House Rules


This week’s photo, taken December 5, 2013 from our bedroom window in northeast Seattle, WA, features the only WHITE-THROATED SPARROW that I’ve ever seen in our yard.

One day a few weeks ago, as I was walking by our kitchen’s sliding glass door, I glanced outside and scanned the ground along the side of the house for movement (obsessed birders frequently do that). In the back, toward the corner of the yard, a sparrow-like bird is feeding on the ground. My first thought is that it’s probably a Song Sparrow, but it seems to show more white in the head and throat area than a Song Sparrow would. I move to our bedroom in the back of the house for a closer look, and that’s when I realize it’s a WHITE-THROATED SPARROW, a common bird in eastern North America, but an uncommon species here in the Northwest.

Our special visitor is not the only bird foraging in our yard that morning. Also present are 2 GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROWS, a BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEE, a BEWICK’S WREN, an AMERICAN ROBIN, a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET, and half a dozen DARK-EYED JUNCOS. The scene resembles a party. Maybe the other birds organized a festive event to welcome the White-throated Sparrow to the neighborhood.

Yesterday, high above our house, a BALD EAGLE slowly and gracefully carved a few circles in the sky, before gliding west and disappearing from view. Although Bald Eagles are fairly common in our region, that’s the first one I’ve seen from our property. For the year, I’ve identified 37 different yard birds (so far).

Yes, even if a bird doesn’t land in our yard, I will add it to my yard list, as long as I see it or hear it while I’m standing somewhere on our property. Not everybody tallies their list that way, but that’s how I do it.


About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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3 Responses to House Rules

  1. Chris VB says:

    Hi Joe, we just got back from Pismo Beach, where we saw this week’s rarity, a Black-legged Kittiwake. Pismo Creek forms a long pond as it empties into the ocean, and attracts many gulls. We were lucky that it hung around this long. Unmistakable field marks once you see a photo. There was also a Bonaparte’s Gull there, and many American Pipits scurrying around on the sand. Probably our best ever look at Pipits. After living here for 2 1/2 years, this was the first time we explored this part of Pismo Beach. Thanks, Kitti.

  2. Carolyn Clark says:

    Hi Joe- I very much enjoy reading your reports and viewing the pictures. I thought of you when I read this weeks issue of the East Hampton Star(New York) reporting on a large influx of snowy owls on the South Fork of Long Island. I am hopeful one will appear in our neighborhood. Carolyn C( a Rancho La Puerta camper for many years)

  3. Al Williams says:


    I genuinely look forward to and appreciate your reports. Keep them coming!


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