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Clay-colored Sparrow in Olcott and Black Terns at INWR

Published July 08, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, Clay-colored Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Orchard Oriole, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cedar Waxwing

Clay-colored Sparrows have been seen in Olcott, NY and I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to see one yesterday afternoon. These medium-sized sparrows vocalize a buzz-like sound - 4 or 5 notes - that sounds more like an insect than a bird. It doesn't take long for your ears to tune-in to his call.

I was with Celeste, Betsy, and Willie today and, as we made our way back through the fields, we began honing-in on a couple of Clay-colored Sparrows' "songs".  Betsy first spotted one at the top of a willow tree - but it flew off just as the rest of us were raising our bins. A few more tries and the sparrow came right back to the same willow and we got wonderful views that time. He ended-up being quite cooperative; he sang a lot, preened, and posed for some photos for us!  Celeste even got a video of him!

We passed several Savannah Sparrows on the way in and out of the park, and also spotted a Warbling Vireo, a couple of Willow Flycatchers, Northern Rough-winged, Tree, and Bank Swallows, Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Meadowlarks, and Bobolinks.

My favorite bird of the day, though, was a young Orchard Oriole. The fledgling allowed us to slowly walk past him (cameras clicking) at a close distance of only 6-8 feet away.  What a treat!  S/he was much more yellow in coloring than I would have expected from an Orchard Oriole, the gape was still quite prominent, and he was quite alone - with no parent in view.

After I left Olcott, I drove southeast to INWR to try one more time for a Black Tern.  I don't remember if this was my third or fourth attempt, but either way, it was a charm! I not only saw ONE Black Tern, but SEVEN! At one point, several were circling low over the marsh giving quite a nice show.

Apparently, the Black Tern males catches a small fish or dragonfly and flies around in view of potential mates.  If a female wants to accept his invitation, she follows him to where he's perched and the male will feed her his catch.  I don't think that's what I was witnessing tonight, but it was still very neat watching them all swim around the marsh, hovering, diving, and skimming the water.
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Clay-colored Sparrow
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Clay-colored Sparrow
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Clay-colored Sparrow singing
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Clay-colored Sparrow
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Savannah Sparrow
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Willow Flycatcher
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Orchard Oriole Fledgling
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Orchard Oriole Fledgling
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4 Black Terns flying over this end of the marsh
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Black Tern