Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Every year I keep track of the number of species that I find in my yard. Last year was an excellent year--I broke my previous yard year record by finding 150 species from January to December. However, this year has been even better. On September 30, a flock of Pine Siskins in the yard brought my 2012 list to 150 species, tying last year's result. Since then, siskins have become very abundant in the yard.
Pine Siskin on goldenrod
During the big sit on October 13, I found two more species (that I will post about in a full report of the day soon!) for the year list. Although I had now seen 152 species in the yard during 2012, I was missing a few fairly common species. One such bird was the White-crowned Sparrow, a generally uncommon bird in the area, but one that I occasionally see in the fall. While out birding on the morning of the 21st, I finally found a White-crown, an immature that was feeding in a large patch of goldenrod with variety of other sparrows. The bird then flew into a nearby tree before disappearing back into the weedy field.

immature White-crowned Sparrow - yard year bird #153
As I mentioned, the White-crowned Sparrow was certainly not the only sparrow in the field. In fact, the entire meadow was filled with lots of sparrows. The most abundant species was the White-throated Sparrow. These large relatives of the White-crowned could be found in almost every goldenrod patch of brushy edge this morning. Singing and chipping, this species is hard to miss.

Song Sparrows were next in terms of abundance. This is a species that, for some reason, disappeared over the summer here in Kunkletown, but has since returned in full force. While not nearly as noisy as the White-throats, Song Sparrows will sing and call this time of year. Learning the various call notes of sparrows can be particularly helpful when searching through a flock of sparrows that is rapidly moving through dense goldenrod or a brushy edge.

Somewhat surprisingly, Swamp Sparrows were very common that morning. These drab birds are quite common in the field, but I rarely see more than one or two at a time. On this morning, at least six of these guys were sitting along the field's eastern edge, hiding among the tangles of low shrubs and vines. Swamp Sparrows can be very hard to photograph, as they stay deep in the brush, but one individual popped out for a moment.

As I mentioned in my last post, Lincoln's Sparrows are migrating through the region this time of year. Although the peak for this species was a few weeks past, there were still some around including one that I discovered along the brushy edge of the field, not far from where the Swamp Sparrow was photographed. I often find these two closely-related species together in brushy and weedy habitats.

As the Lincoln's Sparrows reach the end of their migration through Pennsylvania, other species are just starting to arrive. One such species is the Fox Sparrow, a bird that is most common in the state during the months of November and March. However, they begin to show up in brushy areas in the end of October. I saw two, the first ones of the season, in the yard on this sparrow-filled day. Their bright reddish coloration really stood out in the tangle of green and brown leafless vines.

Warblers have moved on, and sparrows have arrived. By some accounts, we are entering into a season of dull birding. However, the truth is quite the opposite. The month of November is an excellent time of year to find rarities! The shorter days and chilly temperatures don't necessarily mean fewer exciting birds!

1 comment:

Danielle said...

Beautiful pictures, I really enjoy reading your blog you do a great job with it.