It has barely been two weeks, and we’ve already found the first nest of the season!
As the newbie to the team, I’m still getting the hang of how to find and resight our Cape Sable Seaside Sparrows. The attention to song and color completely contrasts with my fieldwork on Greater Sage-grouse in Nevada last year. Since we did a lot of our grouse work at night and had telemetry to help us track birds the rest of the time, sound and colors weren’t all that important. But one skill carries over quite well: quick reactions to the unexpected.
Setting out to explore the northern part of Site B this morning, I was determined to find and identify at least three sparrows. The birds, however, didn’t want to cooperate. In my two hours of patiently walking around and straining to hear birds, I resighted a single male sparrow. Every once in a while, I’d hear a phantom sparrow off in the distance, only to get closer and hear nothing but Common Yellowthroats and Red-winged Blackbirds.
My search for new sparrows led me to the area Michelle had been working, and since it was getting late in the morning, it looked like we were ready to call it quits. From about 30 meters away, Michelle started telling me about her morning of mostly sparrow silence, and I felt a bit better about my one-sparrow morning. The quiet was frustrating for trying to find new birds, but it was a sign that the sparrows had started to pair up and nest.
All of a sudden, a sparrow flew out from the grass between us and ducked into a nearby clump of taller grass. I started setting up the spotting scope in case the sparrow popped up again, focusing on the clump. Acting on a hunch, Michelle examined the spot the sparrow had flushed from. And voilà! In less than a minute, she found a nest! There were no eggs yet, but once Michelle pointed it out to me, there was no mistaking the swirl of grass for anything else.
We quickly got a GPS point, attached some flagging to some nearby sawgrass, and then hurried off before our momma-to-be decided to abandon her nest. And as a little cherry on top, we came across our first cottonmouth of the season on the way back to the car.
Thanks to Michelle’s swift switch from our morning debrief to nest-searching, it turned out to be a pretty swell morning after all!