Friday, May 28, 2010

Swamp Sparrow

When you least expect it, up pops the bird of choice. I went in search of a Swamp Sparrow several times only to return home disappointed. Then, last week I was in the bird blind at Long Pond taking "snaps" of Tree and Barn Swallows. During that time I heard the crows squawking and saw them circling. I figured it must be prompted by a raptor so I stepped out of the blind in time to catch a few shots of the raptor circling overhead. As usual, the crows were working hard to drive it away. When that show was over, I was heading back to the blind when up popped this little Swamp Sparrow.  I quickly adjusted the settings on my camera and got about two dozen shots before he lifted off.

Sparrows are a bit tricky to identify. There are many with very similar markings.  The Swamp Sparrow has a grey face, white throat, grey breast and white belly. Notice the line behind the eye and the grey line above the eye.

They also have a reddish crown and rufous back and tail with black lines, as the pictures below illustrate. The Swamp Sparrow is most often found around ponds, bogs and other wet lands. I get that accounts for their name.

A singing bird seems to be much easier to photograph. They are more interested in their song than in getting away from the camera. The sweet song of the sparrows and the warblers fills the woods these days.

The next time you come upon a sparrow, stop to look at the color and markings on the breast, note the lines on the face and the crown of the head.  Look closely to identify the color and markings on the back and tail. If given the opportunity, listen to the song.

Some birdwatchers are particularly astute when it comes to bird song. They can rhyme off the names of several birds that they are hearing but not seeing. It is really amazing to watch someone with this skill. For me, I am still just learning to identify the bird by its look. 

On Sunday I am participating in a 4-hour field session to learn more about finding and identifying both sparrows and warblers. I have already collected a number of photos of both groups and will be posting them in the days to come. If you don't have a field guide, check back here from time to time to help you identify  the birds that you see. There are many wonderful websites with photos and info about birds, but the most helpful starting point is to have narrowed the species of the bird to two or three. Then it is easier to search for info to support the ID. Happy birding, even if it is incidental.

Update:  I found this little bird when walking at Long Pond on Sunday. The lighting and the surroundings make this Swamp Sparrow's colors look richer. Yet, when I go down through all of the discriptors of this little one, it is clear that it, too, is a Swamp Sparrow.

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