Category Archives: Birding Blooper

It’s Not Rocket Science

Last week Arthur and I visited the Nature and Technology exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC). We hadn’t been inside the exhibit space for quite a while; access to it had been restricted during construction projects related to the new Atlantis exhibition building. Nature and Technology is across from the Rocket Garden; notice the reflections in photo below.

Nature and Technology

The first part of the exhibit is devoted to early human interactions with the area now known as the Space Coast. Native American history, pioneer life, citrus farming techniques, and other topics are covered via posters and artifact displays.


The historical exhibits weren’t familiar to us from previous visits, and we later learned that it and the rest of the Nature and Technology exhibit had recently been updated. For the nature portion, a short boardwalk runs through several of the different habitat types found on Merritt Island. Each habitat is accompanied by informational signs, materials to mock up the particular habitat, and stuffed animal specimens.

nature walk

While the mock nature walk is fairly standard on first glance, we noticed some unfortunate errors and inconsistencies on the new signage. The first one we noticed was a three-time loser.

Lagoon poster

no, and no

Northern Pintails

MOTTLED DUCKS are not BLUE-WINGED TEAL (photo) are not NORTHERN PINTAILS (specimens). The specimens and photo are all quite lovely; shame they are not marked correctly! The specimen marked (3) is a GREAT BLUE HERON, so just the photo, which depicts a TRICOLORED HERON, is in error there.

The next thing that jumped out at us was a sign which read, well, see for yourself:

Gull ID help

Maybe I am being extra nitpicky by letting this bug me on two levels: 1) there’s no such thing as a Sea Gull and 2) why are they going generic on the signs, suddenly? My first guess is that this is a Lesser Black-backed Gull (yellow legs) but I suck at gulls so that guess isn’t worth much… Help from the Flickr Bird Identification Help Group suggests this is a Great Black-backed. Anyway, here is the accompanying specimen:

Gull ID help

Pink legs, pink beak with black tip — first winter Ring-billed Gull? (Thank you to Flickr user Fool-On-The-Hill for ID assistance)

The non-specifics continued down the nature walk.

Flatwoods poster

At least the accompanying specimens matched the pictures. A RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER and a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK are perched beside their corresponding numbers.

I think it is absolutely wonderful that the KSCVC has such an exhibit devoted to the amazing wildlife found on the property at Merritt Island. I always enjoy the video they play on the bus tours that highlight the refuge, and I especially love how excited everyone is when the driver pauses the video to point out the ginormous actual Bald Eagle nest that can be seen from the bus during the drive back to the bus depot. In the exhibit, the specimens and habitat displays look great. It’s unfortunate that some of the items are mislabeled. Arthur and I mentioned it to staff at the information desk as we were leaving, and our comments were taken very seriously. I don’t know if they will be able to change the signs any time soon, but with our season pass you can bet we’ll drop by the exhibit again and have another looksee.

Bald Eagle
No complaints about this gorgeous Bald Eagle on display

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Posted in Birding Blooper, Florida, Museum | 1 Comment

B-day birds & books

For my birthday last month Arthur and I spent the day doing a little birding and raiding a few bookstore clearance sales. We started out with a very nice walk at Grant Woods, where early Red-winged Blackbirds were singing in the grassland. It was also nice to see a White-breasted Nuthatch, which we haven’t seen around our yard for several weeks, plus a nice flock of Cedar Waxwings and American Robins nomming berries. Both of these were in the parking lot (as we were finishing up our walk, naturally).

Next we stopped at Pistakee Lake to check out the waterfowl. Near our vantage point we saw a small group of Common Goldeneye. Several males were wooing females, dramatically throwing their heads back and then diving after each other. I’d never seen this before and I was totally enchanted.

While I was scanning through huge numbers of Canada Geese, Arthur spotted a coyote on the far side of the lake, trotting along the ice.

Coyote walking on ice

Coyote walking on ice

As I was watching the coyote, Arthur made two more great finds. First, he picked out a Snow Goose between the hundreds of Canadas.

Snow Goose

Then he spotted three Greater White-fronted Geese, first in flight and then refound loitering on the ice (I managed to take just one lousy picture of Greater White-fronted Geese). Other waterfowl included Mallard, scaup, Ring-necked Duck, and tons of Common Mergansers. Eagle-eye Arthur found ANOTHER coyote on the far side of the lake. This time the coyote blended in perfectly with the surrounding grasses and was impossible to see without the scope.

Shortly before we left, something spooked the geese, and many of the birds took flight. The honking was pretty incredible.

Canada Geese

After the waterfowl stop, we loosely followed the Fox River south in search of bird… books. We were looking to take advantage of the unfortunate Borders shop closings in the Chicagoland area. We decided to check out the bird sections at a few of them. It was a successful mission.

Calendars were on sale for $1. I looked for bird calenders and found only one, a wall calender simply titled, “Hummingbirds.” I was amused by the thumbnail photos on the back, one of which shows a bird that is not a hummingbird. Can you tell which one doesn’t belong?

I bought it anyway. At home I noticed this disclaimer on the back…

… and my dreams of suing them for millions of dollars vanished before my eyes.

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Posted in Birding Blooper, Books, Illinois | Leave a comment

The lifer that wasn’t

January 1st we visited a few lakefront sites, starting with North Point Marina and Spring Bluff Forest Preserve. A Northern Shrike had been reported there by other birders, and we were happy to find it, too. It perched along the trail before us and we stopped to observe it a few times as we approached.

Eventually it flew to a small tree further off the trail. As we passed the tree I looked for any prey items impaled on thorns. I didn’t find any but I can see why the shrike might like this tree.

Once we had passed it returned to its preferred perch to resume its watch over the field. I was sure this was a life bird for us but I underestimated the range of the Northern Shrike – I mean Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor). These birds live throughout much of the temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and we actually saw our first one in Portugal in 2007. This wasn’t the first time we saw a bird and thought LIFER! when in fact we had seen the species before, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Ever happened to you?

This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly, hosted by Birdfreak. Check out this week’s submissions – and while you’re at it, why don’t you submit your own BPW post?

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Posted in Birding Blooper, LCFPD, Life List | 5 Comments