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.