Le Conte's Sparrow (Ammodramus leconteii)
Abbotts Lagoon, Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin County, CA
23 December 2014
This bird was found by Wendy Dreskin and Ken Schneider on 20 December for the Point Reyes CBC and has been seen each subsequent day. Today, Dan Singer, David Wimpfheimer and I arrived at the Abbotts Lagoon parking lot about 9am where we met Bob and Barbara Brandriff who were also planning on looking for the Le Conte's Sparrow. On our way out the two-mile hike to the spot, we encountered Mark Dettling and Renee Cormier who advised us that the bird was still present. Eventually we forded the stream and reached the area where two other birders had last seen the sparrow about 10 minutes before our arrival. We looked for about a half hour before Dan spotted a good candidate fly into a shrub and Barbara was able to confirm that it was indeed the Le Conte's Sparrow. It popped up in the shrub giving us brief but good views in excellent light. It soon flew to another bush where we saw it again briefly, then there was a hiatus of about 15 minutes before the bird showed up again. Eventually we had very good views as the bird sat up on top of some dark green shrubs in the dunes. Only once did I see it on the ground. Exact location. Dan and David took many photos which I expect will be posted eventually.
The following description is based on memory and on photos:
A small short-tailed sparrow-like bird, decidedly smaller than Savannah Sparrows. It was brightly colored with an orange face and gray ear coverts. The crown was mostly dark, with a narrow white median line. A black post ocular stripe accentuated the orange superciliam against the gray cheeks and expanded behind the eye. The nape was dull purple with dusky streaking. The back was very strikning with bold white scapular stripes. Photos show the brown background to be cross-barred with dusky. The underparts were strongly yellowish across the breast. The sides and flanks were buffy with very heavy dark brown streaks. The belly was white but the undertail coverts were rich buff.
The white median line and purple nape streaks help eliminate Nelson's Sparrow.
California has 35 previously accepted records but this is the first Marin County record.
Map of Location