[Tweeters] Mt. St. Helens Thick-billed Fox Sparrows [22 Jul 2018]

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 23 05:29:20 PDT 2018

I made another trip up to Windy Ridge at Mt. St. Helens in Skamania County yesterday. That’s a beautiful place for a hike…. A couple weeks ago, I enjoyed Rock Wren and a couple Calliope Hummingbirds amongst the many Rufous Hummers. Last weekend, there were reports of Lewis’s Woodpecker — seems like a promising place and I’m looking forward to a fall migration visit eventually....

Anyway, after a long hike along the pumice plains, I was driving back down and stopped at Meta Lake. I realized the Fox Sparrows I’d been assuming to be Slate-colored Fox Sparrows were giving a very strong chip note , more of a ‘pink pink’ than the ‘check check’ sound of other FOSP types. That call note should be pretty definitive for Thick-billed Fox Sparrow — a subspecies we still review in the WBRC and one whose range in WA is still being sorted out.

Visually, I have a tough time telling our Thick-billed from Slate-colored — maybe a bit less streaking on the underside, but how many times do I study the Slate-colored to get a good gauge of the amount of streaking on them? The songs are pretty similar to Slate-colored to me, so I’m left with the chip note as the definitive mark.

I made some recordings, and think there are several Thick-billed Fox Sparrows around the wet areas of Meta Lake. But now what about the others up on Mt. St. Helens? Up at Windy Ridge, taking the trail towards the Pumice Plains, Fox Sparrows sing from the larger brush areas - I’ve been assuming they were Slate-colored, but did not notice any call notes. Are they all Thick-billed? Maybe more likely, do we have a mix of both types up there? It would be great for any others up there to pay attention and report back on what they find. And any potential Thick-billed could definitely use documentation to the WBRC.

Here’s an eBird NW article on our WA Fox Sparrows for reference:
https://ebird.org/pnw/news/fox-sparrows-one-of-the-northwests-more-confusing-species/ <https://ebird.org/pnw/news/fox-sparrows-one-of-the-northwests-more-confusing-species/>

Thanks, and I look forward to any other reports / feedback.

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA
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