Monday, June 1, 2009

Sparrows in the hand

We birded in quite a few habitats during the Birding by Ear weekend at the Wilds, and one of those habitats was grassy fields, home to Bobolinks, Meadlowlarks, Horned Larks (all life birds for me!), and lots of sparrows. There was a gentleman by the name of Danny Ingold there on Saturday morning (Jim, can you help me with his name? I forgot to write it down in my notes!) who had some mist nets set up and he caught several sparrows that we got to examine (and photograph) up close. And - BONUS - I got to hold one of said birds! A life experience for sure! I don't have any photos of me holding my Grasshopper Sparrow (life experience + life bird!), but if I get some, I'll post them here. For now, here are some of the birds that other folks had in-hand:

Grasshopper Sparrow, the first of 2 that were caught (I held the 2nd one).

One of the distinguishing characteristics for ID-ing this bird by sight is its clear breast. The shape of the head is also a bit unique, as it's kind of flattened out on top (best seen in the top photo), like someone laid a big book on top of his head.

This is Jean, one of the camp participants, holding the Grasshopper Sparrow.

These birds surely had to put up with a lot of cameras. On the left is Jim McCormac, and on the right is Jean's husband. In the sunglasses is the gentleman who did all the bird catching.

The Field Sparrow was our next bird in the hand. We had several descriptions going around for his song: ball bearing, bouncing penny, bouncing ping-pong ball, and a fourth I can't remember.

Unfortunately I didn't get very many pictures of this little cutie (the only sparrow with an entirely pink bill).

Our final bird in the hand was the Savannah Sparrow (lifer).

Here you can see the streaking on the breast, as opposed to the clear breast of the Grasshopper Sparrow.

Like I said, lots of cameras on these little birds. They were amazingly calm given that we invaded their space so badly.

This Savannah Sparrow had been previously banded.

So very handsome.

I love this shot for the sharp focus on the face. That yellow eyebrow stripe is another good identifying field mark.

We got some great looks at a Henslow's Sparrow (lifer) on Sunday morning, but only by scope, so I wasn't able to get any photos of him. He was sitting on top of some Teasel, singing his little heart out. Watching him sing was something else, because the Henslow's really throws his head back to sing, but the song is really short, so he looks like he's sneezing or coughing. Since I was doing my fair share of sneezing and couging throughout the weekend, I felt he was a bird I could really identify with.

I'll have pictures of some more birds tomorrow!


Nature As Is said...

Let me be the first to comment LOVE it. LOVE that you got sooo close and got fantastic need to devlope some and put them in your home. I sure would ...very cool Heather. Crista

Shellmo said...

These are great! I would've loved to have held one of these birdies!

Anonymous said...

Great blog post, Heather - love the photos. The guy who was doing the sparrow banding is Danny Ingold, a professor at Muskingum College. He's been working with sparrows and other grassland birds at the Wilds for probably ten years or so. It is a neat experience to admire these birds up close; then, one can see how truly ornate they are!

Jim McCormac

RuthieJ said...

Great photos Heather! I'm especially jealous you got to see and hear a Henslow's sparrow. They used to be summer visitors in SE Minnesota, but are now very rare due to.....yup, you guessed it--loss of habitat! :-(

Heather said...

Crista - Thank you. I love that I was able to get so close too!!!!

Shelley - It was a wonderful experience, and I'm so glad the opportunity was available. (You're killing me with your new profile pic of your new puppeh!)

Jim - Thanks for Danny's name. I'm so glad we all got to see these birds up close and appreciate their delicate beauty.

Ruthie - Thanks! That's too bad that their habitat is declining in MN. It's declining in Ohio, too, and that's one of the reasons the Wilds is such a precious place for us to have in the state!

The Early Birder said...

Fabulous close ups Heather & I can see this was a great experience for you to get up close & personal with these species.

Heather said...

Frank - Yes, it was absolutely fantastic! I hope to be able hold other birds in the hand at some point in the future.