Date: 3/5/17 3:58 pm From: Lowell Johnson <ljohnson...> Subject: Spring arrivals and a Song Sparrow question
First Eastern Phoebe at Stockdale on March 2, a Franklin's Gull on the same date at the tubes that Paul Weidhaas told me about and a Hermit Thrush along the River Pond on March 4. Clearly things are moving north.
My question concerns a Song Sparrow that I saw along the Blue River Hills Road just past Mill Creek. It was with several American Tree Sparrows. The Song Sparrow was so reddish that my initial reaction was Fox Sparrow. However, the size, bill, facial pattern and amount of underpart streaking all looked wrong. I wanted a photograph, but the bird flew while I was waiting on the autofocus. The bird had a strong reddish central spot, a limited amount of reddish streaking on the breast and sides and a strong reddish color to its wings and tail. It had the light head stripe of Song Sparrows but looked totally different from the darker brownish ones that I have been seeing. I didn't get a good look at the back color. As soon as I got back to my car I grabbed the National Geographic field guide, and the similarity to the fallax subspecies of the desert southwest immediately caught my attention. We have had some strong southern winds lately but this identification seems unlikely to me. The next most likely candidate would be the morphna subspecies of the Pacific northwest, although the bird that I saw did not appear quite that dark. Have either of these subspecies been seen in Kansas, let alone Riley County? I recognize that color pictures in any field guide may be off and that color varies within any subspecies. Any suggestions would be appreciated!