The Common Eider is a rare duck for western Long Island Sound and one I would label more as uncommon in the east. However, they are increasingly and quickly becoming an annual occurrence for us, and Stratford Point has hosted a bird or two on a day or two each December in the last few years. Back in 2010 we had thousands upon thousands of sea ducks just off the coast of Stratford for a prolonged period in the fall and winter, leaving us with both Common and King Eider. Look back at this post to see a superb looking male in both photo and video form. Things were much quieter last year but I was able to snag this female Common Eider as she was literally blown in during a windy rainstorm while I watched for Razorbills and other alcids. This year I changed up both the age and gender in finding this first-winter male who is just starting to show some of the white peeking through all of that brown.
It kept itself among a few Red-breasted Mergansers while I observed it. I knew I had seen last year's Common Eider around the same date, and sure enough, both the 2011 and 2012 sightings were on December 15 - talk about predictable! It fed on both fish and crabs, alternating between diving for food, preening, swimming, and resting a little with its new friends. It was extremely comfortable on the quiet weekend day, and that is precisely how we want birds like this to feel for their health and well-being. Apparently it liked this part of Long Island Sound enough to stick around as yesterday Frank Mantlik saw what is very likely the same bird in just about the same spot.
Following today's storm, where we have been pummeled by southeasterly winds, we will be getting very strong winds from the southwest and ultimately northwest for a prolonged period. Tomorrow could be a big day for rarities with everything like more waterfowl being blown in from the east today and lingering through the weekend to Cave Swallows being pushed up the center of the country and then back south until they hit our coastline. We may see some other southern or western rarities with the strength of this system. Keep your eyes, and your mind, wide open. I am crossing my fingers for passable conditions and a cool bird or two for the Stratford-Milford Christmas Bird Count...
Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission