Friday, October 9, 2009


The other day I was trying to photograph sparrows - it's fiendishly difficult first of all because most sparrow are secretive, keeping under cover, rising only briefly to switch to a different location, and secondly the camera has trouble focusing on a small area with little contrast. Song Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows are a little easier to see since they usually occupy the less dense portions of a thicket. David Sibley has a article and  diagram on his blog illustrating this.

This photo is kind of typical. It's probably a white-throated sparrow, but I can't be sure. The sparrow never came out into the open.

Here are a couple of  Savannah Sparrows, easier to see since they prefer the less dense part of the brush.

Here is a White-throated Sparrow:

It's easy to get confused. This bird looks like a large sparrow, but it's a female Red-winged Blackbird:


  1. Love your sparrow pictures! I just read Sibley's blog and sure enough, I was doing some birding this week and I tried to pish a sparrow out of hiding and it went further into the brush. I was able to get my camera in there enough to confirm it was a White-throated. Didn't realize that was this birds habit until now so thanks for the link as its really good food for thought.

    I am so with you on the frustrations of getting pictures of sparrows. We have a sparrow trip with our local bird club on Sunday and my camera is dreading it!

  2. Kim, thanks for your comment. There is really no good way to get even the best camera to focus on a small bird in a thicket when there is so little contrast for the autofocus to lock unto. It's pure luck to get a picture under those conditions. Yet we keep trying!

  3. Hey, I'm a tree fan and amatuer dendrologist, too! Love seeing the different species pictured and descibed on your blog. I'll bet you've read my favorite book, A Natural History of North American Trees, by Donald Peattie. It is a book about trees that will make you cry!

    Also, feel free to ID the sparrows in my latest post. I'm trying to get into them, but I lack motivation right now!

  4. Susan, I was reading David Sibley's gorgeously illustrated Guide to Trees; was not familiar with the book that you mentioned but found it on Amazon and put it on my wish list. Reading about trees was never at the forefront of my interests since most guide book descriptions are so limited and uninspiring, but I have always been fascinated by reports of patches of old growth forests and have gone out of my visit some.

    Maybe I should concentrate for now on photographing trees and landscapes since you don't need a heavy telephoto lens for that and best of all my dogs, who usually have to come along, could not flush trees as they do with birds :-)

    I'll take a look at your sparrows but can't promise anything. I am not good at identifying them.

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