Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Lark Sparrow

It was on Sunday morning amid the thick fog that I ventured out for a typical morning of birding.  Unexpectedly, it turned into an atypical day for me. Within 30 minutes, I had two new "life birds." Amazing! After just seeing the Lapland Longspur, I was more than satisfied, but that didn't stop me from checking some more places on my drive home.  One of these was the community of Blackhead. Creeping along in my car, I noticed two sparrow-like birds fly in with flashes of white on the tail. That was different. I stopped the car suddenly and opened the door just enough to hide behind it to take a couple of records shots. These were sparrows, but what kind?

The Lark Sparrow wasn't on my "watch list," in fact, it wasn't even on my radar. Yet, making an ID was not that difficult. The bright white breast with a black breast spot led me to straight to the Lark Sparrow.  Further substantiated by the chestnut colored ear-patch and white outer tail feathers, I was pretty sure this was a Lark Sparrow. However, given the western and southern range of this species, I was not ready to post the sighting until I had the pictures confirmed.
Confirmed it was! On Tuesday, I struck out to Cape Spear again. This time, I wanted to find the birds reported by Anne Hughes and Todd Boland - a Harlequin Duck, Ovenbird and Northern Parula.  Two of these birds are on my watch list, and I wanted to see them. No such luck!
As a general routine, I returned to Blackhead to see what I might find. There in the bright sunlight was a single Lark Sparrow. I spotted the other one flying in the nearby field.
This bird was quite tame and tolerated an approach to about 20 feet within its zone.  It foraged and fed, undisturbed by Catherine Barrett and me.  This turned out to be a "life" bird for Catherine as well. The next best thing to seeing a "life" bird for yourself is to enjoy watching someone else seeing a bird for the first time.
We had ample time to watch and study this bird yesterday. We even decided to move on before it did. The Lark Sparrow (according to Jared Clarke's blog, "Birding the Rock," rarities checklist accessible through the link on the right side of this page) is an unusual but not uncommon visitor to the province, often found annually.

It was really all a matter of good luck that enabled me to see this bird. Running back through postings in the Discussion Group over the years, I found that a Lark Sparrow had been reported in this very area in 2002. Another was spotted in Blackhead in 1998. It certainly pays to look closely at every bird.

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