Seaside Sparrow, Hudson Greenway

Thursday, May 5, was cloudy and cold — just like most days this last week. I had taken a walk in the afternoon to the North End as much for exercise as for birding. When I returning home shortly after 4 p.m. I figured I was done for the day.

But at 6:26 p.m. a Manhattan Bird Alert came through from Adrian Burke: he had found three Seaside Sparrows at a small park known as Clinton Cove at 55th and the Hudson Greenway.

My first thought was, “How can I chase these birds?” I live on the Upper East Side, so I would have go entirely across town and then roughly a mile south. I ran across the park to the AMNH subway stop at 81st Street and immediately caught a southbound train to 59th Street. From there I ran to  the location.

Seaside Sparrow is one of the very rarest Ammodramus-type sparrows for Manhattan. There are records on eBird, all in Central Park, from 1923, 1974, and 2011. I had one briefly in October 2014 on Randall’s Island’s northeast saltmarsh, a place you would expect the species, as it gets Nelson’s Sparrows annually.

Where I found Adrian Burke and the sparrows was not at all a place that a Seaside Sparrow should want to be. The three sparrows were moving quickly on foot on a narrow median strip of mostly bare ground and some plants and trees between a paved lane for runners and cyclists and a paved lane for pedestrians.

Walkers, runners, and dogs occasionally scared a sparrow to short flight, but they remained in the area. One ventured onto the eastern edge of a large lawn on the Hudson side.

I was first on the scene, and, along with a couple others who showed up, got great views from less than ten feet. The sparrows appeared not to mind our presence as they went about their foraging.

These sparrows went on to defy expectations by remaining at this location during both the following day and the day after that — today, May 7.

Another Seaside Sparrow was found at 65th and the Hudson Greenway on the morning of May 6. It, too, has remained in place since then. A fourth Seaside Sparrow appeared at the Clinton Cove location, also on May 6. An American Kestrel was observed catching and carrying away one of the Clinton Cove sparrows that same day.