Friday 24 April 2009

A Strange Savannah Sparrow

Yes, context IS a rather significant factor in birding.

This post is about a bird Laurent and I had seen on 23rd of May 2007, almost two years ago. It caused me quite a few head-aches back then but as I didn't reach a satisfying conclusion I basically just forgot about it eventually and - as we say in German - let grass grow over it.

Then came Nate's post about a strange Savannah Sparrow here and today, a bird similar to Nate's was reported and photographed in SE Michigan.

So the grass was mowed and the strange 2007 Savannah Sparrow re-emerged from the soil like Phoenix from the ashes to make an appearance here on my blog for you all to see and shake your heads about.

Okay, there was a report of a Nelson's Sparrow from near Point Pelee's tip so we went there in hopes of finding it. Walking along a narrow path through some grassy patches, we eventually flushed a small sparrow from the ground that landed in a small bush nearby. In flight we could clearly see that the outer tail-feathers were white, so it was a suspicious flying thing that merited closer inspection. In today's birding world nothing is worth anything anymore unless it is photographed, so as soon as I had spotted the little bird in the bush, I completely focused on taking pictures and managed the two shots presented below.

You can actually see the white on the outer tail and I find the bird surprisingly Ammodramus-like in general appearance for a Savannah and also rather intensively reddish brown.
But see for yourselves:

What makes this bird particularly interesting is the tail pattern: the Sibley guide states that white outer tail feathers are a feature of "western subspecies" although sadly, sadly he doesn't specify which ones and where they occur.

The third picture shows a Savannah Sparrow on territory (awfully cropped) near Point Pelee and was taken on the same day. It is included here as a reference for the typical local breeding birds and - dang - can you tell the difference?

I sure can!

As before, comments are highly appreciated!