ammodramus (from ammos, sand, and dramein, to run) leconteii (in honor of John L. Le Conte, Philadelphia physician, friend of John James Audubon, and distinguished entomologist)
Tuesday, May 28, 1991 — 6:30 am
Manotowish Waters, Wisconsin — Powell Marsh Wildlife Area
I had been to Powell Marsh many times, but I’d never seen this bird. This time, I made a deliberate effort. I studied up the night before in five or six field guides. I memorized all the field marks and listened to the song on tape over and over again.
I got to the marsh shortly after 6:00 a.m., just as the fog was lifting. I was greeted by a Common Snipe winnowing overhead and a Sandhill Crane yodeling in the mist. The marsh was alive with wildlife. Alder Flycatchers, Black Terns, American Bitterns, Sedge Wrens, Common Yellowthroats, Yellow Warblers, Savannah Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows and Red-winged Blackbirds were vying for my attention. A large Beaver was following me, swimming down the open channel that runs along the levy. Every five minutes or so, it would protest my presence with a loud slap of its tail.
About half a mile out into the marsh, I heard an insect-like buzz off in the distance in a part of the marsh covered with thin grass about two-feet high. Small (less than five feet) shrubs were scattered here and there. I scanned with my binoculars but couldn’t find the bird. But I heard the “song” every fifteen seconds or so.
I finally found the Le Conte’s Sparrow. It was perched on top of a small stalk about forty yards from the levy. It looked around and occasionally lifted its head to sing. I got it in my scope and had a great view. The bird switched positions once in a while, and I got to see every field mark perfectly. I even had time to pull out my Peterson’s and make sure I wasn’t missing any.
I was momentarily distracted by a male Northern Harrier that cruised by, and when I looked back the Le Conte’s Sparrow had moved closer. It was now only twenty yards away, perched on top of a forked stick that poked up through the grass. It had one foot on each branch of the “Y”, facing me, and still singing. It shortly disappeared into the grass.