This being a short month, I’ve been watching the calendar closely so I do not blow my self-imposed monthly post quota. Even with that extra scrutiny, I still feel I’m lagging behind. It hasn’t helped that I’ve had a myriad of doctor appointments to take care of and a dentist appointment this week that ended up with multiple needles being shoved halfway up my nose (“Hey, is that grey matter I see on that railroad spike you call a needle!?!). One more doctor visit left this month and then I should be free for two months until I can get in to finally see my referral consultation – very much appreciate all the well wishes in the comments, especially Brad who offered me a pint of his blood (Cat family bonds run strong!). On a happier note, we had the chance to run up to Iowa today to play Santa Claus – unfortunately had to miss Linda’s family Christmas and then we spent the next month in Texas. We joked we wanted to wait until there was snow on the ground unlike the real date ha! While there, Linda drove me around to some birding hot spots. True to winter form, the Eagles were thick on the Mighty Mississippi. Quick count was at least 30 of those majestic birds were hunting the frigid waters down by I280. In tribute to that success, thought I would go with another sure bet when it comes to winter birding.
Today’s featured feathered friend is a winter bird only in the sense we have encountered them only in our winter excursions. You will not see this particular bird ANYWHERE near cold temperatures unless you count the bizarre cold snaps that have hit Texas the last couple of years. Their region maps consists of year round residency along the coasts of Central America and just barely into the southernmost tip of Texas.
Hit the jump to read more about this LOJ (warning space aliens may be watching)
The good news is, like the Eagles on the Mississippi, this Sparrow is incredibly easy to get checked off your list, especially if you can make plans to visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresno Texas. The public portion of this rather large NWR sits about 45 minutes north (technically slightly northwest) of South Padre Island and is always a staple whenever we head down there. Note, the refuge has another huge tract on the mainland directly west of SPI which I believe is mostly restricted likely due to the space alien the military discovered in 1946 when the 97,000 acre refuge was established, Documents reveal the alien was preying on the rare Ocelots that are said to be found in that area (Laguna is home to one of the two breeding populations of Ocelots and that bastard saucer jockey was eating them!!)
Thankfully, this Sparrow seems to have been spared the crosshairs of the space predator and its population is doing quite well – unlike the Ocelot which was classified as endangered in 1982, although today it states their conservation status is Least Concern but there is no quantified global populations estimate which seems fishy to me – probably doing better now that they aren’t being used for alien shish-kabobs.
Bri, stay focused, this is a post on the Sparrow, not the uber-cute Ocelots! Sorry, back on the rails. You may have noticed by now, that this particular specimen doesn’t exactly fit the standard mode of a Sparrow. Sure, it sports the overall shape taken by a majority in that family, but they do not have the more traditional brown/rustic flavorings that give them the “Little Brown Jobber” moniker. Instead, this Sparrow chose a more greenish tinge that threw me when first encountered.
I am no stranger to being in embarrassing situations. Gaining conscious, clearing the fog and wondering why several people were staring down at me with bloody hands while simultaneously realizing I was the one laying in a small pool of blood comes to mind immediately (let that be a lesson to you ultra running kiddies out there, drink your fluids). Learning what this bird was for the first time was an equally funny event.
After taking a ridiculous amount of shots of this unfamiliar bird, I turned to another couple in the blind and asked them if they happened to know what that bird was. Ever experience that weird sense of time continuum when the cadence of activity doesn’t seem to match the earth’s rotation. Like when a celebrity tries to bestow political wisdom and you sit there trying your damndest to rationalize the sheer stupidity of it…well, I’m sure the shocked people staring at the Beast had a similar thought.
“Ummm, well I think it’s that”, while simultaneously pointing at the wall directly in front of where I was just standing. HEAD DUNK! Sure enough, there was an 8×10 picture with the exact bird on it with the words “Olive Sparrow” in big black letters. As they say, the best laughs are when you are laughing at yourself. Meanwhile I felt like the bird above was mocking me hehehe.
So, yes, this is an Olive Sparrow and the best way to tell that it’s an Olive Sparrow is to notice it is indeed predominantly olive colored (that be science). For the acronym aficionados out there that means it is an LOJ. Every time we have visited Laguna since that embarrassing day we have seen this species. Per the “sure thing” comment above, there’s a fail-safe way to check it off your list. Drive to the Laguna Atascosa Visitor Center and then make a note to get your vehicles shocks checked when you get back home (you’ll know exactly what I mean when go there), park the vehicle, grab your camera, set it for two stops longer than your current meter says and then walk past the visitor center and take the path to the bird blind. Note, the visitor center has been closed the last two years we’ve been down there, so be sure and pay the fee first if they ever decide to open it. Put your finger on the shutter button and then simply walk into the blind, stick your barrel out and start pressing – guarantee one of those shots will have this Sparrow in it.
If one isn’t under the feeder slurping up seed, it might be splashing around like this one in the neighborhood pool. From what I can tell they are clean freaks and like to make sure their feathers are properly washed, conditioned and then fluffed for the parade of spectators that visit the blind. Assuredly want to look their best for the cameras – as long as it doesn’t go to their heads and they start spewing statements on world politics.
Guessing you want to know some “real” facts about this Sparrow. On further inspection, they do have a grey wash and a crown consisting of two brownish strips which are similar to some of the Sparrows. The adult males and females are similarly feathered which eliminates the confusing gender determination ever-present with this family – at this point I usually just concentrate on the males and toss the females and juvis into a folder named “Life’s Too Short”.
They tend to hang close to cover which is why you needed the extra two steps on the camera settings. Olives are also quite resourceful. Cornell notes that they will leverage Army Ant swarms (at Laguna more like Fire Ant swarms) to stir up insects to feast on. They will also mass around space alien kills waiting for parasites to come clean the Ocelot bones.
Will call it post here. Rather long today, but this series ended up having a lot of shots I wanted to share. Have a great weekend everyone and try not to embarrass yourself too much … at least try to keep from ending up on someone else’s social media post ha!
Wait, Wait, Wait.. hold the presses – our lawyers just advised me I may have taken some untruthful liberties in this post. Fine, our cadre of legal experts can be quite the fuddie duddies – I’ve cussed at those jackasses (oops) so much they installed a swear penalty jar in their office. For the record, there were no space aliens found in Laguna – at least that the government has officially admitted.