Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Clay-colored Sparrow

I try to practice my Sparrow ID a lot. As far as the difficult ID groups go (Flycatchers, Gulls, Sparrows), I consider myself to be strongest with these little brown jobs. However, I am ashamed to admit once again that, upon further review of a photo I took last November, a little over a year ago, I made another misidentification.
Earlier this autumn I was commenting that I expected the McCormick Ponds to produce some rarity this winter, but all I had found thus far was a very early White-crowned Sparrow.

Upon reviewing this photo though I realized that what I had first written off as a Brewer's Sparrow was, in fact, a vagrant Clay-colored Sparrow. Though uncommon, these Sparrows do stray into Arizona, though I haven't heard many reports this year. This was a life bird for me, though I didn't know it at the time, and I can now add it to the list of unusual Sparrows I've seen in Phoenix, alongside Cassin's and Rufous-crowned.



So, once again I proved to myself what a novice I still am. This time it doesn't sting so badly though. Clay-colored wasn't really on my radar and now I can say McCormick has provided me with that all important rare bird to really solidify it as a grand old birding spot. This also brings my birding list for this year up to 349, only 1 away from my goal!
It's not a Brewer's Sparrow, but I still think a nice cold celebratory brew is in order.

18 comments:

  1. Absolutely--the brew is in order. I found my first Clay-colored about a month ago. Nice find! Those "pale lores" are so exciting to see.

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  2. So you saw this bird last year, but putting it on this year's year list? IM CALLING THE BIRD POLICE!!!

    Nice detective work, and good photo too. Beer is probably better to drink than clay.

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    1. You're putting me in an awkward position here Seagull, because now I must clarify that is not my Year List, but rather my...err hem...Life list. My goal was to have a life list of 350 by the end of 2012, having started counting and recording in the spring of 2011, with a few confirmed exceptions from earlier sightings.

      So, don't call the police, but call the tabloids as once again I am now publicly shamed.
      I'm beginning to think you are my Nemesis Birder eh?
      You can take my pride Seagull, but you'll never take Purple Sandpipers away from me...oh yeah and I saw them in June in New Jersey : ::smug dance:: :

      Thanks for stopping by.

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    1. Thanks Eileen, and it's even better when it turns out to be a rarity eh!?

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  4. Nice observation--however late it may have been realized! Thank goodness for digital photography! The Clay-colored Sparrow I found at Gilbert Water Ranch during a spring visit this year wasn't positively identified while I was still in Phoenix visiting family. I saw it with Brewer's Sparrows and knew it was just a little different so I photographed it and moved on. I had to run it by some field guides and a good birding friend to confidently identify it after the fact. I felt bad afterward because I couldn't report it immediately to the local birders before returning to Utah.

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    1. Cheers Jeff!

      Yeah, I felt bummed to have missed publicizing this opportunity. This bird was really cooperative and McCormick ranch is pretty centrally located--a lot've people may've been able to enjoy this bird if I were more on-the-ball.
      I guess that's all the more motivation to learn my birds better!

      I do enjoy some good finicky Sparrow ID though. It's such a lovely group of birds.

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  5. Ooh congrats on the armchair lifer! I really never thought I could get excited about a sparrow, but they are such good little birds.

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    1. Yes indeedy, there should be a new word invented for the particular and peculiar satisfaction that comes with IDing Sparrow lifers.
      Something like, "emberistatic" or "sparrowacked" eh?

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  6. Congrats on this lifer, 'cuz as the old saying goes.."better late than never". Don't worry though, I'm still well ahead of you on the list of birders with the most misidentifcations;) 349 is very impressive, you will surely make your goal !

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    1. Thanks Tammy, and also as they say, "better Clay than never."

      Ok, they don't say that. At least since I outed myself it's not as bad as someone else pointing out my old mis-ID. Anyway, thanks for your support during this time of intense, soul-tearing bittersweet emotion.

      It's fun to think what that last '1' will be. I hope it's not anti-climactic.

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  7. Laurence, wow! Job well done! I think we all always have more to learn when it comes to birds and I am so glad that you can admit when you are wrong. We all learn from these types of experiences!

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    1. Hey thanks Kathie!
      If I couldn't talk about my mistakes, well, I wouldn't have much at all to talk about then eh?

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    2. The other day there was a White Throated Sparrow and Kathie said, "That's the bird!" And I dangerously asked in the moment, "Are you sure?" She replies, "I know this one! Of course I know it!" And I had a hard time keeping my camera from shaking from the laughing:) We both go through our notes and ID marks. The ID's are tricky but Kathie has them down. But I'm not always quite sure so I have been listening to bird calls and I seem better at ID'ing by the calls. I suck at sparrows! White Crowned is easy. House...easy. White Throat easy. Song...kinda. Brewers....kinda. Chipping...kinda. Vesper...yes. Lark....a discussion with Kathie about malars or something like that:) Gulls,peeps, sparrows and some of the flycatchers drive me bonkers! But isn't that the fun of birding?:) We three are going to have a blast together. That last week of December might be good:)

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    3. Oh yes it's quite the gallimaufry of sounds colors and possibilities.
      I'm afraid I'll be out of town the last week of December. Maybe I can sneak down to Tucson before then, or meet y'all later in January.

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  8. That's right! You mentioned that. That could work as well. We're doing the Christmas bird count on the 16th. I'm not sure where...but it's all pretty exciting right now. Lots of birds to see. Do you do the CBC?

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    1. Maybe I can join y'all for a CBC then in January. I'd also love to check out the San Rafael Grasslands for raptors at some point, and gotta visit Whitewater Draw.

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