2birdfeature #14: Sparrows


Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) – Newfoundland

The more I look at the sun showering these spruce trees with light and warmth and photosynthetic energy, the harder I have to grip my desk as I look out the window, present day. Still grey. The trees, still standing with their limbs frozen mid lethargic sigh. The juncos are darting under limbs and flashing their white tail feathers though and for that, I crack a smile. If I could draw as much vitality from the complete medium-ness that is winterspring, I’d be out there scaling the birch trees and running through the tarnished snow barefoot.


Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) – Newfoundland


Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) – Newfoundland

I’ve seen many Song Sparrows in my day and so have you, you just don’t know it. You’ve heard a bunch of them too. Their song is in your internal soundtrack, as familiar to you as the crunch of gravel underfoot.

The thing about sparrows is that they are ever-present but perhaps, a collection of aesthetic wallflowers. We often refer to them as Little Brown Birds, an offensive turn for such a crucial cog in every ecosystem.


Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) – Newfoundland


Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) – Newfoundland


Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) – Newfoundland

Swamp Sparrows, too, live in your internal soundtrack (east of the Rockies). Sometimes that buzzy sound you attribute to insects in tall grass is a Swamp Sparrow instead.

Relax. But focus. That’s how you find sparrows. Try to isolate the most common sounds you know, you might be surprised what you find.

Personal memo: Remember the island before the snow


Fogo Island, Newfoundland – June 2016

18 Jan 2017

Weeks of snow now. No end in sight. This morning, large sideways clusters of flakes. Like plastic models of hemoglobin molecules. My coworker looked at me and said, “You know what they say, big snow, little snow.” Meaning, if the flakes are big, the snow accumulation is small. The reverse has also proved true lately. I find myself loitering near the bucket of freshly cut Balsam Fir branches in the lab just to breathe them in. I’m drinking a toxic amount of tea. I’ll be septic by March.

Here’s to you, June. The month of warbler song and chlorophyll.


Fogo Island, Newfoundland – June 2016


Fogo Island, Newfoundland – June 2016


Goose Cove, Newfoundland – June 2016


Goose Cove, Newfoundland – June 2016


Goose Cove, Newfoundland – June 2016


Goose Cove, Newfoundland – June 2016


Goose Cove, Newfoundland – June 2016

4 little birds in Newfoundland

The elusive Spotted Sandpiper.


Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) – Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

The numerous and vocal White-throated Sparrow.


White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) – Gambo, Newfoundland

The flitting blur, Wilson’s Warbler.


Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla) – Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

The well-adapted Savannah Sparrow.


Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) – Terra Nova National Park, Newfoundland

Hope you enjoyed this quick gallery of Newfoundland natives.

I have some exciting news to share very soon so stay tuned!