Harris's Sparrow at Sugar Grove, Warren County, PA
After a few days of watching it feed in his yard, this Harris's Sparrow was first
reported by the property owner, Scott Stoleson of Sugar Grove, on December 22, 2003. Unfortunately it disappeared the
very next day when a warm front moved through and melted all the snow. After weeks of absence, it was believed that
the bird had moved on, but it was discovered again in the same place over one month later, and the next day these photos were
Initially, we found the sparrow as reported almost immediately after our arrival,
and it allowed prolonged views for nearly fifteen minutes around 8:30 am. Then it disappeared, and despite our waiting
over an hour for it to reappear, it did not. We left the area and returned about 90 minutes later, and failed to
find the bird again despite a 45 minute search. It seems that to guarantee a sighting one must be present during the
sparrow's initial morning feeding, because it becomes more irregular in its appearances after that.
This particular bird presented a particular photography problem. Harris's
Sparrows in general, with this individual being no exception, are very wary, so setting up a scope and waiting for a digiscoping
opportunity was not really possible since the bird was there when we arrived and we did not wish to scare it away. We
ended up using the car as a blind, but we were too close for any pictures using the scope, yet too far away to hand-hold the
camera alone and expect anything good. I had to improvise and take the pictures handholding the camera up to my binoculars
using only the car window as a brace... and was pleasantly surprised by the results!
This picture (below) was the panicked "just get the bird documented" picture,
and was taken with just the camera alone, zoomed to optical-4x and enhanced to digital-4x making an effective magnification
of 16x (35mm equiv. ~500mm). Not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.