Friday, October 18, 2013

Some sparrows are moving in, others are moving out!

The only warbler I encountered this morning at Pheasant Branch Conservancy was a Nashville Warbler. Dark-eyed Juncos and Fox Sparrows are becoming more numerous and their presence is a sign that fall songbird migration is starting to come to a close. I haven’t seen any American Tree Sparrows yet, but they should be arriving any day. Shortly thereafter, I'll likely see a Northern Shrike or two. Beyond that, I might add Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs to my fall counts. And then begins the long winter wait.

White-throated Sparrow

What's the most obvious perception of the fall season? Well, it starts to get colder. Leaves change color, then fall to the ground. Best of all, sparrows migrate! I'm impressed by White-throated Sparrow numbers at the prairie parcel this fall. For every one I find I’m sure there are several I never see. Perhaps they dash for cover before I notice them, or are already hidden in the dense grass and brush.

They're rarely quiet, though. Vocalizations of White-throated Sparrows range between sharp beeps, quiet seeps, excited thurps, and whistled song fragments. Every now and then an adult will sing a near perfect rendition of their spring song. I can make approximations of their numbers just by listening as I walk down the trail. I can’t be positive how accurate such counting methods are. I might report a few dozen or so, but I suspect there are hundreds of them atop the drumlin and in adjacent fields right now.

On the other hand, one has to listen more carefully to detect a Lincoln’s Sparrow. They have a diminutive buzzy zeet call and a soft chip note that sort of reminds me of a Fox Sparrow or Dark-eyed Junco, only more subdued. This fall I've been lucky with obtaining nice portraits of this dapper little sparrow. Their numbers are already beginning to drop as they move out of the conservancy for their winter homes further south.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Pheasant Branch, Dane, US-WI
Oct 18, 2013 7:15 AM - 9:15 AM
38 species

Canada Goose
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Pheasant
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Nashville Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

All images © 2013 Mike McDowell

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