Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pole Farm (Sat), Randall's Island (Sun)

While spending a weekend coming down with something flu-like, I went out locally on Saturday morning to "Pole Farm", which has been renamed as Mercer Meadows from the old name of Mercer County Park North West.  Mercer Co are doing some work there - questionably they are laying in an asphalt path that runs adjacent (or right through) good Bobolink/Meadowlark territory.  However on the flip side of that they are actively going to be managing some of the lower fields just below the Federal City Road access road as native grasslands.  If they pull that off that'll mitigate things somewhat.

Turned out to be quite a decent quick visit to Pole Farm, with one American Kestrel and two Northern Harriers, one of which was aggressively harassing a Red-tailed Hawk.  Eastern Meadowlarks were singing in the mown field and sparrows put on a decent show.  Song Sparrows are resident here but on this morning I added Savannah Sparrow (2) and White-crowned Sparrow (3) to my Mercer Co list.  Formerly I used to go to Griggstown Preserve for those sort of species but Franklin Twp have taken to over-mowing that site.  Had I been feeling stronger I think a longer walk through Pole Farm would have netted a lot more sparrows.

Pine Siskins continued their epic invasion year, with a few heard flying by and one being chased by the over-optimistic Kestrel.  I might have heard Purple Finch and American Pipit (both likely under the circumstances) but they were a little too far away to be certain.  Finally I had a 30-strong flock of Killdeer flying over from a nearby farm field.

On Sunday I drove into NYC and Randall's Island - technically a part of New York County but not physically connected to Manhattan.  The targets were two Ammodramus sparrow species - Nelson's and Saltmarsh - that had been reported from a small salt marsh on the north side of the island.  Finding them is easiest at high tide and this was half way down and dropping - I had no luck with those species although ironically I've seen both in Central Park over the years (Nelson's once, Saltmarsh twice).  I did have a nice run of luck with other sparrows - one Vesper with a very strong eye-ring in with numerous Savannah and Song, a few Swamp, a few White-crowned, a flock of Chipping Sparrows.  This was my first ever Vesper in NYC (and perhaps NY State) although I haven't been looking hard for them.  Nashville Warbler was good, Yellow-rumped Warbler numerous and there was also a single Common Yellowthroat.  Again, Pine Siskins and Purple Finches were heard as fly-overs (and in one case actually seen).  I'm not sure the 120+ mile round-trip did my flu symptoms any favors, but the Vesper Sparrow was a good find.

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