Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grasshopper Sparrow!

Late this afternoon I was excited to get an email from my neighbor and fellow birder Steven McDonald. He sent me these great pictures he had just taken of a Grasshopper Sparrow that showed up in his backyard on Perthshire. This is a small grassland species that winters in our area but is difficult to find. Even when you do find one the looks you get are usually brief and unsatisfying. My usual view of a Grasshopper Sparrow is of one flying away from me close to the ground and disappearing into the tall grass. These and other native sparrows winter in the Austin area, so right now many are migrating and can be found outside of their preferred habitat. I've only seen a few in the neighborhood before, usually during migration. But last winter I discovered that 1 or 2 were resident in the open area along Lake Creek between Parmer Lane and the T&C playing fields.

Steven keeps a list of bird species he has seen in his yard. This Grasshopper Sparrow was a new one -- number 116. Great find! Sparrows are a difficult group of birds to learn since they seem so similar and plain. But once you start to learn their differences you also start to appreciate their subtle beauty. On this bird look at the bright eye ring, the buffy unstreaked breast and face, the stripe down the center of its head... The beauty is in the details!

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