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Nelson's Sparrow in Anne Arundel; Howard to Calvert


Bill Hubick


Bill Hubick


Sun, 18 Oct 2009 19:50:39 -0700

Hi Everyone,

I met Jim Brighton and John Hubbell to bird the Piedmont this morning, meeting around dawn and starting the day at Greenbridge Road at Triadelphia Reservoir. Our best birds there were two DUNLIN that flushed from the Montgomery side and flew along the far shore in Howard County. Thanks to Joe Hanfman for posting updates on the shorebird habitat here.

From Triadelphia we checked local sod farms for plovers and then made a few stops on Florence Road. As we finished a brief and unproductive check of Western Regional, we received a text from Tom Feild. He wrote that he had all of the continuing Sandy Point birds plus BAIRD'S SANDPIPER. Jim, John, and I took a vote on whether we would continue our Carroll/Frederick route or turn around for the shorebirds. I was out-voted, and democracy dictated a return to Anne Arundel. I didn't complain then, and I'm quite pleased with the outcome now.

We arrived at Sandy Point to find Tom Feild, Joe Hanfman, Dan Haas, and Anna Urciolo scanning the large puddles. We were very disappointed to learn that the shorebirds had flown off, but we were hopeful that we'd relocate some of them. Although we didn't find the BAIRD'S, we did have four BRANT, seven BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERs, four SANDERLINGs, 15 DUNLIN, and a finely patterned juvenile LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL.

Now joined by Tom, Joe, and Anna, we decided to visit Thomas Point Park, where we were surprised to find another four BRANT. Having driven straight here after seeing the four at Sandy Point, we felt confident these were different birds. Also, one of the Sandy Point birds had barely visible chevrons on its neck, and all four of these were clear adults.

We continued on to Dent Road, an old airfield site that Jim Stasz has referenced for a long time. Jim had mentioned in the past as a good site for marsh birds, and he reminded me of it this morning. It was quite active this afternoon, with the major highlight being a migrant NELSON'S SPARROW. It flushed from the flooded trail and perched up for several seconds in a small sweet gum. As we tried for better looks, we had a few additional views in flight and painfully brief perched views. An hour of searching after Stan Arnold arrived turned up many sparrows, but no contenders for the Nelson's. Access to this site is somewhat tricky. It's remote (Rte 2 to Rte 255 east to Rte 468 south/east and right on Dent Road); the parking is poor; and the trails are flooded and overgrown. It's marked as state park property, but I don't know any more about access rules. I would recommend being very careful with parking. I left a note on my window with my cell number
 saying to call if we needed to move cars. We walked past the gate, along the road, and then took a left along an overgrown path as the original path became nearly impassable. After about 30 yards the trail bends to the right and becomes very wet and muddy. After another 20 yards or so, the bird flushed to a small red-leaved sweet gum beside some water bushes. It flushed along the left side of the trail until we lost it. 

Jim, John, Tom, and I ended the day with stops at North Beach and Chesapeake Beach Marina. The gull roost at Chesapeake Beach was very impressive, with over 925 Laughing Gulls, three Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and a single Dunlin. Also of interest was a Northern Harrier flying north over the Bay.

An enjoyable and memorable day of October birding!  Here are the abridged eBird lists for everything.

Triadelphia Reservoir--Green Bridge Road
(Howard and Montgomery Counties except where noted)

Canada Goose--57
Lesser Scaup--3 (Howard side)
Double-crested Cormorant--1
Bald Eagle--2
DUNLIN--2; flushed from the peninsula on the Montgomery Co. side into Howard Co., heading toward Pigtail and then turning south and flying along the far shore treeline with four Killdeer.
Ring-billed Gull--1

Florence Road, Howard Co.

Sharp-shinned Hawk--1
Eastern Phoebe--1
Winter Wren--1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--1
Chipping Sparrow--1
Field Sparrow--2
Song Sparrow--4
Swamp Sparrow--2
White-throated Sparrow--10
White-crowned Sparrow (Eastern)--3

Larriland Farm, Howard Co.

Lesser Scaup--1

Sandy Point State Park, Anne Arundel Co.

Double-crested Cormorant--15
Great Blue Heron--1
Black Vulture--3
Sharp-shinned Hawk--1
Laughing Gull--600 est.
Ring-billed Gull--150 est.
Lesser Black-backed Gull--1; very fresh and crisply marked juvenile
Great Black-backed Gull--200 est.
Caspian Tern--4
Royal Tern--8
Golden-crowned Kinglet--4

Thomas Point Park, Anne Arundel Co.

BRANT (ATLANTIC)--4; four adults roosting just south of the point
Common Loon--2
Double-crested Cormorant--20
Great Blue Heron--2
American Kestrel--1
Laughing Gull--100
Ring-billed Gull--10
Herring Gull--50
Great Black-backed Gull--20
gull sp.--800; two large feeding flocks and one large gull-covered pier. Majority was Laughing, followed by Herring, Great Black-backed, and Ring-billed. Joe had at least a couple Bonaparte's Gulls.
Forster's Tern--184; there were 168 roosting just on one large pier
Eastern Phoebe--1
Golden-crowned Kinglet--6
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)--4
Eastern Towhee--3
White-throated Sparrow--7
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)--1

Dent Road, Anne Arundel Co.

Canada Goose--27
Great Blue Heron--3
Great Egret--1
Bald Eagle--2
Sharp-shinned Hawk--1
DUNLIN--1; feeding on a mudflat out on the marsh; later seen flying away from that area
Laughing Gull--7
Ring-billed Gull--9
Herring Gull--2
Great Black-backed Gull--3
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)--2
Eastern Phoebe--1
Tree Swallow--5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet--4
Gray Catbird--2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)--18
Palm Warbler--1
Common Yellowthroat--3
Field Sparrow--7
Savannah Sparrow (Eastern)--7
NELSON'S SPARROW--1; * Rarely detected migrant in the county. Clearly saw overall orange coloration especially in head and upper breast, very dull and subdued grayish streaks on breast, and small bill. Unfortunately, after losing it we did not relocate it for Anna and Stan. Not quite long or close enough of a view to call the bird to subspecies.
Song Sparrow--23
Swamp Sparrow--14
White-throated Sparrow--3
White-crowned Sparrow (Eastern)--2 immature
Red-winged Blackbird--100
Common Grackle--700; one large flock of about 1000 blackbirds, overwhelmingly grackles but with a fair number of Red-winged.
blackbird sp.--200

North Beach, Calvert Co.

Surf Scoter--6
Semipalmated Plover--1

Chesapeake Beach Marina, Calvert Co.

Double-crested Cormorant--24
Great Blue Heron--2
Snowy Egret--5; roosting on the south jetty
Bald Eagle--1
Northern Harrier--1; female or immature flying north along the coast; Jim's county bird
Dunlin--1; feeding on the south jetty
Laughing Gull--925; effort made for an exact count, but occasionally counting by 5s. More arriving as we departed.
Ring-billed Gull--23
Herring Gull (American)--106
Lesser Black-backed Gull--3
Great Black-backed Gull--225
gull sp.--200
Forster's Tern--23
Royal Tern--5; roosting on pound nets

Have a good week!


Bill Hubick
Pasadena, Maryland