Saturday, November 03, 2012

Rare Sparrow in Prospect Park

This morning Mike Yuan found a migrating Grasshopper Sparrow feeding in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Rare in NYC and only seen a couple of times in Prospect Park, this was a great bird who dropped in on today's North winds.

I was in Green-Wood Cemetery at the time enjoying a huge buteo flight when the text came in. Robin and I had counted an estimated 83 individual hawks up to that point, the most Red-tail Hawks I'd ever seen in a single day in New York City. Pretty exciting, but the Grasshopper Sparrow was an amazing find. It was spotted feeding on seeds on a sidewalk at the edge of the Nethermead Meadow across from the Quaker Cemetery. I tried not to stress out because I didn't think that there was any chance I'd get back to Prospect Park in time to see this threatened species of sparrow.

Robin and I managed to quickly grab a bus down 5th Avenue. When I got home I immediately pulled my bike off its rack and headed up the block. I bolted out of the house and pulled up at the Nethermead Meadow at a little passed 2pm. John, Chou Yen, Paul and Liz were staring down at a spot in the sidewalk a few yards in front of them. I expected the bird to be farther away, but this extremely cooperative, and usually hard to see bird was still present. It had barely moved from the spot all day. At one point, I had attempted to keep people from flushing it by blocking the sidewalk with my bike while leaning on the top tube. During the course of it feeding along the sidewalk, it hopped towards me and for several minutes was only about 2 feet from my bicycle's front wheel (will post photos on my blog later). It seemed amusing at the time, but in retrospect, this bird was clearly exhausted and hungry to the point of ignoring humans and feeding out in the open. With all the raptors passing over the park I'm amazed it wasn't picked off. I hope it survives.

Here's the song of the Grasshopper Sparrow and where they get their name from:

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