Today, young birders Alex Burdo, Zach Smart, and I birded a couple of spots around Westport and Fairfield, searching for unusual fall birds. We met at the Richardson Tree Farm in Westport where Dickcissel and Blue Grosbeak had recently been reported. Starting down the main path we noticed tons of sparrows flying around in the foxtail grass and across the path, with some perching in the pines and on the path. Most were Song Sparrows, a fact that would hold for the rest of the morning. They were everywhere. A few Palm Warblers were also around.
Soon Alex spotted two sparrows on the path that looked interesting. Getting the scope on them we realized the first was a Savannah Sparrow, but the second was different. Alex called it and we all agreed- Grasshopper Sparrow! These birds are very unusual away from their breeding areas up around Hartford in CT (we saw them in June), and so we didn’t expect them at all. The excitement continued, because soon after the Dickcissel showed up in a small pine, showing briefly but nicely before dissapearing again. The malar strip was bold, and a very definitive field mark.
Soon after I spotted the Blue Grosbeak in the grass, which went on to fly up and perch on top of a short evergreen, providing great scope looks (hence the photo at the top). The Grosbeak sat up on the tree for a really long time, which was a nice treat. We had seen both our targets here in a short time plus a new, great find! We spent a little while longer here, finding assorted things including a close Cooper’s Hawk, but soon decided it was time to move on.
Our next stop before Pine Creek, our main destination, was Sasco Creek Beach, looking for Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow. It didn’t take long- we got onto the jetty, alongside the grassy area, and almost instantly all of us were looking at multiple Nelson’s Sparrow among the spartina. Zach counted 11 of these guys. They were beautiful, cooperative, and active, making for a very fun time. I didn’t get any photos, unfortunately. Two Belted Kingfishers were also present in the pond across the road.
Leaving the beach we moved on to Pine Creek in Fairfield, where Alex had had many good birds in the past few weeks. It was great, with lots of birds and some unusual ones. By the end we had tallied 46 species just along the trail. Highlights included: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Tennessee Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, American Kestrel and Merlin overhead, and a Gray-cheeked/Bicknell’s type thrush, which, though never firmly identified, leaned strongly towards Gray-cheeked. There were also loads of sparrows with many Swamp and other assorted passerines including Blue-headed Vireo and many Ruby-crowned Kinglets.
Overall a great morning of birding for the CYBC!
UPDATE- LATER IN THE DAY AT HAMMO….
American Golden Plover– 5
Special thanks to Fabian Rosing, a German young birder who is an exchange student here and spotted these guys!
A poor photo of 2 below-