Sunday, October 14, 2007


I was bound and determined to go back and get a picture of my life harrier, so I grabbed the girls and drove back to Miami-Whitewater Wetlands.
And bless it's big fierce was there.

Northern Harrier 101407

Due to the manner in which harriers hunt (coursing low over marshes and wetlands, quite erradically) this is the best picture I got. If you squint, you can see the white rump (THE field mark for a harrier).

Harrier 2

This one wasn't very good, either. But I'm happy that I have it...anyone like me, who almost doesn't count a lifer unless you get a picture of it? Blogging has made me persistent. If I can't share my experiences through photos, I'm doomed as a blogger. My writing skills are too shabby to paint pictures with words, so I HAVE to have photos.

Water is scarce in the wetlands. This song sparrow took advantage of the puddle under the water fountain.
any water'll do
After the girls and I took a drink, I made sure to be extra sloppy with the water so that more birds could come in for a sip 'n' splash.

Since my recent "Sparrow Embarrassment", I have been wary of even attempting sparrow IDs. But I have a bit of a stubborn streak (Geoff is rolling his eyes right now and saying, "Right. Susan, if they made hair color named 'stubborn streak', your face would be on the box."), and I find myself searching for sparrows, trying to better my ID skillz.

Help me with this one:
Habitat: Wetlands (but dry)
Behavior: Kick-scratching on dry pond bed
Medium-sized sparrow.
Gray eyebrow.
Reddish tail and wings.
Black stripe behind eye.

Gray breast, with a hint of a spot.
Barely a hint of streaking on the breast.
Dark brown crown with thin gray central line.

My thoughts: Range is right for swamp sparrow, but there's no white on the throat.
Could be a song sparrow, but something doesn't look right.
Not a savannah sparrow. No yellow lores.
Not a juvenile white-crowned. Too reddish.
I am going to call this a song sparrow, for now. Unless anyone has anything to add?
I tell beginning birders not to give up. So I can't, either.


Trixie said...

I flunked sparrow, so I am no help. And they should make a color called stubborn streak. You would look great on the box.

Susan Gets Native said...

I can always count on you, Trixie, to make me feel better.
I think we should develop a hair color line.
"Trixie's Northern Lites"
"Susan's Raptor Red"...whaddaya think?

Born Again Bird Watcher said...

Given the dozens of Song Sparrow subspecies and the range of colors and pattern variations, I think you're correct in that identification. The only other I would consider is Swamp and you've rightly knocked that one out by the lack of a white throat patch.

Trixie said...

I like the sound of that, now for someone with the science....

and what is "llenism"? It is my word verification....

KatDoc said...

IMO: Not red enough for a Swamp, not streaky enough for a Song, and not large enough or long enough tail for a brown-morph White-crowned.

I think it is a Chipping Sparrow in juv. or winter plumage. But, you said, "medium sized" sparrow, didn't you? And chippies are small.

The scratch-feeding style is typical of many sparrows, including towhee, of course, and while it doesn't help in this particular case, behavior is often an excellent ID tool, and I wish more people included it in their descriptions of a UFO bird. Way to go!

I am up with insomnia, too awake to sleep, not awake enough for positive ID of a sparrow.

You are in the right mental zone. Stubborness is essential for sparrows. Cute, but challenging. I loves me my LBJs!

~Kathi, going back to bed now

Mary said...

Sibley's gave me a headache - no, sparrows did it. Swamp or Chipping is as close as I can get.

I rely on photos also and I feel the same about my writing...

Patrick Belardo said...

The lack of any streaking rules out most, if not all, subspecies of Song Sparrow I think. I'd call that a Swamp Sparrow any day of the week. Chipping would be much grayer on the breast and flanks. The buffy flanks with blurry streaks help make this a Swamp Sparrow.

KatDoc said...

There you go: Ask 5 different birders to ID a sparrow, and you get 5 different answers.

Chalk it up to yet another LBJ!


Patrick Belardo said...

Your best bet for a final answer would be to post it to in their ID Request section. You'll get a definite answer. And they'll say Swamp Sparrow! :)

Anonymous said...

Patrick's got it. Unquestionably a swamp sparrow.

KatDoc said...

I hsve revised my opinion of the mystery sparrow. After looking at more photos on-line, I have now moved into the Swamp Sparrow camp.

OK Patrick, OK. I believe you.

~Kathi, humbly confessing yet another ID error