Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Swarms of sparrows

The month of October is known for a variety of migrant sparrows. The Coastal Center at Milford Point and Stratford Point are fantastic spots to find multitudes of common, scarce, and rare species. Lately numerous Nelson's Sparrows have delighted visitors at the former, while of course on Sunday a rare Grasshopper Sparrow showed up at the latter. However, evidence of fall sparrow migration can often be found nearly anywhere.

A shy Lincoln's Sparrow trying to stay out of the light for me

A good example of this is the case of the three Vesper Sparrows I had in Stratford last week. This Connecticut endangered species can be tough to find even in some of the most well-known areas. I was not specifically looking for it at during any of my sightings. The first was at the Stratford community gardens, what has been a bit of a hot spot lately. Finding one feeding in the lawn at Boothe Memorial Park while at the hawk watch site the next day was a bit surprising. The third was in a weedy, gravel-filled open area by the Sikorsky Bridge. These are all essentially favorable habitats for the species, but they are a bit unconventional and off the beaten path for nearly all birders.

Vesper Sparrow by the Sikorsky Bridge in Stratford

A point I try to make to birders who ask me why we find so many rare or "good" birds in Stratford is that residents conscientiously spend time covering the town instead of going to well-known spots away from home. If you explore your own town, neighborhood, or even yard you may end up finding more than you expect. Yes, Stratford has a diverse range of habitats that makes it well suited to a large variety of birds. However, there is nothing particularly special about a patch of lawn in a park or a garden.

The same Vesper Sparrow still snacking

Any of those basic habitats can be found close to wherever you live in Connecticut. If you do not have time for a trip down to the CAS Center in Fairfield, take a walk down your street. If you cannot make it to the CAS Center at Pomfret for the morning try to go to a park in your town. I guarantee that at some point you will find a rare bird you did not expect and no one else would have ever seen - perhaps even a big one! Moreover, please remember to log all of these wonderful findings in eBird so they will be recorded for scientists and researchers across the world.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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