Thursday, June 11, 2009

Addendum: Not a Baird's Sparrow also in Salida

After discussions with 2 highly skilled Colorado birders, one who has held birds of this species in his hand during banding,and review of uber close-up photos taken in hand, it has become clear that this bird is likely a Savannah Sparrow and not a Baird's.

On a utility wire next to some of the agricultural fields I was checking in the Salida area yesterday, I heard singing from a sparrow that stopped me in my tracks. It was a very distinctive tinkling song with trills that was unfamiliar to me. I only this one pic and that is also the only view I got before it blew down into the tall grasses in the field.
Baird's Sparrow is pretty rare in Colorado. I played the song when I got home and it sounded like what I remembered of the song I heard, but several hours had passed so I can't be positive about the song.The "Sibley Guide to Sparrows" states that this sparrow "has a large bill with a longer and squarer tail than other Ammodramus sparrows. Ochre color on heade and dark neck spots distinctive." Clearly this bird has a large bill but I can't tell that much about the tail length but it appears to have an ochre-ish color on its head when pic enlarged. Sibley also notes that Baird's Sparrows have broken "mustache" stripes and eye-lines and that they are "strongest to the rear". This pic shows a broken eye-line with more dark to rear and some darkish moustache parts. SeEtta

Eastern Meadowlark in Salida, CO

Yesterday I had a meeting for most of the day in Salida,CO area which is tucked into at around 7,000 feet in elevation and surrounded by 14,000 foot+ peaks. I did get in late afternoon birding before heading home down a winding canyon road. Since I had found Dickcissels in hay fields in the Salida area in 2006, I spent some time driving around these fields. Sibley notes that Eastern Meadowlarks have a mostly white malar and dark streaks on their sides. Birds of North America online states, "Difficult to distinguish from Western Meadowlark. Yellow of throat on Eastern Meadowlark does not extend on to malar region in most subspecies (yellow in Western Meadowlark), birds average darker and browner above, with less discrete barring in wings and tail and more white in tail."
I was stopped in my tracks to hear a bird singing an Eastern Meadowlark song. In 2006 a Pueblo birder, Van, had found a meadowlark singing an Eastern Meadowlark song just west of Salida and I had refound that bird then. However it was too distant for me to see any field marks. As can be seen in these pics of the bird yesterday, I was able to get some very good photos that show field marks for Eastern Meadowlark.
As can be seen pretty clearly in these pics, this bird definitely has white malars and also has some stripes on it's sides. It also appears to be darker and browner on it's upperparts, and also don't think the barring on it's sides, from Western Meadowlarks but those are real subtle distinctiona. In sum with the call and field marks, I believe this is an Eastern Meadowlark in a unusually far west location. SeEtta

Monday, June 8, 2009

Clark's Grebe with staining on breast

When I scoped for waterfowl at Lake Henry (near Ordway,CO), I was disappointed to find no nesting grebes. Last summer hundreds of Clark's and Western Grebes nested here in the vegetation growing on the west side of this lake. In fact there were few Western and Clark's Grebes compared to the numbers I usually see here.
I was surprised to find that all the grebes I observed had the brownish stain as shown in the top pic and I don't know the origin of it. The bottom pic of another Clark's Grebe at Lake Holbrook (carrying something in it's beak), which is less than 20 miles away, that does not have this staining. If anyone knows why the grebes are stained please note it in the comments. SeEtta