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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:24   #1
SueO
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Confusing Gnatcatchers

I have been seeing lots of Gnatcatchers every day. I originally listed what I was seeing as Blue-grays because the head and face were so clear in the field. I have not been too successful getting decent photos--these things are restless--but I did get a few blurry shots one evening and I noticed a dark line above the eye, indicating a Black-capped. That's great because it is a lifer, but now I wonder if I am seeing both species or I have just made a bad call for the Blue-gray. Sibley suggests they are best identified by voice, but I have not heard a peep (or szeewv or je-eeew) from any of them. I need to pay a bit more attention to these guys.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:32   #2
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Well, you're certainly in the range for the Black-capped but the one you attached here looks to be a Blue-gray. Cornell shows the black line over the eye for the Blue-gray.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:40   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KCFoggin View Post
Well, you're certainly in the range for the Black-capped but the one you attached here looks to be a Blue-gray. Cornell shows the black line over the eye for the Blue-gray.
I will have to check out the Cornell site. Sibley shows a black forhead for breeding Blue-grays, but not on the non-breeding. Well, I guess for the time being, I will put ?? after the gnatcatchers on my Barra list, or, just remove them until (if?) I get a positive ID. Thanks for the feed-back KC, I think.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:43   #4
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Not happy about having to take BC off my life list.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:49   #5
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Aw, I'm so sorry Sue. Should have shut my mouth
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:51   #6
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It's already hot as hades, but I'm going out to possibly hear and see. I've got a few more ID points in my head. One thing that makes standing still for very long to observe is being eaten alive by flesh-eating no-see-ums! I'll be back.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 15:51   #7
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Aw, I'm so sorry Sue. Should have shut my mouth
The truth hurts.
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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 16:49   #8
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I suspect that there might be a segregation by habitat, similar to what I recently experienced with California vs BG gnatcatcher: the migratory BG were in the wetter of the habitats locally available, while the Cal. G were in the dryer parts. Reading the habitat notes in Howell and Webb makes me suspect something similar here. In the field try to notice bill length and color, and the extent to which the tail graduates.

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Old Saturday 15th November 2014, 19:03   #9
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I suspect that there might be a segregation by habitat, similar to what I recently experienced with California vs BG gnatcatcher: the migratory BG were in the wetter of the habitats locally available, while the Cal. G were in the dryer parts. Reading the habitat notes in Howell and Webb makes me suspect something similar here. In the field try to notice bill length and color, and the extent to which the tail graduates.

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Hi Niels,
Always nice to have you pop in. Yes, I had read what you note in my Howell and Webb which is what I meant when I said I had some other ID points in my head. Just came back in from a disappointing venture out; nothing concrete. I was starving, hot and insect chewed so I came in for a lunch break. Treating myself to an hamburgesa at the poolside restaurant. I have my Howells and was just about to go over things again when I checked BF. I am going out again after lunch.
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Old Sunday 16th November 2014, 12:10   #10
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Yesterday when I went out the first time, most of the gnatcatchers I saw were down in the ravines and difficult to observe. Usually they are in the trees lining the road and are much closer. Yesterday, there was a wedding here and the usually deserted road to the hotel was a freeway! One thing that occurred to me was that last I don't remember seeing gnatcatchers when we arrived here last April. We were only here for about a month and a half before flying to California, so maybe I missed them? Still, now they are one of the most common birds I see. Niels mention of migration and something I read about Blue-grays migrating through Texas in masses made me think that most of what I am seeing are migrating BGs. Maybe the birds I saw in the ravine yesterday were BC?
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Old Sunday 16th November 2014, 13:56   #11
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Does the ravine look dry with massive bushes? Then very possible. You probably need to get away from the hotel surroundings to get to proper habitat for them and possibly a couple of other dry habitat species?

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Old Sunday 16th November 2014, 20:20   #12
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Does the ravine look dry with massive bushes? Then very possible. You probably need to get away from the hotel surroundings to get to proper habitat for them and possibly a couple of other dry habitat species?

Niels
Right now, the dry thorn forest isn't too dry anywhere--we are just finishing up with the rainy season. Last April and May it was very dry and the trees were less leafy. The area I'm walking isn't far from the hotel, but it's fairly large and wild. The ravine (s) are very full with vegetation now (trees of varying heights and much undergrowth)and water is running. The ravine I spent most time at was alive today with hidden treasures. Every now and then I could get a view of something. I did get a good look at a gnatcatcher and was convinced it was a BG due to the graduation of the tail feathers.
I got a lifer in a Nashville Warbler and saw Warbling and Plumbeous Vireos in several areas.
I'm pretty sure I got a Blue Mockingbird this morning. I missed a good enough look for listing though. I sat on a rock next to the ravine, facing out to look across the road towards some calls. It came up from below to perch in a tree a little behind me. It screamed an explosive scolding and I turned to see. I could only see a black head going back and forth around a thick branch. I picked up my bins as it flew across the road into cover. It protested vocally again as it flew to a distant branch and exposed itself for a minute, then flew off into the forest. When it flew I could see it was solid blueish black on the back and it appeared all black when it was on the branch. Never had time to get the bins on it. Still hope to get a Black-capped. I am going up another level above the hotel manana--it may be even 'wilder' up there.

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Old Sunday 16th November 2014, 20:45   #13
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Here are a few google shots of the area. I have some photos of the area, but unfortunately I zoomed to get a shot of the beach of the town of Barra across the channel and therefore cut out the forested area. The arrow I've placed on the first map shows the road I walked on this morning. It's a fairly large area and I don't see why it couldn't support the gnatcatchers.
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Old Sunday 16th November 2014, 23:57   #14
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Not knowing that area too well, i would still guess that those areas that has most grey-brown on those images would be your best bet.

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Old Monday 17th November 2014, 00:58   #15
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Quote:
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Not knowing that area too well, i would still guess that those areas that has most grey-brown on those images would be your best bet.

Niels
Agree, Niels. I was going to go further afield tomorrow, but now I want to go back to try and nail down the blue-black chastiser! Will decide manana.
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Old Saturday 22nd November 2014, 19:49   #16
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A few weeks ago it seemed like there were gnatcatchers in every tree; now they are not so prevalent. I may have seen a BC or two in the mix, but it seems quite obvious that what I was seeing were migratory birds. On the range map in my book it shows the BG as a winter visitor and the BC as a breeding bird. It almost seems that in my immediate area, the majority of the BG were more transient than winter visitors. There are still quite a few around but nothing like two or three weeks ago. I have tried to get positive IDs and I did see the undertails of a few that looked like BG. I have seen a few longer bills (and have a blurry photo of one that seems to have a gray base to the lower mandible), but I have not had definitive views. Have not seen any birds with black flecks over the eyes. I have decided to leave BG on my Barra list, but remove the BC. Unless something really definitive drops in my lap, I will leave it at that. Maybe I can come down to visit Peregrine when the winter visitors are gone and the BC are breeding. When I see a gnatcatcher with a prominent black cap, I will know exactly who I am seeing. I did finally hear some quiet buzzy sounds, but I don't know if it was the gnatcatchers or something else.
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Old Sunday 11th January 2015, 23:19   #17
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During my searches for California and black-tailed gnatcatchers, I've seen blue-grey in dry, damp, urban, rural and all kinds of habitats. And yet to find any other species. But as a wanderer and migrant, I suppose b-g can be anywhere it wants.

(Ahem yes this thread is 2 months old but still on the 1st page so...)
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Old Monday 12th January 2015, 20:45   #18
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I followed instructions in the ABA guide for S Cal and did get California Gn.

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