Unexpected Guest – Or Was It?

The frigid weather that, what seems the entire country endured over the past few days had an impact on everything; humans and our stuff, plants and animals.

In preparation of the event, Robert installed a surface heater in the patio pond and made certain the filtration unit would keep the water circulating. We weren’t worried about our pond fishes. It would take quite a long while of extremely cold days to freeze the 400 gallons in which the goldfishes make their home. But, we knew that the wild birds would be without surface water that wasn’t frozen solid. So, keeping the water in our small pond above freezing would offer the birds a sources of necessary hydration.

We also over filled the patio feeders with food, including adding options that we typically don’t keep like mixes that contain millet (as a way to discourage the House Sparrows.) Last February, during the Polar Vortex event we experienced, I was surprised to observe Fox, American Tree, Song and Field Sparrows just outside the door. They typically don’t frequent feeders very often. However, I knew that if they did show up, having millet available would be welcomed by the little birds.

On Friday, when it was well below zero F, I spotted a small brown bird. It was perched on the spent leaves of a Japanese Water Iris that I maintain in an aquatic plant basket in the patio pond. I had my hands poised on my camera that was sitting atop a tripod. I was observing the wild birds through the patio doors; hoping to catch some nice photos of the visitors. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary, just the “usuals” in the somewhat unusual circumstance.

At first I thought it was a Song Sparrow. I had seen one earlier in the day. When it left the pond and began hunting for a good seed on the deck, I saw the streak of brilliant yellow over its eyes. That was not a Song Sparrow.

It was a Savannah Sparrow. It wasn’t supposed to be here, at least not based on my memory of its range. I knew that I had filmed this cutie before, but I thought it was only during migration. So, I reviewed the range maps at a couple of sites.

AllAboutBirds.org (the Cornell Labs depository of all things birds), presents the following map. I added the RED dot in the yellow migration zone which is about where I live.

Orange is the summer breeding zone. Blue is the winter zone. Yellow is the migration zone. Apparently, Savannah Sparrows are not likely to be spotted in my area except during the Spring and Fall migrations. In fact, the previous photos I’ve taken of this species were in March. That would be considered the Spring migration time.

Audubon.org presents the following zone map for the Savannah Sparrow. I’ve added a blue star at approximately my location. They delineate the zones with more gradation. Still, I sit just outside the Breeding-Uncommon and Winter-Uncommon zones, within the Migration zone.

This makes it challenging for me to identify the Savannah Sparrow that is hanging out on my patio (yes, i saw it again today.) Is she a local resident that actually winters here, or did the extreme cold and or outrageously high winds that we experience during the event cause her to end up here?

When I saw this lovely bird hop back to the water’s edge and dip her beak for a nice drink of water, I didn’t really care how she arrived on our back deck. I’m just happy she was able to satisfy her thirst and get a little bite to eat.

One Comment on “Unexpected Guest – Or Was It?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: