#443 Lark Sparrow at Irvine Regional Park

Tuesday Neil Gilbert posted about a Chestnut-sided Warbler on the Orange County Birds mailing list:

I got October off to a good start with a very nice hatch-year CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER at Irvine Regional Park in Orange. I saw it near the entrance to the park. It was hanging out with an enormous flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers, Western Bluebirds, House Finches, and Lark Sparrows.

Now Chestnut-sided Warblers are actually reasonably frequent in migration in New York City parks, so this wasn’t a target bird for me. However the Lark Sparrows he mentioned almost in passing are not a common East Coast bird, and I’d never seen one, so Wednesday afternoon after work I hopped in the Prius and headed up Jamboree to Irvine regional Park. I got there about 6:00 and found his flocks of robins, bluebirds, and warblers. There were also lots of House Finches. However I did not find either the Chestnut-sided Warbler or the Lark Sparrows. :-(

Sometimes you have to keep trying though, so the next morning I made a 15-mile detour on the way to work and stopped in the park around 9:00 A.M. This time the flocks of Robins and Bluebirds had vanished, though there were more than usual numbers of Anna’s Hummingbirds. I drove around Sycamore Hill and as I was coming back to the entrance I heard an unusual call I didn’t recognize so I parked and hopped out.

I never did figure out what the call was, but by the baseball backstop I found four Lark Sparrows:

2 Lark Sparrows in grass

As sparrows go, Lark Sparrows quite distinctive with bold facial patterns unlike any other North American bird, and an unstreaked breast with one central spot. They look a little like a Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in non-breeding plumage, but not really like any of the local birds so they’re really easy to ID once you find them.

I wandered around a bit, but I had to get to work so I didn’t spend long. Total species count was 11 in 20 minutes:

  • Mourning Dove
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Acorn Woodpecker
  • Black Phoebe
  • Common Raven
  • Western Bluebird
  • European Starling
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Lark Sparrow
  • House Finch
  • Lesser Goldfinch

This weekend I should have a little more time to spend up in the hills, and see what else is coming through. I hear there’s a Bald Eagle hanging out at Peters Canyon, which would be a county bird for me. There are also three more sparrows I could get around here this year with some effort: Black-chinned, Black-throated, and Brewer’s.

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