Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cooper's Hawk, Goldfinches, and Sparrows

I took advantage of the beautiful cool mornings and birded the neighborhood both days this weekend. Saturday I was standing on the flood plain property in the tall grass near the end of Braeburn Glen when this Cooper's Hawk flew over. It landed in the top of a Cottonwood Tree right by me and I got this photo. It's a first-year bird just getting its adult plumage. Its back and cap will get a little bit darker, the reddish barring on the breast will get a little fuller, and its eyes will turn red. (They're just orange now.)

A little further north I found this pair of Lesser Goldfinches feeding on sunflower seeds. They let me get pretty close and I got this picture. The males have a striking black and yellow half-and-half pattern. The females can be tricky to tell apart from winter American Goldfinches. But one clue is that Lesser's are slightly yellow under the tail. Americans are all white under the tail.

What a difference a week makes! I had several first-of-season sightings of winter resident birds this weekend:
It's fun to see native sparrows again. The common sparrows in the neighborhood are House Sparrows, an introduced old-world species. They live here all year long. But the sparrows I listed above are native species that only live here in the winter. They usually stick to low dense brush and tall grasses, so they're more challenging to find and see. But I think seeing their handsome and intricately cryptic plumages makes up for the extra effort.

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