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Friday, May 7, 2010

Finches, Sparrows, and Hummingbird Acrobatics

Today I spent an hour birding at South Beach. The water was pretty quiet - just thirteen red-breasted mergansers and a single common loon in summer plumage - so I focused my efforts on the driftwood and the scrub hoping to turn up the vesper sparrow that had been reported there recently. It turns out that there are a lot of finchy and sparrowy birds that hang out there! I saw three finch species (American goldfinch, house finch, purple finch) and three sparrow species (savannah sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, golden-crowned sparrow) by the time I made it back to the car.

Not wanting to give up just yet, I decided to walk down the road a little ways. Right in front of me, three striped sparrows landed on the split rail fence. My analysis went like this: "The first two have yellow on the face - definitely savannah sparrows. But the third....hmm....looks a little different. Lots of stripes, no central breast dot, no yellow....Uh oh, a car is coming and will certainly flush the birds away! I better grab my camera and snap a quick picture."

I did just that and got one blurry shot before the car passed and the birds flew away, but luckily the photo is clear enough to show, in addition the field marks described above, a white eye ring and the traces of a white outer tail feather. Vesper sparrow (158)!!

Since the blurry vesper shot isn't blog worthy I thought I would post some pictures of the rufous hummingbirds that come to my porch feeder. I have to admit, I never truly appreciated the nuances of hummingbird flight until I saw the recent PBS special called Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air, where they slow down hummingbird flight using high speed cameras. It's amazing!

I attempted to capture some of the coolness by photographing my local hummingbirds. Not quite the same as the video, but still pretty cool. They're most active at dusk, so all the photos are silhouettes, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

1 comment:

Warren Baker said...

Well done on 158 Monika, good thinking to get the photo in quick.

Those hummers are like Moths :-)