In order for me to reach the magical “700 Club” of North American species sightings, I knew I needed to have the Henslow’s Sparrow. Each new bird from this point on is going to be a struggle…not to mention potentially expen$ive. But the Henslow’s is a breeder in my home state. An uncommon bird with a declining population, the eastern most part of its breeding range is 325 miles west of Bryn Mawr….in the Curllsville strips, north of Pittsburgh. It might as well be in Ohio. The Curllsville strips site is an aging reclaimed strip mine grassland, privately owned but open to the birding public. Armed with a reliable report of multiple sightings there this week, I could not resist the temptation to go out there (early) this morning. Music from the 70’s, intermittently spiced with ESPN sports radio, entertained me along the rather long stretch of I-80.
Within seconds of entering the strips site, I was greeted by a male Dickcissel…no shabby bird in its own right (I may have seen three in my lifetime), singing on territory.
Literally a minute later, as I drove slowly down the dirt road with all of the windows open, I heard the distinctive “se-lick” song of the Henslow’s Sparrow in stereo…..no, it was more like SURROUND SOUND! Four or five of them were audible but hidden in the overgrown fields. And then good fortune struck. One brave male perched ten feet from my car!
Door to door I was gone only 12 hours, having driven…do I dare admit it? 650 miles…sorry carbon-counters…it WAS a selfish act on my part. But today my Dad would have turned 90…so I shamelessly claim Lifer #669 in his honor!