Rivoli's Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens), from Chiapas, Mexico, and on the right, the Admirable or Talamanca Hummingbird (E. spectabilis), from Costa Rica.  The difference in plumage are tiny but the Admirable or Talamanca Hummingbird is said to have a bluer hue to its gorget and paler underparts according to Handbook of Birds of the World (although it doesn’t really look like the underparts are paler in these photos, that is probably an effect of lighting and note that the gorgets are not at the right angle to see their iridescence). Despite the very minimal plumage differences, we all know appearances can be very deceiving and there is good genetic evidence to support their treatment as separate species (Zamudio-Beltrán and Hernández-Baños 2015).

Those who follow eBird can read more on the split at: and those who follow the IOC can go to: to read more. 

Although I will miss the name "Magnificent Hummingbird", "Talamanca" has a nice ring wheras the name "Admirable Hummingbird" seems a little bizarre. For the northern taxon though, I still don't like species names based on people's names.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Piping Plover Update 2017

In 2017 there have been at least two pairs of Piping Plover in the province (i.e. that we know of), one of which fledged at least one young (maybe more young fledged but this was hard to confirm given the difficulty of access). This year’s successful nesting attempt was near the always amazing Whitewater Lake, where two failed attempts occurred in 2012. This pair was first found by Julie Yatsko and Nicole MacPherson. In addition to this pair, a third banded Piping Plover was found by Colin Blyth and Gillian Richards. This bird was banded as an adult on Lake Sakakawea June 2015 near New Town, North Dakota and was observed on the 16th of June, 2017 near Coleharbor, North Dakota ten days before being photographed at Whitewater lake.   The photo below shows one of the unbanded birds believed to be the male of the nesting pair.

As a side note: While at Whitewater Lake, Colin Blyth found a male Cinnamon Teal on June 4th which was seen by me later the same day. Since Colin and Gillian had earlier found a hybrid Cinnamon Teal X Blue-wing Teal nearby, we studied this one as best we could and found no evidence of hybridisation (my photo below). Unfortunately, this bird was not found again in checks the following day nor in the days/weeks that followed.

This year was another great year for observing Clark's Grebe at Whitewater Lake. The Clark's Grebe in the below was paired with a bird that was either a Western Grebe or perhaps a hybrid an they fledged three young.

There is always a rarity or two at Whitewater Lake and this year at least three "obliging" Glossy Ibis were outstanding amongst the hundreds of White-faced Ibis (and the many Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Cattle Egrets).

Special thanks to all who reported their sightings and helped monitor our Threatened and Endangered species with such great care and consideration to ensure the birds were not disturbed: Colin Blyth, Ken De Smet, Nicole MacPherson, Ken Porteous, Gillian Richards, Julie Yatsko (and of course Wally Jansen and Jake Peters for their great find and efforts in 2016). If anyone with a canoe or kayak (or canoeing skills) is interested in helping out next year, please get in touch!
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