[Tweeters] A Sunday Surprise

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 12:16:58 PST 2015

Hello Tweets,

This weekend, seeing all the reports of wonderful rarities that were beyond my reach had admittedly inspired in me a bit of glum self-pity. On Saturday, a brief jog to the Montlake Fill before a (lousy) Huskies football game yielded many waterfowl, a talk with a UW professor on his bike commute and my two FOS Lincoln's Sparrows (or is it Lincoln'th Thparrowth? Their bird code is LISP, after all).

Despite this small victory, I remained a bit downtrodden at my inability to chase any highly desirable species. But the birding gods, ever just and merciful despite their mischievous fickle ways, decided to give me a fair bit of compensation.

Yesterday morning at about 10:10 AM, I stood in my kitchen, preparing to eat breakfast. I noticed some commotion outside around the feeders, so I turned my attention to observe the activity. There were a few chickadees of both species, a couple Red-breasted Nuthatches, many juncos and Song Sparrows, and a Spotted Towhee.

The towhee flew up onto a perch, behind another sparrow. I took a sort of double take when I realized that I didn't quite recognize this pale bird, and my momentary confusion rapidly transformed into a jolt of adrenaline when I saw the white throat! This was, of course, a White-throated Sparrow, my first of the fall and only my second ever of this species, the other having been in a three-species Zonotrichia swarm up at Crescent Lake near Monroe this February. Having dipped on one of these sparrows just a couple weeks ago at Marymoor, this bird's appearance in my yard completely made up for that, and then some!

After dropping down onto the ground and then popping briefly into view on a mossy rock, the sparrow flew into our butterfly bush (still bearing shriveled reminders of our warm season come and gone) and posed in clear view for a moment then hopped around the lilacs and bushes before finally zipping into a thick hedge between my and my neighbor's yard. Being the devoted birder that I am, I of course immediately ran out into the rain shower with my small camera and binoculars, too fast to put on my shoes or my coat, and stood on the wet and ever wetter walkway in my socks.

My sacrifice was rewarded by a few brief glimpses (as some birders like to write, I saw the bird "in different parts through the leaves, field mark by field mark until it all added up") as the sparrow sheltered in the thick foliage, and perhaps a call note or two.

Somewhere around this time, a Sooty Fox Sparrow appeared as another new yardbird, and I got one blurry shot of that bird before it disappeared; though my focus was on the White-throated Sparrow, I took a good quick look at the Fox Sparrow as it sat still in a small bush.

A few hours later, as the clouds dissipated and the sun came out, I went outside again in hopes of seeing the bird once more, and perhaps even getting a good photo or two. As I stood across the yard from the feeders, I was optimistic but not certain that I would see the bird again.

A familiar one-note song alerted me to a Hutton's Vireo in a nearby bush (yes, a singing Hutton's Vireo in my yard in November! Perhaps this is actually normal behavior to sing in winter; my lifer Hutton's Vireo was one heard but never seen singing in my yard this late February), and as I followed the vireo up into a tall bush, my eyes alighted on a gray shape in the branches. When my binoculars landed on it, it was immediately obvious that the sparrow had indeed decided to give me another visit.

For perhaps the next 45 minutes, I stood outside and watched the sparrow feeding on the ground below and around the feeder, among Song Sparrows and juncos. Later I moved inside and watched from the window, and I last saw the bird at about 2:15 PM.

Throughout this time, he was calm and photogenic, posing a few times on the fence and branches; though my camera is not capable of producing very high-quality pictures, the quality of a few images that I did get satisfies me. As I've said before, "it may not be a high-quality picture, but it's a masterpiece to me because it shows a bird that has special personal meaning to me."

You can see a my pictures here (I went a bit crazy in uploading, but there are some great ones, trust me):


Here in particular is a favorite of mine, darkened a bit to compensate for overexposure:


So there you have it! For any Tweeters who like to skip to the end so they get the punchline without the lead-up, or as a recap for those who don't: on Sunday, I saw two new yardbirds - Sooty Fox Sparrow, and a tan-striped White-throated Sparrow! All in all, quite a good day for birding in the yard. Now, let's see what next weekend has in store...

Good birding, Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com
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