Something amazing happened last weekend. It was both mild and sunny on Saturday and Sunday. A rare event after the last six weeks of winter, which gave us so many cold, snowy weekends.
The winds of March were blowing and bearing a message on the first weekend of the month. Southerly breezes gave the promise of warmer weather, or hopefully seasonable temperatures.
In response to the warmish weather around New York Harbor a great activity took. A variety of sparrows could be seen at Sandy Hook. Along the length of the peninsula flocks of tree sparrows, chipping sparrows, song sparrows, swamp sparrows, and white-throated sparrows, among others, were observed. Best of all an uncommon vesper sparrow was spotted by some keen bird-watchers near parking lot B.
To the untrained eye, the birds must have looked liked little dots on the ground. The sparrows were only about five to six inches long, often with unadorned hues of brown, black and white; seldom some yellow.
The birds were clearly hungry. It had been an unforgiving six-weeks of winter with extreme cold and several layers of fresh snow every week. Now the birds were happy for small miracles, and in this case it was small patches of thawed earth. Here the birds could forage for seeds from nearby grasses, weeds, and other plants.
The sparrows were so happy to forage and feed on the ground, on bare soil between clumps of grasses. So much so I could get relatively close with my camera to take a few pictures without the small sparrows getting skittish and taking wing.
While the pickings must have been good, some sparrows had other plans. A few birds were taking advantage of the mild, sunny weather to obtain some solar heating. I could see a handful of birds turning their backs to the sun to display the largest surface of their bodies to the heat. Then they would raise their feathers slightly to let the sun warm their skin and frosty feathers. Pretty smart.
After a short time, though, even these birds started to get hungry. They wanted to feed heavily on seeds found on the ground.
The sparrows are no dummies. These little guys and gals need to fatten up before many of them will migrate away to find a mate, make a nest and raise a family. The need to breed will soon be strong. Who knows, maybe one or two of these sparrows will be breeding in your neighborhood.
For more information, pictures and year-round sightings of wildlife in or near Sandy Hook Bay and Lower New York Bay, please check out my blog entitled, Nature on the Edge of New York City at http://www.natureontheedgenyc.com