Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, or Ammodramus caudacutus as it's known to my bird-geek friends, is one of my target birds on an upcoming trip to St. Augustine, Florida. I'm very excited about attending Florida's Birding and FotoFest from April 10-13th, and not just because I may catch a glimpse of this adorable orange-headed sparrow.
I consider this event to be one-of-a-kind not only for birding, but because of its emphasis on photography. Two of my favorite things! For the purists, there will be lots of workshops and seminars on capturing images with the traditional, high-dollar super lenses for today's digital SLR cameras. For those with a sense of adventure and an appetite for something new and innovative, there will be more information and experts about digiscoping here than at any other event of its kind. Swarovski, Leica, and Zeiss will all host world-renowned digiscopers from the US and abroad, including Paul Hackett, Bill Schmoker, and Neil Fifer. I'm looking forward to not only meeting and hanging out with these guys for a few days, but teaching seminars and showcasing photos alongside them at the annual Digiscoping Image Shoot Out!
Now back to the Sparrow, Ammodramus caudacutus. The Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow spends a great deal of its time foraging for insects while close to the ground. In general, birds that live in dense habitat and spend most of their time near the ground are difficult to find and see.
This sparrow is closely related to the more widespread Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, which I have seen a few times here in Wisconsin. At one time, these were considered to be the same species. The image below was captured at a local sewage treatment facility by my friend Mike.
Unlike the Nelson's variety, the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow is found almost exclusively in coastal saltmarshes (imagine that!). I don't know if my legions of readers have spent time around saltmarshes. If you haven't, we have to add to the level of bird-finding difficulty the fact that you can't exactly walk up to these birds. When birding in thick and wet vegetation, one is often left to wait for the birds to come to them. All of these challenges will nonetheless make my first sighting of this delightful, little bird that much more gratifying. Let's hope that by this time next month, I'll be one bird closer to 600.