Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Oh Sweet Canada...

Although there's still snow on the ground, there's not much, and the sounds in the air are definitely beyond just a whisper of spring. Yesterday morning as I was sautéing red peppers and grape tomatoes (barely awake and definitely not paying attention to much but the egg I was about to crack into the frying pan), "Did I just hear a Red-winged Blackbird?" popped into my mind. It registered at that subconscious level that makes you stop and wonder, but after listening for a second or two, the second call came through loud and clear, and I said, "Alright!" out loud. Spring is here... When I looked out the kitchen window, two Red-winged Blackbirds were in the side yard looking for something to eat. Last year I started hearing them mid-February, so they are a little late this year, but all the other spring bird songs have been right on time, especially my favorite "Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada..." love song of the White-throated Sparrow.



A tan-morph White-throated Sparrow puffed up to gargantuan extremes to weather out the snow that arrived over the weekend. My lens was spotted with wet snowflakes, which gave this photo a cool look. (The white morphs have black and white stripes on their head instead of the muted tan and brown shown in this bird.)



The tan morphs do not sing quite as much as the white morphs, but our little tan-morph male was singing beautifully while a wet snow came down all around.


This winter we have had a lot more tan morphs than white morphs at our feeders.



...although not quite as dramatic looking as the white morphs, the male tan-morph White-throated Sparrows help out with the nestlings, plus they don't start as many fights as their flashy brothers...

For more information on the White-throated Sparrow, check out this site, the White-throated Sparrow Project. You can also read about the genetic behavioral differences between the two morphs on The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds or The Birds of North America Online.

43 comments:

Susan W. said...

Love that first picture. Could there be a better one?

Penny said...

I also really love that first photo, he looks gorgeous.

NicoleB said...

Gorgeous shots and lucky you.
I've never seen a sparrow like these.
So pretty all puffed up and the colours are great!

Chris said...

Hi Kelly,
What a nice post and nice pictures. Heye thanks for the link because this is exactly the kind of research I do, but on fish and marine mammals! So it was pretty interesting to read all these things. Still under the snow over here too, but it is now kind of snow-rain days!

Elaine said...

Beautiful! Do you promise it's spring? Well, maybe in Ohio....

eileeninmd said...

Awesome shots of the WT SParrow!

Renee said...

Such pretty babies - I agree that the first pic is the absolute best.

Felicia said...

I love how poofy the bird in the first shot is! White-throated Sparrows are beautiful--great shots!

Wren said...

Oooh, that first photo is every bit as good and as cute as the famous "mad bluebird"!

I'm jealous of your blackbirds. I'm used to seeing them in Feb, too, and so far, not a peep this year.

Busy Bee Suz said...

I love the puffed up sparrow. I feel like that some mornings.
Great photos Kelly. Bring on the SPRING!

Laure Ferlita said...

Thanks for laugh this morning when I saw the first photo! He looks a bit on the grumpy side to be putting up with the cold. Still. Some more!

Great shots!

Colleen said...

He looks so adorable all puffed up! I took a photo of a Robin this week and as I took it, I mentally compared the image to your photos. Then I sighed. :(

Beautiful photos as always!

Linda Yarrow said...

Lovely pictures, I read the link, it was very interesting.

Jayne said...

Love these Kelly! I had no idea about the morphs!

Kyna said...

Love that little puffed up sparrow! :D

Roy said...

Red-winged Blackbirds are no longer a harbinger of Spring around here; in the last couple of years they've been staying the Winter, along with the Robins who have been wintering here for over a decade. I've been hearing that Red-winged gotta beeeeeeeee since at least January.

No tan morphs here; just white morphs. Ballard Park is getting quite melodious, now that the Cardinals are also singing their Spring songs.

Montanagirl said...

Kelly - that first shot is just outstanding! Nice series. Is Spring on the way? It's only 10 degrees here this morning, and we're cloaked in fog and frost again.

Richard said...

A "WOW" set of pictures. Love the clarity you got.

Trisha said...

Your photos made my morning! I see these butterball-type sparrows all the time, but I've never seen them captured better in photos. Wonderful images!

Hilke Breder said...

You must be ahead of us, haven't heard or seen any Red-winged Blackbirds or White-throated Sparrows yet. Love images of the sparrows! Thanks also for the interesting link.

Phil said...

They say a picture paints a thousand words, That first White-throated Sparrow is just a brilliant portrait that words cant describe.

Warren Baker said...

Excellent photo's Kelly, welcome to spring!

Susan said...

Lovely photos of the W T sparrow - still waiting for them here, but now I know they're on they're way there's hope just around the corner! In themeantimel ots fo fat lazy houseflies are beginning to appear and ants (!) too, so they'll have lots to nibble on.

Wanda said...

You always have such beautiful photos, Kelly. I especially like the fact that you are a close neighbor, and what you see, I may see!

The Early Birder said...

Cracking face on portrait in the top photo Kelly. I think I'd be puffed up (by an extra 3 layers) to be outside in those conditions.
Don't get jealous but we have some sunshine at the moment. FAB.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, I did a birdie blog (snowy) also today.. Check it out..

That first picture made me laugh outloud... I've never seen a White-throated Sparrow before. Pretty bird.

I saw a new one at my feeder also (a Yellow-rumped Warbler)...

Hugs,
Betsy

Roy said...

Great set of images Kelly.

"JeanneG" said...

I too love the first one. It would make a great painting.

Allison said...

So, when am I going to pop over here and see a blurry, poorly taken shot?? NEVER!!! Your photos never disappoint. Astonishing. They are so puffy they look like dandelions ready to be wished and blown upon!

Larry said...

Incredible shots of the White-throated Sparrow Kelly! I saw my first last November as a migrant passed through Northern California. What a gorgeous sparrow.

Diane said...

On the first picture, he looks as tired of winter as I feel! Great shots!

ShySongbird said...

Amazing photos again Kelly, such pretty birds. It does look chilly there, we still have cold temperatures here but several days of glorious sunshine and a definite feel of Spring in the air!

Mary said...

Funny first photo....I don't think he looks like he wants to sing at the moment.

RuthieJ said...

I can't wait for migrating sparrows to start showing up in my backyard!

Toni said...

The closeups you get amaze me.

Chris Petrak said...

First photo of WTSP is super! About the Coop's and how it dispatches prey. Ornithologist friend and neighbor told me about the coop's that took a blue jay in his yard. Even for a dispassionate scientist it was disturbing because the hawk started eating while the jay was still alive and very loud. Nature is not always cute, and I'm glad when we all recognize that fact. Thanks.

Gary Keimig said...

What a wonderful blog and great photography. glad I found your blog and will be visiting.
A good artist friend of mine, Les Llefevre lives in Cincinnattie and is really complaining about your snows. We are not getting much at all here. Please send us some.
God bless and keep up the great work

dAwN said...

Absolutely amazing photos Kelly, I just tweeted this out to my twitter..birdie nature buddies.

oldcrow61 said...

I have them coming to my garden certain times of the year. A bit too early yet though. Lovely birds.

Coy said...

Lovely little guys, they stay around my area all winter but come spring they are soon gone. I just spotted my first red-winged blackbirds this weekend, they are two weeks later here this year that last.

E said...

All the pics are very lovely and beautiful, Kelly, congrats, great stories too. Hugs

grammie g said...

I just laughed at your first photo of the w t sparrow. He looks like he could be saying "when well this weather change, it is giving me a headache"" Great photo's!!

Anna said...

You know Kelly last few days I have been wondering with Matthew around the neighborhood, and I couldn't believe how many birds came out, including the red wing black birds, distinct call. Beautiful images Kelly. Anna :)