Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

On the Road Again: Golden-Crowned Sparrow and One Good Tern April 19, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Other People's Neighborhoods,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 10:02 pm
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As soon as we arrived home after yesterday’s trip, the Ethan and Aaron checked IBET and went to work on me. They pleaded that they hadn’t added a single bird to their life lists since January, so I really, really had to take them to see the Golden-crowned Sparrow that birders have been seeing in a small town west of Rockford, Illinois. After blackmailing them to do extra chores and to shower without complaint, I relented — after Sunday School we headed west in the rain. It rained all during the two-and-a-quarter hour drive there, it rained for the whole two hours we looked for the bird, and it rained for the whole trip back.

But we did find our lifer Golden-crowned Sparrow! Unfortunately, all I have to show for it is this photo of the boys and Dave Johnson looking at the bird. (Thanks for finding it, Dave!):

The boys and Dave watching the Golden-crowned Sparrow.

The boys and Dave watching the Golden-crowned Sparrow in the rain.

You can see other people’s photos here (we saw the sparrow at the exact same place marked on the map) and here (second photo down, below the ads).

We also found one other year bird near Freeport: A medium-sized tern, initially seen flying over a flooded area on both sides of U.S. 20, about three-quarters of a mile west of Springfield Road:

We first saw the Forster's Tern flying over the water, but then it landed on a post so we could get a closer look. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We first saw the tern flying over the water, but then it landed on a post so we could get a closer look. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

When we first drove past this bird at 65 miles per hour, we got the impression that its wings were solid gray, and thus thought it was a Common Tern. On the way back we were prepared and stopped briefly along the road. We could then see the tern’s white outer wing features, long tail, and orange-red bill with a black tip. That clinched the identification as Forster’s Tern:

This closer view shows some key features that distinguish Forster's from Common Tern:

This closer view shows some key features that distinguish Forster's from Common Terns: The tips of the wings were white, the tail was longer than the wings, and the bill was orange-red with a black tip. Photo by Ethan Gyllenhaal.

We were soaked, but we agreed it was a great day! We also agreed that we had learned two important life lessons:

  1. Persistence will be rewarded, at least some of the time. (Despite lots of looking we still haven’t found a Surf Scoter this year.)
  2. Don’t try to identify terns at 65 miles per hour in the rain. (One good tern does not deserve to be identified as another.)
 

2 Responses to “On the Road Again: Golden-Crowned Sparrow and One Good Tern”

  1. Kent Wilson Says:

    Keep up the good work. Thanks for analyzing the ID features. My birding skills are very rusty.

  2. Congrats on your lifer! You all always have such great adventures — so fun to follow.


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