2016 Faves—Passerines, part 9: S–T

Lots of stars in this group…. So let’s get to ’em!

To lead off, a species that stretches from coast to coast to coast in Canada: the Savannah Sparrow. Unspectacular plumage, perhaps, although the one I found (on our fall trip) in Nova Scotia on Digby Neck at Gulliver’s Cove (you have to like the names) did stand out. It was my first real opportunity to get out with my long lens after two weeks of driving scenery shooting. There was a sizeable flock obviously migrating and foraging furiously.

I really appreciated the willingness of the individual below to take a few seconds out of his busy day for this eager birder’s amusement….


Savannah Sparrow cleaned up

Every year I try to get a few shots in the style of Robert Bateman, where the bird is shown at reduced size in its environment. This bird sitting on the fence above Thomson Brook began at the bottom and slowly worked his way to the top, in accordance with Kelowna work ethic requirements. You, too, can experience this moment by scrolling down, and then back up again!

Savannah Sparrow climber 4
‘Look sharp, feel sharp!’ I always say!
Savannah Sparrow climber 3
I’m getting so high, I practically have vertigo!
Savannah Sparrow
I think I’ll start at the bottom and work my way up!


A bird I had searched for over a period of decades on trips west of my childhood home in Manitoba turned out to be very common and observable in the Okanagan, right in our suburb! Click on the images below to enlarge them.

The Say’s Phoebe could be described as plain looking but charming. Often, up close, it’s less photogenic than it is at a distance. Regardless, when I discovered a pair nesting in the neighbourhood in 2015, I was ecstatic, and able to observe to my heart’s content until they migrated in the fall. In 2016, the SAPH reappeared at the same location on exactly the same day I first saw it the year before. It checked out the old nest but decided not to renew its lease. I got this shot before it “moved” and seldom saw it through the rest of the season. There are other good spots for them; be sure I’ll be watching for them in the first week of April this year!

So common that most birders and bird-photographers eschew them (love that word: es-shoo; sounds like a weak sneeze!). Of course we’re talking about the familiar Song Sparrow, which like many species that span the continent, look a little different from one location, or even one season, to another. Ever since I realized that they were great subjects to practise with, I’ve been changing my opinion. Now the goal is to draw them out, in the right environment and see how artistic an image they and I can create together…. Here are two that I quite liked from 2016:

Finally, one last S bird, the Steller’s Jay which was featured in an earlier post on blue birds….

Not a thief, but a demanding beggar! I had no choice but share my biscuit!

A bird that’s more common up here in the Okanagan than one might expect is the Townsend’s Solitaire. Always fun to find and challenging to do justice to, I pulled this image out of the small pile because I like the light and the lines; it was taken in April near Mahoney Lake, BC.

And finally, no list of T birds is complete without at least a couple of these streamliners:

The Tree Swallow: often more beautiful to the naked eye than the camera can comprehend.


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