22 February 2012

I love getting lifers but $#%^$ ...

Field sketch showing colour pattern

I love getting lifers, especially since I don't travel much since starting my new life list  ...

This is a Swainson's Hawk. Very rare in my area anytime but apparently, they are not satisfactorily documented in the interior of the continent in winter. These are the ones that mass up and head out to Argentina, I have since found out. I saw this bird on 20 Feb 2012 at Skookumchuck Prairie in SE British Columbia.

Alas, no photo because grabbing our cameras was the last thing on our minds - we were pulled over on the side of a busy highway with large chip-hauling trucks heading for the pulp mill zooming by - very uncomfortable spot to be in.  And, at the time, I didn't know how rare it was.

Yes, I understand that a photo would be essential for this sighting to be "officially" accepted. But, if this bird is NOT a Swainson's Hawk, then the field guides have to do a much better job of including this plummage variation for a different species - IF it exists! (I vow to have my camera available at all times, cross my heart.)

I don't see another species in the field guides, or on internet photos that has this large light wedge-shaped wing lining, all dark remiges, and dark head with a distinct border between the light belly.

Maybe it is an F2 hybrid Swainson's / Rough-legged with a Swainson's and decided to fly to the beat of a different sapsucker having been shunned for its parentage by it's cohorts at the staging thermals. If it is a falconer's bird it has been free for a while and surviving just fine because no falconer would fly his bird in a strip of gravel between a coal-hauling railroad and a chip-hauling highway.

So, we are calling it a Swainson's so far, and it's going in my records.

That is often the case with these extralimitals, I know: people see something weird, without taking a photo, nobody believes them but they could be right, so nobody says anything except "she's crazy". Lol. I wouldn't believe it either, if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, and this does appear to be a very distinctive colour morph.

Anyway, the full "rare bird report" can be seen on my flickr.

Now I have a really good excuse to spend some gas money! And it's all tears in the rain, eiderdown in a blizzard, and candles at noon, and shouting in the wind, and ...

^_^  Dianne C.

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