Sunday, June 15, 2008

Birds heard at 45 mph.

Savannah Sparrow, Passerculus sandwichensis.

The Savannah Sparrow breeds throughout most of North America, in fields, field edges, and flat, scrubby seashores. It has several identified races; the local BC version is somewhat drab, with only hints of yellow above the eyes rather than the bold canary loreal spots of other forms.

It perches on tall weeds or bushes to sing. Its song is something like “Tip tip tip chleee chlaayy.” It’s a song I learned long ago as a young birder. I had a friend, also a birder and barely old enough to drive, who kept strange lists. One was Birds Heard While Driving At More Than 45 Miles Per Hour. I remember cruising up and down a concession road in Ontario in an old Dodge Dart Swinger, windows down, one eye on the speedometer, waiting for a Savannah to sing.

They are presently nesting in the big field at Terra Nova, as they do every year. This one holds a caterpillar for nearby young. Typically the nests are cups of dried grass constructed on the ground, hidden by overhanging vegetation.

45 miles per hour is 72 kilometers per hour. Arbitrary and fast in either system. Young men and birding -- more dangerous than it ought to be

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