I could almost hear the snickering that followed publication of Friday's Outdoors page.

That's when we published a photograph of water crossing the road on the south side of Webster Reservoir, complete with two cattle egrets standing in the water.

Unfortunately, they were great egrets.

I knew that, confident of that identification after a series of discussions with Steve Hausler and in-house birding aficionado Bob Weigel.

We talked about its yellow beak, its black legs.

And then I walked over to my computer and typed in cattle egrets.

Hmm, now that was D-U-M-B.

I know, I should take the easy way out: Write a short oops and I'm sorry, and get on with it.

But I'm sure there was a resounding tsk-tsk from birders everywhere in northwest Kansas that night. I'm sure a couple of them softly scoffed at my lousy identification abilities.

So, I'll throw myself at the mercy of the bird-wise folks I've grown to know and respect over the course of the last few years.

I confess. My birding identification skills are sub-par at best.

But, as a lawyer might do when preparing for a first-degree murder trial, I have other evidence to present.

It was a justifiable error.

I'm awash with birding books, well three of them, and enjoy reviewing each one as time allows. But Hausler has his book and Weigel his, and never the twain shall meet.

So that's five birding books on the table, and I know of several others that I've nearly hit the purchase button online before.

I've got a National Geographic book, and one that was put together by the former Audubon chief. And I have another, although I can't remember its name, and if truth be known, Weigel hates it. I won't mention that I've got a copy as well.

But there are others, touted as the top of the line.

Sibley's for example, or the "Kaufman Field Guide to Birds in North America."

I still remember the day when I attended a birding club meeting and people brought their favorite books. What a selection.

To be sure, there were a few duplicates, but darn few.

Terry and Sam Mannell, among the most passionate birders in the area, brought in a library cart it seems.

There were books about hummingbirds, books about identification and books about books on identification.

And it doesn't stop there.

I've got a "Whatbird" toolbar on my Firefox browser that has a drop-down menu that allows a person to call up all sorts of information about specific birds.

I still Google specific birds, or stop by Cornell's ornithology Web site for additional information.

Bottom line, if you want information about birds, it's not hard to find.

In fact, that's why my mistake was justified.

You see, I'm all but pleading the Twinkie Defense. Like the sugar rush that follows consumption of Twinkie's, the bird identification process was simple overload.

I had a long list of bird names fluttering about in my head as I walked that perilous 30 feet to my computer. Cattle egret, great egret and snowy egret, not to mention the little blue and great blue herons.

Coincidentally, I was able to manage a picture of a great blue heron, but we didn't publish that one then.

Bottom line, I was overwhelmed with all the egrets and herons and ibises that were in the books we reviewed.

The information is so overwhelming that I think I deserve a second chance. I will endeavor to become a better birder, and carry my birding book with me at all times, through rain and shine, thick and thin.

I swear on the blood of my esteemed vultures.