Sparring with Nurses

Howdy everyone! Good news, had my annual physical today and based on the results, I can, indeed, confirm I am still alive. It was touch ‘n go there for a while – especially when they had three nurses holding me down while another stuck a railroad spike in my arm to suck out gallons and gallons of my precious life-juice. I have to find out what strength regiment those ladies keep, holy cow, they’d mop up on the Steer wrangling circuit. A lot of stress to go through just to hear those sweet sounding 5 little words “Keep doing what you’re doing”. My doctor is trained well, as long as my numbers remain impeccable, he overlooks the occasional visit for ultra “mishaps”.

While I sip on some orange juice to recover from the earlier bloodletting (before heading out on today’s long training run), thought I would go ahead and get another post out for the month. This will buy me a few days as I verify everything is ready to go for Brad’s upcoming post. Since I introduced you to Guadalupe River State Park in the previous post, figured I would feature another feathered friend captured at that same location.

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Guadalupe River State Park, Spring Branch, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about our buffy colored friend!

It has been a while since I’ve spotlighted a specimen from the Sparrow Family – unless I missed one, pretty sure the last “LBJ” (Little Brown Jobber) to get top billing was a little over a year ago with the Olive Sparrow (link here). The Olive has a very tight US range covering just the southern tip of Texas. The Lincoln’s is quite the opposite with all but the most southeastern states getting a piece of the action at some point during the year. They spend their winters along the coast of California, the southern borders of Arizona/Mexico and then push up covering practically all of Texas into Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. That winter range also includes all of Central America. Come migration, they fan out across the states to the north, some enjoying the rocky mountain region and the rest choosing Canada for their breeding frolicking. Not sure what Florida, Georgia, Carolinas and Virginia did to spurn these little featherballs, but those residents have to hope for strays.

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Guadalupe River State Park, Spring Branch, TX in January 2022

Usually with LBJs this accessible, there’s a high degree of ID complexity. With the overlap, they have a chance to mingle with a many of their Sparrow kin, throwing regional clues to the wind. For example, with the tight Olive range, unless you are down near the Rio Grande Valley corridor, highly unlikely you are going to have an encounter, allowing you can take that off the candidate list.

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Guadalupe River State Park, Spring Branch, TX in January 2022

Fortunately, the Lincoln’s Sparrow has some very distinct features. First thing to note is the darker spot on the chest, usually placed atop a clean white belly. That spot will get you into the Song, Savannah and obviously the Lincoln’s corner. For the final ID, look for the buffy coloring on the sides with very distinct and fine ticking. For the bell ring, you can also add in the tan colored mustache bordered by well-defined brown lines. To round out the ID process, a yellowish stripe over the eye confirms the Savannah and coarse striping on a white background will result in a Song Sparrow (link here).

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Guadalupe River State Park, Spring Branch, TX in January 2022

Of all the Sparrow songs, I have to put the Lincoln’s call near the top. Very trilly and not as harsh as say the Song Sparrow. I have mistaken them for Wrens more than once in the field due to their note similarity. The Merlin app has become a trusted companion to help draw out the song nuances. You can check out some samples on Cornell’s site (link here).

Although these Sparrows are considered very secretive, I have been fortunate to spot them in fairly clear settings with minimal focus grabbing tangle (link here). Today’s specimen was sitting on a branch right on the banks of the Guadalupe River. Sittin’, chillin’ and for a brief moment, fluffin’

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Guadalupe River State Park, Spring Branch, TX in January 2022

I attribute my tin luck to being one with their namesake as I was raised in the Abraham Lincoln heartland. In name only, of course, as they are really named for John Audubon’s companion while on an 1833 Canadian expedition (link here). Cornell notes that Thomas Lincoln was the only person to have successfully brought back a specimen. I’ll translate that cleverly watered down sentence – the only one to successfully shoot, kill and retrieve a specimen of this Sparrow family. Thankfully we have progressed from those early naturalist practices. Must point out that I abhor possessive bird names. Not only is it a pain in the ass to get the plurals right, it implies ownership and that claim shouldn’t go to someone who simply found it first – not to mention someone who blew it out of the sky {now stepping off of soap box}.

Well, other than the bruises left by the cage match struggle with the nurses, I think I’m recovered enough to lace up the running shoes and enjoy the 50+ degree (yes, that is a 5 and a zero) weather. Stay tuned for the upcoming post from Brad.

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