Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Sparrow Crawl

On Saturday, I met up with members of The Mattabeseck Audubon Society for their annual "Sparrow Crawl." There was no actual crawling involved, but we did see quite a few sparrows. The Mattabeseck Audubon is a local chapter of The National Audubon Society. They offer a few birding field trips each year, but their primary focus is on the environment, not so much birding. I look forward to the few trips they have to offer. They tend to have smaller groups, and visit lesser known birding spots in the local area.

On this day, Larry and Pat were the trip leaders and they like to move along at a leisurly pace, which I like.. There's much talk about changes in the habitat, invasive plant species, native plants, and the effects that development is having on our local environment. They will spend time carefully observing field marks of an individual bird, and discuss their preferred habitat. .

We managed to see several species of sparrow including: Savannah, Song, Chipping, White-throated, Field, White-crowned, Swamp, and Eastern Towhee (heard). We found the White-throated Sparrows in a place referred to as the bean field in Middletown, and also in a field located on Miller Road in Middlefield. Three of the five sparrows were adults, with bold black and white crowns.

I think that might be one of the problems some of us run in to when it comes to identifying sparrows. Once we see the key field marks that lead to making an identification, we tend to move on to the next bird. If the field mark aren't obvious on a particular bird, we suddenly feel lost. Perhaps the key is to take the time to notice other, more subtle features of each species- (or individual bird) -that make it unique. By doing this, we may feel more comfortable trying to identify sparrows that are new, or less familiar to us. At least, that's what I'm hoping for. I certainly don't take this approach with every bird, so this is definitely a long term plan.

We also came across a lot of Purple finches. It started with a few at the bean field.We later visited The Middletown Nature Gardens on Randolph Road in Middletown where we saw about 20 or so. The vast majority were females which have a bold white eye stripe. I've seen a few of these finches in Connecticut at a time, but I've never seen this many at once.

A few of the other birds we saw included Peregrine Falcon, Tree Swallows, Black Vulture, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cedar Waxwings, Palm Warbler, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

We had nice fall weather for the trip. I'll be looking forward to their Eagle Watch, which won't be until March of 2008. I also plan on meeting up with some of the members for this year's Christmas Count.


Ruth said...

I would enjoy this kind of trip myself. Looking for birds is fine, but it would be interesting to learn about the other environmental features and issues too. I cannot find anything locally like you describe in this post.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
I heard several white-throated sparrows singing yesterday morning also. I also still have quite a few chipping sparrows at my backyard bird feeders although their numbers are going down as the junco population increases.

Mary said...

Oh, I've heard of the Christmas Count! There are several trips here in December.

Larry, I have spent more than 30 minutes with my field guides trying to identify one sparrow. I think even the experts get anxious over it!

Larry said...

ruth-They don't advertise this trip to be the way I described, it's just the way the leaders happen to be.Try going on more field trips.

ruthiej-Always fun to see what's coming and going.

Mary-Why don't you sign up for th Christmas count? Anyone can do it.-Some sparrows are real tough, like the possible Clay-colored we were trying to figure out today.

Jayne said...

With sparrows being sometimes so difficult to ID, it does seems like it would be a good idea to really observe the birds in order to get to know them and their mannerisms. I get so impatient with myself when I see one that I can't readily identify. Sometimes we just need to step back and observe a bit. Good lesson Larry. :c)

dguzman said...

Great post, Larry. I would love to take such a field trip. Sometimes I have to make myself go birding without my camera; that way, when I see a bird, I tend to stare at it a lot longer and look for the more subtle things about the bird including behaviors. When I have the camera, I think I get lazy and figure "I'll just ID it with the picture!" and move on. Good lesson from the Cyruliks.

Larry said...

Jayne-It's taking me a while to make progress on some of the tougher sparrows, but I'm getting better gradually.

Larry said...

dzugman-I know what you mean about the camera, but I'm afraid I'll come across something rare and have no prooof if I leave it behind.