Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Universal Law of Birding: Lark Sparrow

I have mentioned a number of times on this blog one my my crack-brained theories (read superstitions) about birding. Today I decided to upgrade it to a universal law of birding.

Yesterday, I went on an NJ Audubon trip to Brig with Mike. He & I arrived early and looked around the Gull Pond and other areas before the others in the group arrived. I heard bluebirds by the martin house field and wandered over there to see if I could find them. Sparrows were abundant yesterday and one, right in front of me, struck me as very unusual.
I was pretty sure I knew what it was, but I called Mike over to see what he thought. Immediately he confirmed my suspicion: Lark Sparrow, a relatively rare sparrow for New Jersey, and a great way to start the birding day. There was an Atlantic County Audubon walk nearby and Mike texted someone we knew on the walk and they hurried back up the road and all got great looks at this surprisingly cooperative bird.

Today I returned to Brig with Shari and our friend Christine. I didn't really expect to find the sparrow again, but while they went into the visitor's center, I looked around the area where the bird was yesterday and came up empty. However, when I went to the other side of the parking lot, behind the picnic tables, among the 100 or so Yellow-rumped Warblers, I saw the Lark Sparrow again in the bare branches of a tree. I tried to follow it as it flitted from one tree to the other, but by the time Shari & Christine found me, the bird was lost. We looked around the picnic area for a while but gave up and went around the Wildlife Drive where we saw a goodly number of birds, including some neat ones like Common Gallinule and American Golden-Plover. Before we left Shari & Christine looked around the same area again; they'd heard from another bird that a half-hour before the bird had been spotted. After a while Shari said, "Oh well, let's go." I was consoling her with the notion that she'd seen a couple this year in Ohio and Nevada, that she'd seen them before in New Jersey and since she doesn't care about county counting, didn't care if she saw one in Atlantic County when she said she thought she saw the bird near some tall grasses on the edge of the lot. I looked and saw Song Sparrows. "Oh well," she said again. Then, having officially given up on seeing the bird, it appeared at our feet! Both Shari and Christine got the field guide looks at the bird and we got in car very satisfied with the day list.

So, it is now a universal law of birding:
You will not find the rare bird you are looking for until you sincerely give up the idea of finding it.

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