October’s Little Brown Jobs
Sparrows, or LBJ’s (little brown jobs), as many seasoned birders call them can be hard to see, let alone identify. Beginners often find this group of birds frustrating, but each sparrow has its own characteristics whether it is its intricate feather pattern or its versatility in its song. Fall sparrow migration as well as all the songbirds is much slower than in the spring and the birds tend to linger at a location for a longer period of time. Sparrow migration usually is underway in the first weeks of September and peaks in October and continues right up to Thanksgiving and into December.
In the fall there is an abundance of seeds and berries available-both of which comprise the majority of their diet. Most of the sparrows’ favorite seeds are common weeds and grasses that we can see just about everywhere, though a bit harder here at Mount Auburn. Sparrows are more evident in open spaces such as fields and meadows but even the most manicured lawn can attract many of the species, notably the Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco at Mount Auburn.
Two other areas to check within the Cemetery grounds on a regular basis are the Butterfly Garden at Willow Pond and the Wildflower Meadow up by Washington Tower. Many of the plantings, especially Echinacea, or Coneflower, and Rudbeckia or Black-eyed Susan, provide desirable seeds. Here you may encounter Field, Savannah and Lincoln’s sparrows along with American Goldfinch and House Finches. In the Dell area look for White-throated and later in the season a Fox Sparrow or two may show up along the paths.
Swamp Sparrows can be found along the shores of all the ponds especially Auburn Lake and Willow Pond. There have been reports of unusual or rare sparrows so it is not impossible to find a Clay-colored or Lark Sparrow or a Dickcissel, a close cousin. Watching LBJ’s can be a lot of fun and with time they all will have a name!