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Another Little Nothing

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What are these people doing?

They are looking at a bird, a tiny brown streaked sparrow that they know they can't see anywhere else but here in North Dakota.

They have a lot of equipment with them, thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of equipment. All of it, along with all of their attention, is focused on the tiny brown bird popping in and out of the grasstops.One group is walking toward its bus as another group disembarks. The first group has seen the sparrow; the second wants to see it. Coming together on the plain, they look like pike-bearing Scots clansmen meeting the Hanoverians at the Battle of Culloden. The thought occurs to me and Rondeau Ric at precisely the same moment, and the good Scotsman is kind enough to send me his picture of the bloodless battle.Photo by Bonny Prince Ric MacArthur.

This scene seems ridiculous, even to me, but there you have it. And it's an efficient bit of ecotourism, to bring everyone out in one fell swoop to see a rare bird that will likely go undisturbed for most of the rest of the summer.

All right, then, the bird in question. You may gasp at its plainness, its lack of apparent distinction.
It is neither Count Raggi's bird of paradise nor a kiwi, cassowary or kagu. It is a small brown sparrow with a limited distribution in the northern Plains and prairie provinces of Canada, a small blue blob on a large white map.
But the Baird's sparrow sings with a mellow bouncing trill that is the sweet embodiment of prairie sun, and I am glad that there are people who can appreciate it and travel thousands of miles to see it.


You are right--the photo is very funny.
I keep thinking--hope no one accidentally steps on said sparrow whilts tromping across the prairie. I assume you are all a safe and goodly distance away.

Just found your blog! Really enjoyed the post. It is amazing that such an ordinary looking bird is deserving of such attention. While the house finches in my yard are certainly more common than this sparrow, I am still filled with wonder when I see the bright red colors of a male finch picking away at some sunflower seeds or gaze up at one in a tree and admire its brown spotted belly.

By the way, nice blog theme. I think I use the same one! :) Hope to visit many more times in the future.

Look at all the little brown birds I missed by not going to N. Dakota!

My sparrow-phile heart lusts for the Baird's Sparrow, while my logical self laughs quietly at "crazy" birders.


Snickering... pretty funny looking indeed. :c) Glad you all got to see such an elusive little bird though.

I just picked up "Diary of a Left-Handed Birdwatcher" at the library and he describes such gatherings he has been part of on page after page. It sounded hilarious in text but it's even funnier in pictures.

But you've got to love sparrows there is such diversity. Two days ago a strange call that rather sounded like grandmother's treadle sewing machine lured me out to witness a chipping sparrow feed a young one. Not my first chipping but the first youth I've seen.

Excellent photos Lady Julie of Indigo Hill. (There must be some Scottish somewhere in your family tree.)

What's 1200 miles when you can see several new little non descript sparrows?

All that equipment for one little brown bird. The bird? Adorable. The equipment? Intimidating.

OK Julie, I know I shouldn't say this, but don't you think this is why non-birding people really think us birders are strange? (even though they don't come right out and say it to your face?)
I know if I showed this picture to my co-workers and told them this was a sighting I missed on my North Dakota trip, they would just look at me sadly, shake their heads and say something like, "Oh Ruth, you are so weird!"
But seriously, I think this is a great story and would have loved to be part of that group watching such a special little sparrow. :-)

ha ha!! thats SO amazing how that one little plain-as-ever bird can get so much attention! weird...

My goodness, those are amusing photos of birders.

I love observing and photographing nature, but also like traveling light. If I can't carry my camera gear on my bike, it isn't coming with me. Most days. Once in a while I just have to bring a tripod, so my sweetie gets to play at being a Sherpa.

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