Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another Sunday Bird Walk

Today was the next-to-last bird walk of the year; the last will be on Dec. 13. Today we went out to the fields behind Newport Vineyards in Middletown. Just behind the parking lot there are two ponds which - today, at least - had a couple of Green-winged Teal amidst the small flock of Mallards there. Beyond them are several fields which have been allowed to revert to meadow, dotted with small trees and shrubs, lots of bramble, and some amazingly bright Winterberry stands. The area is pretty wet - the rutted tracks which we followed were muddy and often puddled, and into the trees which border the meadow area it's an outright swamp. But what a great place for birding!

Today we saw: lots of different kinds of Sparrows, mostly Song Sparrows, but a healthy dose of Savannah and Swamp Sparrows as well; a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos in the trees near the parking lot; at least two Northern Flickers off in the distance; heard rather than saw at least one and maybe two Carolina Wrens; lots of Goldfinches; some Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a female Downy Woodpecker back in the woodland swamp; oops! almost forgot the White-throated Sparrow back by the bramble hedge; a small flock of Fish Crows which flew by overhead; a Sharp-shinned Hawk; two cruising Red-tailed Hawks; and a female Northern Harrier hawk. Ayuh! It was definitely a good day for birding!

Unfortunately it wasn't as good a day for photography. It was bright and the best bird sightings tended to be right into the sun. Also, the birds were tending to stay out of camera range, not to mention that they also tended to be very small. I did manage to get some photos, though. However, please excuse the quality of the photos; the birds were small and far away (and in the case of the deer they were also hiding from us in the tall grass), but this actually gives you a good idea of what field conditions are like on this kind of bird walk.

I have a tendency to lump all Sparrows together and consider them small, drab, and uninteresting. Until I got that great shot of a White-throated Sparrow in Ballard Park back in January, that is. Since then I've tried to study them a little more closely. Today I got acquainted with two new Sparrow species - Swamp Sparrows (left photo) and Savannah Sparrows (right photo).

And then there were these two deer, barely visible in the tall grass, keeping an eye on us as we made our way up the muddy farm track. They actually stayed there for quite a while before they considered us too close for comfort. And even then they didn't bound off with a show of white tails; instead they just seemed to sink into the grass and slip away. I called them "Ghost Deer".

And that was today's bird walk. I hope you've enjoyed it!

© 2009 by A. Roy Hilbinger


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful walk through the swamp! I still have not been able to photograph a Swamp Sparrow. Your photo is lovely. I fell in love with Savannah Sparrows and Henslow's Sparrows this summer stalking the high meadow at VOA.

    I had to google Fish Crow. I had never heard of one! Learn something new...

  2. I love the ghost deer! And of course the birds are fascinating, lovely... and each so unique.

    I too love sparrows, from the chipping sparrows to house sparrows - and now to Savannah Sparrows...

  3. Having tackled tiny birds at Mt Tomah Botanical gardens not so long ago, I empathise with the difficulty of getting close and keeping the little devils still enough to snap! Very cute though.

  4. That little Savannah sparrow is especially cute. Since I've been away for a few days, I'm wondering what hat pics I might have missed! ;^)

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed this bird walk, Roy. How you know the names of all the birds is beyond me ... I only know some of the more common ones such as magpie, crow and cockatoo.