Category Archives: swamp sparrow

Return of the swamp sparrow

Yesterday afternoon, Steve spotted a swamp sparrow in the tiny cattail marsh beside the spring house. Was this the same individual that hung out at the bird feeder for several weeks last April? Is this a sign of a general expansion in range for this species?

In other bird-related news, Lillian and Don Stokes in their birding blog note that the results of this year’s Christmas bird count are showing that “this is a fantastic year for seeing irruptive species of birds. Pine Siskins, Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls and more are being seen widely across the country.” So sometimes unusual sightings here on the mountain, such as the redpolls we saw in December and early January, do reflect larger trends.


The coldest April

Spring has stood still for almost two weeks. Today I heard and saw all the same birds that I heard and saw last week and the week before along Greenbrier Trail, down the road and around the house and field.

The stream runneth over, and that precious commodity–water–still graces our property in abundance. The coldest April on record, so they say, and spring remains as elusive as ever. Sitting on Waterthrush Bench, I heard a scolding Louisiana waterthrush, but he refused to sing. Who can blame him? The purple trillium had broken ground, and many hepatica buds were just waiting for a little sunlight to open.

All the sparrow species are still here– fox, tree, chipping, field, song, swamp, white-throated, and junco. The swamp sparrow is incredibly feisty and fights off other species.

© Marcia Bonta

Our eyes are on the sparrows

swamp sparrowThe recent cold snap that began two days ago followed several days of warmth that had brought out daffodils, trailing arbutus (as mentioned in the previous post), spicebush, and the first hepatica. None of these flowers should be damaged by a freeze. And Steve spotted another major new spring arrival in the hollow, the Louisiana waterthrush: right on schedule. The cold may have had the effect of bottling up some migrants, though. Swamp sparrows often show up here on migration, touching down briefly in the boggy corner of the field, but this is the first we’ve ever had one at the birdfeeding area below the back porch of the main house (photo). It has been spending much of its time there for the past three days. At least one tree sparrow is still coming, too, along with a fox sparrow — both species that should have been on their way north by now. The latter has even been singing from time to time — a rare treat. At the same time, the field sparrows and chipping sparrows have come back from their winter homes in the south. Rounding out the roster are song sparrows, slate-colored juncos* and white-throated sparrows, for a total of eight sparrow species at one time.

*Currently classed as a form or subspecies of the dark-eyed junco. I refuse to change my usage of common names every time the American Ornithological Union changes a classification; that’s what Latin names are for. As far as I am concerned, the solitary vireo is still the solitary vireo, the Baltimore oriole never stopped being the Baltimore oriole, and unless you’re a life-lister or a taxonomist you have no reason to care about any of this.