by Julie Jansen
A handsome bird that has recently moved back in our area from the boreal forest across Canada is the white-throated sparrow. They are easily recognizable with their striking head pattern. The black-and-white-striped head is augmented by a bright white throat and yellow lores (feathers in front of the eye) and the bill, which is gray. You’ll also see a less boldly marked form, known as “tan-striped,” with a buff-on-brown face pattern instead of white-onblack.
White-throated Sparrows like to stay near the ground, scratching through leaves in search of food, often in flocks. You may see them low in bushes as well, particularly in spring when they eat fresh buds. White-throated Sparrows sing their distinctive songs frequently, even in winter, which is a wavering whistle of “Old Sam Peabody-Peabody-Peabody.”
White-throated Sparrows will readily visit feeders or peck at fallen seeds beneath them. They feed on millet as well as sunflower seeds. If you make a brush pile in your yard it will give White-throated Sparrows a place to take cover in between trips out into your yard to feed.
The two color morphs (tan-striped or white-striped heads) may be either male or female; adults almost always mate with the opposite color morph. There are a few differences between the two color morphs: White-striped males are usually more aggressive and do more singing than tan-striped males. White-striped females also sing, but tan-striped females usually do not. Pairs involving a tan-striped male and white-striped female usually form more quickly than those of the opposite combination. Got that? I’m glad the birds can keep this straight!
Nest site are usually on the ground, well hidden by low shrubs (such as blueberry), grass, or ferns. Sometimes they nest above ground in shrubs, brush piles, or low trees, rarely up to 10' high. Nest (built by female) is open cup made of grass, twigs, and weeds, pine needles, lined with fine grass, rootlets, and animal hair. The male sings to defend nesting territory.
Look for this striking sparrow this winter by your feeder or if you are taking a walk in the woods. You will recognize it by its bright white throat and distinctive song. Sources: allaboutbirds.org,
Greeting Garden Friends,
As I sit writing this letter, most of the leaves I see outside my window are still green. We've had many beautiful, sunny, warm fall days this year. As our climate changes, and our temperatures warm, our growing season seems to extend. Hopefully, most of you have put your gardens to bed for the winter, but this year we may find ourselves cleaning into November with many leaves still clinging to the trees. But remember that leaving fallen leaves to decompose does return valuable nutrients to the soil, provides habitat for a lot of important and valuable insect species over the winter, and acts as a natural mulch. Use a mulching mower or leaf shredder to return leaves to your lawn, do not leave them whole. In your beds, leave your leaves in wooded areas, on mulched areas, under shrubs and around perennials - 3-4” at most, not piled up against stems and trunks.
As the days turn colder, and we’re spending more time inside, we can curl up with a warm drink and pour over catalogs and gardening websites and plan for next year. What changes will we make? What can we divide for the plant sale? What will we move and add to our gardens? How can we work toward being more Pollinator friendly- possibly working toward a Pollinator certification for our yard, and what invasive can we consider removing?
Be sure to take a look at the upcoming sales and events across our District IX community and support our sister clubs. I look forward to our December meeting and luncheon at Shannopin Country Club. It will be nice to resume that club tradition.
Enjoy these crisp fall days before winter grips up with its cold weather. See you all next November 3rd indoors at Northmont Presbyterian Church.
Kate Colville - Down to Earth and Diggin’ It”