Tuesday, June 28, 2011
American Black Duck
American Black Duck x Mallard
Common x Barrow's Goldeneye
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Black-throated Blue Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Amazing, isn't it? Please help us flesh this list out even further.
Monday, June 27, 2011
So what makes this year special? Our best guess is the high number of sand eels. CAS Senior Director of Science and Conservation Milan Bull tells me that fishermen have been reporting large quantities of sand eels, especially in western Long Island Sound. Some have said it is more than they have ever seen. These sand eels provide food not only for egrets but also gulls, terns, and cormorants. There was a large group of sand eels right near the shore of Stratford Point last Thursday, and I took these photos while conducting a survey.
Look carefully at the next two photos - you can see these Great Egrets have sand eels in their bills.
Those birds were only a small fraction of the total number present that morning. Isn't it amazing that the number of birds we record on our surveys can be driven by typically unseen prey in the water?
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The summer of 2010 presented a unique opportunity for a group of students from Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport. Although many of our students express an interest in pursuing careers in environmental science and biology, most of our students have never experienced doing biological fieldwork. In cooperation with the Connecticut Audubon Society, a fieldwork experience was undertaken by four students under the direction of Dr. Tony Pappantoniou of the Math and Science Department of Housatonic Community College. The focus of this experience was a biological survey of streams located at the Roy and Margot Larsen Sanctuary.
The summer field experience had a dual purpose: 1) introduce a group of community college students to methods of fieldwork and 2) have the students collect data on stream fish populations. Student volunteers learned techniques of collecting and identifying fish and gathering the data a biologist would require to assess a fish population. Several different species of fish were collected, identified and photographed. A warm-water fish community populates the streams of the Larson Sanctuary. Fish species collected included: largemouth bass, pumpkinseed and bluegill sunfish, redfin pickerel and the american eel. Starting with our first fieldtrip in June and ending with our last trip in August, length data on largemouth bass was collected for population analysis. Data were collected on about 75 largemouth, all young-of-the-year, and it appears that there is a strong breeding population of largemouth at the sanctuary.
In addition to our fish collecting, students observed a variety of amphibians and reptiles that form part of the community at the Larsen Sanctuary. Red efts, green frogs (both adult and tadpole), spring peepers, american toads, garter snakes and painted turtles, all crossed our path as we walked through the streams and woods of the Larsen Sanctuary.
Fieldwork will continue during summer 2011, with old students coming back for a second summer and some new students joining in. This summer we are expanding our studies to include data on the turtle population(s) of the sanctuary. Opportunities like this offer students an experience collecting biological data with real world applications.
I would like to thank Mr. Robert Martinez, President of Connecticut Audubon and Dr. Twan Leenders, Conservation Biologist, for their invaluable assistance and advice in creating this field experience for the students of Housatonic Community College.
Dr. Tony Pappantoniou
Assistant Professor of Biology
Housatonic Community College
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
They spend their lives primarily in the Arctic and Canada. Some of these far-northern species can be somewhat tough to study, with parts of their life history still an unknown to scientists. Nevertheless, this article was an incredible read: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/13791688
The entire life of the Gyrfalcon was apparently very misunderstood as they spend a great deal of time at sea. They travel incredible distances and require a large habitat of ocean and ice. This sort of revelation shows you how much more work needs to be done on countless bird species. Connecticut Audubon Society's Science and Conservation staff works every day to expand the knowledge of our state's habitat and wildlife. This is a terrific, albeit distant, example of what can be found with the proper resources, management, and effort. It is only a matter of time before we can share some of our own amazing discoveries.
Photos © Scott Kruitbosch
Sunday, June 19, 2011
We have been watching the birds whenever possible. They still seem to prefer that same stand of pines, and the right-most tree. They are very difficult to see in there, however. Additionally, since we do not want to trespass on to government property, views are limited to the roadway. As of now the doves are seen off and on, most of the time flying in or out of the area to feed in other locations around the airport or nearby neighborhoods.
The man who first found the pair, Frank Mantlik, provided us with these photos of the doves and their efforts at nest-building.
Photos © Frank Mantlik
Thursday, June 16, 2011
from a sample quadrant at Stratford Point.
In addition, similar surveys will be carried out in comparable reference sites such as Milford Point. These studies will provide a series of benchmarks and other success measures that can be used later to gauge whether habitat management practices at Stratford Point provide the desired results.
Wildlife Refuge at Milford Point for comparison.
Field work for this project has just begun and will continue throughout the growing season and fall migration. Initial plant surveys revealed three patches of Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia humifusa) in the upland section of Stratford that have really taken off in recent years. This native cactus is included in Connecticut's Endangered and Threatened Species list as a species of Special Concern. Ultimately, our management plan will be tailored to promote the development and management of suitable habitat for conservation concern species like this one. You will undoubtedly hear much more about our findings in the months ahead.
Species Act. It can be locally common in coastal habitats but its distribution is highly fragmented.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Twan found a different sort of strange summer bird on Monday at Stratford Point. It was a male Common Goldeneye, an odd duck to say the least.
The species had never been recorded in eBird in Connecticut in June, either. It seems content (for now) in the mouth of the Housatonic River, going between Stratford Point and Short Beach. It did not appear to be injured. While it allowed for close approach, it also did not appear ill – just very tired. Maybe it took a wrong turn and ended up on a long trip in the wrong direction? Quite often you find some unexpected birds that wander after a failed breeding attempt. Finding and recording oddities like these help us piece together the gigantic conservation puzzle.
Photos © Twan Leenders
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
This is the first fully-documented Anhinga in Connecticut (first photographed). As you can read on the Avian Records Committee of Connecticut website here, four previous sightings have been accepted into record. This Anhinga left us sometime on Sunday.
It seems rather obvious this tremendous bird came all the way up the coast during last week's heat wave and strong southwest winds, just as the Eurasian Collared-Doves had. In New Jersey, there has been a Wood Stork making frequent appearances overhead, and on the weekend a Purple Gallinule was discovered there. There is no easier way to say it than abnormal weather brings abnormal birds.
If you are really interested in rarities you need to follow our Twitter feed located here. It is updated as fast as possible with information about strange sightings and where to see birds like the Anhinga, as it was early Saturday morning.
Photo © Scott Kruitbosch
Monday, June 13, 2011
Legislative Session Closes with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
At the eleventh hour, the Legislature passed three very good bills:
Recreational Liability Reform for Municipalities (H.B. 6557): will afford municipalities and municipal entities like water companies, etc. with protection almost as strong as the protection enjoyed by private landowners (individuals, land trusts, corporations, etc.) on recreational lands;
10 Mill Forest Conservation (H.B. 6263): will keep property taxes low (equivalent to the rate enjoyed by property owners in the P.A. 490 program) for landowners of 14,000 acres of forest who made a 100 year commitment to protect their lands as forest; and
Act Concerning Forestry (H.B. 6157): creates a revolving fund mechanism for DEP to recoup revenues from timber harvests on state lands that will be invested into better forest management planning and implementation.
Unfortunately, SB 829 An Act Establishing an Open Space Registry failed. This would have moved forward one of the key recommendations in our Connecticut State of the Birds, 2010 report. We remain undaunted however, and will take it up again in the next session.
Also failing this session was SB 832, An Act Concerning the Protection of Certain Natural Vegetation Near Rivers. We felt this bill was important, as it would have provided a much-needed buffer for migratory birds and other wildlife associated with rivers and streams. It was heavily lobbied in opposition by the homebuilder's industry.
SB 1196, An Act Concerning the Conveyance of Certain Parcels of State Land (the controversial land swap bill) was passed by both the House and Senate by a considerable margin despite strong objections by environmental groups. This bill gives private developers possession of 17 state-owned acres of open space in Haddam overlooking the Connecticut River in trade for 87 wooded acres the developer owns in the Higganum section of town, away from the river next to Cockaponset State Forest, possibly setting a precedent whereby the state may trade property reserved for the public. This bill could reasonably make it more difficult to obtain private land for public use if the land can be subsequently traded away for private development. It was a bad bill that CAS opposed.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
By a stroke of luck, I saw them fly into a tree near the main terminal as I slowly drove around. I knew instantly that it was them by the size, color of the wings and back, tail, and collar, even before they landed. Roy Harvey was in his car behind me and saw them in the tree after I called out. I turned the car so I could snap off as many photos as I could and get some video before they moved while emailing this news out and calling others. Apart from Frank's quick distant photos, and assuming no one else saw the birds this evening, these are the only photos and the only video of them.
Here are two so-so looks at both birds:
The video shows one bird, then the other, and then both together:
Tina Green and our own Coastal Center Director Frank Gallo arrived in time to see them. We turned away as they parked their cars for a few seconds and the doves were gone. It was silent at the time and we did not hear them fly. We would've seen them in the air in such an open area. We suspect they went behind the buildings and to inaccessible areas of the airport. We shouldn't have broken the "never turn away from a rare bird for a second" rule, but this was quite a vanishing act. One has to think it is highly likely they will be there, if anywhere, tomorrow.
Photos © Scott Kruitbosch
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Please follow along with all of the action regularly. We have had so much going on this spring including gourd battles to non-breeding pair confusion to difficult weather hampering their lives. Every day we learn something new about these magnificent swallows. Connecticut Audubon Society will regularly update the right column of the page with Gazebo Phil adding in his information and thoughts in the left column. We encourage to read what is there now to learn what we as an organization are doing to help the threatened Purple Martins.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
On Friday, I visited a private residence in Weston to see a raptor pair that had been attacking people. Every time the homeowners went out their door, they would be attacked and even literally hit by the birds. One bird struck a woman in the head and drew blood! They told us the raptors had a nest in their yard, and this made sense, as the birds would be defending it. However, this was beyond the call of parental duty, and a dangerous and unsustainable situation. We were thinking this could be a pair of Northern Goshawks. They are known to attack humans in the manner described. The area was relatively good habitat for them, and some have bred nearby in recent years.
It turns out it was the much more common Red-tailed Hawk. When I arrived, a young bird near fledgling stage was sitting on the nest. The parents were away and things were calm. In the time it took me to go back to the car to get my camera mom had returned. She was, well, not pleased that I had come to check things out. After surviving a couple of her attacks, I readied myself and my camera, taking this video as she descended upon me.
I had to hold the camera up but focus on her, not shooting, because otherwise she might have hit me. Look how fast she moves! Even in slow motion, the speed is amazing. If I did not stay low and then duck that would have hurt. After my visit, we sent along the information to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as they will visit and see what can be done. It is likely the young bird will soon leave the nest completely and all of this will be over. Birds are always a priority to us, but human safety is paramount.
Friday, June 3, 2011
Thursday, June 2, 2011
"With your help, eBird reached a new milestone this May, gathering 3,067,344 bird observations over the course of the month! Achieving our highest monthly total isn't just a fun anecdote though, it also means more data for science and conservation, and more data to share with birders around the world. As more birders begin to use eBird, our ability to deliver real-time information to the birding community improves, and the tools that we've developed work better. As data volume increases, it helps shape the direction of future eBird development. Most importantly, continued growth improves our ability to protect birds and biodiversity by getting your data into the hands of conservationists and scientists around the world. Thanks to eBirders everywhere for making May 2011 our biggest month ever--and keep birding this summer!"
They included an image showing their bird observations since May 2007 with tremendous increases each year. What stood out to me was the classic summer lull. I outlined it in the eBird image below.
Many birders crave spring migration more than any other "event" during the year, as warblers, vireos, flycatchers, etc., return. After the exhausting month ends, birds quiet down to breed, the temperature goes up, and most birders rest and enjoy a summer vacation until September. Apart from some very cold or snowy months in the winter, the summer months are the least-birded of the year. Please make an effort to get outside and find breeding birds and early-returning migrants, as some birds will be on the way south only a month from now. If you do it goes without saying eBird could really use your sightings, especially since the new beta version has the capability of recording breeding codes.