Often Obvious. Obviously.

Identifying unknown water birds is often harder than it looks. I guess that’s obvious, eh? I mean, isn’t everything?

The pesky birds often don’t come in close to shore, making it hard to get a good look at them or to get a picture good enough for identification.

When they are close enough, the sun often complicates things with backlighting that washes out the bird’s distinguishing markings.

When I can see the dagnabbed bird clearly, I often ask obvious questions.

“What’s that duck with the long tail?


Long-tailed duck with reflection.

And the obvious answer is . . .

A long-tailed duck.

Obviously. Sigh.

Rather than be annoyed at my limited knowledge, I do try to be grateful for the identifications that others, more knowledgeable than I, can make from my photos.

And I do try to remember that in life as in birding, gratitude is often the best response. And that surprisingly often, the obvious answer is the dagnabbed answer.


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6 Responses to Often Obvious. Obviously.

  1. Judith Umbach says:

    Yup! Sometimes it is and sometimes not. And we are not required to know or remember everything. Gratitude, however, is always the right answer. Thanks for put this into words.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Yes, when it isn’t completely obvious, too often the name is something completely obscure: named for the person who identified it, or somesuch. Or a traditional name like “robin,” which describes nothing. So I don’t really feel entirely stupid, although I am thinking of starting a list of birds named after my question: What is that red-headed duck? What is that black bird (this in the Caribbean)? And so on, birds without end, I expect. And glad to have them, by any name.

  2. Tom Watson says:

    It’s the picture of the calmness of the natural world. Peaceful. Thanks.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – Yes, it’s a beautiful bird, and a pretty decent reflection given that it’s ocean, not a sheltered pond.

  3. ian Hepher says:

    A few years ago, when I worked at the Correctional Centre, I would walk around the little lake on the property at lunch time to clear my head. On one occasion I was joined by another administrator from the satellite Centre.

    The lake attracted lots of bird life, and Stu, my colleague, was not particularly well informed about the natural world.

    “What do they call those birds with the red spots on their wings?”, he asked.

    “Red-winged blackbirds,” I replied. He gave me a funny look.

    A minute later…”What are those birds with the yellow heads called?”

    “Yellow-headed blackbirds.” Silence…

    “You’re kidding, right?” he said.

    I don’t remember where the conversation went from there, but I’ve not forgotten it, and I remember it whenever I first see these birds in spring. And smile.

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