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Friday, February 5, 2010

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

One of the reasons I've not become an avid birder before this latest phase is laziness. There seem to be an inordinate number of small brownish birds that resemble each other too much. The implication is that sooner or later a lot of study will be necessary to differentiate them. I also suffer from the peacock syndrome where what I tend to want to look at is large, brightly colored birds with ornately patterned plumage. So all those humble little birds that are always scrabbling around for crumbs outside Starbucks have been a real stumbling block for me. Today's bird, the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), is a good example that I am finally taking the bull by the horns since I went out yesterday to the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary and photographed some larger, more exotic and colorful birds. You'll see them over the next few days.

I originally identified this bird as a Sooty Fox Sparrow. Commenter Fiona Cohen says it's a Song Sparrow and after checking a few field guides and online sources I tend to agree though, as I mention in the above post, these various small brownish/grayish birds are a little too challenging for me. My thanks to Fiona.
This is not turning into a bird blog - the focus here is still "life in Victoria" but I've rather neglected Victoria's birds in the past. Also, while the winter has been exceptionally warm, it has also been very cloudy and if I take too many cloudy, gray landscapes I have a tendency to retire to bed with a good book about the West Indies.


Dean Lewis said...

Going to say it again, but it is really remarkable how clicking on each of your shots enlarges them SO MUCH ! Pulls them a lot closer!
Fills my monitor and then some.
In the old days of film, resolution was all about emulsion speed, graininess etc. Digital has revolutionized photography so that every shot can be amazingly sharp, ... and better!

PinkPanthress said...

^_^; Took me a bit to actually see that little sweety!

Fiona Cohen said...

Lovely shot. Keep the bird photos coming. It's not a fox sparrow, though. It's a song sparrow.

Kim said...

Okay, Fiona is now sending me to my western bird ID book. . . I like the name you give. . .seems descriptive of the lovely colors. I like the crossed brambles and bird in the foreground. Do share your focusing strategy. Did you use one AF point to focus on, manual focus, or? Really lovely!

Benjamin Madison said...

Hi Kim,
Yes, I think Fiona's right. The pics in my Peterson's Field Guide aren't much help but other photos and guides show the Fox Sparrow as less stripey on the head and back than this one. I've been experimenting with focus. Mostly I use a single central autofocus, set to continuous - meaning as long as I keep the shutter halfway depressed it continuously focuses. I use as high a shutter speed as possible and use the auto-iso setting. Since these are shot with a 300mm telephoto I have to use a tripod. I don't know what settings real wild-life photographers use but I'll be doing some research since I'm a long ways from being satisfied.

Mike Laplante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Laplante said...

We live beside Swan Lake. We've seen colourful woodpeckers, waxwings, red-wing blackbirds... we even had a family of quail take up residence in our yard one summer.

Unfortunately, house cats are over hunting the lake. I've read that some of the ground dwelling birds have been hunted to extinction.

This website is a great reference for BC birds:

Benjamin Madison said...

Thanks all for your kind comments. Mike, thanks for the link. I need all the help I can get.