|Can you see my new little friend?|
Thursday, January 5, 2012
I Catch Sight of a Small Seasonal Resident
Near-sighted eyes are not ideal bird-watching equipment, and even with the best of field guides identification can be difficult, owing to the plain fact that birds generally do not hold still for long. (Trees and wildflowers are so much more cooperative!) Here is where a digital camera doubles as binoculars and recording device: Having spotted a bird too faraway or high up to see clearly, I zoom in as close as possible and click the shutter, after which I can zoom again onscreen to note markings at my leisure, there in the field and later, at home with my field guides.
That invisible bird near the barn in the morning? Having caught him on camera in the afternoon, over by the edge of the woods, I am at last able to identify the Eastern Tree Sparrow, Spizella arborea arborea (nice name!), otherwise known as the “winter chippy” (cute nickname!). Roger Tory Peterson leaves no doubt in my mind: “The single round black spot or ‘stickpin’ in the center of the breast, and the bright red-brown cap are the only marks necessary to identify the ‘Winter Chippy.’” Peterson makes it sound so easy, and so it is with a good, long look at the little bird. He gives its note as “a distinct tseet,” which is how I link the invisible bird by the barn to the visible bird my camera found in the brush between orchard and woods.
I tell a birding friend about my success, prefacing my story by saying that it won’t be a very exciting bird to him who has seen so many, on various continents, in his lifetime. He laughed. “They’re all exciting to me,” he admitted.
It got better. He hadn’t seen any tree sparrows yet this winter and had been concerned over their late arrival, so what I told him about seeing the tree sparrow he took as "good news." These birds breed and summer up in Canada and come down to our area in winter, staying until spring returns.
I'm happy to think that my little friend will be around all winter. I look forward to seeing more of him.