Sunday, July 19, 2009

Henslow’s Sparrows at Voice of America (VOA) Park in Mason, OH

A friend emailed me that he saw Henslow’s Sparrows singing at VOA Park in the High Meadow the other evening, so Rick and I headed over tonight. (I still have lots of photos to post from Hocking Hills, but this sighting was too important to wait.) While we were there, we heard at least five males singing and saw three. Unfortunately, my photos are terrible. It was getting dark, and I was shooting with an ISO of 1600 to 2000.

For better photos of the Henslow's Sparrows, click here for a newer post.

It took me two years of searching to
finally find this Henslow's Sparrow.

It was cold tonight while we were there. At only
66 degrees, it felt more like Autumn than summer!
The cold didn't seem to bother the Henslow's
Sparrows, as they seemed to come to life
as the temperature was dropping.

We arrived at the park around 7:45 p.m., and as soon as I got out of the car I saw several Bobolinks and started photographing them. As I was focused on a female Bobolink, I heard my first Henslow’s Sparrow’s song—a short little thing that is very distinctive. It’s been described as an insect-like hiccup, but I liked it. I followed him through the grass for a while. He was loath to fly and preferred instead skirting across the ground in deep cover while teasing me with his song! Large swaths of grass have been cut through the meadow to make it easy to walk around. I used part of this trail to follow the Henslow's Sparrows song. Rick opted to sit down instead and just listen. He heard one sparrow about 20 feet away and sat very still. Slowly the Henslow's Sparrow came closer and closer, but then he veered off. Rick was hoping one would hop up on a nearby tiny tree and sing his song, but he didn’t. As it got darker, the Henslow’s song started picking up. Soon I heard two…then three…and finally, one flew up and landed on a small snag. I got my first shot at 8:45. I quickly had to switch the ISO to 2000 as the light was fading fast. My camera does really well in low light, but even so, the photos are poor. Needless to say, this was a life bird for me.

You will probably hear a Henslow's Sparrow
long before you see it. As night drew near, their
singing picked up and they started flying from perch
to perch. The park closes at dark, so we couldn't stick
around to see if they continued to sing after dark.

I loved it when they started hopping up on
snags or plants to sing their very short song.

We saw three Henslow's Sparrows. Two
were pretty close to each other for a while,
but the third was at least 40 feet away.

We are so lucky to have this small breeding population of Henslow's Sparrows in our neighborhood. I hope the Voice of America Park can continue to provide the proper habitat for our summer grassland birds. Click here for an article on the Ohio Ornithological Society’s site that talks about the summer breeding birds and their grassland habitat at VOA Park.


Nick S said...

They are still decent enough for what I call ' record shots ' Kelly.
I'd love to see a Henslow's Sparrow.

Sue said...

I'm glad you got your shot-sometimes you just have to take in the conditions you were given. You can still see his marking well.

Chris Petrak said...

The recent Henslow's in Mass brought birders from all over NE - one lonely male & distant. Your photos are stellar compared to what I managed. And you had five to work with!!

Anonymous said...

I had only seen these in the books, until now, but then I have seen and photographed both the white throated and white crowned sparrows and I could have been looking at a Henslow and thought it was one or the other. It is hard for me to see them here at home in my backyard as they are not always around. I would say you did very well and the photos are really nice to see.

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Montanagirl said...

I have never seen a Henslow's Sparrow. What a treat for you.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Hi Kel, How interesting... I went online and listened to his 'hiccup' song... CUTE!!!!! I've never seen this one --nor heard him around here. We may have them---because the book says he goes as far south as North Carolina. SO????? Who knows!

Thanks for the great post.
Have a great Sunday.

Kelly said...

Nick...they are definitely record shots. Now that I know what to listen for and where to look, maybe I'll get able to get a better shot with patience. Now.....if I had a more powerful lens..... :-) true. As I was clicking away I kept hoping...please let the markings show up!!

Chris...we are so lucky, but I don't know if the "powers that be" know it. They are talking about "building" something for the people where the High Meadows are. They also need to be mowed. I hope this tiny little population continues to thrive. We have enough soccer fields....

Abe...the two big differences...the song and the environment. The song is very cute and short. It really went to my heart.

Mona...I hadn't either! Took me a while...thanks to Mike's tip-off I finally found them!

Betsy.....look for a huge meadow....and go at dusk....and just listen for that call. Suddenly, you hear it--then it becomes plain as day. They just wait for the action!

Cindy said...

Kelly, beautiful little bird. You got me interested in the different types of Sparrows so I looked them up. There are quite a few of them. I'll have to see which ones are in my area and maybe I'll get a few shots.

Have a great week! ~Cindy

holdingmoments said...

Kelly you're certainly seeing some birds right now; and some great 'firsts'.
Agree with Nick, sometimes we can only get 'record shots', but always good enough.

Anonymous said...

: ) I'm happy you got your bird!

Anonymous said...

Well done for finding that sparrow at last Kelly. Its always nice to get a new bird in the book and even better getting a photograph of it.

E said...

Beautiful little blessings from God, I love them, I like your pics a lot and your comments of your journey, what a tresure for your family, friends and specially Mathew in many years to come. Hugs

Dave said...

Congrats Kelly! It's the folks like us with the occasional fuzzy shots that keep the pros in business.
I'm still searching for mine.

Jenny said...

Glad you got another life bird, you're doing really well for those recently I think! (-: Nice record shots. Maybe you can go back and spend some time with the camera early morning or something.

Janice K said...

Not enough light can be so frustrating, but your camera does really well. Plus, I'm glad you got your bird!

Connie said...

I loved your shots, especially the first one. I had no trouble seeing the markings.

Hilke Breder said...

Nice pictures given the conditions! We had a lone Henslow's sparrow show up on a meadow near Montague Ciy in MA. I tried for photos but he was too far away. I did however record a short section of his song, just 11 sec long. If anyone is interested here it is - you have to turn your volume way up to hear it.

Randy Emmitt said...

Congrads on the Henslow's Sparrow! I got several of them years ago on a beach in SC. What a crowd that showed up too. We get them now once in a while maybe even at our VOA near Greenville NC. Enjoyed the read too.

Kelly said...

Cindy....go for it! I love sparrows. This year I added a Savannah Sparrow and a Henslow's. There are so many more out there I'd like to see! true. I'm glad I was able to get what I got!

Ohhh...yuckkkkk.....a raccoon and a skunk must have just skirmished in my back yard and the raccoon must have lost. That lovely smell has just permeated through our house. With the cooler weather I have all of our windows open. Oh well....that's nature!

Thanks, Steve!

You said it, Roy!! :-)

Thanks, Enita! You are always so kind. true.....I hope you get that Yellow-headed Backbird soon!

Jenny....they are most active in the evening, but now that I know exactly where they are, maybe I will be able to find them earlier in the evening with better light. I really do need to move up to at least a 300mm lens. Earlier birthday present? Christmas...anniversary....all combined? Rick...are you reading the comments ;-)

Thanks, Janice and Connie!

Hilke...thank you for the link. I checked out your video. You got a great recording of the song!!

Thanks, Randy. I didn't know there were more VOAs around the country, but others have commented on their VOA parks as well.

Anonymous said...

It may not be a perfect photo, but it's a perfect record of a life bird. Congratulations!

Kim said...

Kelly, for record shots those are FANTASTIC!! A super congrats to you on that. I saw one for the first time this year too and it was such a treat!

Ken. said...

Hi Kelly.
I could go on about the quality of your photo's, but I won't. I am only going to say Congratulation's on getting your lifer. I know it has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.We all get there in the end, don't we darling?

Elaine said...

Your shots are good enough to remind you of seeing and hearing a bird you were waiting to see. Sounds like you will be taking some evening jaunts back to the VOA Park.

Kelly said... are so right. I will always remember that night...and catching sight of the little fellows in the fading light!

Kim...thank you! You've had lots of firsts this year as well. It's very exciting.'re right. Once you set your mind on something perseverance always wins out.

Elaine...I'll definitely be back. thank you!!

Mary said...

Another total unknown for me. Wonderful photos! I'm learning a lot of birds here.

Dawn Fine said...

Excellent! haven't found a Henslows yet!
Great photos of a secretive bird!

Heather said...

I'm just getting caught up on your posts since getting back from Michigan. I am SO GLAD you got to see the Henslows!!! Aren't they just the neatest?! I was so psyched when I got to see them at the Wilds earlier this year. We were out after dark one night during the Wilds trip, and those little birds were just hiccupping all over in the surrounding fields - one of the guides said they will just sing and sing all night long. Congrats on this special lifer!