Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mr. Baird's Sparrow

Baird's Sparrow
While out on the Grand River National Grasslands last weekend, I saw a secretive little grassland bird that is notoriously difficult to find. It was my 369th life bird. John James Audubon discovered this sparrow in 1843 while on his expedition up the Missouri River. Though four decades had passed since Lewis and Clark made the same journey, the trip still carried enough danger that one of Audubon's young proteges, Spencer Fullerton Baird, was forbidden by his mother from going along. When Audubon identified a sparrow that was not yet known to science, he named the bird for young Baird. The morning we went looking for Baird's Sparrows was 33 degrees, with a strong wind and a light drizzle. We walked a long time in tall, wet grass before we heard one of the birds singing. By the time we finally found the Baird's Sparrow pictured here, my camera was dripping wet. I am amazed I was able to get any pictures at all! Life birds are usually not easy to find, but I would have to say I have never worked so hard in such miserable conditions to find a new bird to add to my list. The two main field marks of this bird can be seen in these pictures. On the top photo you can easily see a black spot between the bird's face and neck. On the lower photo, the bird is showing off the ochre-colored stripe down the middle of the head.    
Back view of Baird's Sparrow, showing ochre crown-stripe

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