Saturday, October 20, 2007

Savannah Sparrows in Griggstown

With last night's heavy rain storm, and generally unfavorable winds for migration the last few days, it was hard to predict how good the birding would be this morning. We headed down to the Griggstown Grasslands to see what would be in the meadows there. As it happens, two groups of birds stood out for their abundance.

The first group were the sparrows, and principally savannah sparrows. There must have been about fifty of these tiny spritely birds clustered into a few fields right around the parking lot. At times there seemed to be one on every dried mullein stalk. These were not the only sparrows. They were accompanied in the meadow by several richly-colored swamp sparrows and many song sparrows. A few field sparrows and a single chipping sparrow rounded out the mix. Other areas of the preserve held more song and white-throated sparrows. Several palm warblers were scattered around the grasslands.

The second large group were the diurnal raptors. These were notable both for diversity and for numbers of individuals. First-year harriers were new arrivals at the grasslands this month. A Cooper's and several sharp-shinned hawks made brief appearances. At one point a group of four red-tailed hawks circled overhead; there may have been more than that, as red-tails were visible at several points on the walk. Kestrel flybys included one male that circled and gave great looks. Several large kettles of vultures - including one of about twenty black vultures - passed through.

Fall foliage season is well underway, though it has not reached its peak yet. The trees along the canal were especially beautiful where they reflected on the water in the morning light.

Update (10/21): After seeing a lot of white-crowned sparrows at Sandy Hook, I think that two of the sparrows we saw yesterday were actually immature white-crowned sparrows.


Canada Goose
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Carolina Wren
Northern Mockingbird
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Tufted Titmouse
Blue Jay
American Crow
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch