Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlarks have returned to the fields along the North Fork Trail!

My arrival dates from eBird:

2016-03-07 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2015-03-20 2 Mike McDowell Checklist
2014-03-15 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2013-03-26 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2012-03-11 2 Mike McDowell Checklist
2011-03-15 4 Mike McDowell Checklist
2010-03-20 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2009-03-18 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2008-03-29 1 Mike McDowell Checklist
2007-03-12 1 Mike McDowell Checklist

As indicated above, I saw my first meadowlark of the year yesterday morning. This is the earliest arrival date I've recorded in eBird for this species. Given strong southerly winds and unseasonably mild temperatures, I wasn't at all surprised they returned a little earlier than normal. Today there were four meadowlarks exchanging calls and songs. I was also amazed by the number of Song Sparrows in the area ― there might have been three or four dozen.



Foraging together.

Common but still fun to photograph, several Red-winged Blackbirds were busy defending territories at the adjacent marsh. The gusty winds not only ruffled their feathers, but made tracking them very challenging as they rode the tops of cattails.

Red-winged Blackbird

Pope Farm Conservancy

After my North Fork visit, I headed over to Pope Farm Conservancy to see if there were any Vesper Sparrows. I didn't find them, but the clump of oaks pictured above held a noisy blackbird flock. Listening carefully and inspecting the birds with my spotting scope, I eventually found a couple Rusty Blackbirds mixed in with Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and European Starlings.


Warming up the macro lens...

How about some color?

While photographing colorful rock lichens, a curious onlooker hopped up on one of the rocks to have a look at what I was up to. It gave a sweet seep call and then retreated to the tall grass. Figuring it might come back, I put my camera back on my scope and waited a few minutes. Sure enough, the Song Sparrow returned to the rock for another look.

Song Sparrow

I'm grateful that the weather forecast was way off; I was expecting a rainy day, but it turned out to be absolutely gorgeous. Before heading home, I decided to check the Ashton K-Pond for waterfowl. New birds for the year were Northern Pintail, Redhead, and Ring-necked Duck. There were also lots of Green-winged Teal, Mallards, and a single Hooded Merganser.

All images © 2016 Mike McDowell


  1. At Indian Lake today I saw one Bufflehead and several Hooded Mergansers and my first Song Sparrow of the year. Beautiful photos of the Meadowlarks!! Hope I can find them in the morning.