Monthly Archive for June, 2011

Sparrow Encounters of the Weird Kind


The short version:

The above photo should have been of a House Sparrow.

The long version:

Last week, I had a House Sparrow approach me in the backyard. I was walking towards the apple tree when I noticed it exploring the ground around the trunk. It also noticed me, checked me out a little, and then skipped a few steps in my direction. Surprised, I stopped moving. It looked at me quizzically and then took a few more skips towards me.

At that point, the dog ran up but the little bird stayed put. This made me wonder if there was something wrong with it. So, I sent the dog searching for my wife and the sparrow moved even closer towards me as he ran off. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, the dog came racing back at full throttle, excited to report he had accomplished his mission and show he had earned any biscuits I might have stashed away in my pocket. Oddly, the sparrow didn’t spook and skipped a little closer yet. I told the dog to sit, which he did, and the little bird seemed okay with his presence until the dog noticed the bird – by then only about four feet away – and started to moan and tremble in excitement. That’s when the curious sparrow decided to fly away.

So, I quickly put the dog in the house, grabbed my camera, and raced back out to the apple tree with my iPhone. I played the House Sparrow call with iBird in the biophilian hope of calling the little fellow back. It didn’t work. Instead, three Chickadees landed in the apple tree to investigate all the noise I was making. I snapped a few photos of them – the one above being the best of the lot – while they lectured me extensively on the finer points of Chickadeeism. It’s an interesting philosophy worthy of one’s complete attention, but I couldn’t stop wondering what was going on in the mind of that sparrow.

Garbage in the woods

View of Mountain FSR
It wasn’t much of a spring weather-wise, but my wife and I, and the dog, made good use of it and explored the local mountains as much as we could. We discovered some stunningly beautiful places but were often surprised to find large quantities of garbage in the woods. Sadly, it’s no longer much of a surprise. From major appliances to carpets of shotgun shells so thick it sounded as if we were walking on bubble-wrap, we came across so much trash that it was all rather disheartening. The above photo was taken as we walked through some beautiful country, enjoying the aerial display of a group of hummingbirds that were so plentiful we decided to call the area Hummingbird Hill. I’ve discreetly cropped out the sofa.

May Birds

Brown-headed CowbirdI added four species to my bird list in May: Brown-headed Cowbird, Lesser Goldfinch, Pileated Woodpecker, and Purple Finch. I may have also seen a Pacific-slope Flycatcher or two, but I’m not absolutely sure. They were moving too fast.

I spotted the Brown-headed Cowbird, who let me get close enough to take the above photo, and the Pileated Woodpecker while walking in Burns Bog, but the Lesser Goldfinches and Purple Finches seem to be nesting among the Chokecherry trees in the back corner of our yard. It’s nice to have them as daily visitors now that our old regulars, the Dark-eyed Juncos and Varied Thrushes, have disappeared.

I’ve had a few really good looks at the Lesser Goldfinch, including once when one sat still in a rose bush that was only three or four feet away. Generally, however, they like to stay hidden among the leaves and all I usually get to see are busy flashes of bright yellow, that rarely reveal themselves fully, or the occasional dart across the yard on a bouncy flight path.

Oddly, we’ve had very few robins and hummingbirds in the backyard this spring but both are in good numbers only a few minutes away at the bog. Like the finches, the hummingbirds would nest in the Chokecherry trees but they seemed to have made their homes elsewhere this year. Perhaps the major pruning our neighbours did to their side of the trees last year have upset them.

American Robin
Anna’s Hummingbird
Bald Eagle
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Brown-headed Cowbird*
European Starling
Glaucous-winged Gull
Great Blue Heron
Hermit Thrush
House Finch
House Sparrow
Lesser Goldfinch*
Northwestern Crow
Pileated Woodpecker*
Purple Finch*

Song Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Steller’s Jay