10 April 2008

I Hate Sparrows

Ok, so that might not be entirely true. I'll revise. I hate not being able to readily identify sparrows. These little buggers are daunting creatures to identify for a few reasons. First, there are about a hundred different species. OK twenty. However many it is, the problem for me is that the differences between certain species are so minute that you really need to have the entire bird memorized in order to accurately ID them. A few have easily distinguishable traits that make them stand out. The White-throated Sparrow is a good example. In addition to its namesake white throat, it's got bright yellow lores and a bright white supercilium. That's the stripe above its eye for you non-birders. Others are not so conveniently named. Take for instance the Song Sparrow. If the pattern of nomenclature followed that of the White-throated Sparrow, the Song Sparrow would instead be named the 'Mostly-brownish streaked with a messy spot on its breast Sparrow'. That probably wouldn't fit on the pages of the field guides, though, so I guess they just picked something that sounded nice, like "song". Thanks for the help.

Well, it is with great shame that I have to admit that I identified a new sparrow today and added it to both my Big Year and life lists. The shame comes in the fact that it was the Chipping Sparrow, certainly one of the most common birds around. People I talk to see these things everywhere, in groups of like fifty. Until today at the park, I had never definitively been able to say that I'd seen one. Then, of course, I saw 6 more in the span of the next 15 minutes. That's just how it goes for me.

In other news, the girls and I went down to the Moss Creek Nature Trail this afternoon and just spent some time playing around. We took the butterfly net and the girls used it to catch Ladybugs. Not sure what they're gonna do with them, but they caught 6 or 7. I did a little birding, but only as much as I could do within arm's reach of the kids. I did manage to see a number of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers doing their best gnat-catching, as well as the resident Great Blue Heron and Red-shouldered Hawk. As we were leaving, I caught sight of one of the cutest things I've seen in a long time. From among the reeds in a pond near the entrance, a female Mallard emerged followed by 9 of the cutest little ducklings you've ever seen. She took them over to the other side, presumably so that none of the rocks Lily was throwing would hit her babies, and then she just watched as the youngsters dabbled for food among the plants. Their little yellow and black striped heads were so cute following behind the mom, all lined up neatly in a row as she led them to safety. I regret that I did not have my camera with me, but I will try to go back tomorrow to get a shot of the cuteness.


Carolyn said...

Oh I loooooooooooove little ducklings! Snap a pic of them next time for sure!!!

Mary said...

Corey, the most experienced bird watchers curse the LBJs (little brown jobs). As a novice, I can identify just a few and lots of times I'm not always 100% sure :o) My least favorite is the House Sparrow - I'd like to see them eradicated or stay where they belong, nesting at strip malls.

Sparverius said...

Just one of the many reasons, I am sure, I didn't realize until this year that I had Juncos in my neighborhood - just thought they were more little brown, indistinguishable sparrows. Until I actually glanced in their direction for longer than a moment.