Searching for Sparrows

The following day I returned to the airport, hoping to see the Clay-coloured and Grasshopper Sparrows I had missed on my previous visits. It was a beautiful summer morning and, after an unfruitful stop at Tom Roberts Avenue, I headed over to the Bowesville Road entrance where I found a pair of Tree Swallows flitting gracefully above the road, hunting for insects.

A couple of Song Sparrows and a Savannah Sparrow were singing in the field near the dirt bike track. I did not hear any Grasshopper Sparrows, even though I’ve usually found them here whenever I’ve visited during the last couple of years. I followed a trail through the grassy field to the north, listening for the distinctive “tick, tick, zeeeeeeee” of the Grasshopper Sparrow and the low-pitched “buzzzz, buzzzzz” of the Clay-coloured Sparrow.

I found a beautiful blue Indigo Bunting singing sweetly and heard a couple of Field Sparrows along the way. There weren’t many butterflies flying yet, but I did encounter a couple of American Coppers and a Northern Cloudywing along the trail. I also noticed a couple of Red Milkweed Beetles sitting in the sunlight…

Red Milkweed Beetle

…and a couple of milkweeds covered in these Rose Chafer Beetles. As I was photographing the beetles, I realized I only had about six minutes of battery life left. I reluctantly turned my camera off, saving the battery in case I saw something really neat.

Rose Chafer Beetles


About five minutes later I did. I saw a Virginia Ctenucha nectaring on some Bladder Campion and thought the delicate pink and white flowers made a wonderful backdrop for this handsome day-flying moth.

Virginia Ctenucha

Further along the trail I came across this tiny lady beetle, one of our native species:

Lady beetle (Brachiacantha sp.)

Not long after putting my camera away for the second time, I heard the familiar song of a Clay-coloured Sparrow. I tracked him down to one of the conifers, but was unable to get any photos. Still, I was happy to finally get this species for my year list, and walked further into the field in the hope of finding a Grasshopper Sparrow. In a group of small trees, I heard a couple of birds chipping. A Clay-coloured Sparrow flew up to the top of the tree in perfect view, so once again I took out my camera.

Clay-coloured Sparrow

Two of the birds appeared to be juveniles, which explained why this adult seemed so agitated.

I didn’t find my Grasshopper Sparrow in the grassy field, but I did startle a Vesper Sparrow into taking cover. I then headed back to the main trail where I found two more Vesper Sparrows, another Alder Flycatcher, a Chestnut-sided Warbler, and three more Indigo Buntings on my walk, two of which I heard but couldn’t see. The Sharp-shinned Hawks weren’t around, but I did find this large hover fly in the large stand of trees:

Hover fly (Temnostoma vespiforme)

My camera battery died then, so this time I put it away in my pack for good.

Next I drove over to the High Road entrance to see what was around there. No Grasshopper Sparrows, but I did see an Eastern Bluebird, a Turkey Vulture, a couple of House Wrens, a Least Flycatcher, a Baltimore Oriole, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a couple of Bobolinks and a family of Brown Thrashers. Even though I only found one of my target species, I really couldn’t complain about the birds I did see. The airport is home to many species I don’t normally see in conservation areas closer to home, which always make it a worthwhile trip in the summer.

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