Friday, May 18, 2012

Three Species of Sparrows

With only five species (White-throated, Fox, Song, Swamp and Savannah) of sparrows frequently found on the Avalon, I was thinking I should know these few birds anywhere, anytime. I am working on that. Their appearances are quite different and their songs are are also unique.

The above image of a Savannah Sparrow clearly shows the yellow supercilliary stripe. With the sun's rays bouncing off of it, this bird was stunning. Even at quite a distance, there was no mistaking the yellow.  The Savannah and the Song Sparrow both have streaked breasts along with the Fox Sparrow (not pictured here).
 Much like the White-throated and Fox Sparrows, the Song Sparrow may frequently be seen sitting high in a tree where at this time of the year, it fills its days with singing.
This particular Song Sparrow looked more  reddish than most.  These pictures, taken from about 40 yards or more away, clearly show its long tail and its central spot. Even when looking through the binoculars, it was not possible to identify this bird at that distance. Shooting with manual settings, I was able to get a much more defined image to review later.  Note: My experience with the AV setting at this distance, shooting into the back light tells me I would only have gotten a dark blob and would never have been sure which sparrow this was.
Nearby, this clear-breasted Swamp Sparrow was flitting around with at least four others.  The Swamp Sparrow has a dull gray breast, reddish cap and a bold black line behind the eye. For me, it is the gray breast and black line that help me with a quick ID.
Finally, a Swamp Sparrow came within twenty feet of me and I was able to get a better shot.  In this image the black markings on the back are very obvious and the gray face is quite prominent.
Surroundings are also helpful when identifying this bird. As the name implies, this species of sparrow is often found in areas of shallow water with plenty of low vegetation.

The more I see and listen to these birds, as well as study my pictures, I am gaining confidence in identifying them quickly.  The other advantage to having that skill is to be able to recognize an uncommon sparrow by eliminating the regulars.

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