Friday, November 30, 2007

It is a Parasitic Jaeger

I saw my first Jaeger on Monday, Mar. 26, 2007. That story is published in my blog Long-tailed Jaeger in Texas. In that blog and the next two, Long-tailed Jaeger 2, Long-tailed Jaeger 3, I published all my photos and discussed why our tour group decided that this was a Long-tailed Jaeger and not Parasitic or Pomarine Jaeger. As you see from the title, we were wrong.

I can now tell you the story of the verification process:
The day after the tour, my husband and I went to Aransas NWR and while we were in the office, the volunteer told us that the office staff was abuzz with the news that a Long-tailed Jaeger or other jaeger had been seen in the refuge. Someone had reported this to Aransas. Also one person of our group had promised the captain, he would report this sighting to the Texas Birds Records Committee (TBRC).

So, naturally, I expected to get a request for the use of my pictures soon. But by Thursday, I became impatient and published my first blog with the other two a couple of days later. Still nothing, no one called or emailed me.

I thought that when an unusual bird was sighted, that the birders from all over the world would rush to come to see it. At least, that's what I read in the magazines. I did hear that the jaeger was not seen on later tours. So hot news this was NOT!

Finally in July, No one had yet sent any information to the TBRC. Well, I thought, I know how to get some answers for my self and sent my story and pictures to one of the leading ornithologists, who had helped me with identification in the past, and his reply in less than a week was this:

"I hate to bring your sighting down a notch but I think this is a Parasitic Jaeger. I'm certain it's not a Long-tailed, which should have the wing coverts and back distinctly paler gray-brown, contrasting with darker flight feathers above, no white on the underwing (flying and turning photo) and a shorter bill. I'm less certain that it is not a Pomarine, but I think the bill is too slender and the pale forehead is typical of Parasitic."

This was his opinion with just a quick look and I am not disappointed, because any jaeger is a life bird for me. (Just change the name on my list and website. It doesn't change the bird!)

Then the next day, I get an email from Darrin Welchert, biologist at Aransas NWR, requesting information. (Some one's ears were burning with these emails and pictures flying through the whatever and reminded them that there had been this HOT sighting in March.) I sent all my pictures to Darrin, who in turn sent everything to the TBRC. This was the middle of July.

A couple of times, I received emails from other birders, who read my blog or saw pictures on my website, telling me that this was not a Long-tailed Jaeger but I replied that I would correct everything when it was OFFICIAL.

This week I received an email from the TBRC eliminating it as a Long-tailed Jaeger with the following conclusion:
1) length of gonoys too short compared with length of bill basal to gonydal length
2) dark of forehead continuing down well below lores
3) mantle too dark
4) central retrices too short for a bird of this age
5) bird was overall too large
TBRC consensus was that it is a Parasitic Jaeger.

There you have it. It's official. I don't understand some of the above points but it's a Parasitic Jaeger. !

Photo taken at Aransas NWR, TX on 3/26/2007

So what's next? Does this get published in some birding magazines? No, the Parasitic Jaeger is a regularly occurring species in the state of Texas and the TBRC will add it to its database of observations but that's that.

Does this mean, our sighting did not make history? We still did, because the Parasitic Jaeger is a first record for Aransas NWR and raises it's species list from 404 to 405. I still have my life bird. Aransas NWF has another species on its list. This remains an incredible birding experience and story.

The references and gear I used for this blog are:
Camera: Canon EOS 10D
Lens: Canon EF100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM
Steiner 10x42 Predator Binoculars
The SIBLEY Guide to Birds