The other day, I posted a photo of a white-throated sparrow. Song sparrows are another frequent visitor to my yard. From a distance, many sparrows look drab, but closer inspection yields an interesting mix of colors.
Sometimes you get lucky and the background turns out to enhance the photo. (You can also plan for that, of course, but in this case I was lucky.) I like the soft red/pink color of the background. I don’t even know what the red is. Other than a few small berries remaining from fall, there’s nothing red the background where this photo was taken following a recent snowfall in New England. The colors of the white-throated sparrow stand out with the light, pastel-like background.
A Day on Merganser Lake
This chipping sparrow likes to land on one of my garden stakes that supports my snow peas. If only it and its friends would take care of the caterpillars ravaging my Brussels sprouts.
A Day on Merganser Lake
The tiny and cute chipping sparrow is one of the more commonly seen sparrows this time of year in New England. I have found a few nests over the years (including this year) and I’m always amazed at how small the nests are. I’ve never ventured close enough to see the eggs but I can imagine they are quite small, maybe jelly bean or marble sized. Spring migration may be over (for the most part) but the nesting season is exciting in its own right.
A Day on Merganser Lake IX
For whatever reason I don’t get a lot of white-throated sparrows visiting my yard. I have a good property for them, too, with edge-of-woods habitat and a few brush piles for shelter. I get tons of juncos, but few white-throated sparrows. So when I looked up and saw this guy perched in a branch right outside my window yesterday, I had to take action. He is in crisp breeding plumage and was a cooperative subject. It’s easy to see why it is called a white-throated sparrow.
(Repeat text for context: I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)
My foot was feeling up for a short, relatively non-taxing walk yesterday (Thursday) so I grabbed a walking stick and hit a trail. The aching foot enhanced the walk in one fashion as it made me slow down and take in all the sights and sounds of the spring New England woods. Too often when I walk I’m rushing to a destination or point of interest (pond or open field) and don’t take the time to fully absorb all that is around me. Not that I’m hoping the foot keeps hurting, but that was the silver lining in this latest bout of tendonitis.
It was still a bit early for a big warbler count — blue-winged and black-and-white were the only warbler species I found — but eastern towhees were numerous. I’ll expand on the eastern towhee in an upcoming post, but this large sparrow is one of my favorites. The calls and songs of the towhee filled the edge of the woods and I noticed several pairs, which bodes well for a strong breeding season (hopefully.) Above is the male eastern towhee and below is the female. The female is duller in color, but still a striking bird.
Southern New England got its first snow of the season on Thursday evening, a bit earlier than usual on Nov. 15. At some point overnight, the snow gave way to a snow/freezing rain mixture. The four or five inches of snow that fell now has a hard layer of ice on top.
The harsh weather brought in a pair of unexpected, but welcomed, visitors: fox sparrows. The large sparrows, which are also a bit more colorful than the usual sparrows in New England, show up sporadically throughout the region, mostly during the winter. With strange weather gripping the region, keep an eye out for unexpected visitors at your feeder stations. Let me know what you see by commenting on this post.
Just like waders (herons and egrets) are good subjects for beginning nature photographers because of their size, abundance and relative approachability, the song sparrow is a good subject for photographers taking that next step into this highly addictive hobby.
Obviously they don’t have the size of waders, presenting more of a challenge to the photographer, but they are abundant and typically make their presence known when they are around. They are quite vocal and curious, often taking a perch near you when you walk through their habitat, which is typically shrubby areas near woods.
They aren’t the most colorful birds out there, but they are handsomely decorated with a variety muted tones.
To identify the song sparrow, look for the spot on the chest. (Not to be confused with the smaller chest spot on the tree sparrow.)
Here are a few more leftover photos from 2016. I like these photos because they show an interesting bird behavior.
My new home in the woods is popular among Chipping Sparrows. They are very common in the immediate area, much to my delight. They visit my feeders and hang out among my trees.
Sometimes, however, one gets agitated about something or another. Maybe my cat got out and was around; maybe Blue Jays or crows were around; maybe it knew I was close by with a camera. Whatever the reason, this guy or girl wasn’t happy at the moment.