Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October is for Sparrows ...

One of the best parts of October, apart from the fall in temperature (always a huge plus for us Celtic types), is sparrow migration.  I like sparrows; small, skulking, cryptic, uncooperative, little brown jobs.  Perhaps a nostalgia for the migrant traps of my childhood in Europe, or perhaps a shadow of my erstwhile love affair with tapaculos.  Either way, I'll happily spend all day kicking bushes and spishing my way through a field, endlessly entertained by the pursuit of a brown blur or a persistent ticking sound.  To each their own I guess.

I spent all morning at Jones Beach SP (Nassau County) and Robert Moses SP (Suffolk County) until the rain pushed me back toward the city.  It really did feel like October, and the birds had changed accordingly.  Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers were everywhere and part of a decent movement of birds that included Eastern Phoebes, Gray Catbirds, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Palm Warblers, and Northern Flickers.  There were also lots of sparrows ....

Savannah Sparrow
The most abundant sparrow was Savannah Sparrow, with small groups scattered along the shoreline and median at Jones Beach.  Through the morning though I was able to winkle out a few more species, first Chipping Sparrow, then Song Sparrow, then a Lincoln's Sparrow, a Swamp Sparrow, and a small group of White-throated Sparrows.  Also had a good LBJ of a different kind when a group of 27 Pine Siskins dropped in for a brief stop before continuing their journey West (it's going to be a Finch-Year!).

Lark Sparrow
Moving over to Robert Moses, I was surprised to quickly find a Lark Sparrow in exactly the same spot that I'd found last week (or at least I thought I'd found it until I saw that Doug Futuyma had also posted it).  The bird was in the median near Field 2 and flew into exactly the same bush that last week's bird had flushed into.  Seems unlikely that it's the same bird, especially as Doug, who saw last week's bird better than I, noted it as a drab individual, while this one clearly was not.  So probably my 4th NYS Lark Sparrow of the year; not as rare as I once thought.

I also thought I kept hearing juncos, but couldn't see any.  My brain wasn't quite ready for juncos, although the year really is marching on, but I heard several call and then eventually saw 4 Slate-colored Juncos near Field 5.

Slate-colored (Dark-eyed) Junco
Then, just as I was heading back to the car, another species popped up and I got some shots of a young White-crowned Sparrow (a Suffolk County Year-bird).  Feeling inspired, I thought I might try for some Seaside/Saltmarsh/Nelson's sparrows but then the rain came, and birding was pretty much over for the day.

White-crowned Sparrow (2 shots)

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