Saturday, January 21, 2006

Saturday's Mission: American Tree Sparrows

(For this photo essay you can click on any of the images for a larger version)

Did I say our snow had melted? Well, the weather system that dumped a couple inches of snow last night passed through by morning, leaving clear skies and me with a digiscoping dilemma...I needed a mission. All that talk about Snow Buntings and Tufted Titmice, and I haven’t been seeing any Snow Buntings for several weeks. Pheasant Branch Conservancy’s Tufted Titmice have dispersed for one reason or another. I haven’t spotted the Northern Shrike for several days, which reminded me...the picture of an American Tree Sparrow (shrike food) on my gallery is a little weak.

So that was my mission – digiscope American Tree Sparrows at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. The landscape was frosted and the lighting, just perfect. I love the way fresh snowflakes cover branches and my hope was to combine this natural effect with the tree sparrows. But first, I thought I would try and capture the frozen crystals clinging to twigs:

A small flock of American Tree Sparrows kept moving from one side of the field to the other so for a moment I thought there might be a hawk nearby, but the only one visible was a Red-tailed over a mile away. Because the sparrows were being skittish I thought my chances of getting close wouldn’t be so good after all. But after about a half an hour they settled down and began eating, so I had the pick of the light and perches:

Link: All about the American Tree Sparrow from Cornell Lab

So there you have it...American Tree Sparrows the way they're meant to be seen. You know...they may be common during the winter months but they sure are beautiful birds. After a successfully completed digiscoping mission, I decided to bird the lower stream corridor and saw the following species:

Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl (on a nest!)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse (only 1)
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Hermit Thrush (surprise!)
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
House Finch
American Goldfinch

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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