Monday, March 19, 2007

Seaside Sparrow

Without much of a chance to do much birding I was looking forward to our short vacation trip to Crystal River. I had been mentioning I would like to check out a spot there some day, even if it meant I drove up alone some morning to get there at dawn. To get that out of my head, the wife chose it for a family trip.

Weather outlook was pretty good and I was getting prepped to find a new Life Bird: Seaside Sparrow. I made tape loops of the bird's calls and songs and studied these and images to make sure I wouldn't casually miss what might be a quick glimpse of this small bird.

As we headed out, the weather reports were taking a turn for the worse. If I were lucky, the front would stall and leave some time for warm birding. If not, winds were scheduled to pick up behind the front and the temperatures were forecast to drop rapidly.

I wasn't lucky.

The front came through very quickly, bringing high winds, rain, and impending temperatures in the 40s by morning. I hadn't considered that last part and neglected to bring any long-sleeved shirts or jackets. Just a Kissimmee Prairie T-shirt and thin pants as I figured it would be hot and muggy. Oh, well.

Headed out to be at the beach at dawn and found slightly lower winds but it was around 40 degrees. Brrrr.

Out on the beach, Skimmers, Laughing Gulls, Black-bellied Plovers, and Sanderlings were flowing in from the Gulf to rest in the shelter afforded by the beach and a few dunes and marsh. Very few other birds were in evidence.

I was told that there was a section of the marsh just before the beach that the sparrows were usually found. I headed over with tape recorder, camera, and binoculars in hand and stepped out in to the harsh winds whipping up past the shore instead of standing next to the road. I was told that playing the tape from the road would bring up some sparrows but the wind was getting so strong that I doubt anything heard my playback.

Into the Spartina Grass I sloshed. I figured going after the birds was going to be my only chance. Fortunately, it only took a few minutes to start hearing the birds call. Soon a few sparrows were darting out of the grass just feet in front of me.

I finally found one bird keeping very still but singing as it held on to the swaying grasses. Getting my camera to focus on a small waving blob in the high wind was proving to be a task but I did get my first Seaside Sparrow!

Seaside Sparrow

I knew there were several more in the area. I could hear them talking to each other as I slowly made my way around the marsh. The only other chance for a photo was of this birds looking toward the sun as I was deciding I was tired of freezing.

Seaside Sparrow

I tried many other birding spots in the surrounding few miles but never heard any other Seaside Sparrows. In fact, there were not to many other birds found anywhere since they were hunkered down, waiting for a better day. The only other birds in abundance during the trip were Bluebirds which lined CR 44 all the way to Crystal River.

Couldn't get a shot of them, though.

No comments: