Date: 7/20/17 8:39 am
From: Dennis Vroman <dpvroman...>
Subject: [obol] Re: digest non-attachments
Appears to be the rear portion of a California Towhee

----- Original Message -----
From: Karl Schneck
To: <larmcqueen...>
Cc: obol
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 9:11 PM
Subject: [obol] Re: digest non-attachments

I'll bite... this isn't an especially bad photo, but limited... this could be fun :-)

Karl Schneck

"As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail." John Muir

On Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 8:31 PM, Larry McQueen <larmcqueen...> wrote:

Joel and all,

This is of course, another lesson on the difficulties of photo IDs, and this was an especially challenge one, due to limitations. Most aspects of the field are not present in photos, and these were reduced to nearly minimal. The fun of it is the challenge, and we could be playing more with the challenge. How about others deliberately posting bad photos on this list, as a teaching exercise?


On Jul 19, 2017, at 5:45 PM, Joel Geier <joel.geier...> wrote:

Hi Larry & All,

Sorry that I have to give a more inconclusive answer on this "quiz" than I was hoping for.

Today when I checked back on that nest, the mom was nowhere in sight and the nest was empty, with no sign of the two very young nestlings or the one egg that were in the nest cup yesterday. So it might not be possible to establish the identity of this bird with certainty, except so far as we can get from my photos and incidental observations.

I think she was a Song Sparrow -- not a species that I would normally expect to find nesting in this kind of situation. This was in a grazed upland pasture where the general habitat structure is oak savanna. There are a couple of very small shrubs nearby (one heavily browsed rose bush maybe 2 ft high, about 3 yards from the nest, and a couple of smaller ones within 5 yards or so), and a young oak (maybe 6" dbh) about 5 yards away. Otherwise the vegetation is mainly grasses and forbs, mostly 6-12 inches high except for scattered clumps of slightly higher vegetation 18-24" high like the one where this nest is located.

The "impossibly long tail" of course fits with Song Sparrow. The first photo also shows a touch of rust on the crown, which I was also able to see in my frontal view of the bird when I noted the dark upper mandible (and not much of anything else). She did have an "ornery" look!

I wasn't thinking about Grasshopper Sparrow at all (the nest cup was too big, for starters) but I can see why the one photo could lead folks in that direction. A Song Sparrow should have a post-ocular stripe, but this bird's head is turned slightly so that's not visible (I didn't see it in the field either, but what you can see in this photo is better than my field view). So I think the plain-faced look is just an artifact of how the bird's head is turned.

Besides the tail and the bill coloration and size, the other main thing that leads me to the conclusion of Song Sparrow is the generally grungy look of the back. "Grungy" of course is a highly technical term! ;-) The bright bits of sunlight filtering through the vegetation certainly add to the difficulty, but this is the same situation that I faced in the field. Song Sparrows do have eye rings, though that characteristic seldom gets mentioned for this under-appreciated species.

The other main candidates in that location would be White-crowned Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, and Savannah Sparrow. This particular field/pasture has a high density of Chipping and Vesper Sparrow, but very few if any White-crowns or Savannahs (based on multiple field visits over the past few months). I was mainly trying to rule out Savannah Sparrow as an alternative to Vesper Sparrow, when I followed up on this nest. The idea of Song Sparrow didn't actually occur to me until after I got back home, still feeling puzzled, and looked at the same photos that I shared.

Happy birding,

On Wed, 2017-07-19 at 23:41 +0000, Larry McQueen wrote:

What I can make out of one of the pictures looks like Grasshopper Sparrow. I see a large eye, pale eye-ring, buffy and gray colors, and flat crown with a median line. But the nest should have a hood over it, or maybe that is only when the bird is absent (?). The GRSP’s eye is the most conspicuous feature of the face. To me, it has a stare unmatched by other sparrows. But of course, there is not much to see in this photo.

I can’t make anything of the other photo except what looks like an impossibly long tail.
NOT a feature of GRSP


On Jul 19, 2017, at 9:37 AM, Joel Geier <joel.geier...> wrote:

Hi Linda & All,

The attachments can be found in the regular OBOL archives at this link:

Looks like I did attach them correctly on the first go after all -- sorry I didn't think to check this before I sent them a second time this morning.

The ABA message list doesn't always pick up attachments, so it's good to keep the OBOL archives in mind for this kind of thing.


On Wed, 2017-07-19 at 09:17 -0700, Linda Fink wrote:
Those of us on digest do not get photos attached to messages and did not
get any "clip" to click on for Joel's sparrow attachment. I went to the
aba obol message list and it's not there either. I am accustomed to
going there for the scrambled letter messages when people send from
their cell phones, but however Joel sent his photos, not even aba could
grab them.

Linda, curious in Yamhill County

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