This past Friday I was out birding the coast of Long Island for most of the day with Seth Ausubel and Rich Kelly. We started at Jones Beach despite the reports of some good lingering birds at Robert Moses State Park, mostly because we wanted to find our own good birds. Sadly, despite nearly three hours of effort, we didn’t manage to pick up anything exceptional. So we made our way east, stopping first at Zack’s Bay to try again to find our own good birds and to once again come up short. Finally, we surrendered to the inevitable and continued east to Robert Moses State Park to try to track down the already-reported Clay-colored Sparrow and Blue Grosbeak at Field 2 and the Lark Sparrow out by the lighthouse.

Of the first two we only managed to catch brief glimpses of the latter bird, the Blue Grosbeak, before it and the small flock it was traveling with, which presumably contained the Clay-colored Sparrow, headed deep into the dunes. It was on to the Lark Sparrow, which had been spotted several days earlier and had stuck.

Now, before I go further, I should explain that none of these three birds are ridiculous rarities. A dedicated birder who birds good coastal locations in New York for the fall season should expect to see at least two of the three and probably all three. But they are birds that are worth seeing and birds that could easily be missed for the year if you don’t have time to bird the coast as regularly as you would like. Anyway, we wanted to see this Lark Sparrow and the somewhat contradictory location information that other birders were giving us wasn’t terribly helpful. Sure, they all started with us walking down the gravel road towards the lighthouse but then the directions parted ways. Which, when I think about it, makes sense, because it is not like sparrows sit in one spot and wait for birders to come look at them. They roam around and do their best to make birders miss them.

Would we find the bird?

Rather than leave you in suspense (which probably wouldn’t work anyway considering the picture at the top of the post) I will let you know that we found the bird after less than five minutes of searching and it was as cooperative as could be, flushing up to a dead pine tree and making itself at home there.

Lark Sparrow at Robert Moses State Park

Lark Sparrow in New York

Lark Sparrow Chondestes grammacus

Once we had our fill of the Lark Sparrow we headed out because our stomachs were rumbling and we had an appointment with a deli. After our late lunch, Rich said his good byes and it was left to Seth and me to come up with something else to do

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.