Friday, January 7, 2011

Thanks Birders!

I would like to thank all the birders (and non-birders) who came to Eagle Optics to see the Golden-crowned Sparrow! I know it was a special experience for everyone involved. Over 200 people visited us to see the vagrant sparrow coming to our feeders since I discovered it on December 20th. It was 'life bird' or 'state bird' for many, myself included. Those who came to see the sparrow were excited, courteous, and patient as they waited to get a glimpse of it. On average, people had to wait awhile for the sparrow to show up, but others were luckier and saw it within a few minutes of arriving to our store. Some of my non-birding colleagues were unused to the excitement a bird like this generates within the birding community. Overwhelmingly, though, it was a positive experience for everyone.

I haven't seen the sparrow since the evening of December 30th – nearly all of our ground cover snow melted during warmer temperatures and rain that night. With habitat opening up in the fields adjacent to our building, I anticipated the sparrow might now show up. Sure enough, it hasn't been back, and neither have the American Tree Sparrows it was often seen with in the grassy area behind our building. Perhaps the sparrow will return with another deep snowfall. Or perhaps, as some have speculated, the sparrow became a meal for one of the Cooper's Hawks. It's a possibility, but we'll probably never know.

The Golden-crowned Sparrow was the 73rd bird species for our store list. We've had feeders for a number of years and I often take a few minutes to inspect the birds coming to them every time I put out fresh birdseed - this is how I happened to discover the sparrow in the first place. It does seem ironic that such a rare avian occurrence would take place at birding optics store, but there really are coincidences and pleasant surprises. To make it a celebrity, all the sparrow needed was for someone to recognize it. Who knows what else is out there at bird feeders around Wisconsin?

Mike McDowell
Eagle Optics Staff

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