2birdfeature #14: Sparrows

20160620-dscn3944 The more I look at the sun showering these spruce trees with light and warmth and photosynthetic energy, the harder I have to grip my desk as I look out the window, present day. Still grey. The trees, still standing with their limbs frozen mid lethargic sigh. The juncos are darting under limbs and flashing their white tail feathers though and for that, I crack a smile. If I could draw as much vitality from the complete medium-ness that is winterspring, I'd be out there scaling the birch trees and running through the tarnished snow barefoot.



I've seen many Song Sparrows in my day and so have you, you just don't know it. You've heard a bunch of them too. Their song is in your internal soundtrack, as familiar to you as the crunch of gravel underfoot.

The thing about sparrows is that they are ever-present but perhaps, a collection of aesthetic wallflowers. We often refer to them as Little Brown Birds, an offensive turn for such a crucial cog in every ecosystem.




Swamp Sparrows, too, live in your internal soundtrack (east of the Rockies). Sometimes that buzzy sound you attribute to insects in tall grass is a Swamp Sparrow instead.

Relax. But focus. That's how you find sparrows. Try to isolate the most common sounds you know, you might be surprised what you find.

Hart's Basin (Part Dos)

I thought I might start the second part of my Hart's Basin birdwatching trip blog off with some information. Fruitgrower's Reservoir is actually considered the best water-birding location in all the western slope of Colorado. When the reservoir gets low on water, it exposes mudflats. These mudflats are perfect nesting ground for shorebirds (Willets, American Bitterns, etc.) and waterfowl. The mudflats also attract animals besides birds. Muskrats, cottontails, jackrabbits, coyotes, foxes, minks and mule deer also access this unique valley watering hole. And the lizards, don't forget about them. 20130515-DSCN0193

This one was trying to hide from me, a Plateau Striped Whiptail. His striped back camo mimics dry grass which is found in abundance at Fruitgrower's Reservoir. And while previous photos may have led to the illusion that this unique place is right on the brink of the Rocky Mountains, it isn't. It's somewhat of an oasis really. For miles around Hart's Basin is an adobe desert full of anthills and sage brush. Beautiful in its own way but not necessarily an environment one would associate with lush green marsh land.

Recent estimates say that about 500 people per year visit this spot. I would recommend it to anyone, birder or not. And speaking of birds, let's get back to them.

I'll start with a classic little guy that I've found flitting around in a multitude of places. He's never picky and always has a sweet song to sing. He's the Song Sparrow, of course.


When I was very first learning about birds, I recall that my ornithology professor told us that there existed a large category of songbirds which some people like to refer to as LBB's. Really, this category belongs to sparrows because they comprise nearly all the LBB's (Little Brown Birds). This is a joke. Because they get tricky to ID when the only difference is a slight hue of brown. But my next new bird sighting contestant made it easy on me. This sparrow has an interesting facial pattern that doesn't leave the mind's eye. A Lark Sparrow.


Marinate this phrase in your mouth for a second: tyrant flycatcher. It's another group of songbirds that all boast the talent of being incredible acrobats in the air. And all just to follow the (seemingly) unpredictable flight patterns of their favorite cuisine, insects. This beauty is often found sharing power lines with Kestrels and Mourning Doves in CO, the Western Kingbird.



And I'd like to close on the little guy I would refer to as pocket-sized if I was generous enough to give him lots of wiggle room in that pocket. The Black-chinned Hummingbird. I miss these birds greatly during the Newfoundland summer because, alas, they have not made this island their home. I think, secretly, hummingbirds believe that they're peacocks. They always sit just as stoic and proud as possible and even though they're micro, they're every bit as colorful.




Keep an eye out for more bird photographs from my visit home to Colorado!

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