Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Salute to Sparrows

These last several months of birding have been fantastic. New species, photographs, and wonderful experiences have abounded with the burgeoning Autumn, and the emberizids have been especially well represented this fall. Sparrows seem to really revel in the autumn setting, in the dryer climate and browning foliage that exposes its fruit to their relentless pursuit.

I had not paid too much attention to Sparrows before I started taking pictures. Unless they were easily recognizable, I was too impatient and lazy to make a proper recording from my binocular observations and later identify the species. I cringe to think of all the great taxonomical opportunities I passed up in my haste, but then again I don't suppose that nagging feeling ever really leaves the eager birder.
With the aid of a camera, I have been able to enjoy the Sparrows and really appreciate their subtle beauty, their aesthetic uniqueness that goes well beyond their eccentric behaviors. It has been my pleasure this autumn to add a half-dozen or so new Sparrows to my List. They have really encouraged my growing addiction to the birding world.

It seems like most Sparrows don't become dull or subdued in the fall and winter months, unlike those finicky warblers. Also, most of these birds were seen within about an 8 mile radius of each other!

This juvenile Black-Throated Sparrow is already pretty good looking. Once his dark beard grows in he'll be the toast of the southwestern male sparrows, and I eagerly await that coming-of-age.

 This juvenile Chipping Sparrow was very content with life on the ground. Although he never let me get close, he also seemed very unwilling to fly away. The speckled breast is common in the juveniles, and the black eye-stripe is very helpful in the diagnosis.

Behold, the stately House Sparrow. They lose their black bib in the fall, which I actually think makes them look a little more clean cut. Despite being one of the most common birds in the U.S., the House Sparrow is still a pretty lil' guy. 
 It's always a bit strange to see one of these birds in the wild. I usually find it a little bit disappointing, which only says something about how jaded and spoiled I've become now with my Sparrow exposures.

The Rufous-Crowned Sparrow was a curious happening outside of the Desert Botanical Gardens. I first saw the bubbly bird hopping around by the side exit as I was preparing my departure, and recognizing it as a different Sparrow, I gave chase. I didn't really know what I was then looking at, but when I by chance mentioned the experience and showed the photos to some of the  at the DBG, they were very surprised.   
My Peterson's Field Guide may be out of date, because apparently this bird is only a very rare visitor outside of southeastern Arizona. This was the first confirmed sighting at the Gardens, and a very special first sighting for me.

The Brewer's Sparrow is what I would call a medium Sparrow. It's doesn't quite have the pop of some of the other emberizids, but it is still a handsome bird when one gets the time to look at it, and they seem very comfortable in their role in the background.

 I didn't have much luck getting close to the Chipping Sparrows this fall, but they still gave me some good looks and provided another new entry on my List. Their facial design and cap is a bit more simple than other Sparrows, so they compensate with a bit more vivacity.

 I was very happy to see this Lincoln's Sparrow while actually pursuing a Marsh Wren around the McCormick Ponds. The light brown on the side of the face and the darker ring on the cheek is very delightful, as is the buffy breast and light streaking leading into the white chin. I have no idea what happened to his tail.
 This Sparrow makes me think of beer (though I guess the Brewer's Sparrow really should) for some reason, which gives it an additional psychological boost to see in the wild on a hot autumn day (only in Phoenix).

 The White-Crowned Sparrow is pretty unmistakable. Their crowns and calls are charming to no end, as is the unusual, darker grey coloration on their bodies. 
They congregate in large numbers during the winter, and I look forward to their massed machinations at the Gilbert Water Ranch.

This Song Sparrow was the most recent addition to the site, and also the most estranged Sparrow, hailing all the way from seaside San Diego. The exceptionally dark streaking threw me for a bit of a loop when first trying to identify the bird, but with a bit of help he was confirmed into the ranks of the Butlers Birds and Things.

I'm very grateful that the Sparrows weren't sparse or sparing this fall. They've made for great field subjects and really helped make me a better, more observant birder.

On an almost unrelated side note, "Sparrowfarts" is an old (1880s) Cheshire slang term that meant, "early in the morning".