|George M. Sutton|
The Canadian enclave was camped a mile away. The rivalry between the two groups and even among members within each group was friendly but each dearly wanted to be the one to first lay eyes on the sparrows' eggs. While the Americans used a studied and orderly method of searching, the Canadians had developed a bizzare and very noisy searching technique.
One quite day, the Americans, who were accustomed to the pristine silence of such a remote place, were startled by a loud din of banging and clanging. The Canadians had resorted to marching across the fields while beating on pots and pans hoping to scare up nesting birds. At first, this was amusing but soon become quite irritating. This unsettling racket continued for days but the long search was about to come to an end.
On June 16, 1931, the honor of being the first scientist to see the Harris's Sparrow's nest filled with eggs was bestowed on George Miksch Sutton, the young man who would later be know around the world for his art and birds studies.
After walking a long distance through wet woods, he saw a Harris's Sparrow picking at its belly with its beak, as if it had just come from a nest. He quitely watched the bird for a long time without moving. After marking the spot where he saw the bird, he walked away. He returned a few minutes later splashing through the water and noisily pushing through the bushes. When he was within 12 inches of the Harris's Sparrow's nest, he flushed the bird and found its nest.
The nest was on a soft bed of moss, a few leaves, and weed stalks. The lining was made of grass. The eggs were partly covered by a few sprigs of Narrow-leaved Labrador Tea which were then in bud.
George Miksch Sutton later described the excitement of finding the nest. "As I knelt to examine the nest a thrill the like of which I had never felt before passed through me. And I talked aloud! 'Here!' I said. 'Here in this beautiful place!' At my fingertips lay treasures that were beyond price. Mine was Man's first glimpse of the eggs of the Harris's Sparrow, in the lovely bird's wilderness home."
In the next three weeks, nine more nests were discovered.
This ends my story of the Harris's Sparrow mystery and the only bird to nest in Canada and nowhere else. But the mystery still continues. Its changing migration route needs to be studied. Are its numbers dwindling? The coloration and markings which differ from individual birds is a fascinating subject to be persued.
It is a testament to Man's love of birds that the sparrow has been so studied. Perhaps by observations, you can add to the knowledge of the Harris's Sparrow.