Thursday, February 26, 2009

Yearlisting amongst a cloud of sparrows

A number of years ago I read a book called "A Cloud of Sparrows". Although this book had absolutely nothing to do with birding, (it was a memorable story about the difficulties faced by the japanese people during the rapid industrialization and westernization that occurred in Japan during the late 19th century) I have always loved the title and thought it a fitting description of birding in Oklahoma. The Sooner state is well known for the many species of sparrows that spends at least part of the year here. We have interesting breeders, like the above Rufous-crowned Sparrow (a southwestern specialty), and the rare and hard to see Bachman's Sparrow (a southeastern specialty) as well as many others. We also have many more northerly breeding species that spend the winter here, including the white-crowned sparrow and range restricted Harris's sparrow seen below.

Oklahoma also has all four species of Longspurs (which are a specialized kind of sparrow) wintering here, as well as some of the harder to see Ammodramus sparrows that winter and/or migrate through like the Le Conte's Sparrow (the species seen in this blogs title) and the Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

All of these beautiful sparrows are part of what makes birding in Oklahoma great! This year I am attempting an Oklahoma "Big Year". This is an attempt to see as many species as possible WITHIN Oklahoma within the calender year. Most birders attempting a feat such as this probably have a lot more money and time on their hands than this recently graduated former graduate student, thus a very respectable OK big year attempt should be near or above 300 species. Due to my lack of funds and many time commitments I would be quite happy with something around 250 however. Wish me luck!

Monday, February 23, 2009

more things to identify

For many years now I have resisted the temptation to plunge myself into the world of butterflying. Still too many birds left out there to see, I thought. So many other vertebrate taxa that I haven't hardly began to enjoy. But having taken a short-term job that will place me in the LRGV of Texas (a region known not only for its awesome Mexican birds but also its awesome Mexican butterflies) for at least part of the upcoming spring/summer. I decided to pick up a butterfly field guide and start learning some of these guys! In fact the field guide helped lead me to some other resources that allowed me to (tenatively) identify some of the butterflies I photographed in Mexico last year.

Diaethria a. anna, aka Anna's Eighty-eight

Heliconius erato cruentus, aka the Erato Heliconius or the Crimson-patched Longwing

Hamadryas februa ferentina, aka the Gray Cracker

Papilio (Pterourus) multicaudata grandiosus? aka the two-tailed tiger swallowtail

So when the temps start warming up, not only will I be looking for the usual warblers, tanagers and flycatchers but also the skippers, fritillaries and checkerspots!