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Nelson’s Sparrow

Posted on Oct 11, 2016

The October sparrow push continues! A huge flight of nocturnal and diurnal migrant birds have moved through the Northeast region in the wake of last weekend’s cold front, and that timing was about as good as it gets for sparrow lovers. This morning I was wandering around Stratford Point doing some surveying with my dog Zach and recording whatever would pop out of dozens and dozens of songbirds present. He is a large sheltie, and his oversized fox look is very helpful. He assists in hazing waterfowl out of the historic shot fall zone, and in the uplands little birds usually flush then keep an eye on him, allowing you to get binoculars on them or take a photo. Instead of immediately flying far away from a scary human they come from the grass or out of the brush to watch him, and ground-loving sparrows are perfect targets. He loves birds as grew up watching them from afar with me and would never think of harming any, and usually does not pay the little ones any attention. Today he helped find what I believe is the first record of Nelson’s Sparrow (Ammodramus nelsoni) for Stratford Point.


It flew up from one of our bird gardens as Zach wandered around the edge, pausing to look at him as I raised my binoculars. After readying my camera I was only able to literally snap one close but backlit photo that washed out all of the beauty of the bird. Thankfully it only flew into the nearby pollinator meadow where we observed it again before it went into the thicker grasslands. Later on this afternoon it was back at the bird garden, snacking on seeds, and granted that terrific look you see above while perched in our brush pile. Zach has previously flushed Grasshopper Sparrows in the same fashion. I told him that his next task is either the LeConte’s Sparrow or Henslow’s Sparrow. Good luck, kid.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator