I will be the first to freely admit that I am not a "birder" and certainly am not an expert on bird identification although I learned many of the birds common to our area during my earlier years. Since beginning Country Captures and finding birds an interesting subject for many of my wildlife photo quest I have learned considerably more. Referring to a bird guide after and encounter in the field with only my memory as a reference was never one of my strong suits. Digital photography changed all of that and now I frequently find myself in front of the computer comparing new bird images with images and descriptions in a couple of identification guides as well as searching the web for even more information.
With all of these resources at my fingertips this encounter with a new bird at the local wetland left me stumped. As I observed and photographed this colorful bird I noticed that in shape, behavior, and song the bird closely resembled the Baltimore (Northern) Oriole but the coloration was all wrong. After returning home and consulting my field guides the one bird that seemed a match-up was the Hooded Oriole. Upon reviewing the bird’s description I learned that the Hooded Oriole is a bird of the southwestern United States. If this was a Hooded Oriole he certainly was quite a long ways from home.
Realizing that I needed expert help I e-mailed the images to my niece Amy of Ashe’s Eye. Amy was stumped as well and passed the images on to some fellow members of the birders club that she is a member of.
The first response she received tentatively identified my mystery bird as an immature male Orchard Oriole, a bird who is right at home in Pennsylvania. The difference in coloration between an immature and a mature male is quite extreme and considering that the young of the year could not have fledged yet neither Amy nor I had considered the possibility of it being an immature bird.
In the past this encounter would have been one of noticing a pretty songbird in the tree. With digital photography, the Internet, and a birder niece this mere encounter was transformed into a learning experience, much more rewarding than that of just watching an unknown bird flitting about in the branches of a wetland tree.