Monday, 11 January 2016

Harris's Sparrow in Oxford County

Birders in southern Ontario may have heard about the long staying Harris's sparrow, just outside of Embro in Oxford county.  The bird was only a 25 minute drive from home for me and considering that it has been hanging around since November, I hoped to add it to my life list before it decided to move on.  Unfurtunately I did not pick the most pleasant day.  The car temperature read -11C on my way there and a recent snowstorm made the roads rather slick which slowed me down somewhat. 

Nevertheless I arrived at the property and immediately started scanning the birds.  In a phone call with the landowner that morning, he described where the sparrow was commonly being seen and I positioned myself in a corner of the yard where I could see the feeder and the ground underneath where plenty of juncos and american tree sparrows were hanging out. 

I did not see the sparrow right away, but decided to wait it out.  The usual yard species presented themselves and I added goldfinch, downy woodpecker, cardinal, mourning dove, blue jay, american crow (flyover), house sparrow and white-breasted nuthatch.  But there was no harris's sparrow to be seen. The wind chill did not make the cold temperatures any more pleasant.  I ended up returning to the vehicle for warmer gloves which made operating a scope more clumsy, but provided a bit more insulation.

40 minutes into the watch and I was considering leaving for home when an unusual sparrow landed on the ground.  I got on it with the scope and watched in picking around under and on the feeder.  I quickly pulled off my gloves and attempted a couple phone scoped shots for identification purposes.  They are pretty poor quality, but do confirm my sighting.
Seeing the bird made my frozen fingers worthwhile.  It was a great sighting and my first new bird on my life list for 2016.


  1. It's always so nice to start off the year with a Life Bird! Congratulations. Harris's Sparrows often stop at my feeders during spring and fall migration each year.

    1. Thanks, it really was great to see. I'm glad I was patient even though the weather could have been more pleasant.

  2. Congrats on getting a life bird to start the year.
    Been a while since I have seen one of these beauts.