Red Phalarope at Bald Knob, Allegheny County, PA
UPDATED 9/7/2005 with two pictures taken on September 6
This molting juvenile Red Phalarope was discovered by Mark Vass on September 4. Note the thickness of the bill,
the presence of a very subtle yellow base on the mandible (very difficult to discern in these photos but present nonetheless),
and, on those feathers that have molted in as the bird transitions to basic plumage, a nice even, light gray. Likely,
it was driven into the area by Hurricane Katrina, and the possibility exists that it's already been present at Bald Knob for
In characteristic Red (or Red-necked) phalarope fashion, this bird had found a food source it liked very much and
became entirely focused on it, allowing very close approach, to which these photos demonstrate. These first two pictures were
taken September 6. The position of the afternoon sun, the calm wind, the bird... everything was just perfect:
An interesting example of how the ambient light can radically change the outcome of a photograph is shown below.
In this photo, the bird was shaded from the sun by a nearby hillside, but the deep, perfect blue of the sky lit
by the full force of the sun, and the reflection of that sky in the surface of the water, created a eerie blue cast to everything,
and this was the result. Additionally, the bright light but low contrast makes for a very nice opportunity to study
the subtle details of the coloring of this molting juvenile.
Note specifically the buffy or reddish wash on the throat - the remainder of the juvenile feathering that covers
the throat and neck of a full juvenile Red Phalarope. Also note the light fringes to the remaining dark feathers
all along the bird's back, also characteristic of juvenile Red Phalarope. Finally, note the very light, even gray color
to the adult basic feathers that have molted in.