Winter Bird Walk

A male cardinal looks remarkable brilliant--he seems to be ready for spring

A male cardinal looks remarkable brilliant–he seems to be ready for spring

I managed to crawl out of bed early enough to lead a bird walk at 9AM this morning.  It was cold.  Yesterday, it wasn’t.  Yesterday, when I slept in until 8AM and stayed indoors all day, it was warm.  Today, there were snow flurries blowing around by mid-afternoon.

Fortunately, it was clear and sunny for the bird walk this morning.

A small group of us met for a mid-winter bird walk.  I kicked us off with a quick look and listen at a few birds I expected us to see who aren’t around for the spring and summer bird walks.

One of them is among my favorite birds.  It’s the White-Throated Sparrow.  This is a bird who is actually quite common in the winter months, but one that I personally failed to notice until I was in my 30’s.  Many of us go through life believing there is only one kind of “sparrow” and not knowing that the sparrow we most frequently see is an invasive import from Europe.  In reality, there are many native species of sparrows in the US.  The white-throated and the white-crowned are my two favorites.  There is a simple reason for this.  They have bold black and white stripes on their heads, making them easy to identify compared to many of the other sparrows.

A white-throated sparrow picks through a pile of leaves

A white-throated sparrow picks through a pile of leaves

The White-throated sparrow also has a distinct and beautiful song that makes them an easy bird to learn by sound as well as sight.  I won’t attempt to describe it, but it’s very high-pitched and clearly whistled.  Canadians claim it’s singing “O Canada,” but I can’t say that’s what I hear.

A second bird I planned for us to see was the yellow-rumped warbler.  These winter visitors are always a cheering sight with their bright-yellow rumps in the middle of winter.  Unfortunately, the only one anyone saw today flew off before the rest of us got to see it.

We had a nice surprise when we spotted a swamp sparrow while watching some white-throated sparrows.  It took us a while to realize what we were seeing.  After all, it doesn’t have bright white stripes on its head to neatly narrow down the possibilities.

In lieu of a shot of the swamp sparrow, here is another shot of the white-throated sparrow

In lieu of a shot of the swamp sparrow, here is another shot of the white-throated sparrow

Meanwhile, the Song Sparrows flew in and out, singing all the while in the background.  I hate to ignore the song sparrow–they are such great singers and they manage to keep it up year round.  But, it’s hard not to see a song sparrow in the park, they are so prevalent.

My one regret on the bird walk is that I didn’t look closely enough at the lens on my camera when I grabbed it.  I thought I had the 100-400mm lens on my camera when, in fact, I had the 70-200mm lens on it instead.  This resulted in a lot of “where’s waldo” shots like this one:


Can you spot the bird?

Can you spot the bird?

The earlier images are heavily cropped to make it a little easier to spot the bird.