More birdwatching!


Today was unseasonably cold and wet (we even had hail in the afternoon!), but I took a walk after work anyway, when the precipitation was done. 

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That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re seeing more birds and getting more confident identifying the ones you’ve seen before.

On the question of how many black phoebes to report, it’s a judgment call as to whether you think there were two birds or just one that moved around. Since you saw the original one back where you saw it the first time I think you’d be on solid ground reporting two birds total. I often see several black phoebes in the same general area, each staying in its own smallish spot. But it’s really a question of what you think is likely.

The bird-counting question I sometimes wrestle with is when I’m hearing a group of birds of a particular species, but I don’t take the time to get a solid visual count of them, how many do I report? I try to be conservative and only report the minimum number I’m confident would have been required to produce the vocalizations I actually heard. But sometimes (especially with bushtits) I’ll put down 4 or 5 based on the calls I’m hearing, and then the whole flock will cross an open space and I’ll realize there were 15 or 20 birds.

That’s really neat about your leucistic sparrow. Birds like that are a good way to focus on structural, rather than plumage, differences. If you know a species well enough you won’t need to look for particular colors and markings in particular places because you’ll have things like size and shape to guide you.

Another possibility is that it’s a different species. Weird rarities do show up at times, and if they’re a flocking species they’ll sometimes flock with whatever common birds are around. I’ve seen a Harris’s sparrow, for example, that was flocking with white-crowned sparrows, and might at first glance have been mistaken for a leucistic white-crowned.

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