Grasshopper Sparrow
4 Jan 2013, 2:39 PM,
#1
Grasshopper Sparrow
This morning Bea Cooley, Sue Orway and I visited the grasslands along my xmas count route for the Camp Verde count. There was lots of action from the start with several hundred Dark-eyed Junco near the heritage site. We traveled a bit further and ran into a group of that included Vesper, Savannah, White-crowned, Chipping, Black-throated and Brewers Sparrow. A bit further up the road and I found the first of our 2 Grasshopper Sparrow. It posed nicely for about 10 seconds. We tried another spot where my team found one on the count, and sure enough, it was there. Bea found the bird and we both got photos.
Cheers
Tom
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8 Jan 2013, 5:52 PM,
#2
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
1. 6 of us including tom linda & bb oros looked for sparrows in that area this morning.
2. we found at least 5 GRASSHOPPER SPARROWS.
3. we split up a lot so difficult to estimate other totals, but probably 100+ brewer's, 50+ chipping, 50+ white-crowned, 20+ vesper, 10+ savannah (all in 1 spot on east side), 3 black-throated, 1 WHITE-THROATED, and a possible clay-colored glimpsed by tom, but not refound despite lots of looking.
4. if you want to go to the place here are my best directions - i-17 or 179 to the i-17/179 exit. go east on whatever 179 becomes probably 5 or so miles. you pass beaver creek campground, vbarv visitor place, etc. you come to a cattle guard and there is a sign on a little dirt path to the right that says something like 9207y. park right there.
5. both sides of road had flocks and grasshopper sparrows, but right/west side seemed best. walk along fence 100 yards to where there is an entrance point. walk that field and ajoining grasses. the grasshopper sparrows flush, fly 30 feet and drop, but sometimes they decide to land in bush for viewing. they do not seem to associate with the mixed flocks.
rich armstrong
928-282-3675
richarmstrong@q.com
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16 Jan 2013, 8:26 PM,
#3
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Here are some shots of the sparrows we saw.
Sorry for the delay. Was out of country for a bit.
       
BB
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17 Jan 2013, 2:58 PM,
#4
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
1. your 1st picture is a grasshopper sparrow just as you indicate.
2. the 2nd is a brewer's sparrow - no buffiness anywhere, and streaky crown.
rich armstrong
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18 Jan 2013, 11:15 AM,
#5
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Though I agree that it is a Brewer's Sparrow it should be noted that Chipping, Clay-colored, and Brewer's all show streaks in the crown in fall/winter. By this time of year the majority of Chipping Sparrows should show some rufous in the crown, but in fall/early winter many lack the rufous. The crown pattern of Brewer's and Clay-colored Sparrow somewhat overlaps but Clay-colored usually shows a stronger median crown stripe and a warmer color to the crown, but there is overlap. Clay-colored Sparrows are variable and the majority are buffy, but some can be drab. The weak face pattern, with the lack of strong contrast between the malar and the throat, a weak lateral throat stripe, gray collar with some streaks, and brown rump with streaks among others are all good marks for this bird being a Brewer's.

David
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20 Jan 2013, 8:29 AM,
#6
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
I was out with my family yesterday climbing Bear Mountain, just west of Sedona, and thought I'd mention that the habitat near the trailhead, in the Boynton Pass area, is similar to that where the Grasshopper Sparrows have been found over by the V Bar V - lots of ankle-to-knee high grass mixed with widely spaced mesquite and other scrub. Sizable sparrow and junco flocks were working the area, although I didn't take the time to work through them. This seemed to me to be an spot that might be worth checking more thoroughly. In the past I've found Rufous-crowned Sparrows on the nearby slopes of Doe Mountain.

On the hike up Bear Mt there were several Crissal Thrashers in the south-facing manzanita scrub at ~5,800 feet. A Bald Eagle was a bit of a surprise soaring below the summit.

Jason
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4 Feb 2013, 2:36 PM,
#7
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
John Grahame and I continued our search for sparrows along FR618 (off exit 298, off I17) today. Since Johns first discovery of Grasshopper Sparrow on my 2010 Camp Verde Christmas Count team, I've actively searched for them, and my 2012 team found 4. John and I have been pretty successful over the last month, finding about a dozen GRSP since December. Today we found at least 7 birds, in areas we haven't birded before, mostly in pairs, in different grassland sections, with sizeable distance between them. Are we counting the same birds twice? I doubt it.

We're also finding plenty of the type of habitat they seem to prefer, a knee high, thickly matted grass that I can't name, so we will continue our search in completely new areas. Great fun.

Other highlights were several hundred Brewers Sparrows group singing, something I've only seen once before, and we also found an active Badger burrow.
Cheers
Tom
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13 Feb 2013, 3:27 PM,
#8
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
John Grahame and I continued our GRSP search today, along the grasslands on FR618, exit 298 on I17. We birded two new patches, the firsr being in the depression along the road into the V-V ranch, and found a pair of Grasshoppers.

Today was for checking new turf, so we drove several miles further, and found another bird in an isolated grass field.

There seems to be little doubt that we've located a wintering ground with a good number of birds fairly far north of the range maps shown in field guide.
Cheers
Tom
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13 Feb 2013, 9:12 PM,
#9
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
(13 Feb 2013, 3:27 PM)Tom Linda Wrote: There seems to be little doubt that we've located a wintering ground with a good number of birds fairly far north of the range maps shown in field guide.
Cheers
Tom

It is odd that field guides do not map this distribution, as GRSP regularly winters sparsely throughout the Verde. Over the years we have recorded them from Tuzigoot north to west of Sedona through Cornville to east of Camp Verde - that's pretty much every grassland in the valley.

We banded some about 15 years ago near Wheatfield(?) Tanks with Charles Drost (Colorado Plateau Field Station). I don't recall if we determined the subspp. at the time, but A. s. perpallidus seems likely, as these birds don't match the SE AZ birds (A. s. ammolegus).
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15 Feb 2013, 7:28 AM,
#10
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Where would field guide map makers have found (or overlooked) that information to incoroporate into their maps?
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15 Feb 2013, 8:56 AM,
#11
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
On another species missing from range maps in bird guides - the Wood Ducks of the Verde Valley. I don't have the most up to date guides, but it's always surprised me.
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15 Feb 2013, 9:13 AM,
#12
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Generally I turn to the newest National Geographic when I want good, detailed range maps. That book does show the population of Wood Ducks in the Verde Valley, but not Grasshopper Sparrow. Birding Sedona and the Verde Valley, at least, does indicate that Grasshopper Sparrows are regular winter residents: "Uncommon winter resident on lightly grazed grasslands. Probably overlooked."
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15 Feb 2013, 12:27 PM,
#13
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
"Probably overlooked" seems right, since they don't flock with each other or with other sparrows and they're notoriously difficult to see well. Tom and I have figured out their habitat in the V-Bar-V ranch area and have been able to flush up a pair almost every time we try in likely spots. But even then grasshopper sparrows typically scoot along at grasstop level for 20-40 feet before dropping back into the grass. One has to keep flushing them four or five times before they finally tee up low in a bush. There they will sit patiently while you get a good look. Fun birding!
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26 Feb 2013, 12:19 AM,
#14
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Though winter is wrapping up, one way to find Grasshopper Sparrows in winter is to listen for their call. Sorry if I missed this already being mentioned. It's also a good way to get an idea of how many are around. The calls are very insect like and easily overlooked. Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any recordings of the calls from winter online. It is similar to a Savannah Sparrow but longer and more insect like. Something to listen for while you are out there.

David Vander Pluym
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6 Mar 2013, 4:57 PM,
#15
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
John Grahame and I returned to FR618 this morning and checked a couple of grassy patches we haven't covered yet.

The morning weather was beautiful in the Verde Valley.

We started at Sacred Mountain and scoured the hillside to the north of the pueblo and enjoyed stunning looks at Rufous-crowned, Black-throated, and Grasshopper Sparrows. Also seen were White-crowned, Brewers, Chipping, Vesper and Savannah Sparrows. All if these species are nice and bright now, and all are singing. I especially enjoy the Brewers singing by the dozens.

We next checked a large open grassland on an escarpment behind the riding academy. We briefly visited this area a couple weeks ago and found a single Grasshopper Sparrow. After fully covering it, we found several. We ended the day with 12 GRSP, no doubt, mostly seen and counted on previous searches. We also found Green-tailed and Canyon Towhee. I was amazed to realize I haven't seen CANT in probably a dozen years.

Here's our list:
American Kestrel
Gambells Quail
Mourning Dove
Say's Phoebe
Western Scrub Jay
Common Raven
Juniper Titmouse
Verdin
Bewicks Wren
Green-tailed Towhee
Canyon Towhee
Rufous-crowned Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Brewer's Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch

A fun day.
Cheers
Tom

Western sEcretion

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6 Mar 2013, 8:01 PM,
#16
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Tom and I have been GPSing our sightings and posting them on a Google Map. You can check it out at http://goo.gl/maps/4QqR5
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7 Mar 2013, 3:17 AM,
#17
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Green pins denote single birds, red pins denote multiple birds. Blue markers denote landmarks.
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11 Mar 2013, 2:52 PM,
#18
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Unable to resist of forecast of 69 degrees in the Verde Valley I drove down this morning to try a new spot for grasshopper sparrows. It's the grassy plateau just north and a little east of Red Tank draw. I parked at the Bell Trail overflow parking area just a little further east. This lightly grazed area had the highest density of grsps I've encountered thusfar. I flushed 10 birds that I saw well and many more that I didn't see as well. I'm beginning to conclude that these birds are common in the right habitat. You can see the new birds on the Google Map. The furthest north bird was at the edge of another grassy meadow I visited. It was overgrazed and didn't look promising, but one bird popped up along the northern edge where the grass was a little less hammered.
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16 Mar 2013, 7:08 PM,
#19
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
John Grahame and I immersed ourselves in sparrows again today, this time following a lead that Roger Radd gave us, checking out Bill Gray Road, just north of Cottonwood off Hwy 89A.

Although the habitat was quite diffdrent than that found on our previous hunts along FR618, we still managed to find decent numbers of sparrows, including 8 Grasshopper Sparrow. The environment today was very grazed over grassland, with tussocks of thin, dry grass, as opposed to the thick matting we first found them in.

It was a pleasant day, with good numbers of Vesper, Brewer's, Black-throated, White-crowned, Savannah and Grasshopper Sparrows.
Cheers
Tom
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23 Mar 2013, 2:38 PM,
#20
RE: Grasshopper Sparrow
Tom Linda and looked for grasshopper sparrows in a new area today, some rolling grasslands just west of Red Tank Draw on Forest Road 618 (map). The habitat looked pretty good, but we found no GRSPs and only a smattering of other sparrows (mostly black-throated, vesper, and chipping). Thinking that the great flocks of wintering sparrows, including grasshoppers, may have departed the area, we moved our search to the grassy ridge just to the northeast of Red Tank Draw that had yielded the greatest density of GRSPs just two weeks ago. Again, sparrows were sparse, though we did manage to find one pair of GRSPs in a location where I had seen them previously. We'll have another look in a week, but our tentative conclusion is that the most of the area's wintering sparrows have decided that it is indeed spring and taken off for points north.
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