Foam Lake Birding No. 157

No. 157
            The summer weather is still holding providing farmers with some great harvesting conditions.  Let's hope it holds.  It also provides for some good warm weather birding. 
            In last week's article one of the pictures showed a Clay Coloured Sparrow sitting beside a Brown Headed Cowbird.  This commonly overlooked sparrow is actually quite common and any effort to find and observe one will usually be successful.   They are more rural than the Chipping Sparrows but are often seen in towns in spring and on occasion will even nest there if there is a fairly decent size clump of trees and shrubs. 
            The Clay Coloured Sparrow is quite nondescript and requires a bit of practice to identify it readily.  In the summer time it looks a lot like a Chipping Sparrow except it does not have the red cap nor black eye line.  Instead, it has a brown cap with a whitish line running through it and a black "mustache" rather than an eye line.  Upon closer examination with binoculars the clay coloured nape clearly stands out and is a definitive field mark.  To my way of thinking it might have been better to have named it the Clay Collared Sparrow.  In the fall the Clay Coloured Sparrow looks very much like a juvenile Chipping Sparrow so care must be taken when identifying the birds.  In the summer time the best field mark is the song.  Its song is a rather long (tow or three seconds) buzz in one pitch that sounds much like a very loud grasshopper.  No other bird has a song like it.  Males and females are the same. 
            This week's photo was taken in our back yard a few years ago.  In a colour photo the clay coloured nape is clearly visible.