Sunday, October 9, 2016

Nelson's Sparrow at Plumb Beach - 9th October

After last week's failure I headed down to Plumb Beach to try and find Nelson's Sparrow. The weather was pretty horrible, but I prevailed, and, close to the outlet of the stream I started to find some sparrows. The birds were pretty flighty, and not inclined to sit at the top of the grass stems for very long, but I did find 5 birds, two of which sat still long enough to confirm that yes, they were Nelson's Sparrow. Unfortunately the birds I could photograph were not exactly classic, at best Saltmarsh/ Nelson's hybrids.

Compared to the Saltmarsh from last week this bird has a smaller bill and less brightly coloured malar stripe but the flank streaking should be more smudged.
The white belly is also more clearly defined, and the background colour of the breast and flanks is less white, and more buffy. Still

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Saltmarsh Sparrows on Randall's Island - 3rd Oct

On Saturday a report on ebird mentioned Nelson's Sparrows at a small saltmarsh at the north end of Randall's Island. Having Monday off I headed there instead of to work. I very quickly located the marsh, and the first birds I saw were three Saltmarsh-type sparrows. I got excellent views over the next half an hour, but I couldn't convince myself that I was looking at any 'pure' Nelson's One individual seemed to have a palar malar stripe, but the breast streaking of all three birds was quite clear, not at all smudged in the way I would expect.

Bird no.1, Saltmarsh Sparrow. Classic features, malar stripe more brightly orange than breast, strong bill, clearly dark streaked flanks
Possibly bird no 2. (could be no 1 again, they moved around and it was hard to be sure which was which). Similarly well-marked individual to no.1, and also a Saltmarsh Sparrow.
Bird no.3. A much paler malar stripe was the only feature that resembled Nelson's, everything else here say Saltmarsh. A high proportion of Nelson's Sparrows show indications of hybridisation with Saltmarsh, and I think this bird might fall into that category, hybrid Saltmarsh x Nelson's Sparrow.