The Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris) is how the Americans refer to our Shore lark. For we in the UK tend to see the bird in winter foraging along the sand dunes and shingle banks on along our coasts. For the Americans and Canadians it is a bird that frequents the seas of open ground – of the mountains and grasslands of the North American continent. As it does in its breeding grounds in Europe in the high Arctic and in the south-eastern Mountains of the Balkans and Turkey.
For Audubon, he too used the European name, when he encountered them on the vast tundra of Labrador in Canada.
In Colorado I saw a Shore lark in nearly every open habitat the State had to offer; from the Pawnee Grasslands, to the high mountains of the Rockies and to the Sage brush expanses of the Great Basin.
My first Shore lark
It the bright sun and the summer, it is a far cry from and grey, windswept shingle back back int he ’70s when I stumbled across my first ever Shorelarks. They were in their drab winter plumage scratching a meagre winter meal from a slack in the shngle banks at Coldharbour, Reculver. Then, this was a great find for a very young birdwatcher. One of the trio of tundra birds that make their way south from Norway to seek food and and escape from the fierce winter of the Arctic.
High Plains, Boulder
This particular bird, as if acting as a solo welcoming committee, sang from the post by the entrance to the High Plains Open Space near Boulder. The rolling High Plains open space was also home to Vesper and Brewer’s Sparrows and the ubiquitous Meadowlarks. And some where out in the grassland were Burrowing Owls though I could not locate them. Nor could I find the nearby Mountain Plover, which had appeared not far away. This was a bird had really hoped to see whilst in the Colorado – but as the ‘prairie ghost’ it eluded me and I will have to wait for another trip and another time to see this most difficult of avian spirits.
So the Shore lark sang for me, and out in the plains, however often one sees a Shore lark or a Meadowlark, they are always a pleasure to watch and hear. Emblematic of the vast expanses of the prairies, the space and the grass.