Tag Archives: Greater Prairie Chicken

Fox Sparrow – Bird of the Day #201

Fox Sparrow / Passerella iliaca

Today’s Bird of the Day is the Fox Sparrow.

Well actually, it was yesterday’s bird. But I was too lazy to post it yesterday. So to get back on track, this will be a multi-bird post! 🙂

Bird of the Day - Fox Sparrow

Another day, another sewage lagoon…

I found two Fox Sparrows at the Tweed Sewage Lagoon, where I had gone to twitch a Red Phalarope.

The phalarope was indeed spotted, but it was in a distant corner of the pond. So it was visible to my spotting scope but not to my camera. I will post a phalarope pic below but prepare to be underwhelmed.

The Fox Sparrow is a large sparrow that breeds in the boreal forest and along the West Coast. There are several distinctly different-looking subspecies. The one we hope to see is the Red Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca iliaca) such as this one. They come through Southern Ontario in small numbers in May and then on the return voyage in late October.

Red Phalarope / Phalaropus fulicarius

This is the Red Phalarope. Trust me. The image was taken using a cropped sensor camera body with a 500mm lens and a 1.7x teleconverter. So roughly equivalent to a 1200mm lens. For comparison purposes, my spotting scope is equivalent to a 2100mm lens. So I was able to ID the bird, but I’m fortunate that other observers also saw it as this photo wouldn’t convince the Rare Bird Committee at all.

BTW Red Phalaropes are known to UK birders as Grey Phalaropes because they only get to see non-breeding plumaged birds like this one.

Like their cousin the Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalaropes breed in the Arctic and spend the winter bouncing around the waves in the open ocean. Which is pretty butch for a bird slightly smaller than the familiar American Robin.

There are only three species of phalarope and I have now seen them all in a single year. Alexander the Great wept when he learned that there were no more cities to conquer. I weep for more phalaropes.

Tweed Sewage Lagoon, Hastings County, Ontario, 26 October 2020.

Bird of the Day #202 – the Bogotá Rail

A few days ago I mentioned that we went to the Laguna de Siecha in search of the rare and endangered Bogotá Rail. Obviously, after a trailer like that I need to come up with the goods.

So here is your bird of the day: the Bogotá Rail.

Rails are notorious skulkers, and they have an uncanny ability to slip away through a reedbed because they are… skinny as a rail. So this actually counts as a decent rail photo.

There are thought to be between 1-2,000 of these birds left and the prognosis is grim. Their habitat is disappearing as wetlands are drained for farming, and the population has become extremely fragmented.  But perhaps they can cling to life for a while – they have a small foothold in the Sumapaz national park and another small population in a wetland that is part of the international airport of Bogotá.

Laguna de Siecha, Cundinamarca District, Colombia, December 2017.

Bird of the Day #7 – Greater Prairie Chicken

Originally posted to Facebook on 15 April 2020.

Today’s throwback bird is one that most people haven’t seen. Once extremely common on the prairies, the Greater Prairie Chicken now only exists in a few pockets of land in the Dakotas, Kansas and Nebraska. Two major surveys have confirmed that it has been extirpated from Canada. The usual suspects are to blame – over-hunting, followed by habitat loss through industrial farming.

It’s a highly charismatic bird, especially when the males are displaying at a lek. You can here the weird calls they make at this site.

Switzer Ranch, Nebraska, April 2017.

And yes, there is also a Lesser Prairie Chicken. God willin’ and the crick don’t rise I will have a photo of that bird to share in 2021.

#birdoftheday

#covidgoaway