While looking for raptors to photograph in the Centennial Valley of Montana I always keep my eyes on the look out for other birds and animals and some times a small movement draws my attention and I spot other, tinier birds. A Vesper Sparrow caught my eye last week as it fluttered and fluffed on an old barb wire fence near the road and I just had to photograph it.
At one point in time Vesper Sparrows were called “Bay-winged buntings” but John Burroughs (1837-1921) changed the name because he thought their song sounded melodious in the evening. Other obsolete common names include Grass Finch and Hesperian Bird. The “bay-winged” part of the old name probably came from the rufous coverts that sometimes show on this sparrow.
The bathing Vesper Sparrow wasn’t alone and soon I was focusing on the others that were bathing in a spring along side of the road. There was plenty of water flowing in the spring and that must be what attracted them to the area. These sparrows will bathe, fluff and then bathe some more. These medium sized sparrows can sure make the water fly!
Vesper Sparrow populations have declined in many areas of the eastern United States where they are listed as endangered, threatened and a species of special concern but still appear to be doing well in other areas of their range. Farming practices, chemicals, early hay harvesting and large scale tillage are contributing to their decline. The Vesper Sparrow is the only member of its taxonomic genus, Poocetes gramineus.
I love to photograph these sparrows and listen to their songs, they might be tiny, little brown birds but they fascinate me, as all birds do.
More to come soon from my recent Montana journey.
Life is good.