Sunday, October 18, 2009

Song Sparrow - 200th Species for my Sarasota County List

Just returned a minute ago from a bone-chilling jaunt through the Celery Fields looking for any birds that may have arrived after yesterdays pronounced passage of a cold front. I was eating lunch at a beachside restaurant in Venice Florida when the front blew through yesterday about 2:00 p.m. As it passed I thought of Buffett's new song "Surfing in a Hurricane." The wind was ferocious and there were surfers offshore eating it all up.

But back to today. Right now the temperature is a near-freezing 58 degrees and the northeast wind is howling at 14 miles per hour. This would be a balmy July day in North Dakota but I'm not in freaking North Dakota any more!

I arrived at the Celery Fields about 9:00 a.m. and walked my now familiar circuitous route along the berms/dikes that surround several of the artificial wetlands there. Moving through some rank vegetation growing in one wetland basin I heard a familiar call note from a bit further north in Virginia and knew instantly that a Song Sparrow was in the neighborhood. After some vigorous pishing I got the bird to jump up out of the vegetation and give a presentable view from the stalk of some species of Scirpus (fluviatilis perhaps?).

Checking my records on getting home this was the 200th species I have recorded in Sarasota County. Not a bad county list. 197 of those 200 species have been recorded this year.

Song Sparrow was made famous many years ago by the research done on this species by Margaret Morse Nice, a housewife from Ohio who became caught up in the Song Sparrows in her yard. After some concerted effort on her part, Mrs Nice was approached by degreed ornithologists who sought out her extensive knowledge of bird biology and behavior.

Not long after finding the Song Sparrow, a pair of Swamp Sparrows started calling from a different wetland. They soon became species #201 for my Sarasota County list.

As for now I'm waiting until it warms up a bit so I can go put 16 miles on my bicycle. Hopefully this Arctic weather won't last much longer.