During the January 4th Newville CBC, Ramsay Koury discovered a Lark Sparrow foraging with other sparrows around a brush pile in a new housing development along Peyton Road near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. This is approximately the 15th record of Lark Sparrow for Pennsylvania, with the most recent sighting from 2006. This is the first record for Cumberland County. Lark Sparrows have been found in the state throughout the winter months, as well as during spring and fall migration. There are historical records of Lark Sparrow breeding in the state, but not since the early 1900’s. The majority of stray Lark Sparrows are found along the coastal plain of the northeast, favoring open habitats with short grass and weeds as well as dune habitats. Lark Sparrows are often found mixed with flocks of other sparrow species, especially Chipping Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows.
The Lark Sparrow was seen off-and-on throughout the day on January 5th, and again on the morning of January 6th despite the snowstorm overnight. Chasers should remember that the patch where the sparrow has been preferring is fine for birders to enter, but they should not wander into any of the manicured grassy lawns on either side of the undeveloped lot as the homeowners on either side do not want trespassers.
Josh Lefever, Mark Mizak, and I were excited to get word of this rarity (and potential state bird for us) and made plans to detour on our way home from a New Year’s Eve birding trip to the coast in order to try for the sparrow. We were lucky to have great views of the sparrow on the afternoon of January 5th, and despite the bird never popping up into the sun, I was happy to get the following two photos.