Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Harris's Sparrows

Fog.  The morning began with dense fog.  It wasn't at all obvious we'd be able to see any birds.  We drove back to the place near New Braunfels where the Harris's Sparrows were supposed to be.  What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday when we searched the road edges and hedgerows we couldn't find a single Harris's Sparrow.  Today we had over 30 at our first stop.  They were calling, a piu piu downslurred pair of notes.  The black bib was quite variable and the buffy face was striking.  There were a few White-crowned Sparrows there as well.  Harris's Sparrows are our largest sparrow, a bit bigger than Fox Sparrows.  They were the final bird we had to get in Texas.  Their winter range fits nicely into the center of the country, but their breeding range is at the edge of the tundra and I'm not planning to visit there.  So it was get it now or never, since they will have all headed north before we return to Texas in May.
We headed north to  Lake Whitney State Park where there is a seldom used airstrip.  The purpose for going there was to hunt longspurs along the grassys edges of the runways.  Although we walked the entire length of the two runways, we encountered no longspurs.  There were American Pipits and lots of sparrows including Field Sparrows, which we had hitherto not seen this year, and many more Harris's Sparrows.  Some of these birds were singing their plaintive two-note song, a song I had heard only on my many trips to Churchill, Manitoba, where they breed.
This blog was posted a little late because I had trouble with Google last night.  I tried another approach this morning which seems to have worked.  Total species so far 253.


  1. Harris's are one of my favorites. We get them for a couple weeks in NW Iowa during migration. They're the toughest birds at the feeder when they're around.

  2. Where are you all going next? On Oklahoma Birding List a couple of guys reported seeing all three longspurs in sw OK on the 18th. Love the blog.

  3. As long as you are in TX you might swing by the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge. Sandhill cranes fly through there every year.

    Muleshoe is my hometown but I live in Portsmouth now and saw the article about you in the VA Pilot. My husband is the commander at the Naval Hospital and I love watching the birds out here on Hospital Point, especially the Yellow-crowned Night Herons. They are my favorite!

    Happy Birding!
    Geraldine Kiser