SUMMER SPARROW ADVENTURES
by Christine Bourgeois
I have been known to say, "I'm not interested
in sparrows—they all look alike." I stand corrected.
Thinking back on this summer's birding experiences
I most relish discovering summer sparrows.
During Memorial weekend a birding friend and
I were told that Cassin's and Botteri's Sparrows
were sighted near Tivoli above the Aransas NWR.
The location was a field composed of tufts of sharp,
pointed grass, some of it matted together. Having
arrived in the field our first sighting was a fledgling
Horned Lark being fed by a parent. Walking further
we heard a beautiful, musical trill and I noticed a
bird light on a bush in the distance. To my surprise,
within a few seconds it was airborne again, rising
about six feet while singing its sweet song. Then
it drifted silently, legs dangling, to its perch. This
skylarking behavior was its signature—a Cassin's.
After spending some time walking around and
observing numerous Cassin's in action we became
curious about the buzzy chirp notes coming from the
grasses. We followed the sound only to have it stop
and then start up again in a different location. To
flush the bird we surrounded the grasses, pointing
the direction of the chirp and walking toward it
until finally we flushed a flat-headed, clear-breasted
Grasshopper Sparrow. We observed several after
that and often they had, yes, a grasshopper dangling
from their bills.
On our way back to the car a definitely different, brownish sparrow flew from the tall grasses by
the fence right past us. It was hot, we were tired
and we looked at each other. Could we stand more?
No. Would we want to miss the chance that this
was a Botteri's? No.
We followed the sparrow to the cattle pen.
It splayed its long, rufousy-brown tail and we were
able to observe it long enough to feel positively
that it was a Botteri's before it disappeared. (Later
the next month this bird responded immediately to
a tape of its song, further adding to the certainty
Later in the summer while vacationing in Florida we searched for Bachman's Sparrow. We traveled
through plenty of Bachman's territory with no luck.
After receiving a lead that Osceola National Forest
would be a sure thing we decided to check it out
on the way home.
When we left the main road on a dirt road
through piney woods we were at once surrounded by
the sounds of Rufous-sided Towhees and Bachman's
Sparrows. We played a recording of the Bachman's
song in several different areas but saw no sparrows.
Playing the tape in one location we received a
response on the left, then two on the right. Each
time the recording would sing, a Bachman's would
respond, but not reveal itself. These were indeed
secretive sparrows. We looked through every bush,
past pines and into palmetto thickets, but could not
find a single Bachman's. In frustration, my birding
partner got out of the car and slowly walked in the
direction of the song in an attempt to flush that
bird. But once she was out of the car, the music
After an hour and a half we gave up and
decided to head out. Just before entering the main
road there were all kinds of bird songs and activities
in the pines, so we just walked around adding birds
to the day's tally. Suddenly, above the brush, silent,
appeared a sparrow, a curious reddish-brown, buff-
breasted fellow just checking things out—yes,
The sight of the Cassin's lifting into the air
and the sound of that sweet song is still an experience I can go back to any time; I just close my
eyes. The Bachman's discontinuing its song when
my friend got out of the car still makes me laugh.
Sparrows have captured my heart. Locating them
is sometimes a challenge; sighting them is a rewarding experience.
BOLIVAR FLATS CLEANUP ON A WINDY DAY
by Celeste Hinds
More than 125 hearty souls braved 15-knot
winds and blowing sand for the September 23rd Bolivar Flats Cleanup. Represented were the Outdoor
Nature Club - OG, Houston Audubon Society, Piney
Woods Wildlife Society, Port Bolivar 4-H Club, High
Island 4-H Club, Boy Scout Troop 848 and perhaps
another organization or two that didn't complete
the sign-up forms.
More than 150 bags were filled in the area
just west of the barricade and'about 50 in the area
immediately to the east. Plastic seemed to be the
most widely collected item listed, paper products
and rope running close seconds. Galveston County
trucks picked up the bags about mid-morning and
again in early afternoon.
The Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C. is the parent sponsor for the cleanup.
Collection bags and Popeye badges were furnished
by Mobil Oil Corporation.
Shorebirds of the Bolivar Peninsula send personal thanks to all who participated in making their
winter home a cleaner spot.
FOR OG Information, checklists, maps, contact
Maxine Davis, 10602 Cedarhurst, Houston
SEND bird sightings for Clearing House to:
Clearing House (OG), P.O. Box 271374, Houston
TEXAS RARE Bird Alert Tape, sponsored by Piney
Woods Wildlife Society and Houston Audubon
Society: (713) 821-2846.
FOR LOCAL nature societies' meetings and field
trips call the Audubon Society's "Voice of the
Naturalist" tape: 932-1392.
SEND material for Spoonbill to Editor, Libby Price.
3715 Sunset, Houston 77005, 665-1159.
SEND dues, subscriptions and address changes to
Jerry Patrick. 814 St. Francis, Houston 77079.
Members' annual dues: $15 (ONC $5, OG $10).
Spoonbill subscriptions for non-members: $13.