Tuesday, October 16, 2012

White-crowned Sparrows and More Birds at the Shore

Today felt like a beach day, so I paid a visit this morning to Silver Sands State Park. I hardly spent any time on the actual beach, however, because there was so much going on in the other parts of the park!

The field-like area next to the marshes was positively bursting with small birds -- mostly sparrows -- flying from tree to ground to dried goldenrod stem and just all over the place. There were dozens of these little brown birds, presumably in the midst of their south-bound migration. As far as I could tell, most of the birds were Song Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows -- I'm still not 100% confident in my sparrow identification skills, so there was a lot of pointing-and-shooting with my camera so I could check the IDs later at home. This actually turned out to be a useful lesson in how much variety there can be from individual to individual within a single species. I'm fairly certain, for example, that the bird in this picture is a Savannah Sparrow, even though it doesn't have much yellow above its eye at all, and that's the feature I usually use to identify these birds. (Perhaps this is the pale "Ipswich" subspecies that my field guide shows.)

So yeah, sparrows are tricky. I did see one species of sparrow this morning, though, that stood easily out from the rest.... With that weird helmeted head, it's tough to mistake a White-crowned Sparrow for anything else!

This is the first time I've seen White-crowned Sparrows in Connecticut, although they do apparently show up here in small numbers in the fall and winter. There were several of these birds hanging out this morning -- I saw just the one adult with its stark black and white markings, and the rest of the birds were juveniles, sporting more subdued colors:

This particular young White-crowned Sparrow was nice enough to hop around in a puddle while I stood right there -- I guess the puddle was more enticing than I was scary! So I took this unusual opportunity to go a little picture-crazy with this cool little fellow:

Mmm, plants!

I love the patterns of this young bird's feathers, and the puddle does look like a nice place to hang out:

And I can't help sharing this accidental picture -- look, a bouncing sparrow! :P

There were more little birds besides sparrows flitting around, too. A bunch of American Goldfinches were hanging out, looking a little less than pristine after molting out of their summer colors:

And a few warblers showed up, including this completely adorable Yellow-rumped Warbler -- I just love these birds:

I watched a Belted Kingfisher as it flew noisy circles over a nearby pond:

And an American Kestrel hovered over the field, fanning its tail and flapping its wings to stay in precisely one place for several seconds at a time:

Maybe the kestrel had its eye on one of our little sparrow friends?

When I finally did make it down to the beach, I found much less activity there. Aside from a few gulls and cormorants, in fact, the only movement came from a dead, globe-shaped bush, tumbling along across the sand:

What a surprising day!

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