2023-04-27 Baker Wetlands, Lawrence Kansas

Red-Winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
I spent the day south of Lawrence Kansas exploring the Baker Wetlands. Bird migration seemed in full swing, and I enjoyed every minute.
Red-Winged Blackbird - Agelaius phoeniceus
My first impression of this bird had me thinking it was a Bobolink, but when I looked at the images, I realized it was a Leucistic Red-Winged Blackbird. 

Thursday, I rode my bike through the center of the Baker Wetlands south of Lawrence Kansas, and spent the day hoping for, but not finding, an American Woodcock. Far from a loss, I enjoyed some nice birds. Some posed nicely, while others were elusive. What a great place, though. With almost a thousand acres of natural habitat, it might have easily fallen victim to the plow. Instead, over 11 miles of trails wind through the property, with several boardwalks extending out on the shallow ponds and marshes. 

I rode my bike several miles from Haskell Road to the Visitor Center and back. There were several wooden blinds along the trail I followed, but unfortunately, they faced south, so most subjects were hindered by strong back-lighting. If I visit again, I will try another trail. I suspect there could be some north-facing blinds elsewhere on the property.

A highlight for me was meeting a couple of almost breeding-plumaged Bobolinks ([sic], see below) in the company of Red-Winged Blackbirds. After spotting the Bobolink, I saw there were feeders by the Visitor Center attended by a bevy of blackbirds. I shifted my position to take advantage of the feeders, and sure enough, the Bobolinks dropped by to get a snack, and I collected some images. As a bonus, Harris’s Sparrows showed up too.

I’d like to share a little about my process when in the field gathering images. There are people whose skill level at observing and identifying species in ‘real-time’ is remarkable. Relative to these folks, I am a rank amature. As a photographer, my primary objective is to gather the best image possible of my subject, and in that capacity, tunnel vision is a tool that I use at the expense of accurate observation of the field marks that determine the identity of my subject. A case-in-point is the ‘Bobolink’ I saw on Thursday. The bird I saw was a ‘blackbird’ with a white cap, and all I could think of at the moment was I was in the presence of a Bobolink. I noticed it wasn’t a perfect fit for that species, but not being familiar with all of its plumages, I held on to that conclusion. 

The bad news is that I was wrong in my identification, but the good news was I had pictures that would help me correct my mistake. I had to dismiss the ‘Bobolink’ call when I studied the white cap and saw it was not located where the Bobolink’s should be. Then I saw the bill shape and low forehead and realized it was perfect for the Red-Winged Blackbird, and was compelled to revise my original call to a Leucistic Red-Winged Blackbird. It is not the first time I’ve mis-identified a bird, and likely not to be the last. But with more experience, the frequency of my blunders has diminished. 

Click map markers to reveal further information