I keep meaning to talk about the big Audubon press release about common birds on the decline (although, I have to ask how common has a boreal chickadee been to most of us) but I really need to read the data and understand it. It's interesting that common grackle is on the list. Working at a bird store, I know many customers would argue that their decline is "okay with them".
One thing I do agree with is that habitat destruction is the number one problem with songbird declines--much worse than cats. The more we can do to restore habitat, use pesticides responsibly, manage farmland in a safer way--the better off the birds and all of us will be. If you are concerned about the press release and feel a need to do something immediately, you can purchase a new Duck Stamp when it comes out June 22, 2007.
The banding was steady Friday at Carpenter Nature Center, but with the warm temperatures and high humidity, I didn't take any photos. It's a stressful time--some birds have chicks to feed and being handled in warm weather is enough, they don't need additional paparazzi.
I was still on a sparrow high from North Dakota and I realized that I don't recall ever having seen a Henslow's sparrow before. Afton State Park is just down the road from Carpenter and I thought I would stop by after banding to digiscope one. It would save on gas since I was in the area and I knew they were there because many birders had given detailed directions of their location in the park.
Now, the Henslow's song is not the most exciting one out there. Here's a link to it--don't blink or you'll miss it. It's kind of a sparrow hiccup. I was supposed to follow the trail to a shelter area to find the sparrows, but I heard them singing as soon as I started walking along the trail at the north entrance--I heard at least four, but couldn't see them. I wondered how often I had passed them in field and just never got their song on my radar--kind of sounds like a house sparrow chirp--which I would normally tune out. It was in the 90s and oh so humid--my least favorite weather, but I found a shady spot and set up the scope, readying myself for one to pop up. So, I waited, dripping sweat.
The darn thing never teed up, but just kept singing from below grass level--which is what they do best. BNA notes that this remarkably inconspicuous bird "is often difficult to detect because it sings from inconspicuous perches on low forbs, shrubs, or grasses." I decided to get some meadowlark shots since I was out there and continued to wait the bird out. The Henslow's sparrow kept teasing by singing closer but never coming into sight.
Finally, after about an hour of marinating in my own perspiration, I decided to give up the ghost. I packed up my scope and flipped the singing birds off with both hands. There are some days we just don't get the target birds we set out to see--I accept that. But to have the little stinker sound so close but never pop up from the tick ridden grasses was just to much for me to bear in the high heat.
I'll be back for you one day, Henslow's sparrow. In lower temperatures.