Sunday, October 31, 2010

Le Conte's Sparrow at Milford Point

Tom Sayers found a Le Conte's Sparrow on Thursday, October 28, at the Coastal Center at Milford Point. He was photographing Nelson's Sparrows and a brief glimpse made him think it might be a Le Conte's, though he could only positively identify it as such on October 29. With it hopping in and out of the spartina along the beach it can be difficult to see. It is a tremendous find, so our thanks and congratulations to Tom. As of this morning it was still present and being somewhat cooperative for birders. The fantastic photos of it below are from Jim Zipp - thanks to him as well!

Le Conte's Sparrow at Milford Point! Photo by Jim Zipp

The Le Conte's Sparrow does look a bit like a Halloween bird. Photo by Jim Zipp

If you want to come see it, the bird can be reliably found on the Long Island Sound side of Milford Point. If you park and head to the Coastal Center take a left and follow the path down to the boardwalk on the beach. Once you reach the platform at the end take a left again. Walk only couple hundred feet down the beach - you will have spartina on your right and dune on your left. This area is where it feeds with Nelson's and Savannah Sparrow. It will stay in the marsh grasses until the tide rises enough to push it out when it goes to the dunes. It is difficult to find there as it can scurry anywhere. Your best bet is to come at a time while the tide is rising so it is visible in the spartina but not high enough that the water pushes it out. It likes to feed on the matted down grasses, and will go into these areas, pausing only shortly for the most part.

Additionally, you should keep your ears open for the high thin "seet" call it makes sometimes while moving about. As always, there are a few things to remember. First, please try not to chase this bird around too aggressively, or use audio repeatedly in order to flush it. It is a small area and does not need to be run down in order to be seen. Secondly, please do not walk in the spartina, or into the dunes, or on any of the grasses. Foot traffic will kill these grasses and allow storm surge and waves to wash the beach away. The best approach is to remember the behaviors it has displayed so far and wait it out a bit, visiting at opportune times and talking to staff or birders present at the Coastal Center. Also, bear in mind the low speed limits on the roads to Milford Point, and drive carefully. Lastly, hours and directions can be found by clicking here.

In this previous entry, I detailed the October Superstorm and mentioned how we would find some big rarities. This Le Conte's Sparrow is the most notable thus far after a few days of excellent finds. It was one of the species we thought would be discovered. Can this one stick around for 70 days like the White-tailed Kite? We shall see...

Photos © Jim Zipp

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