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Lapland Longspurs, a Red-shouldered, and Another Snowy

Published February 09, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Red-shouldered Hawk, Snowy Owl, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Black-capped Chickadee, Blue Jay, American Crow

Hiking through the Darien State Park today, Celeste and I saw a huge flock of Blue Jays that numbered at least 50 strong. They were gathered around some trees that had seed pods left - similar to the "helicopters" found on a maple.

We each had our First of Year sightings of the couple of Golden-crowned Kinglet; two were associating with some Black-capped Chickadees. After we left the little songbirds, I thought to myself, if it hadn't been for the chirps and cheeps from that little pocket of passerines, the woods would have been eerily silent.

After we were done with the park, we came upon a Red-shouldered Hawk along the side of the road. Nice!  Thank you to Joe Mitchell for the tip to look for that bird!  I re-found it again on the way home after I had gone solo out towards Batavia on a quest for field birds.

Up ahead, on my way to Batavia, I saw Snowy Owl #16 for me for this winter! I had yet to see a Snowy in a tree, so this was a treat!  Unfortunately, the lighting was very poor. It was such a gray day with lots of snow falling.  The photo is rough, but I'm including it to document #16!

I was hoping to get a better look at a Lapland Longspur before winter ended (will it ever???) - so I thought I'd drive around some farm areas looking for flocks of field birds. Sure enough, I came upon a large group of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and yes - Lapland Longspurs! A few even ventured close to where I was and I was happy to get a few photos that weren't way out in the field.

While I scanned the field with my spotting scope, my ears feasted on the musical songs of these wonderful birds. Such diverse, sweet sounds came from the three species. I would have loved it if some of the longspurs were in breeding plumage; the male's black face would truly have been a sight to see. No luck with that today. And soon, they'll be off back to the arctic to breed and, with them, my chances will go with them of seeing them decked out in their finest!

An interesting fact about the Lapland Longspur is that, outside North America, its name is known as Lapland Bunting. The reason it's called "longspur" here is because its hind toe is like an elongated claw.

It was a full day with some great sights. Along with the highlights I mentioned, we also saw many Mallards, American Crows, feral Rock Pigeons, Downy Woodpecker, Juncos, and a flock of American Tree Sparrows that Celeste found.
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Lapland Longspur
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Lapland Longspur
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Lapland Longspur
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Lapland Longspur - can you see the elongated claw of the hind toe of the right foot? It really hangs down!
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Lapland Longspur
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Lapland Longspur
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Lapland Longspur and a Horned Lark
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Lapland Longspur and a Snow Bunting
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Snow Bunting and a Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Snow Bunting
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Snow Buntings
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Snow Buntings
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Snow Bunting
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Snowy Owl #16
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Red-shouldered Hawk
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Red-shouldered Hawk
Reply from: Tim on 2/10/2014 10:26 PM
 Great job Sue! The weather conditions were terrible and made photography extremely tough, you handled it well .It is nice to see a Snowy on something other than a telephone pole.
Reply from: Sue on 2/12/2014 7:31 AM
 Thanks, Tim - it was tough photography that day! But it was fun to be out and enjoying the birds!