Friday, May 19, 2017 Slate-colored Fox Sparrow?

Exit Glacier, Seward, Alaska
Light rain

I drove slowly along Exit Glacier Road this afternoon with my windows open, listening. Fortunately, traffic was very light and so when I heard my FOS NORTHERN WATERTHRUSH singing, I just stopped. I couldn’t see him, well-concealed in the willow thicket, but appreciated knowing he was back.

From here to the parking lot and partway down the main trail, I also heard: ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLERS, YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, a WILSON’S SNIPE winnowing, RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, COMMON REDPOLLS, a KINGFISHER, VARIED THRUSHES, HERMIT THRUSHES, ROBINS. I did not yet hear the Swainson’s Thrush or Gray-cheeked Thrush, but they should be arriving soon.

An unusual clear and sweet song caught my ear. I followed it to a FOX SPARROW, sitting on a willow branch just off the trail. Not only was his song different, HE was different. I took photos and when I returned home, I looked it up. To my surprise, he looked just like a SLATE-COLORED FOX SPARROW from the Interior West. What was he doing here, so far from home?

I’ve never seen this subspecies before, so if anyone has a better ID, I’d be very interested to know more. There’s always more to learn with birds!

For an additional bonus, back at the parking lot, a large black bear sauntered across the mountainside from one greening area to the next.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. This is actually fine for Sooty Fox Sparrow, based on the brown (not gray) back. Northern Sooty forms show a lot of gray in the face and all forms show red tones in the wings and tail (especially in good light, which they tend to avoid). All Fox Sparrows have yellow in the bill in winter, which becomes pinkish in summer. Slate-colored have much more pale gray in the face, no brown in the crown, obvious gray backs, and more bright orange tones in the wing and tail. See the cover photo at the Fox Sparrows Facebook group for Slate-colored and Sooty side by side.