Thursday, September 26, 2013

Orange Sparrows!

Nelson's Sparrow

It's orange sparrow season in southern Wisconsin! There are two smart looking sparrows in the genus ammodramus that have particularly striking orange plumage features, Nelson's and Le Conte's. Last October there were at least two Le Conte's Sparrows at Pheasant Branch Conservancy and I found a Nelson's Sparrow at the North Fork marsh during spring migration. They're secretive and sneaky birds, so one must check carefully in wet grasslands, meadows, or edges of freshwater marshes to be fortunate enough to stumble across one. In particular, search in areas where there is a lot of smartweed.

For many years these beautiful sparrows were reliably found at Nine Springs Natural Area during fall migration, but the habitat wasn't properly managed to ensure the birds would continue to be attracted to it as a stopover spot. The only other time I've had either of these birds at the conservancy was over a decade ago, so I don't anticipate I'll be extending this lucky streak into this fall. You never know, though. A few Nelson's Sparrows have been spotted recently at Lake Barney just south of Madison. Keep a sharp eye out for them!

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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