GBP Notes 10/23/20 – No Scoters, But…

Good Morning GreatBirdPics members!

We took off yesterday with Birding Buddy Mark to Rainbow Beach in search of Scoters.  Rainbow Beach is about an hour away and is bordered by a large waste-water treatment facility.  Sitting on Lake Michigan, it has a long break-wall to protect the facility from the lake and the area between the break-wall and the shore attracts a variety of waterfowl during the fall and winter.  Our targets were Black and Surf Scoters.

When we arrived a heavy mist surrounded us.  We lugged our scopes out to the channel and of course all the waterfowl were at least 200 yards away, hugging the break-wall.  Our scan showed hundreds of birds out there – Scaups, Redheads, Horned Grebes, and Coots made up the vast majority of birds we could identify.  No Scoters.  After searching for about 45 minutes we reluctantly turned back toward the parking lot.

As we walked a number of Swamp Sparrows flew ahead of us as they fed on the tall grasses on the dunes.  We had seen reports of LeConte’s and Nelson’s Sparrows there, so we kept our eyes open.  Mark drew our attention to a sparrow feeding about 40 yards away – he said it looked “orangey”.  Here’s what we saw:

This bird sat there for a long time feeding on the seeds of the grasses but it was obscured by the stalks in front of it and it waved back and forth as it clung to the stalks in the wind.  It was hard to identify and eventually it flew down and out of sight, but it looked different from what he had been seeing.  We walked over to the area where we last saw it and couldn’t find it.  Birds have the ability to vanish from one area, only to show up elsewhere.  Karen spotted it about 20 yards away, still feeding on the grasses but this time I was able to get some clearer shots like this one:

Look at the beautiful colors on this sparrow!  The mustard-yellow head with buffy streaks down its side made this one of the most beautiful sparrows we’ve ever seen.  LeConte’s or Nelson’s?  Both have extensive yellow on their heads, but the Nelson’s Sparrow has a gray nape on the back of its head.   So we set out to find Scoters but… Karen and I got a Nelson’s Sparrow Lifer!

Have a great weekend – Happy Birding!


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