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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rare Sparrow at Floyd Bennett Field

I took a bike ride out to Floyd Bennett Field this afternoon, not looking for anything specific, but just to see what birds might be around. Within one minute of entering the park I spotted a beautiful sparrow.

I had entered the park at the Aviator Sports exit and pedaled directly to the Cricket Field. A flock of Canada Goose were the only birds feeding on the stubby grass. I continued towards the opening in the berm that takes you out onto the main road and a small parking area for the "North Forty". As I passed the berm a large sparrow flew out of a patch of pokeweed and over my head, landing next to a puddle at the north side of the parking area. Flashing white tail feathers caught my eye as it was flying. I focused my bins on a sparrow with an unmistakable, bold facial pattern. At the time, it was overcast, but even at a distance this bird's thick crown stripes and ear patch really stood out. I called my friend Shane and told him that I was looking at a Lark Sparrow.

Shane was just across the bridge at Fort Tilden. I said I'd wait, which gave me time to study the bird. It seemed skittish as it drank and bathed at a small puddle. It stayed close to the edge of the pavement, nervously feeding on seeds. There was a lot of helicopter activity flying over the North Forty, but I suspect
what was really spooking this bird was the presence of two or three hungry kestrels.

When Shane arrived we quickly relocated the bird, which had flown back towards the pokeweed patch where I had initially spotted it. It was feeding in a weedy area on the back side of the berm that borders the parking area for the North Forty. It is just south of the cricket field. After Shane left I continued riding around Floyd Bennett Field, checking the grasslands for birds and butterflies. The sky eventually cleared, so I rode back to try and find the Lark Sparrow to take some photos.

I relocated the bird pretty quickly and watched it from 3:45pm until about 4:00pm. It seemed to have a feeding circuit which included the edge of the berm at the southwestern edge of the pavement, the puddle at the north edge of the pavement and the weedy area just behind the puddle. Good luck if you go looking for this anything-but-plain-looking sparrow.

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