Being "into" the birds for nearly a decade now, I've learned a lot. I'm far from an expert but also very far from where I began. At times these days I find myself envious of new birders as they get excited over everything that comes their way... because it's new. Sure I still get a thrill for some birds I have seen many times now just because I adore them a little more than other species. But it's an inner happiness that only I feel as I gaze upon an Eastern Bluebird; which is one of my best examples. I don't see them all the time, maybe half a dozen times a year if I make the trip to some nesting locations. Or more closer to home, my heart still warms up to our daily visitors, being the Northern Cardinals.
This past New Year's weekend though, myself, Angie and our friends Jim and Lynda found ourselves once again in a situation out in the wild where we were suddenly like new birders.
We set out one morning in search of Snowy Owls among other winter birds but the Snowys were top on the list for us this day. As we slowly searched an area they frequent in the winter just north of Toronto, we stopped to admire an American Kestrel sitting off the road on a wire. During this moment, a small bird came flying in and began to peck at the remnants of some weeds sticking up above the snow. And seconds later another flew in, and yet another after that.
We watched them and for whatever reason our minds went blank to what kind of birds were feeding mere feet from the van. We knew Snow Buntings were in the area but these definitely were not Snow Buntings. Another bird who loves the flat fields is the Horned Lark, another winter visitor. But we've seen a number of those in the past couple years and they are unmistakable. I think it was me who threw Lapland Longspur out there, and perhaps it was more just in wishing out loud that is what they were. I know Angie and I have never seen Longspurs before and I am not certain if our friends had either. Anyways, from that moment on, it was an excited frenzy to ID these birds. Guide books were pulled out, binoculars to view them better, Jim and I had the cameras fixed on them for future reference if the birds took off. Looking at the book now, it's obvious these were not Lapland Longspurs either.
The whole ordeal probably lasted a mere minute or so before we confirmed them to be American Tree Sparrows. But what a "bird nerd rush"! And we all had a good laugh about it afterwards.
It was a nice feeling to know despite where we are with our birding knowledge and skills, we can still find excitement with even some of the more common birds in Ontario. And to be pulled back to those thrills of "firsts" in the field even though that was not the case.
I hope some of you got a chuckle out of this tale. I think most of you out there probably have a similar tale of sorts, nothing to embarrassed about, as this is what keeps birding fun.
Here is one of the American Tree Sparrows we saw. Perhaps with the weeds blocking view at times helped with the stumping us?
Yes, definitely NOT a Lapland Longspur.
And lastly, the bird we had hoped to see that day, and actually had an amazing moment with a couple of them that will be blog worthy in the near future... a Snowy Owl!
Thanks for giving this a read. Comments are always appreciated. :)
p.s. if you click on the bird links above, it will take you to Cornell's "All About Birds" website. The Longspur shown is in it's summer plumage which would have been easy to identify...