Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stratford Point 5/30-6/5

This was a unique week at Stratford Point. Heavy construction repair work began on the rock wall that surrounds the site and protects it from the powerful waters of Long Island Sound.

The wall had taken damage from a few storms in the past year, most notably the March 12 to 15 event that caused widespread wind damage in Fairfield County. Everything from small to enormous rocks and a variety of other debris was thrown upland by the storm surge, large waves, and strong winds. Sections of the wall were eroded and collapsed. The subsequent March 29 to 31 system only worsened the situation as more water was hurled into the rocks.

Obviously all of this activity kept many birds out of the area, and we could often not conduct our normal surveys for safety reasons.

You can see thunderstorms developing in the distance of the previous two photos. We had several thunderstorms this week, only adding to the mayhem. The hazy, humid days with above-average temperatures made birds quieter as well.

On Friday, we had a visit from Dr. Ray Pupedis, Senior Collections Manager of the Division of Entomology at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. The main reason for his visit was to search for an antlion species named
Brachynemurus abdominalis. A single adult Brachynemurus abdominalis was collected during one of the recent Stratford BioBlitzes here at Stratford Point. Existing populations of the species inhabit Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard and occasionally are blown off course, much like birds. The Stratford Point individual was thought to be a stray.

Dr. Pupedis tells us the antlion species is one of several Neuroptera that are an enigma here in Connecticut. Only adults show up every now and then – and we know nothing about the larval stages. The species seems to be associated with sand plain areas. The larvae do not make pits like the common species
Myrmeleon immaculatus, but runs free across the sand.

He also searched for other Neuroptera in the area. Seaside refuges such as Stratford Point seem to attract neuropterans that are seldom seen elsewhere. Astonishingly, Dr. Pupedis and his assistant caught another
Brachynemurus abdominalis on Friday! They are holding it in the picture below.

They also found a population of Green Lacewings, which are rare in the state. Stratford Point is obviously more than a safe haven for birds; insects are attracted to the unique seaside habitat as well. Suffice it to say, this was a very exciting and remarkable find. In the near future, we will likely be conducting additional monitoring to get a better idea of other non-avian natural resources the site offers.

Photos by Twan Leenders


  1. That's cool stuff Scott. As a birder I sometimes find myself a bit too focused on just birds. It's fascinating to read a story like that one. Today at Sandy Pt I ran into a marine bio grad student from UNH who opened my eyes up to several facets of the coastal ecosystem I seldom think about. There's so much out there to learn...

  2. Couldn't have said it better myself, Nick! I wish I had time to learn about every facet of the various environments we frequently find ourselves in.