Spring Bird Alert No. 1
April 27, 2017
Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust
Birds Arriving! 

Rebecca Brown portrait
Welcome to the first Bird Alert of 2017! 

I think we've made it . . . no snow forecast . . . so can we welcome Spring finally and for real? 

Radar shows there are a lot of birds on the move - and unless we get more freaky snow storms, we're bound to see a lot arriving in the next week and growing from there. 

There are a bunch of birds that can be confusing because of similar song or look. This first Bird Alert focuses on five sparrows, plus our estimable woodcock, one of the great performers of the season.

Send us your sightings (what and where to rbrown@aconservationtrust.org ) and we'll include them in the next alert. 

Have fun outside! 
Rebecca Brown
Rebecca Brown                                                                                        
Executive Director


I'll never forget hearing a woodcock for the first time. It was over 20 years ago, early spring with lots of snow, and one chilly evening around dusk I heard this odd, metallic nasal sound, over and over at a lazy interval. Insect? Amphibian? I was totally perplexed by what would be out in these conditions.  

It turned out to be a woodcock that had staked out bare ground beneath a heavily limbed pine. The "peent" I heard is the beginning of their mating ritual, wherein the males walk about, making this distinct call, and then launch into the air, circling higher and higher and then plummeting to the ground. The aerial display is accompanied by all sorts of whistles and burbling. 

Listen for woodcock  at dawn and dusk in larger overgrown yard edges and open fields. They use their long bills to probe for earthworms, and their legs are short, so they need ground that is not too densely vegetated (or snow covered, or frozen). At ACT, we manage some of our land for woodcock by cutting back heavy shrub growth.  
Do you know someone who would like the Bird Alert?

Song Sparrow 

A cheery song, tendency to perch on a prominent bush or sapling in a field or woods edge while singing, and a habit for visiting bird feeders make the song sparrow easy to learn.  Then you can compare all the other confusingly similar sparrows. Look for brown head stripes, striped chest, and the dark chest dot.  
Savannah sparrow 

Easy to overlook in our hedgerows, this sparrow arrives a week of so after the commonly observed song sparrow. They stick to the field edges, and would be unlikely to visit your feeder. Savannah sparrow has a soft, lisping song.   

White-throated Sparrow

You'll find them kicking around the leaves under bushes and in thickets, and poking around under your feeder. Their sweet " Old Sam Peabody - Peabody" song is a welcome sound of early spring. Look for males' striking black and white head stripes, yellow lore above the eye, and the white throat. Females look a lot like song sparrows, but they don't have such a distinct chest dot. 

Fox Sparrow

I see fox sparrow once in awhile, and always feel lucky when I do. They are early arrivals and just passing through on their farther north for breeding. They are larger than all of the other sparrows we'll see here, rich brown-red and heavily striped, with a sweet but subtle song. 

White-crowned Sparrow

I love seeing these dapper birds. They should be here any day now, but they stick around just a short time as they are on their way north to breed. At first glance that black and white striped head on the male is similar to the white-throated, but this bird has a bare gray chest, no stripes. That crown really stands out. The female might be confused with the white-throated sparrow. 
Photography courtesy of First and Last Name, First and Last Name.