Sunday, September 30, 2007

2007 Lifers, Ay? Bay...., and Clay Day

North American life birds are few and far between these days. So when a day comes that one makes its appearance in the bins, it is indeed a good day, one to celebrate. Today's lifer brings back memories of #369, two Bay-breasted Warblers in the Mark Twain National Forest last spring. And those Bays bring to mind a spring whose warbler numbers I may never see again. I hope I'm wrong about that.

But, today, the Bay has turned to Clay, as in Clay-colored Sparrow, and that is what I am celebrating. I know how this species can be confused with the Chipping Sparrow, but I have gone over my field notes, run through field guides, looked at internet photos, and called my bird savvy son. He says that they are seen in mixed flocks with Chipping Sparrows (as Sibley guide mentions), and that the field marks and observations that I describe are consistent with the species.

I met this bird as it flushed with a flock of Chippies. It fed alone on asphalt near a maintenance building at Fellows Lake, 25-30 feet from the small flock of Chipping Sparrows. It's head was rounder and larger than a Chipping Sparrow giving it an overall larger appearance. It had a very buffy supercilium, clean facial markings, clear white patches around its moustache, a buffy overall appearance, and an indistinct rump that contrasted with the highly visible gray rumps of the nearby Chippies. I can't remember a gray nape, but the clean, contrasting marks on the head were strikingly different from the more ratty appearing Chipping Sparrows. This caught my attention. The bird was feeding on the ground which could have partially hidden its nape.

At any rate, the Clay-colored Sparrow had entered my life list at number 370.

So, hip, hip, hooray for bays, and clays, and days like these!

Red-tailed Hawk poses for me at Fellows Lake

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