Four Sparrow Day
One endearing, some might say redeeming trait of sparrows is how the mix of species transforms dramatically based on geography and ecosystem. Sparrows,at least in North America, may always be there to bedevil you, but they won’t always be the devils you know. Travel widely enough and you may find a place where every sparrow species reigns supreme. For example, I’ve never had as good views of Lincoln’s Sparrow as I did around Dallas, nor have I ever found Field Sparrows to be as abundant as in Dinosaur Valley State Park. Sparrows represent some of the high points of my trip.
When we left the site of our epic Golden-cheeked Warbler hunt, David and I passed through a little town named Glen Rose, a veritable metropolis in these parts. David of Search and Serendipity is a consummate birder, not to mention a great guy to travel with. He exhibits a deep, thoughtful understanding of avian behavior and ecology that lends certainty to the normally chancy pursuit of birds. Case in point: since Inca Dove, one of my Texas targets, hadn’t yet turned up, he came up with a spot with good potential, a cemetery on the other side of town. On our way towards the cemetery, David asked me if I had seen any shrikes since I’d arrived in Texas. No sooner did I start to respond than our first Loggerhead Shrike of the day made an appearance. In fact, as soon as eyes were upon it, the beautiful butcher bird began to hunt, hovering above the ground in search of prey. The guy is like some avian oracle!
Actually, David is fallible, since we didn’t see the Inca Dove, though we did pick up White-winged Dove. But the cemetery was plenty birdy. Kinglets, wrens, and other fun birds filled the bushes and trees, but sparrows were the stars. The main attraction was a big flock of White-crowned Sparrows that happened to harbor one of my most sought-after sparrows. A robust Harris’ Sparrow, black-chinned and bright-beaked, found safety in the white-crown’s numbers. This exceedingly handsome bird brought the day’s sparrow count, including juncos and towhees but excluding the Old World House Sparrow, to a whopping ten. More exciting, of those species, four were completely new to me. Three of them, strangely enough, were singletons, but the Vesper, a cracking cryptic bird I’ve long tried to spin out of Song Sparrows, appeared in excellent numbers. My photos of the Harris’ hardly do it justice, but here are two other stars of my four life sparrow day: