Friday (3/2/12), I heard a strange yet vaguely familiar bird song as I walked down the boardwalk into the Wetlands. The song was coming from the slope to my right as I descended the first leg of the walkway.
Many birds are in song at this time, certainly cardinals, chickadees, towhees, Pine Warblers, and Song Sparrows among others. But this was different, it wasn’t a local. It was probably some winter resident gearing up for when it arrives on its home breeding turf farther north.
White-throated Sparrows and Ruby-crowned Kinglets are well know for tuning up on the wintering grounds before heading north, but this was neither. The song was too sweet for a kinglet and too cheerful for a white-throat.
And then it hit me, it’s a Fox Sparrow! I didn’t have my bins on me at the time but I could make out two or three large sparrows kicking and scratching in the leaf liter to the right. The light was subdued but I could see the rust-brown and gray back of the birds and when one of them flew off I saw heavy streaking on its breast and flanks. No doubt about it, Fox Sparrow.
Fox Sparrows don’t nest in our area but in boreal forests far to the north. I usually see one or two at some point each winter here at the Museum, and its always in the area between the top of the boardwalk and the Dinosaur Trail.
I don’t know how long the birds will keep up their singing (I heard them again this morning), but listen for them as you start your journey down through Explore the Wild or out to Catch the Wind. The song will surely bring a bit of cheer to a gray, rainy day, as it did this morning.