What really made this a wicked twitch was the traffic! It seems like the majority of the rare birds that are reported in CT are located somewhere near the shore, but particularly in the western part of the state. It would appear that there are more rare birds in western CT along with a lot of active birders. The ride to Allen's Meadows was supposed to be about an hour's drive according to Mapquest. I left at 6am: "The early twitcher catches the bird", right? It actually took me over two hours to get there. The traffic was brutal! I asked a worker at one of the service stations if it was like this all the time and he said that this was just an average day of traffic. I had to pry my hands off of the steering wheel by the time I arrived at my destination. I can't imagine how someone could sit in that kind of traffic every day.
When I first arrived at the meadows there was already two birders searching the area. After about half an hour of searching, the Harris's Sparrow was finally located. It was perched near the top of a bush next to a community garden. I made a few notes and rudimentary sketches of the sparrow before attempting to photograph it. I couldn't get too close because I didn't want to take a chance of spoiling someone else's opportunity by scaring off the bird. I enjoyed conversing with the other birders who came along, a few of whom I had met before. It's also fun to help others to locate the reported bird.
Next came a class of budding birders on a mission to find the prized sparrow. Up until the time of my departure they hadn't found it. I saw some other interesting birds during my visit here including: two Eastern Meadowlarks, one Fox Sparrow, two Brown Creepers. These are fairly difficult birds to find in my home town. Allen's Meadows isn't much to look at. It's just a couple of athletic fields with some weedy areas and a patch of woods toward the back- but it has produced several rarities over the past few years.
On the way back home, I made a stop in East Haven, where a Common Ground Dove has been reported for the last couple of weeks. The bird has been seen near a brushy edge of an empty industrial parking lot. Armed with a folding chair, binoculars, and a camera, etc., it kind of felt like I was on a police stake-out. I carefully searched as many as fifty Mourning Doves at a time. Unfortunately, I never did see the Common Ground Dove. If I found what I was looking for every time, it would take some of the fun out of it. White-crowned Sparrows and a Sharp-shinned Hawk were there. It's amazing how birds see a hawk coming and scatter well before you even notice it.
While I was there, a well known birder named Dori stopped by to check on the status of the dove. She told me about how this area was identified as a productive birding area during a Christmas Count from a previous year. She keeps a continual supply of bird seed on the ground near a brushy border in this industrial lot. In this way, birds that would normally be hidden deep in the cover are drawn out for easy viewing. This has led to the sighting of some rare birds here.
Was seeing a Harris's Sparrow for the first time worth two hours of grueling traffic? To me, it was-absolutely. Not only was it a lifer, but it was an impressive looking bird to see. Was sitting in an industrial parking lot looking for a Common Ground Dove that never showed up worth it? Not really, but I have no regrets about that either. In a way, it's a gamble. Instead of gambling with money, you're gambling with your time. The question is: How much time are you willing to put in trying to find that special bird before you decide to fold your hand and call it quits? The answer is entirely up to you.