They are maddening, frustrating, flighty little things that hardly ever stay still long enough for a positive identification, let alone a decent photograph. Oh, and they are also mostly brown in color, with cryptic markings and subtle differences between species. But I love them for their liveliness, and the great birding challenge they present.
Let's be honest, sometimes watching twelve different species of male ducks, all in vibrant breeding plumage, sitting placidly on the water 30 yards away feels a little like cheating for a birder.
That said, I have a long way to go before I'm an expert at sparrow identification! But I'm learning, and that's all part of the fun!
This pretty little guy is a Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii), and anything but drab! Just look at those dashing markings!
Lincoln's Sparrows have a bold rufous crown, often peaked, with a narrow central stripe of gray. They have distinct eye lines, as well as a pale eyering. There is some yellow or buff at the base of the bill, though it is not as bright as the yellow supralorals of the Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis). Notice also the streaky white throat, as well as beautiful buffy cheeks and sides.
The Lincoln's Sparrow is a perfect example of why I love sparrows. Largely unnoticed and underappreciated, they have a delicate, unassuming beauty that rewards those to care to stop and notice.