Monday, January 3, 2011

Arctic visitor

I went birding at Montrose Point in clear, cold conditions on Sunday. It was snow-less because of the recent thaw. I saw some nice birds, but nothing unusual. I was a little frustrated at the lack of standouts when I stopped to examine a group of birds being fed human food just south of Montrose Harbor. Frankly, I was hoping for a house sparrow since I hadn't checked one off the list yet (a modest goal to be sure). There were a lot of geese, gulls and starlings feasting on bread and other household offal. Soon I saw one sparrow-like bird on the ground, in the shadow of a small tree. It was unusual because it was streaked on its flanks, which quickly ruled out house sparrow and american tree sparrow (which I had seen many earlier). It also bobbed up and down a little when it started walking, and was a bit larger than a sparrow--but not quite a thrush either. I got out of the car and crept within about 10 yards of the bird, which really didn't spook easily, as though it was tired or ill.

The bird is an american pipit, which breeds on the Arctic tundra and alpine meadows and normally passes through Chicago in fall and spring. Pipits are of their own family--Motacillidae--and occur on every continent. It's unusual to see one during mid-winter here--its mapped winter range stretches only as far north as Arkansas--though I've noticed other reports this winter. There are a couple more photos here.

1 comment:

Karla said...

How wonderful to see something unusual for the season! Only your good eye and patience could find and identify this bird.