Date: 10/9/18 11:16 am
From: Jim Nelson <kingfishers2...>
Subject: [MDBirding] New Yard Bird -- Clay-colored Sparrow and FOF White-throated Sparrow, Bethesda, Mont. Co.
We were having our lunch on the deck as usual today and watching the birds at our single seed feeder.  Mostly the usual midday suspects -- House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  I was mainly keeping an eye on the trees and skies overhead hoping for passerine migrants (not many warblers around our small suburban backyard this fall).  I casually noticed a sparrowy bird on the ground under the feeder.  With the naked eye it looked like a female/immature House Sparrow, but I checked anyway out of habit.  When I got the binoculars on the bird, my first thought was Chipping Sparrow from the general presentation of the bird, which was exciting enough since it would be a first-of-fall chippie for our yard.  But my brain quickly realized the bird did not have the dark eye line of a chippie.  The bird was definitely a Spizella sparrow by shape and overall appearance and was definitely an adult bird  Having seen quite a few Brewer's and Clay-colored Sparrows earlier this month in Colorado, I immediately began sorting through field marks.  The bird was buffy overall (probably why I had thought House Sparrow from the naked eye view,) had a rich buffy supercillium without the distinct dark eyeline of a chippie and a clear, complete eyering.  The malar area was very pale, and the cheek had a distinct buffy patch bordered in dark above and below and ending at the distinct gray nape of the neck.  The throat was white beginning at the lower dark border of the cheek patch and bordered farther forward by a distinct, dark mustache stripe.  And the rump was brown rather than the gray of a chippie.  The wing bars were buffy.  The overall markings were brighter and richer than a Brewer's Sparrow (which would be amazingly rare here in the mid-Atlantic).  Needless to say, a very unexpected new yard species.  The bird lingered only a short time, flew off into the bushes, and didn't return.
A few minutes later we were greeting by our first-of-fall White-throated Sparrow, basically right on time looking at my previous yard records in eBird.  Our earliest White-throat ever was September 29, but most years they have appeared around this time.
Two very nice surprises for what had otherwise been a slow time in the yard.
Jim NelsonBethesda, MD

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