Challenge #42 - Answers
Okiedokie, time for the answers to Challenge #42. I've received 14 entries with only one scoring a full house. The average score was 5.9/8 which is not bad methinks.
#1 - Arrow-marked Babbler
. This bird scored 14/14 (i.e. everybody got it right) so I guess little explanation needed on the ID features here.
#2 - Sabota Lark
. This bird scored 12/14. The only two incorrect answers were for African Pipit and Mountain Pipit. Pipits generally have sharper, more needle like, bills as opposed to the conical or decurved bills of larks. Also, larks generally have shorter legs with more scales than pipits. Of course, once the family is identified the process of identifying the species starts and in this case the boldly marked face with strong supercilium and the heavily marked breast are all pointers towards Sabota Lark.
#3 - Shy Albatross
. This bird also scored 12/14 and the only incorrect answers, unsurprisingly, were for Salvin's Albatross. The slightly confusing issue here is that this is a juvenile bird, of which the black tip to the bill is a key feature. Other important features include the neat narrow black border around the underwing with the black wing tips, the dark eyebrow and the grey wash to the neck.
Now Salvin's Albatross share some of these features but can still be told apart readily on closer scrutiny. Salvin's Albatross has an all grey head as opposed to this bird which shows a white face but a grey neck. Salvin's Albatross also has the narrow black border on the underwing but the primaries are all black while on Shy Albatross the primaries are grey at the base and shade to black at the tips. The visual effect of this is that the wing tips of Shy Albatross appear to shade from white to black while, on Salvin's Albatross, there is a sharp transition between the white coverts and black primaries.
#4 - White-faced Whistling Duck
. This bird also scored 14/14 so well done to all. It seems you don't need to see a white face or hear a whistle in order to tell a White-faced Whistling Duck
#5 - Wood Sandpiper
. This guy scored 11/14. If you thought it was a Yellow-billed Duck, we'll chalk that one down to the picture not showing the size well
. If you thought it was a Spotted Redshank or a Common Whimbrel, you're closer to the truth. Both of those are interesting choices as they also show a speckled pattern on the feathers but the speckling of this bird, grey feathers with a narrow white border which is interrupted by brown bands, is typical of Wood Sandpiper. The unmarked flanks, darker crown and the hint of a white supercilium are also hints.
#6 - Killdeer
. WHAT?!?!?! I hear you ask. Yes, sorry, this is the stinker that I warned you about. If you got this one correct (and only 3 people did, well done Dabchick, Ladybirder and adrianp), serious bragging rights for you there. If you got it wrong, don't beat yourself up.
So, as you might have realised by now, this is not a southern African bird. It's a bird that migrates between North America and South America. Given its long distance migration and the fact that some of these are getting blown across the Atlantic to show up in Europe from time to time, one has to consider the possibility, however slim, of one showing up in southern Africa one day. It's the same mechanism by which Pectoral Sandpipers or Lesser Yellowlegs find their way here.
So the answers I received ranged from Common Ringed Plover to Three Banded Plover to Little Ringed Plover to Common Three-banded Little Ringed Plover to Photoshopped
. Fortunately though, once you realise that this bird is not a southern African species and you start considering Plovers from the rest of the world, it doesn't pose too much of an identification challenge. The double breast bands, all black bill, white frons and supercilium and the pale rufous outer tail feathers are all features of this bird and you'd be unlikely to confuse it with anything else.
#7 - Osprey
. This bird proved rather difficult, which I thought surprising, and scored only 9/14. The underwing pattern of dark wing tips, dark carpal patches and a dark line running from the carpal patch along the greater coverts to the body is unique. You can memorise this underwing pattern as it will always be useful in the field. The dark stripe through the eye and across the face is also a good feature.
I expected to get a few answers for juvenile African Fish-Eagle which is often misidentified as Osprey but can be told apart by its broader wings, absence of black stripe through the face and a white tail with a black terminal band. None of you fell into that trap though. The common incorrect answer I received was for Lanner Falcon though, which has a very different facial pattern, also somewhat broader wings but not anything as rounded as Fish Eagle and, of course, does not have that underwing pattern of dark carpal patches, dark wing tips and dark band across the greater coverts.
#8 - Dark Chanting Goshawk
. I expected this bird to prove challenging and it scored 8/14. Obviously it's a juvenile and the two species with which it would most likely be confused are Gabar Goshawk or Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.
Let's start with the easier one, Gabar Goshawk, the juvenile of which has a comparatively neat plumage. It has a belly with neat horizontal barring and breast and throat with neat vertical streaking. The barring and streaking is light brown on a predominantly white background. In comparison, this bird has more blotchy streaks down the throat and rather uneven barring on the belly, with not much of a white background visible.
So the tough one would be Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk and the available features to separate these two are few and subtle. Most of us rely primarily on distribution to separate these two species but in this challenge you didn't have that luxury. One entry even made mention of the fact that the texture of the tarred road in the foreground looked like Kruger (and he was absolutely right). Talk about keen identification skills but I'm not sure how diagnostic that is
At any rate, the streaking and barring on the undersides of the bird is still a feature to look for. On SPCG the barring on the belly is usually more blotched. It also shows less contrast between the colours of the undersides and the colours on the back. On this bird the undersides have a reddish brown barring while the uppersides is a chocolaty brown. On SPCG the uppersides are generally the same reddish brown colour of the undersides. This bird also shows a white throat which is present, but less conspicuous, in SPCG. The legs of this bird is also ever so slightly shorter than those of SPCG but that is not always apparent in the field and would probably only be noticeable if a SPCG were to be standing right next to this guy. I don't know about you guys but I haven't been that lucky yet
For the record though, these birds are tricky to tell apart, even in adult plumage, and I personally would be hesitant to call it if I saw this exact same bird in the transition zone of northern Namibia or Botswana where both species occur.
So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the challenge and even learned something.