Giving Thanks for a New Bird: The American Tree Sparrow

The only thing that can top the thrill of spotting a new bird for your life list is knowing that you have a nice image of that bird saved on your camera.

I was on the way back to my car about 8:30 this morning along one of my regular routes at the Mercer Meadows Pole Farm when I spotted a small bird on the ground just ahead of me. The bird quickly popped into a small tree beside the path, and I walked gingerly ahead to get the sun behind my back. When I turned around, I spotted it — a sparrow for sure — in the middle of the tree.

This was my first shot of the American tree sparrow, which nicely shows of its bi-colored beak.

My usual procedure is bring up the binoculars first to get the best chance at identifying the bird, then hope it sticks around long enough for me to get a photo or two. This time, however, I raised my camera right away and aimed. The bird was nestled in branches, giving my camera’s auto-focus fits but I was virtually certain I was seeing an American tree sparrow.

I snapped one photo, then another, reasonably confident at least one of them would be clear and sharp. I then switched over to manual focus and fumbled for a few seconds before switching back to auto, when the bird flew away.

I brought up that last photo on the screen on the back of my camera, and there it was, fully confirmed: an American tree sparrow, with its rufous cap and unusual bi-colored beak.

I had been for a walk Thanksgiving morning on the Reed Bryan farm side of Mercer Meadows, where another birder kindly pointed out a section of brush where American tree sparrows were cavorting along with some song sparrows. I’m certain I observed at least one of the tree sparrows (my first knowing sighting), but on my camera I only captured the song sparrows.

Today’s tree sparrow sighting was extra special, because I was a bit doubtful about the one Thursday. But there was no doubt about today’s tree sparrow.

This was the second shot, which is all I would get. My attempt to switch to manual focus only frustrated me. But I’m very happy with both frames I did get.

Published by Dan

University media executive by day, blogger by night, I am a well-traveled resident of New Jersey

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