On Saturday and Sunday, I led field trips for the Cayuga Bird Club at the
Cornell Garden Plots (known also as the Cornell Community Gardens) along
Freese Road.  On both days, the viewing met my high expectations, with
everyone getting good looks at LINCOLN’S, SWAMP, WHITE-CROWNED, and
WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS.  There were dozens of SONG SPARROWS too of course,
providing helpful visual and aural points of reference against which to
pick out the less-common birds.

The White-crowned Sparrows seem unusually abundant and easy to find this
year, with many sightings on each day, including a few of multiple
individuals in a single field of view.  Conversely, SAVANNAH SPARROWS
continue to seem relatively scarce at the site this year.  We barely
managed to see one on each day.  I also didn’t find any FIELD SPARROWS at
all in the gardens this weekend, though Ken Haas saw one on Saturday.

The most surprising and distinctive sparrow of the weekend was a female
EASTERN TOWHEE on Saturday, which perched up for us for about 20 seconds on
the fence of the Dyce Lab corral.  Sunday offered up its own special
touches, including a PALM WARBLER on the same spot on that fence, plus many
fine birds across the road on the Liddell Lab side – an EASTERN MEADOWLARK
resting in the grass, a BLUE-HEADED VIREO in a small tree near the
building, four WILD TURKEYS, a female NORTHERN HARRIER, and the first
OSPREY I’ve seen in weeks.  Ken Kemphues and Leigh Stivers also found a
MARSH WREN in the cattails around the pond.

On both days I ended the walks by offering a visit to the grassy field west
of Bluegrass Lane, north of the Equine Research Park, to try our luck
finding Nelson’s Sparrow in the hidden cattail patches.  Regrettably, a
giant bolt of lightning curtailed our effort just as it was beginning on
Saturday.  Fortunately, we all escaped incineration and even inundation, as
the torrents held off until we were already back in our cars.

On Sunday, we did manage to get out to the field, though fog and wind
hampered our viewing.  We didn’t find any birds of special note in the
grass, nor in the goldenrod and cattails.  But as we walked back along the
gravel road, we got two last highlights for the weekend.  The first was a
Lincoln’s Sparrow on a desiccated corn husk, offering close, wide-open
(albeit fog-shrouded) views for probably two full minutes.  Then we had the
weekend’s best views of Savannah Sparrow browsing the puddles and gravel at
the grass edge.

I got a lot of help on both days from the sharp eyes and insight of many
other club members, especially Ken, Leigh, Bob McGuire and Phil McNeil, as
well as sparrow scientist Zena Casteel.  My thanks to them, and to all who
came out for the walks!

Mark Chao


Cayugabirds-L List Info:

1) http://www.mail-archive.com/cayugabirds-l@cornell.edu/maillist.html
2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds
3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html

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