Friday, December 24, 2010
Eurasian tree sparrows are back!
Today Greenturtle and I went to Sugar Grove Nature Center here in McLean County for a winter walk. It was snowing, but not too cold, and we were the only people in evidence, making it very peaceful. I hadn't been to Sugar Grove in a while -- I've barely been out of Bloomington all month, except for my trip to Allerton Park last weekend -- and I was hoping that the regular winter visitors would be back at the feeders again.
These visitors are Eurasian tree sparrows. The species is similar looking to the house sparrow, and is also not native to the continent--they were introduced to the Saint Louis area around 1970. Unlike the more aggressive house sparrow, they have not wandered far from their release point, and it is quite a treat to see them in central Illinois. For some reason, they only seem to come here during the winter. (Rumor has it that they can be found along the Illinois River Valley, but I have yet to see them anywhere else besides the feeders at Sugar Grove Nature Center.)
The top two photos, above, were taken last February--it was a cloudy day and the pictures were taken through the glass of the bird viewing room, but I think you can see the black cheek patch and all brown head that distinguish the Eurasian tree sparrow from the house sparrow. The last photo was taken at the bonsai display at the Japanese festival in Saint Louis--another sighting, albeit artistic, of the elusive little bird.