Finding the perfect patch
Do you suffer from seasonal affective disorder? Do you go spiraling into a deep blue funk when the days get short and the weather turns unpleasant? You need to find yourself a good sparrow patch.
A sparrow patch is a winter microhabitat; a place where sparrows, finches and other small passerines gather for shelter and a stable food source. Most of these patches have in common a dense, scrubby character that provides shelter from the wind and from predators. The best of these habitats cover sizable areas, border open grassy or wetland habitats and are not overly managed by humans.
The joy of a sparrow patch is in pishing up the residents. About 10 species of regularly occurring sparrows are likely in the typical microsite. Add 3 finch species, chickadees, Hutton's Vireo, wrens and the ubiquitous House Sparrow and you have a pretty good day list for the dead of winter. But these microsites also hold the potential for winter irregulars, like over-wintering Orange-crowned or Palm Warblers, Clay-colored Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow.
A good sparrow patch is likely to have its predators as well. Northern Shrikes, Sharp-shinned Hawks and Merlins typically stake out the best patches.
Coastal microsites will invariably be composed of some
or all of the following plant species. Learn to recognized these
and you'll be well on your way to finding the best sparrow patches:
Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis)Astoria Airport
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus)
Evergreen Blackberry (Rubus laciniatus)
Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus vestitus)
Douglas Spirea (Spirea douglasii)
Oregon Crab-apple (Pyrus fusca)
Black Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata)
Nootka Rose (Rosa nootkana)
Willow (Salix sp.)
Pacific Wax-myrtle (Myrica californica)
Red Alder (Alnus Rubra)
The areas to the south and east of the Astoria Airport in Clatsop Co. are among the best places to go looking for sparrows. There is a large expanse of mixed blackberries, willow and open rank vegetation that can be accessed fairly easily from the pullout on the west side of the Lewis & Clark River Bridge (DeLorme p.70,c-3).
Millicoma Marsh, near Coos Bay, Coos Co., OR
Simpson Park, North Albany, Linn Co., OR
Three Rivers Farm, near Canby, Clackamas Co., ORPhoto Showcase
Big Flat HMU, Franklin Co., WA
Wireless Road, Clatsop Co., OR
East Regional Park, Cottage Grove Lane Co. OR
Two Rivers County Park, Benton Co., WA
Minto Island, Salem, Marion Co. OR
Yakima Area Arboretum, Yakima Co., WA
Alton Baker Park, Lane Co., OR
Got Sparrows? Tell us where.
Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler
Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
Gillson, Greg. 1998. Fox Sparrow ID. available online at:revised 10/24/2000
Irons, David & David Fix. 1990. How to search for Passerines more effectively
in winter: notes on winter microsite habitats.Oregon Birds.16(4):251-254.
Rising, James D. 1996. The Sparrows of the United States and Canada.
Academic Press, San Diego.
Byers, Clive, Jon Curson & Urban Olsson. 1995. Sparrows and Buntings.