Sunday, May 30, 2010

Clay-colored Sparrow

Early this morning I went over to Heritage park to do a little birding. I had rather low expectations as it seems that migration has been virtually over for the last week. This view seemed confirmed as I found no migrants for the first forty-five minutes I was birding. When I came to the intersection of the meadow and windbreak trails, however, I was in for a big surprise. I heard something buzzing in the field to the north. My first impression was that the bird was a Golden-winged Warbler as I had seen one nearby last year and the buzzing was generally repeated in groups of three or more. It didn't strike me as quite right, though, and it seemed to me that I had heard the song recently but I hadn't heard a Golden-winged Warbler since last spring. At last I was able to locate the bird singing in a small tree. When it flew down into another bush I was surprised to see that it looked like a sparrow. When I got my binoculars on the bird its unique face pattern made me quickly realize that I was looking at a Clay-colored Sparrow! While they can be found regularly in Macomb and Wayne counties, Clay-colored Sparrows are almost never found in Oakland County (ebird lists only five records and one of these is questionable). I quickly called Mike Mencotti and he was there in twenty minutes. The bird was still singing when he came and he was able to hear it but he only got a brief glimpse of it before it fell silent and disappeared. I was not able to get a picture of this one so here is a photo of a Clay-colored Sparrow that I took last week in Macomb county. This was certainly a bird I never expected to find at Heritage.

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