Monday, February 14, 2011

LBJs - Addendum

The Little Brown Job exercises which began in early December are at an end. There are many sparrows and other confusing brown birds which were not included, mainly because I do not encounter them very often. As I have watched, and studied, the LBJs which are in my neighborhoods, I find that I have gradually been able to identify them quickly. It is a skill which transfers to new areas, and new birds. When encountering an LBJ in a different part of the country, I can quickly eliminate many birds which it is NOT. The field is narrowed, and ID with field guide help can come quite quickly.

LBJs are not a mystery, unless you convince yourself that they are impossible to ID.

For example, in January, 09, we were in southern Arizona. I saw an especially plain little sparrow with no distinguishing marks; it was not difficult to ID Brewer's Sparrow

Brewer's Sparrow - near Tuscon, AZ

Brewster's Sparrow in desert brushy areas in winter defines drab bird.

Sparrows do not often provide clear, unmistakable field marks. The Black-throated Sparrow is a delightful exception. This one was photographed at a bird feeder in Patagonia State Park, Arizona, in January, 09. (Young birds are a bit more LBJ than adults.)

Black-throated Sparrow - Patagonia, AZ.
Also seen near Patagonia State Park in Arizona were these Rufous-winged Sparrows. With these birds, we were back in the true LBJ category. The first impression was that of a small flock of Chipping Sparrows. These birds were in mesquite shrub; they were secretive. Their cap was not quite right for a chipping, and they have pronounced "whiskers." So even though I never really saw the rufous wing, I was able to tick a life bird.

Rufous-winged Sparrow - Patagonia, AZ
When you are going after a well camouflaged bird, it helps to have help. At the Rio Grande Birding Festival in November, 09, I went on a field trip to King Ranch. The leaders knew where Sprague's Pipit was being seen. Walking a pickup truck track across a large grassy plain, they first heard the birds. Then one of these pipits worked along the track just ahead of the group I was with. This was a bird adapted to dry grassy areas!

Sprague's Pipit - King Ranch, TX
In mid-January, 2010, I photographed this American Pipit at Eastern Lighthouse Point near Gloucester, MA. Both pipits are bigger than the usual LBJs (namely sparrows), but neither will earn any awards for plumage brilliance. In winter this pipit typically "disappears" into grassy fields and mudflats, walking and bobbing its tail.

American Pipit - Gloucester, MA

Good birding!


Bill S. said...

LBJ's are still confusing to me in the summer at times. But in the winter, we have very few and they become easy to study and identify.

Thanks for sharing.

Kelly said...

...the Sprague's Pipit is as cute as can be. I love his eye, and what a perfect match to the color of dried-out grass and dirt! I've never seen one...I want to!

FAB said...

Your LBJ posts have been interesting and very informative. Not sure I'll remember everything but I'll know who to come to for help if needed. It won't be long before I need to brush up on song calls to ID our returning LBJ's.


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