I really dig Ammodramus sparrows. These smartly dressed birds are the sparrows’ answer to every person who gushes about the bright colors of warblers. The elegance of these birds is compounded by the fact that they make you work for it. Even when compared to the skulking warblers, these birds make you wander shorelines (Ammodramus is Latin for “sand runner”) hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse as they dart into thickets of grass and low shrubs. When they decide to bestow outstanding looks, that becomes the day’s headline. They must have decided to be charitable because Nelson’s Sparrows (Ammodramus nelsoni) were absolutely everywhere on the Chicago lakefront the past few weeks. Birds that often number 4-5 seen during migration were spotted in groups of 15-20, setting Cook county record high counts in the process. Le Conte’s Sparrows (Ammodramus leconteii) have just started to show up; hopefully they’ll be as generous as their sharp-tailed brethren.
The other story this fall has been the irruption of Red-breasted Nuthatches across the Great Lakes & Northeast. Having chased and missed about 9-10 times last winter, this bird has been as much of a state nemesis as I’ve had. These birds started to show up in buckets when I was still in Washington which led to the odd situation of being on vacation and having birder FOMO for birds back home. So it was with much relief that I found my state Red-breasted Nuthatch within 10 minutes of arriving at Chicago’s Park #566. That I found the bird in barren, overgrown piece of grassland gives a pretty good indication as to how common these gregarious little guys are this year.
Besides those notable occurrences, the remainder of late summer-early fall wrapped up according to plan. Warblers and shorebirds showed up on schedule, stuck around for a couple of days, and then jumped on the next weather system with winds pointed south. I’ve now started to carry a light coat when I go birding which means that the warm temperatures and humid air of summer are gone for awhile. It’s time to embrace autumn’s shorter days, arctic winds, and cheer the migrants on their southward journey.