Eurasian Tree Sparrow. Normally found overseas a small population is present in the St. Louis area and in nearby areas in Illinois and southeastern Iowa. Its one of the 'Pilgrimage' birds; at some point you make the trip to see them in their limited range just like the Kirtland's Warbler.
So when one shows up in Cape May, a place hardly in need of coercion to go to for birding you know what happens to a powerbirder. And Avian, so much less in need of arm twisting than in the past, was a wiling co-conspirator. Or enabler - depends on your point of view. I inquired of many others but the only takers was the ever so overly enthusiastic Shrimpkee.
We made good time down to the location, and started by checking one of the two locations it had been seen at. Not there, but shortly some others came by and told us it had just been seen at the other. We took a brisk walk over and waited with some others. I passed the time by chatting with an affable chap from Philly, though his accent was distinctly British. I guess the cheese-steaks will do that to you.
One thing I didn't do is take my eye off the prize. All too often at a 'stake-out' folks degenerate into war-story groups, recounting tales of when they saw this and that, and the time they were so absorbed in conversation that they didn't notice the Harpy Eagle that carried off their child.
With my ears in conversation but my eyes trained on the trees and feeders where the bird had been, I was rewarded by spotting the bird and getting the others on it. Yay! ABA bird # 697!
|Eurasian Tree Sparrow [ on left ]|
My impression from the field guides was that the bird would be painfully similar to the dreaded House Sparrow. In actuality, it looked quite different, and dramatically so such that it's difference leaped out at you. The back was a light tan vs the dark back of the HOSP. The head was distinctly brown, vs the grey head of the HOSP. and the nice cheek spot. Yes!
We walked over to the light house to use the facilities, and after Shrimpkee noticed the Purple Martin Gourds, I then spotted one flying over the parking lot. By the hawk watch we had our first Pine Warbler and a smattering of ducks in the various ponds.
We then headed over to the beach for a mid day ensnackulation, after which we found Laughing Gulls, Bonaparte's Gulls, and Fortster's Terns, as well as lots of Red-throated Loons [ perhaps all the ones that seemed to be missing from LI's shores?] and some Scoters.
By this point it was clear that we picked a good day to be out birding, as it seemed that every time we looked we found more and more species. The trend continued at the 'beanery' where we had Pine, Prairie, and Myrtle Warblers. Overhead we had Rough-winged, Barn, and Tree Swallows.
We made a stop at Stone Harbor where we got Piping Plover, OysterCatcher and Snowy Owl, as well as hundreds of Dunlin and Sanderling on the beach.
Our next stop was Brigantine where we had more ducks, and Bluebirds. All in all a great day to be out birding, finishing the day with almost 90 species! And lets not forget, lifer!