Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Harris's Sparrow

If only the bursts of light endured. If only such moments were anything better than fleeting. But fleeting they are. I suppose that is why they saliently shimmer as they do...

Harris's Sparrow, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017

Yesterday's spark came in the form of a Harris's Sparrow I caught up with at Lake Farm Park (Madison, Dane Co, WI).

Harris's Sparrow, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017

I was sitting atop Frederick's Hill at Pheasant Branch Conservancy when I pulled out my phone to start my eBird checklist. I had not looked at the invasive device for the past two hours. I suppose on occasion my oh-so-smart phone serves a positive purpose like discovering a text from Shawn Miller indicating he had his sights on a Harris's Sparrow. A former me would have fled the scene immediately. But I felt committed to remain in the moment, to finish my intended exploration of the prairie.

Swamp Sparrow, Pheasant Branch Conservancy, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017
The wind was still, imparting greater salience to the sounds of the prairie. I lingered to continue to drink in the sights and sounds I had come seeking, possibly the last of fall for this place and me...AND it was quite possible a Harris's could have been lurking nearby...but not yesterday. However my additional hour and a half of birding yielded a late Tennessee Warbler and Broad-winged Hawk.

Harris's Sparrow, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017
Then I was off for a lunch date with a Harris's Sparrow. I arrived at Lake Farm Park to find a flurry of bird activity mostly consisting of numerous Yellow-rumped Warblers with a mix of smaller numbers of kinglets, woodpeckers, sparrows and Eastern Phoebes.

Eastern Phoebe, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017
I found the Harris's within about fifteen minutes of watching the stakeout path as White-crowned sparrows flew down and flocked on the ground, kick-scratching for seed and grit.

Harris's with White-crowned Sparrows, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017 
For an hour or so I immersed myself in observing the bird. I eventually settled into sitting in the grass, watching, and waiting for the moments when the bird flew up to various perches.

Harris's Sparrow, Lake Farm Park, Dane Co, WI 23Oct2017
The bird appeared to dominate the feeding area showing brief aggression when the White-crowned Sparrows approached too close.


The small flock of Zonotrichia sparrows periodically dispersed in response to various perceived threats be it the rattling flyby of Belted Kingfishers or close landing of a Red-tailed Hawk.



Occasionally they shifted to feeding on goldenrod and aster seeds. But eventually they returned to the preferred stretch of path.



I finally pulled myself away from this rather indulging handsome sparrow mostly because I did not want to get caught in rush hour traffic en route back home.

And then the crash set in. Crashing from crushing. Crushing on a fine Harris's Sparrow. I rose to greet another day, more dreary and cold than we have seen this October. The air today foreshadowed winter's chill. Days like today I can feel my spirit already yearning for the sun.

Sunset, Owen Park, Madison, Dane Co, 22Oct2017

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