Song sparrow: Always a willing subject

Photo by Chris Bosak A song sparrow perches on a branch at Happy Landings in Brookfield, CT, spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A song sparrow perches on a branch at Happy Landings in Brookfield, CT, spring 2017.

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.)

 

Chipping Sparrow with crest raised

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

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.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Feeders are back up

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow eats from a acbirdfeeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow eats from a a bird feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., summer 2016.

When the nights first start to feel just a bit like the fall, I start filling the feeders again. This year that happened to fall on Labor Day Weekend. I hope everyone had a good holiday. The bad news is that summer is almost over. The good news is that fall is next. It’s a great season for birdwatching. (Aren’t they all, though?)

One of my first visitors to the feeders was this Chipping Sparrow. It’s a cute little sparrow and VERY common around my neighborhood. It’s always good to see the birds back at the feeders again.

Chipping Sparrow visits homemade feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

With all the talk of warblers lately it’s easy to overlook the other birds visiting us this time of year. One such non-warbler that has been around in large numbers is the Chipping Sparrow. It’s a handsome, small sparrow and nests throughout New England. It will visit feeders to eat seeds. I’ve had at least four visiting regularly over the last week or so.

The above photo shows a Chipping Sparrow visiting one of the platform birdfeeders I made in the backyard.

Enjoy the spring migration and let me know what you’re seeing out there.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow visits a homemade birdfeeder in Danbury, Conn., April 2016.

The splendid White-throated Sparrow

Photo by Chris Bosak A White-throated Sparrow perches on a branch in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A White-throated Sparrow perches on a branch in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

There are few annual birding moments as striking as seeing your spring’s first male White-throated Sparrow in all his breeding-plumage glory. The white shines, the yellow pops, the browns mix together in perfect harmony. You even notice a few colors you never knew this sparrow had before.

Well, I had that moment last week while watching some feeders in Stamford, Conn.. The House Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows (another looker) and even some White-throated Sparrows (mostly female) jockeyed around the feeders. Then this handsome fellow flew into the scene. He was a show-stopper as far as I was concerned. “If only he’d jump off the ground and take a perch more conducive to getting a good photo,” I thought to myself.

Then, of course, he did. He jumped up to a large stick jutting straight up into the air. Many times birds take those perfect perches and take off two seconds later before you can get the camera ready for the shot(s). Boy that’s frustrating when that happens. But his guy kept that perch in front of me for a good 12-15 seconds — an eternity in bird photography terms. Soon, most of the males will look this resplendent. I love his head and face with the white, black, gray and yellow. Who would have thought all that beauty in a sparrow?

A sunny, cold winter’s day for a birdwatcher

Photo by Chris Bosak A junco looks for seeds on a dried up plant at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A junco looks for seeds on a dried up plant at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

I dropped off my third-grader at school and faced a decision heading out of the parking lot: Take a left to the beach and see what birds might be there; or take a right and basically start my work day earlier than I have to.

Of course I took the left. It’s a good thing, too, because there were some pretty cool birds down at the beach. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but some good photo opps of birds such as Continue reading

Good day for Christmas Bird Count (lots of photos)

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

The weather was actually quite nice (cold, but calm) and the birds were plentiful. A story about the Christmas Bird Count (Westport Circle) is posted on http://www.theour.com.

I personally had a good day, too, in terms of finding birds. Below are more photos from the interesting birds I found during the count. Yes, I realize the photos aren’t of great quality, but it was very overcast and the photos were taken mostly to prove what was seen. Some of the photos aren’t too bad, though. Anyway …

The highlight was the three warblers I saw at Oystershell Park in Norwalk. Even one warbler species is pretty rare for a New England Christmas Bird Count, but I had three at one location. The warblers were an Orange-crowned Warbler, Continue reading

More “colorful” sparrows

This past summer I wrote a post on this website about sparrows and, while they may not boast red, blue or green feathers, they are still beautiful and heavily decorated. The beauty, however, is more subtle — mixing browns and tans rather than vibrant hues. Sometimes you have to look closely or at a different angle, but the beauty is there. In that previous post, I included a photo of a Song Sparrow. Here’s the link in case you missed it or want to see it again.

So now I offer this Swamp Sparrow as further proof. I saw this sparrow at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford (Ct.) earlier this fall, so it’s not even in its breeding plumage. I have seen Swamp Sparrows on their breeding grounds while camping in northern New Hampshire and they are strikingly plumaged. Their fall plumage, as you can see here, is not too bad either.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Swamp Sparrow perches on a branch at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary, fall 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Swamp Sparrow perches on a branch at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary, fall 2014.

 

“Colorful” sparrows can brighten a day

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Song Sparrow seen in Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Conn., March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Song Sparrow seen in Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Conn., March 2014.

When we think of sparrows, the word “colorful” likely does not come to mind. In fact, many people refer to them collectively simply as LBJs (little brown jobs).

But if you look closely enough, a world of beauty can be found in the plumage of sparrows. We see Song Sparrows almost every day and, indeed, from a distance they do look like a boring old brown bird. When the light catches that plumage, though, an endless variety of browns and tans come together to make a striking bird. Sure, browns and tans are not necessarily colorful in the obvious sense (reds, blues, purples) but it’s a more subtle beauty.

So subtle in fact that it often takes time to appreciate. When I had artist Catherine Hamilton on my Birds Calls Radio program a few years ago, she talked about how much she liked to work with sparrows. The answer surprised me because I was expecting her to say a more colorful bird such as a cardinal or Wood Duck. I understood where she was coming from, but wasn’t completely sold on the whole beautiful sparrow thing. Then, somewhere along the line, I started to look more closely at the sparrow photographs I took. Sure enough, I discovered what Catherine was talking about. The brown birds are not simply brown. You can’t grad a brown crayon from a box and color in a sparrow. You would need fist fulls of different browns and need to change crayons frequently to capture the true essence of a sparrow.

Also, when we think of sparrows the House Sparrow is often the first one that comes to mind. House Sparrows have a beauty of their own (I guess), but I’m referring more to the native New England sparrows such as Song Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, and Swamp Sparrow.

Despite my relatively new appreciation for sparrows I still have to catch myself. I still sometimes see a sparrow and immediately gloss over it and look for the next bird. Then I quickly come back to the sparrow and appreciate its subtle markings. I’m always glad I did.

So what’s your favorite sparrow of those listed below? I know “I like them all” would be most people’s answer, so I’m not even going to include that in the options. Take a stand for your favorite sparrow.