Sunday, November 30, 2008

Field Sparrows

I spent a cold but fun morning birding the neighborhood. I got out of the house at 7:20 which was just about the earliest time it was bright enough to see birds. Even though the day turned out to be windy, it was almost calm then. Right now it seems like Carolina Chickadees dominate the mixed species foraging flocks in our trees. Three times this morning I heard their distinctive calls and followed them to a nice group of birds. The first time was on Stillforest near Chester Forest where the flock included Ruby-crowned Kinglets, an Orange-crowned Warbler, a Blue-headed Vireo, and 3 species of woodpecker in a single tree -- Red-bellied, Downy, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (only here in the winter).

When I got to the T&C playing fields I turned left on the Lake Creek Trail and spent some time on the footbridge there. The footbridge is a great place to find birds since it's the convergence of several habitat types. I saw 5 kinds of sparrows there today: Field, Song, Lincoln's, White-throated, and Dark-eyed Junco. I got this picture of one of the Field Sparrows:

Field Sparrows are partially migratory, and a few breed in the Austin area. They require uninhabited forest edges and openings, or grassy fields with some scattered trees for elevated perches for breeding, so we only see them in the neighborhood during the winter. They are in the Spizella genus which has smaller, more delicate looking sparrows with short bills, unstreaked breasts, and long, narrow, slightly forked tails. (Other Spizella sparrows we get here are Chipping and Clay-colored.) I think Field Sparrows have a very clean look -- not much facial pattern, a bright white eye ring, and a pink bill are good marks to look for.

Happy Thanksgiving! I spent the holiday with my family down on the coast in Port Aransas. Here are some pictures I took while I was down there. Hope you like them!

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