Monday, December 30, 2013

Lincoln's Sparrows at Harris Lake

I decided I would do some local birding today down at one of my favorite birding patches - the Harris Lake Upper Ramp.  I scoped some gulls to hopefully find a rare one among the masses.  The gulls were out in full force, but they were almost all Ring-billeds.  A few Herring Gulls and Bonaparte's Gulls were scattered here and there, but nothing rare.  I estimated around 1750 Ring-billed Gulls in all.  The Common Loons, always abundant off the Upper Ramp, were very vocal today, and I had the fortune of hearing one of my favorite bird calls again and again.

After thoroughly scoping the lake, I decided to head back.  On my way back up the gravel road from the boat ramp, I decided I'd pish for sparrows, just to see.  I couldn't believe my eyes when the first one that came up was a Lincoln's Sparrow!  Lincoln's Sparrows are very rare in our region, especially this late in winter.  I wanted to get a photo, so I played the bird's song off my iPhone.  To my surprise, two started chipping back.  Amazing!  I readied my camera to snap some shots - but my foot was burning.  Ouch - now it was really burning!  I looked down to see a swarm of fire ants all over my right foot.  I tore off my shoe and did the usual "fire ant dance" to bat them away.  Once the pain subsided, I went back to trying to photograph the Lincoln's Sparrows.  Again and again, the birds would flit quickly through the brush.  It was very frustrating.  At last, one flew out into a relatively open spot long enough for me to snap a few quick shots.  Lincoln's Sparrows are beautiful birds, with their subtle combination of red, buff, and brown, complemented by very fine brush streaks.  I'll definitely be back to this spot on the 1st to pick Lincoln's Sparrow up for my 2014 list - but for now I can be happy with this pleasant surprise.

The elusive Lincoln's Sparrow, today at Harris Lake.

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