#379: Grasshopper Sparrow

Last Sunday, 2007-06-17, Peter Dorosh led a small contingent from the Brooklyn Bird Club to explore Somerset County in New Jersey. The first stop was the Negri-Nepote-Leni Preserve, a grasslands area surrounded by farms. We got there about 7:45 A.M., and almost immediately Sandi Paci heard a Prairie Warbler, which we soon located:

small yellow bird

There were numerous other birds in the area: Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Cedar Waxwing, Brown-headed Cowbird, Eastern Towhee, House Wren, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird, Chickadee (probably Black-capped), Eastern Kingbird, and so many Indigo Buntings that we eventually stopped looking at each individual. There were quite a few Chipping Sparrows in the tree line, and numerous sparrows in the tall grass, which we kept hoping would turn into Grasshopper Sparrows, but persisted in remaining Field Sparrows. :-)

We followed the red trail northwest along the edge of the preserve to the pond, which was hosting a Great Blue Heron, a couple of Mallards, a couple of Barn Swallows, a few Tree Swallows, and a Killdeer. Far away, perched on a power line, we scoped out first Blue Grosbeak of the day, one of 2-3 at the site and also our first Northern Flicker.

We continued on the red trail along the edge of the property to a blacktop road that leads to a house in the middle of the preserve. The birds were mostly the same along this stretch but we did see Common Sulphur (butterfly), Orange Sulphur, White-tailed Skimmer (dragonfly), woodchucks, and rabbits. Just past the road, the grass had been cut much lower than in the rest pf the preserve. (Regular mowing or controlled burning is necessary to prevent succession in grassland preserves.) Near the edge of the taller grass I spotted a small sparrow, and called it as another Field Sparrow. However when it flew and Peter spotted it, he immediately pronounced it as a Grasshopper Sparrow form the fluttery flight. He got the scope on it, which made it obvious that he was right. It was indeed a Grasshopper Sparrow, my 379th life bird, and about #151 for New Jersey.

We had been considering turning around at that point, but we took that as an omen that we should keep going so we continued walking along the edge of the preserve. In the patch of woods at the Northwest corner, we added Yellow Warbler to the day list, along with Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk flying overhead. Further along the trail we heard and then saw both Eastern Wood-Peewee and Willow Flycatcher. We got a little lost at this point because some of the trails on the map did not appear to actually be there. However this did lead us to our last bird for the site: Common Yellowthroat doing its Witchety-witchety song.

It was only about 11:00 when we got back to the car, so we continued on to 6-Mile Run/Blackwood Mills and then to Sourland Mountain Preserve. At 6-mile Run we added Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, Black Vulture, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, and this as yet unidientified but very cute Skipper:


Sourland Mountain was the least birdy site of the day, but the time we got there it was getting late. Nonetheless, we added four species there: Canada Goose, Ovenbird, Downy Woodpecker, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow. Total avian species count for the day was about 47

  • Great Blue Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Canada Goose
  • Mallard
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Killdeer
  • Mourning Dove
  • Chimney Swift
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Willow Flycatcher
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Carolina Wren
  • House Wren
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Ovenbird
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Field Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Grosbeak
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • Black Vulture
  • Grasshopper Sparrow

Maybe this list goes to 49 if you add a couple of birds that were heard only I’m not confident of. But overall a very nice day.

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