At 4:52 p.m. today a text alert arrived of a Lark Sparrow on the Great Hill north of the balancing rock. With the strong westerly wind flow of the previous few days, I had been wondering about the possibility of Lark Sparrow. An eBird report that arrived less than 50 minutes earlier indicated the bird was first seen briefly this morning by a couple of observers, with the last sighting at 11:20 a.m.
I was late getting the text, and then I had to change into running clothes. But I ran fast and arrived on the Great Hill at 5:19. There were no sparrows near the balancing rock, but I saw two birders intently observing something at the NE end of the sloping meadow nearby. It turned out that they did not have the Lark Sparrow, so I started searching the area, and soon split from them to check higher on the hill. There I found a flock of at least twenty Chipping Sparrows and twenty Dark-eyed Juncos.
Soon the other birders began walking toward me, so I met them and suggested we examine the flock. We walked toward it, and when I looked again the Lark Sparrow was 25 feet away right in my binocular view and I called it out. It took some time to get everyone of the six birders on it, as there were many sparrows moving about, but eventually all saw it. It is large for a sparrow, with a dramatic, unmistakable head pattern.
We observed the bird for roughly 15 minutes before the flock frightened and moved north. The other birders move on. I pursued the flock to the far NE end of the Great Hill, where I last saw the Lark Sparrow at 6:15 p.m. just as darkness was falling.
The last prior report of Lark Sparrow in Manhattan was just over two years ago on 13 September 2011 at the same initial location, the Great Hill’s southern slope.
I was my 230th lifetime Manhattan species, and my 185th of the year.