Friday, January 8, 2016

MA - 'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow in Northampton - 01/07/15

'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow (P.s. princeps) - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.

Yesterday (01/07), after dealing with errands in Northampton, I headed over to the East Meadows. It was the first time in a few years that I've birded the area and initially it seemed completely devoid of birdlife. After a while I found a small flock of Horned Larks and settled down to enjoy them. At that point I thought that they may well be the 'only' birds of interest I was going to see in the frozen meadows. Close by, I noticed a couple of Savannah Sparrows foraging in a weedy, fallow strip. The birds caught my attention because I just don't see Savannah Sparrows in Franklin County in mid-winter. Teed up among them was a strikingly pale sparrow and I immediately thought of Ipswich Savannah Sparrow, a subspecies (P.s. princeps) of Savannah Sparrow typically associated with Atlantic coastal dunes and beaches in winter. Having seen pale Savannah Sparrows in the Pioneer Valley before I proceeded cautiously and tried for as much photo-documentation as I could within my time constraints. I would admit to finding the result pretty compelling, enough to actually put in a strong claim of an inland Ipswich Savannah Sparrow. The Birds of Massachusetts (Veit and Petersen) offers just one accepted inland record for the state - Great Meadows, October 1966 (Garrey, photo-documented), thus it's an exceedingly rare occurrence for deepest interior Massachusetts.

Other birds of interest in the meadows included, 110 Horned Lark, 85 Snow Bunting, 1 Lapland Longspur, 55 American Goldfinch and at least 16 Savannah Sparrows. In the end, a great morning after a slightly disappointing start.

 'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow (P.s. princeps) - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.
Rightmost bird with small flock of Savannah Sparrows. My first views of the subject bird.


 'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow (P.s. princeps) - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.
Rightmost bird with Savannah Sparrow. Overall pallid gray cast with light gray rump.



  'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow (P.s. princeps) - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.
Recalled Clay-colored Sparrow at times.

  'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow (P.s. princeps) - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.
Nice view of the fairly sparse reddish brown (not black) streaking along the flanks.


Savannah Sparrow - East Meadows, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. January 7th, 2015.
Compared to Ipswich Sparrow above much darker with stronger, blacker flank streaks and pale, whitish mantle 'braces'.









3 comments:

Larry said...

Wow...great find! Really cleaning up on odd sparrow subspecies lately!

Nick Bonomo said...

Fantastic photos and documentation James. Looks good to me too. Great find!!

James P. Smith said...

Thanks Larry and Nick.....this bird seems to have received broad approval. Nick, did that pale Savannah Sparrow at Windsor/Bloomfield ever get accepted from a few winters ago?