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Why Am I Failing All ID Questions?

Within the past few days I’ve been struck with the realization that I’m *gasp* getting some identifications wrong, some of which are supposed to be routine for me, after a decade of birding in T&T, after having compiled and written extensive material on the birds that can be found within these two islands (including offshore islets) – and I believe I’ve figured out what went wrong.

As you may be aware, I’ve recently returned from a completely epic journey across much of Kenya. I’m still processing the images from that trip, consequently I haven’t been out in the bush here since our return. Prior to our trip, I had a couple weeks of intense inside time, packing and studying the field guide to birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. I became fairly proficient at identifying birds from an entirely different hemisphere.

Some of these birds were straightforward, others not so much, requiring further investigation. Currently, the field guide that’s at the top of my book pile is the aforementioned Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania. A whole two books under that is my field guide to the birds of T&T. We’re getting to the problem here.

I’m accustomed to bird identification being almost second nature, sometimes I may not even take a good look at a photo before I call the species with authority. The authority that comes with familiarity. Unknown to me, my subconscious brain has apparently grown distant from my T&T birds – thus encouraging me to make incomprehensible, unforced errors when it comes to identifying birds here.

Twice recently I’ve missed the ID’s on some relatively common birds, and twice too much. To my birding friends here in T&T, I humbly apologize, and promise to cart myself into the bush at some point in the near future, for a necessary bush bath as they say, to re-immerse myself and at the same time figure out how to properly have birds of two halves of the planet sit on the same perch within my mind.

To give you an idea as to what’s been occupying my mind recently, here are some species that entertained us in Kenya (and are still clearly entertaining me)

Isabelline Wheatear:

isabelline wheatear-1682











Northern Wheatear:

northern wheatear-5193









The wheatears are migrants, but Kenya has its share of resident confusing birds as well. The following three birds are all cisticolas, but they’re very different in terms of behaviour, call and habitat.

Winding Cisticola:

winding cisticola-1517











Rattling Cisticola:

rattling cisticola-3614











Stout Cisticola:

stout cisticola-2253

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