Sunday, January 17, 2010
Winter Fox Sparrow
I looked out my window this morning to see everything in the courtyard and beyond covered in beautiful frozen white crystals, giving an impression of a three-dimensional black-and-white photograph. Though meteorologists predicted sunshine for the weekend, it was once again overcast with light fog. Lighting conditions were less than optimal for digiscoping, but I was beckoned by the frost to check in on the woods and the feathered ones who call it home.
I entered Pheasant Branch at 8:00 a.m. from the overlook parking area and headed down the trail toward the bridge at the bottom of the hill. Just before the stream crossing, I found myself surrounded by a mixed-flock of spritely songbirds. I spotted Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, a few White-throated Sparrows, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, American Robins, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and other birds typically found this time of year.
As I made my way along the trail adjacent to the springs, I recognized an alert call that belonged to a Fox Sparrow. I quickly spotted the bird through dense thicket below the oak trees. The curious sparrow briskly made its way up the branches to a higher perch so it could inspect the danger (me). Shifting my spotting scope for a better glimpse, I found a relatively unobstructed view of the bird through the tree branches and managed to get a few photographs.
Sometimes these I'm-looking-at-you-looking-at-me moments feel like a staring contest. I know I'm being watched, but which of us would win? The Fox Sparrow stretched, puffed its feathers, and settled into its perch. Though anthropomorphizing this fictional match, the sparrow seemed pretty confident. But as it turned out, my imaginary game ended when a Cooper's Hawk buzzed through, sending all the songbirds for cover.
All images © 2010 Mike McDowell