Here are the answers:
|Pennsylvania - February|
Next are the birds in the foreground that are flying low over the water. On the left there are two birds with a lot of white and on the left, two gray birds. All appear to have noticeable short tails and pointed wings. These characteristics nicely fit those of ducks. The birds on the left have white and black bodies and wings and orange/red feet. If you look on the lowest bird in the photograph, you can see the bird has dark coloration near the head. If you compare these field marks to ducks in a field guide, you will see that Common Merganser fits perfectly. The ducks over on the left are much darker and grayer than the male Common Mergansers. The wings are dark, with darker tips, and there appears to be a white patch on each wing. Considering these field marks and the association with the male Common Mergansers, these are female Common Mergansers.
What about the blurry birds floating in the water in the back? The shape and coloration of these birds match those of Common Mergansers, and that is exactly what they all are.
|Pennsylvania - August|
|Pennsylvania - August|
These two dull vireos are well-known for being tricky to identify, especially in migration when both can occur together. Most Warbling Vireos start migrating and the beginning of August (they also breed in Pennsylvania), whereas Philadelphia Vireos start showing up around the end of the month. Since this photo was taken in August, and we don't know a specific date, migration timing is not a helpful identification tool. We also cannot see the facial markings which are often useful for separating these two. Warbling Vireos are generally whitish underneath and Philadelphia Vireos have more yellow. Since this bird is mostly yellow underneath, this must be a Philadelphia, right? Well, let's take another look. Notice how the yellow coloration on the chest appears the same as that on the throat. A Philadelphia Vireo usually shows a brighter yellow throat. Also take note of the white that is visible on the middle part of the underside--something that is uncommon on Philadelphia Vireos which would be solid yellow on a bright individual. From these distinctions, we can come to the conclusion that this is a Warbling Vireo. In the field, a view of the head and posture of this individual would aid the identification. As a final note, the coloration in this photo is very deceiving. Although the bird had more yellow that the "average" Warbling Vireo, the photo taken with sunlight shining through green leaves accentuated this characteristic. Always be careful when using colors to identify birds!
Photo 1: Common Merganser and Herring Gull (100%)
Photo 2: Blackburnian Warbler (50%), Pine Warbler (16.7%), American Goldfinch (16.7%), Rusty Blackbird (16.7%)
Photo 3: Philadelphia Vireo (50%), Warbling Vireo (16.7%), Red-eyed Vireo (16.7%), Least Flycatcher (16.7%)
Congratulations to Ethan Kistler, who got them all correct.