I got up early this morning to check out the migrants on the other side of the Lower Chippewa River - over by Silver Birch County Park.
Several birds were sitting on the wires, not all of them Eastern Bluebirds. Several were sparrows. But which species?
As I slowed down and pulled my stealth Prius to the side of the road, the little brown birds flew off and disappeared in the field on the west side of Silver Birch Road. All I could see was a flash of their outer tail feathers, not enough to identify them.
Enough, however, to make me curious. I turned off the car and waited to see if they'd pop back up.
Sure enough, they did. I got a great look at this sparrow with the white eye ring and rufous shoulder (hidden in this photo) - a Vesper Sparrow.
I'd seen them only once before - on this same road, two years ago.
Known for singing at dusk (thus the name "vesper"), this seed-eater was singing up a storm. It was a pleasure to watch him and hear his song. Here's an interesting piece of trivia: a group of Vesper Sparrows is known as a "congregation" or a "liturgy."
I admire the tenacity of these grassland birds. Every time I see one, I wish I'd been born a hundred years ago. I can only imagine the sound of a "congregation" of Vesper Sparrows in a wild prairie.
It's amazing to think that the Lower Chippewa River basin contains 25% of the remaining prairie remnants in all of Wisconsin.
When I look at this map, I marvel that this Vesper Sparrow can find enough grassland habitat to support his family.