I didn’t expect this bird at all and had to ask for help to identify it. Thanks to Jack Hayden, who has spotted more birds in Cesar Chavez Park than just about anyone, I became reacquainted with the American Pipit. I’ve seen and photographed this kind of bird here several times, but, as happens to me sometimes with people I used to know, I couldn’t think of its name. This individual was scratching about in the grass on the northern edge of the DAWN area, the forested grove on the west side of the park that contains a priceless but imperiled collection of native plant communities. This pipit also liked to teeter and tilt, similar to but not quite as much as a Spotted Sandpiper. Judging by the streaking and brownish color, this is a nonbreeding adult. As Jack pointed out, it’s an early bird. My previous sightings of pipits came no earlier than November. They usually come for the winter, leaving their breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska. Pipits may have some of the same survival powers in extreme cold as the Pine Siskin I wrote about a few days ago. According to the Cornell bird lab website, “In an alpine population in the Beartooth Mountains of Wyoming, a snowstorm buried 17 American Pipit nests for 24 hours. All of the nestlings that were 11 days or older survived, and a few of the younger ones did as well.” That’s remarkable.
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