Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) at Bryan Farm

Happy Earth Day!

One cold windy weekend, I skipped my morning coffee and visited Mercer Meadow at the Reed/Bryan Farm trailhead. I was bundled up but after a few minutes of looking at the European Starlings in the trees at the trailhead, I walked toward the footbridge at the far end.

The Merlin ID app identified several birds nearby which I sighted as well but I was without any photographs are several minutes. The cold started to bite. I had left my gloves in the car. While standing on the footbridge, I noticed movement near my feet.

A Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) was pecking at something in the grass. The Field Sparrow has a brownish upper part with streaks and a buff-coloured breast with a white belly. Its wings and tail are marked with rust-coloured feathers.

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) · 6 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

I don’t know if it was twigs or insects. Field Sparrows primarily feed on seeds, insects, and small fruits, foraging on the ground or low vegetation. I backed up and took a few frames before walking back to the car as fast as I could. I was cold. My fingers were getting numb.

Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla)
Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) · 6 April 2024 · FujiFilm X-T3 · XF150-600mmF5.6-8 R LM OIS WR

The Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla) is a small passerine bird found in North America. It belongs to the family Passerellidae and is known for its distinct plumage and vocalisations. They build cup-shaped nests in dense shrubs or grassy areas, often concealed for protection.

During the breeding season, males sing to establish territories and attract mates, with a song characterised by trills and high-pitched notes. Field Sparrows are migratory birds, spending winters in the southern United States and migrating north to breed in spring and summer. They are commonly found in open grasslands, agricultural fields, and brushy areas across their range.

European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

I thought they were common blackbirds but I was wrong. What’s a European bird doing in the USA?

When I arrived at Mercer Meadows at the Bryan Farm trailhead I saw a large number of birds resting in the large tree next to the old farmhouse. At first, I thought they were crows and ignored them. After setting up my camera and lens, I pulled out the Merlin ID app to identify the birds in the area via sound.

The Merlin ID app will flash the name of the bird it heard, each time it hears it. These were not crows. Each time the birds in the tree on the branches above me made a noise, the name European Starling flashed. The species is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa but has been introduced to other parts of the world, including North America, where it has become a common and sometimes invasive species. I have seen them at the bird feeder in my backyard.

The European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a medium-sized passerine bird known for its glossy black plumage with white speckles and yellow beak during breeding season. It has a strong, pointed bill and short legs adapted for ground foraging.

Starlings are highly social birds, often forming large flocks, and are known for their vocalizations and mimicry abilities. They have a varied diet, feeding on insects, fruits, seeds, and human-provided food. Starlings are cavity nesters, utilizing holes in trees, buildings, and other structures for nesting sites. They are opportunistic breeders, often nesting multiple times per year and producing multiple broods.

Common Yellowthroat

I have been lucky enough to photograph this warbler twice in Mercer Meadows.

This Common Yellowthroat is another bird I photographed in Mercer Meadows thsmpast Spring. I have been lucky enough to photograph this warbler twice in Mercer Meadows.

The Common Yellowthroat, a small and lively warbler, is a common sight in New Jersey during the season. I like their bright yellow throat and the black mask across their eyes. I sometimes confuse them for American Goldfinch.

Common Yellowthroat are often found in wetlands, thickets, and marshy areas, where they forage for insects and spiders. These agile birds are elusive, preferring to stay hidden in dense vegetation. Their "wichity-wichity" song adds a delightful touch to the wetland and marshland.