A couple of days ago Ken Fuestel, a stalwart downstate New York birder, found a Lark Sparrow at Robert Moses State Park. This is not a terribly unexpected happening as Lark Sparrows are more than annual in fall migration in New York and they are usually found along the coast, which Robert Moses State Park, situated on a barrier island in Suffolk County, certainly is. In fact, Lark Sparrows have been found there annually since at least 2010, according to eBird, and I am sure for many years before that. (Let this serve as a reminder for birders to input their historical data!) As a matter of fact, I saw one at Robert Moses just last year!

But I hadn’t seen one this year and I was conveniently passing by the park* on my way home from a morning’s birding at Cupsogue Beach County Park further east so I thought I would stop and see if I could track down the bird that had been faithful to edges of Field 2. Of course, Robert Moses State Park on a sunny summer weekend day is loaded with beach-goers, so I was a little concerned that the bird might have made itself scarce. I had no reason to be worried. Within minutes of my arrival another birder alerted me to the bird’s presence and I got to spend about three minutes with a fine example of Chondestes grammacus before it flew off to the opposite end of the parking field.

Lark Sparrow

Though Lark Sparrows are easy to identify when you get this kind of look I wonder how many birders would take a second look if all they saw was a view like in the picture at the top of the post. Bird every bird! You never know what you’ll find. (Click for a bigger image.)

Lark Sparrow showing white tail corners

Other than the obvious facial markings, the white outer tail corners are a great mark for Lark Sparrow, especially if you are seeing a distant flock of sparrows flushing. Plus, it gave me an excuse to use this near-miss of an image!

Lark Sparrow 2

What’s not to like about a quick twitch that gets you a snazzy year bird? Nothing, that’s what!

*By “conveniently passing by the park” I mean passing within ten or so miles.

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.