Mystery Visitor Drops In Downtown, Literally

The mystery bird

The mystery bird

Today at work we received a call regarding a mystery bird.  The caller couldn’t see the legs, or the feet.   When this happens, we play guess the bird.  It generally involves some level of charades as the office tries to suggest questions to ask while one of us corresponds with the caller.

This bird was a pigeon-sized bird with a long, down-turned beak.  It wasn’t an Owl or a Hawk according to the caller. Flummoxed, we had another employee running errands in the neighborhood, so he stopped over and snapped two photos.  One went to the Education Director, and the second to me.   Despite the wealth of knowledge at our finger tips, we were perplexed.  We sent the photo out to some bird experts at an unnamed bird organization.

My colleague judged the bird in sound health, just resting along its migratory path in the middle of downtown Tenafly.

After work, I stopped by to see if the bird was there.  It was dark, but I found the bird still hanging out on the sidewalk across from 7-Eleven. The photo above and the follow photo are the ones I acquired.  (Considering what light I had to work with, I am happy with the results!  I must say I felt simultaneously professional and ridiculous as I lay flat on the sidewalk to minimize any shaking of the camera in the poor light. Lots of weird looks from passerbys but one lovely conversation with the woman who was parked inches from the bird.)

Shining some light on the subject.

Shining some light on the subject.

The bird organization we sent the original photo (pictured below) did some consultation and came back with the identification of King Rail. After seeing the bird myself, I disagree with the assessment and am inclined go with the significantly smaller Virginia Rail. However, before I submit it to ebird as anything definite, I’m posting it here.  It just doesn’t look like a 15 inch bird.

The Mug Shot in better light.

The Mug Shot in better light.

One by Land, Two by Sea?

How many lists should one make?  I  enjoy making lists in general.  I like their ability to track progress. They keep me focused.  So of course, I adore ebird.

My parents have a really lovely set up for backyard birding.    The feeder sits at the edge of the middle garden bed.  Just in the next bed there’s plenty of cover from a small tree and wild rose bush.  The birds frequently sit in both the tree and the rose bramble.  Outlining both beds are rows of large rocks that the Dark-eyed Juncos are especially fond of scrambling around.  Moving away there are trees dotting the landscape in all directions of varying ages most upward of 30 years.  The property line to the west is also provides good cover and to the south we have edge.  So that’s a convoluted way to say there is lots of good cover.

However on the north side of the house it’s quite a different habitat.   Just across the street is both a stream and a pond which compromise a County Park / Wilderness Refuge.  We tend to get mallards, a domestic duck unit, in recent years we’ve had Red-winged Blackbirds, in addition to the anticipated forest birds.  We also see Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets.  About a decade ago, I saw my only true rail, the Virginia Rail creeping along. All visible from the house!

So the question is this:  as I am birding the backyard, do I list species I see/hear concurrently in the stream/pond on the same list or should I create a second list?

Reasons for 2 Lists:

  • Two different habitats
  • Can bird each separately
  • One is public land, the other is private
Reasons to Make 1 List:

  • 2 habitats are separated by 100? feet
  • Can be birding from the same location (within the house)