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Monday, August 21, 2006

Scarborough Marsh

Driving up to Maine to help with the Audubon Leadership Workshop at Hog Island, I stopped off at Scarborough Marsh to look for Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. It was windy, late in the day, and maybe late in the season, and I didn't have a lot of time--a recipe for disaster when searching for a particular bird. There were lots of wading birds out at the end of Eastern Road into the marsh, including two Tricolored Herons (only one was previously reported) that I glimpsed as they moved through the distant marsh pans.

Finally, I ran into some local folks who told me I was right in the middle of the best place for the sparrows (the north end of Eastern Road near the pans), and eventually with their scope, I was able to see a couple birds. Both Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows are here, and this time of year many of the birds are youngsters--making it a bit tricky to identify them as they pop up briefly in the middle of the marsh. However, I was lucky enough to see at least one that seemed to be a good Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow based on breast streaking and gray cheek. I also saw one really, really pale young Nelson's, and several others that had to go unidentified. The birds didn't really fit my previous search image of them based on field guide illustrations. Much more flat-headed, long-billed, and much less colorful then I expected. Field guides don't always do it for you, so there's nothing like in-the-field experience with birds to help you really become familiar with them. I left wanting to spend much more time getting to know these guys. Hopefully next time I'm in their range I'll have more time to really study these strange little birds (photo:

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