This is a cross-posting from the NH RBA site. Steve Mirick (NH.BIRD)
has been having a lot of fun with Sharp-tails recently.
His experience, especially with pishing of these birds is somewhat
contrary to my own experience with the species in very limited
It leaves me wondering if their behavior is dependent upon habitat,
migrants vs residents, etc. Oh to have some saltwater marsh habitat in
Read on (with envy!):
from a 10/5//07 posting by Steve Mirick, NH.BIRD RBA site.....
I spent a couple of hours walking around the saltmarsh in Hampton, NH
this afternoon. I explored a northern portion of the marsh that I had
never been in before. Load of fun and lots of sparrows. I only fell in
twice! Boy does that muck smell. Anyone want a pair of pants?
I estimated 100+ sharp-tailed sparrows, with concentrations around
distinct patches of tall spartina alterniflora. They respond very well
to pishing. I admit that I am still somewhat mystified by sharp-tailed
sparrow ID at this date. Some are easy, but others are not, and there
seems to be some variability with Nelson's plumage (age? race? molt?).
Plumages are (almost) all very fresh and colorful with buffy breasts and
breast streaking to varying degrees.
Ballpark estimates for ID's:
Nelson's (subvirgatus) Sharp-tailed Sparrow - 20 (I think)
NELSON'S (NELSONI) SHARP-TAILED SPARROW - 2 or 3. Well seen. Presumed
to be nelsoni vs. alterus by extreme color, fine streaking on breast and
crisp white markings on back. My first clear sightings of this race.
Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow - 20 (I think)
Sharp-tailed sparrow sp. - 60
Seaside Sparrow - 0 (I was really hoping I might find one, but no luck)
American Bittern - 1 flushed from creek.
YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO - 1. A bird flying east to west across the marsh
was an odd sight and likely a migrant coming off the ocean.
Here is a web page of a bunch of images. Most from today and a few from
Wednesday. I used a higher resolution so folks with dial-up might not
be able to view them very easily. I made an attempt to ID a few, but I
am open for criticism and recognize I may be wrong. I also included a
couple of front/rear views of subvirgatus Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrows
which showed rather distinct breast streaking.