When I picked my new patch out in Pasadena, CA it was based on the site providing an area of open ground among a patchwork of wooded suburban yards, gardens and parks. It was also home to a dog park which is what first took me there. Though Possum doesn’t like the off leash area there he does like walking around on a leash and getting a bunch of cookies for vague signs of good behavior.
My thought was that this open area would provide good opportunities to find a bunch of sparrow species (which along with raptors are up there with my favorite families). So far I haven’t been disappointed with at least fifteen species found at the park, with potential for more if they ever split the Fox Sparrows. The park checklist now boast about 140 species including a wealth of good birds: Eastern Phoebe, White and Black-throated Sparrows, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Broad-winged Hawk, Vermilion Flycatcher and more (eBird Hotspot list here).
The thing I like about sparrows is that they offer a level of ID that is challenging but not impossible for most birders (so it’s fun to help people learn to ID them) and that they are often beautiful but in a subtle way. It would be hard to accuse the Grasshopper Sparrow of being a “Little Brown Job”.
It’s actually been a slow year so far at Vina for me in terms of new birds. In fact it was only yesterday that I added my first new species for the year. Today’s Grasshopper Sparrow was a little more exciting to me than yesterday’s Double-crested Cormorant. Grasshopper Sparrow is pretty uncommon in LA County generally with this seemingly just the third record for the county this year in eBird.