Monday, 10 October 2011

By Georgiana! It's a swamp sparrow!

Well, it's Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, which doesn't exactly mean much to a Brit Birder other than, nice one, a day off! And we all know what 'day off' means don't we? Yes, that's right, more birding!

The day started out a little bit Disney as I was confronted by the creature in the accompanying picture, scrumping apples from the tree outside the kitchen window... didn't get that too often in Lancaster, that's for sure.
With one thing and another, I didn't get out birding 'proper' till mid-afternoon, but Jenny and I did manage a mid-morning stroll around the Government House grounds in between rain showers.
A few yellow-rumped warblers were seen and heard, and ruby-crowned kinglets were still present in reasonable number.  A hermit thrush showed nicely, as did a couple of Lincoln's sparrows. A pair of adult Cooper's hawks were chasing one another around the area, much to the consternation of the local golden-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos. And talking of juncos, a smart 'slate-coloured' bird was seen among the 30 or so typical 'Oregon' birds. 

Once I had deposited Jenny at work in the afternoon, I struck out for Clover Point. Silly, I know, to expect there to be much around on a public holiday, post-turkey dinner. The place was not as packed as it would have been had the weather been glorious (like yesterday, for example), but a few hardy souls had still managed to get out for a bit of bird bothering.
The combination of high tide and copious rock hopping humans meant that shorebirds were practically absent. Just 6 black turnstone and couple of black oystercatchers were braving the conditions.
Offshore there was quite a bit going on, with a notable increase in surf scoters. Common murre, rhinoceros auklet, pigeon guillemot and marbled murrelet were all present in varying numbers.
At least 4 common loons, 8 horned grebe, and several harlequin ducks were busily feeding in Ross Bay, while dainty Bonaparte's gulls skimmed the surface in every direction.

Misty Marbled Murrelet
The rain set in and I decided to head for the Chinese Cemetery and Harling Point to see if anything was going on there. Offshore, it was much the same stuff as at Clover Point, except that murrelets were more numerous here. One was even close enough for me to take a crappy digiscope pic. The rain didn't do much to improve my chances of getting a decent image, so I'm afraid it'll have to do.
I was rather hoping for a Lapland longspur or two, but I could only find a couple of savannah sparrows.

I walked round to Trafalgar Park, to see if anything was lurking there. I came across a covey of California quail and a couple of fox sparrows, but that was about it. Scanning the rocks below, I caught a glimpse of the back end of a departing wader, as it headed to Harling Point. Great, I'll be going back there then!

Just after I came through the perimeter fence a small sparrow popped up from some tangled weedy corner (pictured). To be honest, I didn't really know what it was right away. A very distinctive face pattern, dark forehead and streaky dark crown, with a paler median stripe, white throat, bright rufous wings and... it's gone. After a few minutes of grinding cerebral cogs, the penny dropped and I was sure it was a swamp sparrow.

Where the Wild Things Are - Sparrow Central
It's not really a species I can claim to have much experience with having only seen them once before, several years ago. I spent a good hour after the initial sighting, creeping around, pishing, and basically trying to get further views to check other salient features. Without a field guide to consult, I really needed to get good looks at the thing. It was relatively obliging, and I got three further opportunities to grill the sparrow before it, and I, gave up.

Back at the car, I consulted Sibley, and I was left with no doubt as to the bird's identity. Lovely. My BC list just went up by another 1.
Also in this weedy area, were at least 7 white-crowned, 2 Lincoln's and 3 song sparrows, plus a couple of towhees and a Bewick's wren.
Oh, and I did relocate that shorebird - it was a dunlin. In fact, there were two in winter plumage.

No comments:

Post a Comment