Here’s Stubby

Except for the dozen or so Ruby-throated hummingbirds that are consuming about 6 cups of nectar every day as they attempt to put on sufficient weight for their outrageously long migration coming up, it’s been very quiet here regarding bird activity. I saw a large, white heron-like bird fly over the pond a couple of days ago, but it didn’t land. Based on its size and the list of what it could have been, I’m assuming it was a Great Egret. I saw it about a week ago, as well. It was the same time of day (an hour before sunset) and the bird was flying in the same direction. I suppose it fishes somewhere south of our property and roosts for the evening north of here. Perhaps, I will be fortunate enough to capture it in the view finder of my camera one day. I’d be thrilled if it landed for a bite to eat in our pond.

I still here Indigo Buntings, Bell’s Vireo’s and Common Yellow-thoats singing, but I haven’t laid eyes on them. Two days ago, the EBird app was “almost certain” that I recorded a Yellow-breasted Chat, but it was a brief vocalization and I still haven’t seen that bird. Blue Jays and Crows are beginning to vocalize more. That makes me think autumn, but it’s 95 degrees outside and due to more rain than usual this summer, it’s lush and green. It hardly seems like fall is on its way. But, the lack of bird sights and sounds tells me otherwise.

After a couple of weeks when I couldn’t get out due to a golf-cart break-down, I was excited to to see what was going on. But, I was a bit disappointed. The Tree Swallows that came early in Spring and were successful fledging one or two nests-full of chicks, are gone. The Bluebird couple which had started brood number four the last time I checked, had fledged and all I found were hundreds of ants crawling over the box. Yuck!

I was excited when, as I sat quietly in a patch of shade on the north side of the pond inlet, I saw what I thought might be a new bird – one I may have never filmed before. I was hoping it was a unique species for my list of birds that visit our property. It landed at the top of a small tree and flicked its tail like a wren. But, I knew it wasn’t a House Wren. It clearly wasn’t a Carolina Wren. Those were the only wrens species I’ve seen here. Maybe it was a Marsh Wren! I have never seen one of those – but, it is a species that can breed in this area.

Due to a vision issue in my right eye, and the fact that birds move far too quickly for me to execute much more than and aim-focus-shoot strategy to capture an image, my process to determine a bird’s identity requires that I wait and download the photos to my office computer where I can view them on my large monitor. So, I stuck to my process and took as many photos of the possibly-new bird as possible.

Lucky for me, it stuck around at the top of the tree long enough for the sun to come out from behind a large cloud. After a short interval when it flew across to the south side of the inlet, it returned to perch on a lower branch of the same tree. And, then it flew to the ground, and albeit in the shadow of later afternoon, it hunted long enough for me to get a couple of decent shots (good enough to identify the bird, for certain.)

Then, I remained as patient as possible until I traveled back to the house to view what I had filmed. Well, it wasn’t a Marsh Wren. It wasn’t a wren at all. Although, if you look at these couple of photos and envision that I couldn’t really see the bird’s markings from where I was sitting, you might understand why I made the mistake.

This is a Song Sparrow. Although they are abundant around our property, this is a very special, little individual. This is “Stubby.” I have filmed him before in the exact, same location. But then, he appeared to be in very poor condition. His tail feathers had been ripped from his body and his flesh was still raw from whatever nearly ended his life. Perhaps it was a Cooper’s hawk or many the neighbor’s cat.

On June 29 (nearly two months ago!), I took these photos of the bird. Although not in optimal physical shape, he was still singing his little heart out!

I spotted and filmed him again on July 14. H was still looking a bit tattered, and it appeared he had lost his single remaining tail feather.

The reason I thought the bird I saw yesterday was a wren, and not the Song Sparrow he turned out to be, was not just because of the way he held his tail feathers, but because of the way the bird flew. I didn’t recognize “sparrow” when he took flight across the pond, or down to the ground. That’s because he can’t fly right without all his feathers! Still, even though he bobbles in the air, apparently he can thrive. I was excited beyond belief to see that Stubby was catching grubs – lots of them – far more than he would consume on his own. I believe that he is likely feeding chicks! It may seem late in the summer for such activity, but what I have read is that when a season is abundant with resources, the species can produce four or more broods. I’m glad that Stubby was able to secure a mate that enjoyed his song, even though he was was a bit plumage-disabled! He’s clearly tenacious and that has to be an admirable trait.

Enjoy a few more photos of this cute, little survivor!

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