Thursday, December 21, 2017

Swamp Sparrow! - 20 Dec 2017

Not ten minutes after arriving home and celebrating all of the Swamp Sparrows at Erie Marsh I took a peak out the back window at the feeders. I spotted a tiny little sparrow with a dark cap and buffy sides foraging by itself with no other birds present. Swamp Sparrow! New yard bird #97!

I turned the scope on it and started to grab a video with the Sony a6300. I had mistakenly switched the camera to one of my saved-settings that generates highly-saturated captures, and it worked to my advantage. The high-saturated setting allows me to autofocus more accurately when digiscoping, but in this case it helped to bring out the rufous tones in the wings and tail of the sparrow that help differentiate it from similar-looking Lincoln's Sparrows in winter.

You see, when I switched back to normal camera settings and started to photographing the bird I started noticing the thin stripes along the flanks that are normally not associated with winter Swamp Sparrows. The overall olive coloration and streaking started me steering toward Lincoln's Sparrow. So, I had to pull out some references to compare the two.

Lincoln's Sparrows show the buffy flanks and throat and thin streaking, but have a whiter belly compared to Swamp Sparrows. A darker submoustachial stripe also helps.

What made my bird confusing is that its a 1st-winter bird that shows streaking on the flanks. But, it also shows a darker cheek patch that the Lincoln's Sparrow lacks, and also has thicker, blacker stripes on the back and hindwing.

This turned out to be a nice bird to learn some new ID characteristics.

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