This morning in a pea-soup fog I drove up to the Saratoga National Cemetery before work in the hopes of tracking down Vesper Sparrows. They had been reported there over the weekend by Jory, who you met when we went looking for a Tufted Duck. I even spoke to Jory yesterday to make sure I knew exactly where to look as Vesper Sparrows are not particularly easy to come by in these parts.

…an aside…I wasn’t kidding about the lousiness of these pictures…if it were possible I would recommend that you close your eyes while reading this post…consider this your warning that serious retinal damage could result…

The damp fog seemed to suppress the bird song and only the Song Sparrows and Brown-headed Cowbirds were singing when I got out of my car. Chipping Sparrows soon joined in too and a tapping noise led me to a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. A Dark-eyed Junco taking flight had me excited for a second, as the white edges to its tail are almost exactly like those of a Vesper Sparrow, but my excitement was dashed when a closer look revealed its black-and-white plumage.

With my watch showing it was time for me to get for work I reluctantly left, vowing to return for another try after work. Driving away from the cemetery, however, sparrows on telephone lines made me pull over and I got this shot of a Savannah Sparrow, the first of three lousy pictures I will be sharing with you this post:

Lousy Savannah Sparrow

what little light there was was backlighting

After work I drove out to Lake Lonely to check up on the Purple Martin colony there. No Purple Martins yet but many Tree Swallows were present. I decided to stop at Saratoga Lake and try to get a decent flight picture of one of the Barn Swallows that nest under the bridge there and instead I got lousy pictures of them (the best I could do in an hour of shooting):

Lousy Barn Swallow

far away and fast moving, not a fun combination

After that disappointing experience I decided it was time to track down the Vesper Sparrows at the cemetery and sure enough, within two minutes of getting out of my car I spotted one. It was kind enough to let me take a lousy picture of it:

Lousy Vesper Sparrow

this had a chance of being decent if only the bird was within hailing distance

At least it was a year bird! Some days I wish I had just left my camera home. But of course, if I had, I would have had a Vesper Sparrow land on a branch five feet in front of me with gorgeous setting-sunlight on it.

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.