[Tweeters] He Wears a Golden Crown

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Thu Sep 17 07:10:40 PDT 2015

Hello Tweets,

The past few days, my yard has been wonderfully active with birds. Several Swainson's Thrushes have entertained me everyday, and on the 13th there was also a Varied Thrush, as I detailed in my previous message, and a Red-breasted Sapsucker. I've been on the look out for warblers, but I've only seen a Townsend's, and perhaps one or two that I couldn't get my binoculars focused on before they flew off. Yesterday, a large roving flock of waxwings stopped by in my yard. A few partook of the berries, but most opted to hawk gnats at the top of a few fir trees, a very entertaining sight. I have come to understand that the small clouds of gnats that form around the tops of conifers are important food sources for insectivorous birds in the Puget Sound, both in migration and in winter, and perhaps even summer: from Cedar Waxwings to Hutton's Vireos to Yellow-rumped Warblers (and perhaps even a Palm Warbler or two!), these gnats are obviously an important and often easy winter food source.

But my highlight yesterday was a a migrant of a different sort. Not of a globe-trotter winging its way south to warmer climes, but of a breeder of the far North returning to its temperate winter abode. When I first saw his intricately-patterned back in the butterfly bush, I temporarily had a flash of excitement that I had found a significant rarity.

When he landed in a nearby bush in clear view, I got my binoculars on him, and was no less happy: my first Zonotrichia sparrow for my yard! And better yet, I soon realized that it wasn't just a White-crowned Sparrow, of which I have seen many this summer - it was a Golden-crowned Sparrow, a highly-anticipated FOS and a dreamed-of yardbird! It was just last week that I had wondered when one would show up.

I got very good views as the sparrow foraged in our vegetable garden, 7 feet away. Then my dad opened the door to give me a new camera battery I had urgently asked him for, and the sparrow flushed into a nearby fir. Soon, he returned to the ground, and I got a couple shots that I am happy with. Just like when the Slate-colored Junco appeared this April, I scattered some seed to create a Sparrow-dise and hopefully entice him to stick around. A subtly gorgeous bird, and quite confiding!

At about 4:38 PM, I glanced outside to see a "sparrow" of a different sort - a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk was hopping around on the patio! It walked around in the bushes, and even briefly investigated the space beneath our deck, before flapping off into the forest. I got a couple great pictures of this (temporary) ground-dweller too!

May Fall migration bring you rarities (and Golden-crowned Sparrows), Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com

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