For the second week in a row, we saw a rarity on the birdwalk! But today, it was "self-found," which is much more satisfying. And then, we found what was - based on the date - an even "better" bird!
We began with a scan of the still-quiet bay waters, where a lone hen COMMON EIDER was all there was to see up close. Further out, on the last of an exposed ledge, 8 DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS shared the rock with several RING-BILLED GULLS and a half-dozen lingering BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS. A few moments later, a male BUFFLEHEAD arrived - our first of the season. A NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD stood guard over the happenings.
The scrubby edge hosted a couple of RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, and our first pockets of YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS (25+ by the end of the walk). As we approached the pasture and garden, the always-ample-numbers of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS became apparent, with a final tally of a conservative 31 on the morning. A smattering of PALM WARBLERS totaled 5 by the time we departed.
Of course, we're here for sparrows though, and between the edge and the organic garden, we had tallies of at least 50 SAVANNAH SPARROWS, 30 SONG SPARROWS, 15 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS, 6+ CHIPPING SPARROWS, 1 SWAMP SPARROW, and 1 DARK-EYED JUNCO. At least 30 AMERICAN GOLDFINCHES were also present.
However, our slow and careful scanning of every sparrow eventually yielded a quick but identifiable glimpse of a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW! If you were looking at the right place at the right time, we had a great - albeit brief - view, but for most, it was just a flash. It played hard to get for a while, but after some time, it returned to the same spot and we all had much more satisfying looks. We followed it in flight and tracked it down once again, and we were then treated to incredible views of it foraging side-by-side with a few Chipping Sparrows for perfect comparison.
Meanwhile, a GREAT BLUE HERON had flown by and eventually settled into the marsh, two GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLETS called from the woods, and BLUE JAYS were actively cashing acorns.
After another quick scan of the water, we returned to our cars. We had a big group today, so our cars ended up divided. Those who remained behind my car and I were all getting into our vehicles when I jumped back out. I heard a call note as I was half in the car, which I thought was probably just a Blackpoll Warbler. But to be sure, we scoured the oaks above us for a minute or three, and then the BAY-BREASTED WARBLER popped out! Highly unexpected given the late October date (Bay-breasted are much earlier migrants than Blackpolls on average), this was actually a "better" rarity for the date than the Clay-colored! However, the Clay-colored was a "life bird" for more people in the group!