Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sparrow Migration at Sandy Hook

On Friday, someone reported a Le Conte's Sparrow at Sandy Hook near the marine biology labs. Since this is a species none of us have seen, I went with my mother and sister yesterday to see if it might still be around. Migration was still heavy at Sandy Hook. The field south of Gunnison Road near the labs was loaded with sparrows – at least 9 species by my count. Unfortunately, none of the dozens was a Le Conte's, as far as I could tell. It is difficult to be sure that one was not present since the sparrow action was hot and heavy at times.

Sparrows present along Gunnison Road included Song, Swamp, Lincoln's, Savannah, White-throated, American Tree, and Chipping, along with many Dark-eyed Juncos. Even without the Le Conte's or other Ammodramus types, it was delightful to watch so many sparrows yesterday. Getting the chance to watch Lincoln's and Swamp Sparrows was especially rewarding – the first for its relative rarity and the second since it is one of my favorites. In the same area, there were good numbers of Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Phoebes, both kinglet species, and Brown Creepers. Many of the kinglets seemed to be foraging at or near ground level, often in a grassy lawn. Normally I see kinglets higher in the vegetation structure, so I was surprised to see them acting like juncos.

Raptors included several Red-tailed Hawks, at least two Merlins, and a few Sharp-shinned Hawks. Someone reported a Yellow-breasted Chat at the Gunnison lot a day or two ago, but it was either not present or uncooperative today. However, there was an immature White-crowned Sparrow near Battery Gunnison.

Here are a few photos of the autumn foliage on Sandy Hook:

There were very few butterflies around, but I did see a few Pearl Crescents.