Saturday, April 24, 2010

Was That A Funky Towhee? Eastern Towhee and Funkia

I took this photograph today of an Eastern Towhee. It's a male. It is not the greatest photograph I've ever taken, but it's the best of a Towhee I've ever shot. Ideally, the bird would have been turned toward me and there would have been more 'eye light,' or highlight in the eye. There wouldn't have been so much background clutter and the bird's exposure would have been lighter. It turns out though, that this bird is hard to capture. It's a rustler in the bushes and underbrush, more often heard than seen and rareley seen without this exsact same type of small twigs and sticks in its midst. So, I should count my blessings and that's why I'm sharing this shot with you at all. I don't usually post photographs unless they are perfect. It's too vulnerable a place for me to be, especially since I know what makes a great photograph versus a snapshot. It would be better to just keep it to myself that I took lousy photographs as to reveal them. I have not seen a Towhee at ALL for at least twenty years. In my exsuberance, I posted this sighting to the Maine Audubon List Serve right away. I hollered in the e mail, "I saw a Rufous Sided Towhee!" The minute I had done it,  I had poster's remorse. I thought, "Oh God! What if it was really an American Redstart?"  That would have been much more likely and I would really have sounded like an idiot, a birding rookie, especially since I pulled the trigger on the 'Perigrine That Wasn't,' per my last post. My credibility is really waning here. As a birder, there's not much worse than egg on the face with an identification. In the eyes of birders, it's hideous to be wrong! So, I carefully examined the two photographs I had and listened over and over to song recordings. I was sure it was an Eastern Towhee. But, I had said "Rufous Sided Towhee," and there is no such thing. It's an Eastern Towhee. Clearly in my mind though, I could hear someone saying, "Rufous Sided Towhee."  Who? Who would have said that? Oh, God -it was my mother! My mother knew nothing about birds but presumed to know and boasted of sightings accordingly. Having repeated her words without thinking, I sounded like her, which made me really queasy. She was always making statements of fact when she didn't know what she was talking about. One of the things she used to say was that hosta plants were called "Funkia." I don't know where she got that. As a professional gardener, I'm into botanical exsactitude; I don't throw plant names and identifications around recklessly any more than I do that of birds. "Funkia" is an old fashioned inexact term, used by Victorian ladies. However, it is what hosta were once upon a time called. And Eastern Towhee were once upon a time called Rufous Sided Towhee.  I guess what really matters is not who's right or exsactly what they call a thing. It doesn't matter who is perfect or who is the best. What matters is the love and larger appreciation that they pass on to another, especially children. Even when they are wrong.
Hosta sieboldiana "Sum And Substance."

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  1. Very Georgia O'Keeffe.
    If this hosta were in our yard the deer would have eaten it by now.
    Carol in Section 16

  2. I thought you were very lucky to get any kind of shot.Albiet hidden in brush or on a wire.bmc

  3. Ahem, Ahem. I dunno about that – to me it looks a lot like a Red-Winged, White Breasted Blackburnian Eurasian-variant Warbler. Note the semi-palmated tertiary wing thingamajigs and the rufous scapulare – a sure tipoff for ID. Eastern Towhee? Not a chance! You are soooo wrong!

    (On behalf of)

    Charles A. Dorkmeister III

    (Member of the Audubon Society)

  4. Robin----------That is a most beautiful photo of a Towhee, indeed of Any bird. Congratulations on the photography!. Thanks for sharing.

    Are you a member of MMAS? Are you planning to go to the Annual Banquet on Tues? I am. Would love to meet you if you will be there. I really enjoy your bird sightings. You sound most knowledgeable. I am a former member of MMAS and was on their Board. I resigned when my husband had a major stroke. I am now the sole caretaker for him, and know far more than I ever wanted to know about strokes, etc..

    Thanks so much for sharing your sightings, and the Towhee photo!

    Jackie Twomey