Yesterday, a not-so-shy Lincoln's Sparrow came out into full view. In fact, it sat and preened for a while. This is a species that I "twitched" with determination when one was reported on Blackhead Road and another at Kelly's Brook last winter. The best I was able to do was see it as it flitted past me and darted back into the cover of the brush or trees. Not this time!
While I didn't take time to study the bird with my binos, I knew it seemed quite different when looking through my camera. The breast was much "buffier" than a Song Sparrow, and the amount of gray on the face was distinct. Because this bird doesn't look exactly like the one in Peterson's Guide, I am guessing it may be an immature bird. There is no indication in the guide that the Lincoln's has a winter "suit."
How did I come across this bird? Well, I found three juncos who, after a while, flew off. I decided to follow. They led me to a larger flock of juncos and a few Golden-crowned Kinglets. That was all it took to keep my interest. While watching them, out came a sparrow! A very good sparrow. Then, it was gone.
Not me! I stuck around a while hoping to get another look. My time-in paid off. A sparrow once again appeared on a branch. This one, though, while quite similar had a breast spot. Could this one be a Song Sparrow?
Now I was confused and in for the long haul to get more pictures. I hadn't changed the settings on my camera, but of course light can play tricks with colors. This bird seemed less "buffy." Nevertheless, the face was the same. It was also suggested to me that sometimes the wind can part the feathers on the breast to expose the skin making it appear there is a breast spot, even a large one.
The Lincoln's Sparrow often does have a breast spot. Now, I am wondering if this is the same bird or if there are two in the area. After all, the Lincoln's is a common breeder in the province, and two could be travelling together. Yet, unless I can see two together, I am hesitant to suggest the presence of more than one.
While, there are so few song birds left in the woods, it seems that almost every little bird I see, notwithstanding the juncos and kinglets, provides an unexpected treat. To quickly write off a bird as a common species may result in missing the uncommon. It is my pictures that actually "save" the moment. If I had described this bird to some one as: A sparrow, with brown streaking on the front and a breast spot, the natural assumption is that the bird is a Song Sparrow. Move on. By having the pictures, I can study the bird more closely and get help with an ID. For me, this enhances the birding experience.