Friday, October 31, 2008

October Ends

American Tree Sparrow

We've reached the end of another beautiful October. Through winter, I'll probably carry my digiscoping gear less often when I go birding at Pheasant Branch Conservancy. I love fall, but its spectacular color and birds pass on too soon. October is one of my most productive photography and digiscoping months for several key reasons:

  • Fewer people on trails reduce disruptions.
  • The mosquito population decreases to nil.
  • Less air turbulence translates to sharper images.
  • Decreasing foliage offers more open perches.
  • Available subjects (namely sparrows) are fairly cooperative.

I enjoy watching and photographing sparrows almost as much as I do showy spring warblers and other neotropical migrants. I think a knack for identifying sparrows is accelerated through photographing them; a systematic process of collecting different sparrow species images. Skilled bird identification takes a lot of time and patience, but if you dedicate yourself to diligent study, you'll even be able to identify them by call note and flight. From the low bouncy-bounce of the Song Sparrow, to the finch-like zippiness of tree sparrows, each has elements of uniqueness to their flight that can be used to help identify them.

American Tree Sparrow © 2008 Mike McDowell


  1. please explain why you identified this as an american tree sparrow when it does not have the "stick pin" that is shown to be the key identifying mark?

    i wonder only because I have photos of a sparrow which looks EXACTLY like this. Down to the same style shrub!

  2. Hi v money,

    The spot isn't always visible, especially in a profile angle. The photographs above are, indeed, American Tree Sparrows. The bi-colored bill, copper eye-stripe and crown, plus time of year, are all used to help ID. Do you have a photograph of your sparrow that you can share?

    Mike M.