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Posts Tagged ‘white-throated sparrow’

Homemade cranberry sauce made a wonderful complement to the turkey at the Christmas Day feast that I shared with the other two members of my “pod.” Many birds are also feasting on berries at this time of the year, though I cannot recommend that you taste the poison ivy berries that they are consuming.

Last week I spotted this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and watched as it picked berries one by one from a cluster of poison ivy and consumed them in place. Most of us do not like to have our photos taken while we are eating, but this pretty little sparrow was so focused on its feast that it did not seem to mind.

white-throated sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although my eyes are sometimes drawn to patterns when scanning vegetation for birds, generally I require some movement to detect their presence. I spotted this beautiful little White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) while it was hopping in and out of some heavy vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I tracked the bird for a while, hoping to get an obstructed shot, and was thrilled to capture this image. Much of the bird’s body was in the shadows, but rays of sunshine spotlighted its head and highlighted its beautiful facial markings, including the distinctive yellow stripe between the base of its bill and its eye, an area known as the “lore.” Be sure to click on the image to get an enlarged view of these wonderful features.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Each spring I try to get shots of birds perching in blossoming trees, but the birds rarely cooperate with me—they all seem more interested in foraging for food than in posing for me. On Saturday, though, a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge paused for a moment and I was able to capture this image.

I chose not to crop this image any closer in order to give you a better view of the delicate white blossoms of a tree that I am not able to immediately identify.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) are with us throughout the winter and I will usually attempt to photograph them during my winter forays into the wild. I tend to think of White-throated Sparrows as the “dandies” of the sparrow world—they have the same general coloration as other sparrows, but have a distinctive appearance with their white chin beards and bright yellow eyestripes. It is a real bonus when the lighting is good and the perch is photogenic, as was the case last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The lighting was so beautiful last week when I spotted this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I did not mind that there was a branch partially blocking my view of the bird. I especially love the way that the lighting highlights the bright yellow markings in the area between the eye and the bill known technically as the lores.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We have moved into a season of the year in which it is increasingly difficult for me to find birds to photograph. When the weather is cold and grey, birds seem to be less active and are certainly less visible. Photography, though, is not about efficiency for me—I have come to enjoy my long, mostly solitary walks in nature with my camera irrespective of the actual results.

Consequently I think that I value each of my interactions with wild creatures even more than usual during the winter. For example, last week I worked hard to capture this little portrait of a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sparrows are often ignored by many birders and photographers, because of their commonness and drabness, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph them as they move about, scratching and pecking, often buried within bushes and other vegetation.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At this time of the year I have to work hard to get photographs of birds. If I am lucky, I will spot a Bald Eagle or another raptor, but most of the time I walk slowly down the trails, looking and listening for small birds. I know that they are there, but even with the leaves gone from most of the trees, the birds often remain hidden from view.

One of my favorites is the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it is the effect of the season, but this sparrow always makes me think of Santa Claus. With the white “beard” and the distinctive yellow stripe over the eye, this sparrow is also relatively easy to identify, a real plus considering how many sparrow species are similar in appearance to each other.

An even smaller bird is the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), which is about 4 inches in length (10 cm) and weighs only 0.2-0.3 ounces (5-10 g). This one was bouncing in and out of the vegetation so much that I thought I would never get a clear shot of it. Eventually I was more or less successful. What a sweet little bird.

 

White-throated Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) always remind me of Santa Claus because of their white “beards.” The effect was magnified on a recent frigid morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, when a White-throated Sparrow had fluffed up its feathers to retain heat and looked even chubbier than normal.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you attracted more by something that is powerful and exciting or by something that is familiar and comfortable? When it comes to photography, it seems like I constantly face this dilemma. Should I be chasing after the large predators of the air, travelling, as some birders do, hundreds of miles in the hopes of photographing a rare species like a snowy owl? Should I be content to spend my time scanning the branches and bushes for familiar birds that some dismissively call “backyard birds?”

Fortunately, this is not an either-or proposition—it is what academics would call a “false dichotomy.” I don’t have to choose only one type of subject on which to focus my attention and my camera. The reality is that I want to photograph them all and find equal enjoyment in photographing a modest White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and a majestic Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). I photographed both of these birds this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and for me they represent the two extremes that I mentioned earlier.

One image is a carefully composed portrait of a small bird at rest and the other is an action shot of a powerful predator in the air taken on the fly, relying on reactions. Is one “better” than the other? Maybe it is better to ask if you find one more appealing, one that speaks to you more.

It is a bit of a cliché to state that beauty is in the eye of the beholder—beauty is often subjective, but sometimes people talk of universal beauty. How can that be? Personally, when I think about beauty, I realize that it is inherently contradictory, that it is an elusive mystery that we can never fully understand, but that is worth pursuing.

Beauty can be found in many places and in many ways. As you prepare for the weekend, I hope that you too will find time to discover the beauty that surrounds you, in the familiar or the exotic or somewhere in between those two extremes.

White-throated Sparrow

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds may seek shelter when the weather is inhospitable, but sparrows seem to be active and busy all of the time, like this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I spotted in the snow this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

It is a bit of a challenge to get a proper exposure when so much of the frame is filled with white snow. As I understand it, the camera would like to render everything to a neutral gray, so it is necessary to overexpose the image or adjust it in post-processing.  In my initial RAW image, the sparrow was very much in the shadows and the snow had a grayish-blue tinge to it. I cranked up the exposure to the point that most of the snow turned almost pure white and I was left with soft bluish shadows that I really like. I am also pretty pleased with the sparrow’s pose as it paused for a moment to survey the landscape.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Santa-like “beard” of the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I observed this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park seems seasonally appropriate as we move closer and closer to Christmas. The backdrop of colorful foliage adds to the festive feel of the photo, which is further enhanced by the frosty leaves in the foreground.

 

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love it when I am able to get in close enough to capture the bold yellow stripe above the eye of the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). Often they bury themselves in the bushes and undergrowth, but this one seemed to be posing for me this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park.

“Beautiful sparrow”—it’s definitely not an oxymoron.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I often think of this little bird as the “Santa bird,” because of its white “beard” and round belly. Technically speaking, it’s a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), but it’s often more fun to make up my own names for the creatures that I see and photograph.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I used to think that all sparrows were simply nondescript little brown birds. Now I look more closely and can see how beautiful and distinctive they really are, like this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I spotted last week at Huntley Meadows Park.

I especially love the bright yellow stripe on its face (in an area technically called its “lore”) that really stands out amid the other, more subdued colors.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is one of the few sparrows that I can reliably identify, thanks to its distinctive markings. I love the little white “goatee” and the touch of bright yellow near its eyes.

Like most sparrows, White-throated Sparrows seem to spend a lot of time poking about in the underbrush, where they are hard to see. During this past week, when the ground has been covered with snow, I’ve managed to get some close-up shots of them in relatively exposed positions.

I really like the way that the green vine provides an organic framing element in the first image. The sparrow in the second image was awash with bright light as it perched on a rotten stump at Huntley Meadows Park. The details of the stump were blown away, but the bird itself seems to have been properly exposed (and the background is wonderful).

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A lot of scratching and movement was taking place down deep in the cattails and I stopped and waited, hoping to see what birds were responsible for the commotion. Finally, one of them popped to the surface and it looked to be a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and I smiled.

Sparrows have a very special place in my heart, because they remind me of my deceased parents. When I was growing up, one of their favorite hymns at church was “His Eye is On the Sparrow.” The hymn has a simple, Scripture-based message that we should not be discouraged, because the same God who watches over the sparrows in the field cares even more for us.

Now, whenever I see sparrows, I smile as I am filled with memories of my parents, and the words of the chorus of the hymn play again in my mind, “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. For His eye is on the sparrow. And I know He watches me.”

If you have never heard this song, there are many versions of it on YouTube, including, versions by such noted artists as Whitney Houston. Sandi Patty’s rendition is close to the version that I remember in the small Baptist churches of my childhood.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the dead of the winter, it’s sometimes difficult for me to find birds to photograph. The birds seem to be using common sense when it’s cold, gray, and windy outside and take shelter to stay warm. At times like this, I pay more attention than usual to the details of the birds that I do manage to photograph, like this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I observed last week.

At first glance there is nothing particularly special about this sparrow. As you look more closely, though, do you notice the silvery gray of its bill or the yellow lores? What are lores? I don’t know many technical terms about bird anatomy, but several years ago I learned that the lore is the region between the eye and bill of a bird. I love the beautiful shade of brown of this bird’s eyes and its little white “beard,” with a few spiky dark hairs sticking out from its chin.

Yes, it’s “only” a sparrow, a bird that you may see so often that you don’t even notice it, but I challenge you to take a closer look and you may lose yourself in the beauty of the sparrow details.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many people in my area were off from work in honor of Martin Luther King Day and my marshland park was full of families enjoying the cool, sunny winter day. Not surprisingly, there was not a lot of wildlife to be found, but after a week overseas and a weekend away at a wedding, it was nice to return to familiar surroundings.

I was able to capture some interesting images of a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) perched on a branch. The little bird had puffed up its feathers and was amazingly round. and almost looks like he is dozing, with his eyes  half closed.

Can sparrows close their eyes?

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my goals in testing out my new Tamron 150-600mm lens was to see how well it did in capturing the little birds that hide out in the underbrush. As we move deeper into the autumn and into winter, I can always depend on hearing and sometimes spotting different kinds of sparrow poking about in the tangled plants and leaves in the marsh. These birds tend to be in constant motion, moving quickly from spot to spot after a few pecks, and this weekend I stalked a few of them to see if I could focus quickly and accurately on them.

We seem to have had a recent influx of White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) and I think that all three of the images below are of members of this species. However, sparrows have often confounded me in the past, so I apologize in advance if I have misidentified them.

These sparrows seem to have individual personalities and I like the fact that they posed in different ways for me. I used to ignore sparrows and other such birds, but now go out of my way to try to photograph their beauty and individuality. I think my new lens passed the test in being able to capture portraits of these little sparrows.

White-throated SparrowWhite-throated SparrowWhite-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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No matter how bad the weather is, sparrows seem to be omnipresent at this time of the year. I can hear them as they move about in search of food, but they often choose to bury themselves deep in the bushes and undergrowth.

This White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) was snacking on some kind of berries and I managed to catch him mid-bite when he lifted his head slightly. The branches and leaves give you an idea of the challenge involved in getting an unobstructed  shot. I am happy that I was able to get the head (and eye) in focus and the pose is an interesting one, because it caught the sparrow as it was doing something—static portraits are nice, but for me it’s even nicer to capture motion and activity.

berry_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Did you enjoy playing in puddles when you were a child? I remember a childhood of rubber boots and yellow slickers and days when my pant legs would be drenched from walking through puddles. Even now, I’ll occasionally kick my feet through a puddle of water and then glance quickly all around, hoping that nobody has seen me give in to my child-like impulses.

When I spotted this White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) in a shallow puddle, I thought he was merely getting a drink of water. However, he stuck his head in the water, splashed around, and seemed to be having a good time. Perhaps he was taking a bath, or maybe he was simply enjoying himself in the cool waters. (In case you are curious about the background, the puddle had formed in a low area adjacent to a speed bump at the entrance to the parking area of my local marsh park—the yellow you can see is the safety paint of the speed bump itself.)

Initially, I was unsure that this sparrow was a White-throated, because the white patch was not really obvious and the eye stripes were not as well defined as in previous photos that I have posted of this species. The yellow coloration above the lore (the area between the eye and the bill) makes it pretty likely that this is a White-throated sparrow, though it may be the brown and tan striped variant, rather than the black and white one that I featured in a posting earlier this week.

I don’t know about you, but I feel inspired to find a puddle to play in today. Have a wonderful Friday.

Sparrow_puddle_cropped_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and overcast yesterday and there were not many birds visible, with the notable exception of sparrows. Sparrows were as active as ever, though most of the time I could only hear them and not see them. They seem to like to rot about in the underbrush most of the time.

I was really happy when this White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) popped up for a moment and I was able to get this image. I love the facial pattern and colors of this bird, which seems to have a goatee much like my own. (My goatee started out with salt-and-pepper color, but increasingly has become mostly salt).

When researching this bird, I learned that there is another version (morph) of this bird that has brown and tan head stripes, instead of black and white. I will have to look even more closely at my photos of the White-throated sparrow, which has become more common the past few weeks, and see if I have managed to capture any images of the tan-striped variant.

sparrow_white_throat_crop_blog

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It’s almost Christmas. Decorations are visible everywhere and all the radio stations are playing non-stop Christmas music. As I am driving to work, I am reminded of (and sometimes burst into singing) the lyrics of Silver Bells, which include the line, “Strings of street lights, even stoplights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.”

Even in nature I am reminded of Christmas. Despite the title of this blog posting, this bird is not called a “Santa bird,” but I enjoy making up names of the creatures that I photograph. Usually I do so when I don’t know their real names, but in this case I know that the bird is a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).

His prominent white “beard” and his round belly, though, remind me of Santa Claus, and I can’t help but smile. I recall some of the words of the famous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, “He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.”

Soon it will be Christmas day.

Santa bird

Santa bird

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