Thursday, February 18, 2016

Old Washington Crossing Rd 2/18--HARRIS'S SPARROW

Driving through Trenton this morning, which I've done more this month than I've done in my life, I was thinking that I don't have an especially large Mercer County list, but I do have a lot of tasty birds on it--Greater White-fronted Goose, Barnacle Goose, Crested Caracara, Red Phalarope, White-winged Crossbill--and now, HARRIS'S SPARROW, a lifer for me.

This bird was first reported over the weekend, during the Great Backyard Bird Count, when a lot of casual birders list birds over the long President's Day weekend. So I was dubious about the listing, because a lot of birds get reported that are simply wrong. And a mid-west species in New Jersey seemed unlikely. But a few birders gave it a shot and it turned out to be real, so I finally got in the car this morning and drove up to this quiet residential neighborhood and set myself up at the feeder in front of the house where it had been reported. I told myself I'd give it an hour to show. I really hate staking out a bird. There's always a conundrum as to whether you should stick in one place or walk around looking for the bird. I chose to stick--I didn't like the idea of walking up and down a residential street with my binoculars, even though by now the residents seem to be used to the birders. There is a weedy patch across the street from the house, where a lot of White-throated Sparrows were digging around in the dirt, so I split my time between watching them and watching the activity beneath the feeder. A couple of other birders were present.  After about a half hour a guy I know drove up in his pick up and told us that the bird was actually up the block a few houses. He suggested using our cars as blinds, since the bird was skittish. I drove up there and after a few minutes, to my delight, I found the bird. Usually in these cases, someone else sights it first and then I have a hell of a time following their directions to the bird. Shari can attest to this very well.

The bird was skittish and after a couple of us got very good looks, it dove back into a tangle. It came back out briefly and vanished before I could get my camera set up. By now a few more birders had shown up and the street was getting crowded. I would have left but there were a couple of guys standing in front of my car and I didn't want to disturb them. Good thing, too, because one of them found the bird on the lawn across the street from where we'd been looking. The bird ran along the front of the house and I was able to get, let us call them "documentary shots" of the bird, proof to eBird that I saw the sparrow. 

Aside from a couple of Purple Finches (also new for the county), there was nothing else there that I couldn't see from our back window. Getting a life bird in New Jersey, though--that's pretty rare.

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