Date: 12/2/18 6:17 pm
From: Jeff Gilligan <jeffgilligan10...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Clatsop Beaches: Dead Albatrossi and Snowy Plovers

> On Dec 2, 2018, at 10:57 AM, David Irons <llsdirons...> wrote:
> Bob makes a good point. This was a hard-learned lesson back in 1978 when good seabird ID resources were non-existent (even before Harrison's "Seabirds" 1983). An older Black-footed Albatross with extensive white on the head and rump was photographed on a pelagic trip out of Garibaldi if I am remembering correctly. At the time, many of us thought it might be a Short-tailed Albatross, but after a little bit of research realized that it was merely an older Black-footed.
> Dave Irons
> Beaverton, OR

You have a good memory Dave, but it wasn’t research that caused us to change our minds.

We did photograph an old pale Black-footed Albatross on that 1978 trip. Initially we all thought it was a Short-tailed Albatross because it matched a photo of a “Short-tailed Albatross" that was published in “California Birds”, the predecessor to “Western Birds” (maybe the latter name was being used by then…).The Washington bird had passed review to be published and was accepted by all of “the experts” as a Short-tailed Albatross. After few years and the increase in pelagic trips, people started realizing that some, later determined to be old, Black-footed Albatrosses developed a pale, grizzled look, with a lot of white on the head, and a pinkish bill..

As you know well, the earlier bird field guides left a lot to be desired. Things that are quite easy identifications now were often considered to be impossible in the field. As you may recall, we (including you) figured out the identification of juvenile Semi-palmated Sandpiper from Western Sandpipers. I know that someone of you are rolling your eyes, but if you can find the Robbins Golden Guide or Peterson’s 1961 "Field Guide to Western Birds", you will see that the identification details were not available. Looking at those books, which were the best recently published, you can see that all of the more difficult identifications were either described or/and illustrated incorrectly. The difficult to find Pough’s Western Guide from the late 1940s was really the best, but had been washed into obscurity by RT Peterson and Houghton-Miffin. One fall soon after, I saw 17 Semipalmated Sandpipers through about a ten week period (many with you, Owen Schmidt, Tom Crabtree, Mark Koninendyke, Mark Smith, Richard Smith, and others). I mentioned that to a very well-known and expert California birder, who expressed skepticism, and remarked that he had only seen three in California throughout his many years of birding. Another experienced and well-regarded birder said that the identification could not be done in the field and quoted ”The Dean” of American birding, Ludlow Griscom, by saying that the identification could only be made by collecting the bird. (The first record of the species in Oregon was found by Otis Swisher and Steve Summers in 1977.)

Eventually, articles were written for periodicals regarding specific identifications, including one in Oregon Birds regarding semipalmated Sandpipers by some of us.

Now, the vastly better books make it relatively easy, even for quite new birders to identify a Semipalmated Sandpiper from a Western, and to identify with care, almost all of the difficult to identify species immature gulls, empid flycatchers, immature warblers and vireos, etc.. (A few things haven’t been worked out and published in guides yet, such as the identification of the “Portlandica” (a British term for a subadult Common Tern) plumage of Aleutian Terns.

And the questions weren’t restricted to identification. Remember the trip to Curry County, which included as a goal whether Allen’s Hummingbirds were still there? As I recall, we knew of no records since Gabrielson and Jewett had reported them from there in the 1930s

I kind of miss the era of so many questions.

Jeff Gilligan

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