Sunday, May 30, 2010

Stratford Point 5/23-5/29

The week at Stratford Point started cool and foggy but ended up unseasonably warm and muggy, just in time for the holiday weekend. Short Beach and the waters of Long Island Sound have been full of beach goers and boaters, but the birds were still here, too. We had well over 50 species once again, a total we frequently surpass from now through the fall. Shorebirds remain the best attraction with 10 species seen regularly during the week. You can often walk to within mere feet of them as they feed on the east side beach during nearly any tide. Many people taking a stroll down the beach do this without even realizing they are there. Beyond the usual suspects, we even had two or three of the somewhat rare White-rumped Sandpipers feeding here this week. They may be tough to spot in a group of distant shorebirds, but up close, you can see how their subtle differences make them stick out of the pack. It really is a helpful identification practice to have them in full sunlight in relatively stationary positions. This week also featured the first sizable numbers of horseshoe crabs along the same east side beach. They were all over the place during low tide in the middle and end of the week.

I was somewhat surprised to see that on Friday, May 28, there were no shorebirds around as I glanced at the beach. Even the front of the lighthouse was devoid of birds. The waters were calm and relatively empty. However, as I made my way east after starting from the far west of the site, walking the perimeter while conducting a survey, I heard a few American Crows screaming. There were also some Red-winged Blackbirds in the air calling very loudly. All of these birds were chasing a Peregrine Falcon away from near the main building. I had not seen a Peregrine for several weeks, as most of them would be tending to nests and young now. They can be found at Stratford and Milford Point from time to time, especially in early spring and fall. The months of August through October are common times to find juveniles and adults hunting shorebirds returning to their southern wintering areas. Unfortunately, those crows and blackbirds were very effective, and I could not snap a picture before it flew off under duress to the west. We can just imagine those Barn Swallows sitting on the driveway, pictured to the right, are as frightening as a Peregrine in full stoop. They do look a bit scary up close.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

Friday, May 28, 2010

Northern Shoveler

I spotted the Northern Shoveler seen in the two photos below in the Stratford Great Meadows IBA this morning. The species is found infrequently in Connecticut in the winter months and during migration periods. This male is a very noteworthy individual. May 28 is a much later date than typical sightings, and it could be possible that the species is attempting to breed or breeding in somewhere in Great Meadows Marsh.

The Northern Shoveler is on the right with a Gadwall on the left.

Northern Shoveler in center with Mallard and Mute Swan.

During the survey period for
The Atlas of Breeding Birds, by Louis Bevier, a Northern Shoveler spent a summer in Great Meadows. I am unsure of the exact year at this moment, but it was during the mid 1980s. It was not found to be breeding. This male may simply be doing the same. We will see what we can find out in the near future. If you go by the area please be respectful of this bird and mindful of the fact it may be attempting to breed - along with many other species. Please do not flush it or other birds, or venture too close to the water. This is an important time for the birds, and they need extra space.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

And then there were four...

Yet again an observant follower of our Osprey cam sent us some fantastic screen shots of the young Osprey family at our Coastal Center on Milford Point. The following images were shared with us and I think that these are the kind of pictures anyone who's peeked at the nest would enjoy seeing: the four chicks are clearly visible as they are waiting for a bit of food to come their way.

The observer also notes that the parents are seemingly building up the sides of the nest, which makes sense considering that a careless move could land a chick in the marsh below!

We thank everyone for your enthusiasm and willingness to share these great images!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ten Minutes to Midnight

The following entry is from Frank Gallo, Director of the Coastal Center at Milford Point. It is a truly riveting account of a Big Day birding effort to raise money for the Coastal Center and the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Ten Minutes to Midnight
by Frank Gallo

At ten minutes to midnight, Saturday, May 22, the Raven Luna-ticks members -- Nick Bonomo, Patrick Dugan, me (Frank Gallo), Dave Tripp, and Fran Zygmont -- walked quietly down a muddy dirt track, ducking fallen trees and fording puddles, into the Station 43 marsh in South Windsor. Near the end of the trail, we stopped and started whistling for Screech Owl. It was four minutes to midnight. The Screech Owl responded immediately, too soon, really, and the team sweated out the remaining three minutes, praying the owl would keep calling. At one minute to midnight, it was still whinnying, and was then joined by two Least Bitterns, moaning at each other from opposite sides of the marsh... Forty-five seconds to go... thirty... fifteen... Yes! Screech Owl and Least Bittern were in the bag at the stroke of midnight. Both were missed here last year... but every year is different.

The team left in high spirits to the thumping applause of Virginia Rail and the exuberant trills of Marsh Wren, or so we'd like to think. Thus began our race for the Connecticut Big Day record of 186. It was a good start.

Next stop: Bradley Airport, Hartford, for Horned Lark, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Upland Sandpiper. The Horned Larks were singing up a storm - check; the Grasshopper Sparrows also sang on cue - check; but stop after stop, the Uplands remained silent. Now we'd have to come back. Two out of three in the bag, and an hour ahead of schedule, we raced for Connecticut's northwest corner... with a quick stop for Fran's rather obliging Whip-poor-will along the way.

The small hours, between three a.m. and dawn, when the air is stillest and the night broods, is now a blur to me. There was a stop for Saw-whet Owl that tooted with gusto -- we felt honored. A gallant but failed attempt to hear a scouted Common Moorhen -- we felt privileged even to be able to look for one and calling Yellow-billed and, later, Black-billed Cuckoos. There were successful stops for Sora, Great Horned, and Barred Owls, and a visit from a nice policeman who wanted to know what we were doing parked at the side of the road at three a.m. He didn't believe our story, until I came walking out of the woods hooting like a Great Horned Owl; we met him later, while gassing our truck in town, and he happily offered suggestions on where to find owls in a nearby valley. Now, that's public service at its finest!

At dawn, we were on and near Mohawk Mountain picking up northern breeding birds such as Hermit Thrush, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Pileated Woodpecker, and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It was a real treat to have both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches oinking at us from the same tree along Route 43. A calling Swainson's Thrush was one of the few migrants we recorded for the day. Broad-winged Hawks were cooperative this year, and three were seen on our northwest foray. We tallied a slew of warblers, including Northern Waterthrush, Yellow-rumped, Mourning, and Black-throated Blue, but we missed Magnolia, and the Nashville. We hoped that missing them wouldn't cost us in the end...

Racing around the northwest corner between Cornwall and Kent, we added Common and Hooded Mergansers, Wood Duck, American Kestrel, Common Raven, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Field and Savannah Sparrows, and most of the remaining warblers, including our staked-out Prairie, Blue- and Golden-winged, Hooded, and Parula. Magnolia nearly eluded us, but a last-ditch stop while leaving Goshen finally produced. Of course, we heard two other Magnolias out the car window on the drive south...

Tyler Lake was empty of migrants, so our remaining hope was Bantam Lake, in Litchfield, where two Caspian Terns were seen the day before. The terns had moved on, but the lake provided us with an adult Bald Eagle and our last stop in town garnered Winter Wren and a rather cagy Golden-crowned Kinglet to save the day.

Late morning, we took a gamble. The tides on the coast were all wrong until late afternoon, and finding birds during the week had been difficult, at best. Rather then speed directly to the coast, we decided to head west back to Simsbury and Hartford, and then south to the coast. Our plan was to reverse our normal route, heading from east to west rather than west to east along the coast. It paid off!

Great Pond in Simsbury was our next stop. We scanned the skies for 45 minutes en route, hoping to see a new raptor... but nothing. Our luck changed when we arrived at Great Pond, where a Red-shouldered Hawk nest and a back-up Spotted Sandpiper had been staked out. Our hope was to also catch a glimpse of one of the area's nesting Mississippi Kites while one hunted over the pond. We could see the fuzzy head of a baby Red-shoulder peeking above its nest when we arrived. As we began walking towards the pond, the crows started screaming and mobbing a raptor. Dave started yelling "Mississippi Kite"; we all ran to the parking lot clearing for a look. Soaring over the trees came the kite, and with it, a second bird, a Cooper's Hawk. Imagine, a Mississippi Kite on a Big Day in Connecticut -- amazing. The adult Red-shoulder started screaming from the woods behind us. In less than a minute, we'd gained three new species. The Spotted Sandpiper was on the pond, and remarkably, ended up as only one of two for the day. Ahead of schedule, we blasted back to Bradley Airport with our fingers crossed... Touchdown! Nick's scouted Upland Sandpiper was calling, so we blasted to the coast, to find a big surprise awaiting...

Fog. At our first stop in Westbrook, it was so foggy we couldn't see Manunkatesik Island. We thought we were in the wrong place and drove around a bit, before realizing that we had been correct, we just couldn't see the island. This did not bode well. However, while we were pondering what to do, a Little Blue Heron flew by close enough for all to see... Okay, that was one. We decided that all we could do was try, run our route, and see what happened. Our second stop produced a few new shorebirds, including an American Oystercatcher and a much-needed Bank Swallow, saving us a stop, and time, later in the day when wasted minutes cost birds.

Hammonasset Beach State Park was a Kite Festival... literally, and not the Mississippi kind. The entire west end was blanketed in colorful flying objects... UFO's in DayGlo. There were few new birds, and certainly none at the west end, but Patrick picked up a singing Orchard Oriole. Little Blue Herons were conspicuous (because we didn't need one), and the pools on the moraine trail, scouted earlier in the week, produced our only White-rumped Sandpiper, the best bird for the park.

Our central coast home run was at Middle Beach in Madison. A flock of young male Common Eiders found offshore near Tuxis Island two weeks earlier but absent during the week decided to reappear, as did a young male Surf Scoter. Perhaps it was the tides? It doesn't matter, they were there! As were Purple Sandpipers and a Common Loon found on Saturday. Scouting paid off big, again. Nearby, the marshes and beaches along Neck Road gifted us with Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semi-palmated Sandpiper, Plover, and Purple Martins. We left the area to a chorus of Seaside and Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Spirits were running high. Did I mention that the fog stopped at Hammonasset, and it was clear sailing to the west!

We had most of our targets and decided to bypass our remaining central coast stops and head straight to Lighthouse Point Park. After talking our way through the gate, we grabbed our scouted White-eyed Vireo and Brant and flew towards Bridgeport for Peregrine. We never made it to Bridgeport; the stop proved unnecessary. Delayed by traffic on the Quinnipiac Bridge, we were able to find the local Peregrine sitting on a radio tower! (Patrick yelled out, "Third tower on the right." I was driving but was able to grab a look before the traffic moved.) Go team...

We were saving Milford Point for last, when the tides were highest, so we drove straight to the Railroad Ponds in Stratford. A quick run into the marsh and we had Boat-tailed Grackle, Gadwall, but no Wilson's Warbler; one had been singing there all week. That hurt. Our consolation bonus was a group of shorebirds hiding in the marsh that contained three or four Red Knots, a Greater Yellowlegs, and Short-billed Dowitchers, among the many Black-bellied Plovers in a wide array of plumages. Knots had just come in the day before. We left the area in a great mood, with five new species, and headed for Long Beach. The female Piping Plover's head was visible in the exclosure to the west of the parking lot, but the Glaucous Gull was absent. We'd have to find it on the Milford side, if we could. It was at Milford Point two nights before.

The infamous Glaucous Gull on a typical day, hanging out with the crowd at Long Beach in Stratford.

A quick check of the list showed we were at 181; the record was possible. Stratford Point produced some winners: Patrick picked up 11 White-winged Scoters that flew north along the jetties and up river before circling over Wheeler Marsh and heading back out to sea. Scanning the marker buoy at the end of the jetty, I noticed a large cormorant preening itself...We left with another tick, Great Cormorant. Hallelujah!

It was getting dark, and we had to hurry. As the light was fading, we scanned the marshes for Barn Owl; a large brown bird with a pale body flew by, but it was too far away to get a positive ID. Was it a Barn Owl, a Northern Harrier, or something else? We had to let it go and move on. Our last stop in Stratford produced a Green Heron, and to Dave's amazement, a Least Bittern that flew across the pool in front of him. The big, or should I say small, new bird was a Green-winged Teal that flew out of the pool with a Black Duck. One had been seen in the area a week ago, but we hadn't expected to find it!

Now at 183, we drove to New Haven hoping to find Common Nighthawk. For years there has been one reported from Cottage and Whitney; just minutes after our arrival, it called, and we were off for Durham... with 184.

Durham Meadows was beautiful, shrouded in fog aglow in moonlight. The dead trees within the marsh appeared to sprout from a cotton comforter; their branches looked like bare Q-tips silhouetted against the sky. There were a few birds calling: the ubiquitous songster of wetland, Marsh Wren, a few Swamp Sparrows, and Virginia Rails. We left with delightful memories and no new birds...

A few birds were still possible -- Gray-cheeked Thrush, King Rail, Common Moorhen -- hey, we were even contemplating a run for the Snow Goose that sleeps in Stamford Harbor... but time was running out. We decided to try for migrants and marsh birds. The last thing we expected was a Long-eared Owl calling near midnight. What a perfect finish to a wonderful day.

We ended with 185, one short of the record. There were a couple of birds we reconsidered but in the end decided not to count. It was a great day, full of surprises; any day with 185 species is a good day in our book, and there's always next year...

I would like to thank my tireless (or nearly so) friends and teammates, Nick Bonomo (the bird magnet), Patrick Dugan (the bird whisperer), Dave Tripp (the eyes), and Fran Zymont (the ears.) You make this event worthwhile and, dare I say, fun.

I would also like to thank all the generous Connecticut birders who sent us reconnaissance during the weeks leading up to the event; we can't do this event without knowing were the birds are, and our schedules don't allow us all the scouting time we would like... so are hats are off to you! A huge thanks also to all our tireless supporters who help us raise money to support the education and conservation mission of Connecticut Audubon Society, and specifically, the Coastal Center at Milford Point, by pledging per species... I bet now you wish you gave a lump sum... (It's never too late to donate, and remember, your contributions are tax deductible.) Thanks again. Frank Gallo, Director, Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center, and the Raven Luna-ticks.

Photo © Twan Leenders

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

White-eyed Vireo

I shot the following video of a singing male White-eyed Vireo yesterday at an undisclosed location in Connecticut. Unfortunately, it is not accessible to the public. The bird is holding territory, waiting and hoping for a female. While the White-eyed Vireo is not a species at risk, it is a somewhat rare sight in Connecticut. Our state is at the northern edge of its breeding range. You can hear the primary song in the video. Near the end, you will see an antagonistic display with an agitated call.

White-eyed Vireo from Connecticut Audubon Society.

I left the area shortly after it got angry with me. The species prefers late successional habitat, and this site is covered with thick shrubs and small trees. I had to carefully crawl through and under a lot of brush to reach his preferred spot. The video shakes a few times because of the exceptionally difficult angles I was forced to hold the camera at. Hopefully I will have video of a nest or young this summer, but either way, we should be able to see more of this guy soon.

Video © Scott Kruitbosch

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Purple Martin nest sites under construction at Milford Point and Stratford Point

Thanks, in part, to a grant from the Connecticut Ornithological Association we were able to purchase two Purple Martin gourd trees to augment the existing Purple Martin nest box at the CAS Coastal Center at Milford Point and replace the defunct nest box on Stratford Point.

At least three pairs of Martins currently occupy the box at the Coastal Center (see photo above), but the remainder of the available nest sites is taken up by House Sparrows. Similarly, a nest box for Purple Martins on Stratford Point had been taken over entirely by European Starlings and has been removed.

Purple Martins are the largest swallow in the state. East coast populations of this species rely entirely on man-made nest sites and are generally found in close proximity to people's homes -- often near water. Competition for nest sites with European Starlings and House Sparrows, both invasive species, has led to a dramatic decline in Purple Martin populations. As a result, the species is currently listed as "threatened" under the Connecticut Endangered Species Act.

Special nesting gourds with openings designed to exclude starlings and sparrows while allowing access to the martins, provide excellent opportunities for this species to recover locally. Today we started the ground work for the installation of 48 new nesting gourds by constructing the bases on which the racks will be placed that hold the gourds. Although it is too late in the season for Purple Martins to utilize their new real estate this season, they will investigate the new gourd trees during their fall migration and hopefully colonize them next spring!

CAS Sanctuary Manager John Laiacone, Seasonal Technician Lauren Curtis and Conservation
Technician Scott Kruitbosch level the ground stake on which Milford Point's new Purple Martin gourd
tree will be placed.

A little later the same procedure is repeated on Stratford Point where another gourd tree will
be erected soon.

If you are interested in a closer look on the life of Purple Martins you should definitely check out the webcams trained on a thriving colony in Westport. These cameras, maintained by a long-time friend and supporter of CAS, even allow you to peek inside the gourds as the martins raise their young! Follow this link to get a live view of these fascinating birds (including infrared night vision cameras with sound that allow you to watch & hear these birds 24/7!). And keep an eye on this blog to see how construction of the new Purple Martin colonies at our facilities in Milford and Stratford progresses.

Photos by Twan Leenders

Darien Land Trust

Last week I participated in the first set of point count surveys by the Darien Land Trust. Connecticut Audubon Society is helping the land trust carry out these surveys in order to collect baseline data to support habitat management practices on their properties. Additional standardized surveys will be carried out at regular intervals during the migration and breeding seasons and provide valuable information on the bird species that occur in these protected areas.

Connecticut Audubon Society has been involved in open space issues statewide and has long been promoting better use of Connecticut’s open space for bird and habitat conservation with the state’s legislature. Detailed descriptions of a new way to prioritize open space for habitat conservation and specific recommendations can be found in several of our annual Connecticut State of the Birds reports, which can be downloaded for free here. The Darien Land Trust has partnered with Connecticut Audubon Society to develop data driven guidelines for wildlife habitat management, using CAS’ best management practices. In addition, the data derived from these surveys will be available to CAS biologists to “fill in the blanks” on bird distribution and breeding bird records for this part of the state, which will help us better understand larger scale conservation issues.

Tokeneke Park features a large variety of habitats.

The primary intent of the surveys on the Darien Land Trust properties is to discover and record breeding bird species. However, we also recorded numerous migrants during last week’s first two surveys. CAS designed a protocol of point counts tailored to the specific sites to standardize the data collection process, allowing us to compare data from each season and year for decades to come. Last week’s surveys took place in two areas – Selleck’s Woods and Tokeneke Park – where pre-identified survey points were visited for 10 minutes at a time. During these periods, every bird species was recorded with a variety of conditional components built into the survey protocol. Every single bird heard or seen by the observers was recorded while we visited each survey point in the two locations. Even though initially the data may seem somewhat opportunistic, combined with data from future surveys it will help us better understand what species utilize the habitat and how. During last week’s surveys, I came up with 57 species including 14 warblers, a few flycatchers, hawks, and several important breeding species. Already, these initial surveys will give the Darien Land Trust and its visitors a general idea of what birds they might find during a walk in this valuable open space while at the same time contributing valuable information to statewide conservation efforts.

Nest cavity of a Black-capped Chickadee pair we observed repeatedly entering and departing.

Connecticut Audubon Society is always interested in cooperating with other land trusts, organizations, or individuals who protect tracts of land and who are looking to better manage their property for birds and other wildlife. Please contact us for baseline or prolonged wildlife surveys, recommendations on wildlife habitat creation and maintenance, or management techniques and suggestions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

4th Osprey chick hatches at CAS Coastal Center on Milford Point

The following screenshots from our live osprey cam clearly show that the fourth egg (which was thought to be missing in action for a few days) is very much there and has meanwhile hatched into another young Osprey chick. All little ones seem to be doing well!

Many thanks to observant Osprey cam followers Pat M. (top picture) and Sherri Delaney (bottom picture) for sending us these great screen captures!
Intrepid Osprey photographer Kevin Doyle managed to capture the image below of the male Osprey feeding bits of a fish he just brought to the nest to the female. She, in turn, will pass these morsels on to the waiting chicks who seem nearly insatiable at the moment.

Keep an eye on this blog or on the Osprey cam page on our website to stay informed!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stratford Point 5/16-5/22

If I had to summarize the past week at Stratford Point I would say it was very similar to the previous week. Shorebirds were the main story followed by the somewhat rare species we frequently see - Bobolink trickling in and Orchard Oriole still singing away for a mate. More terns are flying around each day, with Common being seen the most. Occasionally a Least Tern will make an appearance. In the next week or two, we will see a few more tern species as well. Last July we had a Black Tern providing excellent views between the point and Short Beach. A pair of Eastern Kingbirds, and sometimes even another individual, is constantly hawking insects by the front gate and fence as well as the grass and shrubby area in front of the main building. They very likely nested here last summer, though we could never locate the nest. We will this year!

Two Common Terns hanging out with us.

Sometime during the upcoming week, we will be erecting new Purple Martin gourds on a couple poles at Stratford Point and Milford Point. The old Purple Martin houses were removed a few days ago. Between being used by European Starlings and beaten up by the harsh winds and salt water of Long Island Sound they were in poor condition. Twan actually observed a Purple Martin checking out one of these old houses this week. Unfortunately those same Starlings ran it off. Nevertheless, this gave us a bit of hope that even though they are being installed a bit late in the season the gourds might be used this year. If you have an open habitat that is near water, you should definitely look into purchasing Purple Martin gourds to help this rare species. They are dependent on manufactured homes and gourds for nesting which means that providing these domiciles is necessary for the survival of the species in Connecticut.

On the right hand side of our Osprey cam page, which you can find by clicking here, there is an amazing Purple Martin Cam in Westport. Updates and more information about it can be found there and on the cam site. Next week we will show you pictures of the new homes at Stratford Point - hopefully with some Purple Martins!

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stratford Great Meadows IBA

This morning Twan and I surveyed what we call “zone 3” of the Stratford Great Meadows Important Bird Area. It was part of our extensive 2010 Breeding Bird Survey for all of the IBA. We record every species, their quantity, and their breeding condition – possible, probable, or confirmed – in each of five separate zones we created based on habitat type. Today we found 87 species and 16 warblers while adding to our growing knowledge of the breeding bird population in this critical habitat. An Olive-sided Flycatcher was the best find, a species not previously recorded in the 309 that have been documented and confirmed as being found at least once in the IBA. A picture of it and a few warblers photos are below:

Olive-sided Flycatcher, as expected, using a dead tree as a perch.

An Ovenbird who was very friendly.

Male Bay-breasted Warbler foraging while singing.

Chestnut-sided Warbler searching for a snack.

Our list of warblers included the following conservative numbers:
5 Northern Parula
15 Yellow Warbler
4 Chestnut-sided Warbler
16 Magnolia Warbler
9 Black-throated Blue Warbler
3 Yellow-rumped Warbler
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
3 Blackpoll Warbler
4 Black-and-white Warbler
22 American Redstart
3 Ovenbird
1 Northern Waterthrush
1 Mourning Warbler
18 Common Yellowthroat
4 Wilson’s Warbler
9 Canada Warbler

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

Position at Milford Point!

Position Title: Seasonal Educator # of Positions: 1

Salary: $300 - $320 per week (depends on exp.) + housing

Location: Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center, Milford, CT

Temporary, Full-time 40 hours per week

Start and End Dates:
August 1, 2010 (negotiable) to June 15, 2011 with possible summer employment.


§ Bachelor’s Degree in EE, biology, or related field; knowledge of marine biology, coastal ecology, and/or ornithology preferred.

§ Must be at least 21 years old with current certification in Standard First Aid and CPR for the Professional Rescuer; lifeguard with waterfront module and canoeing certifications preferred, or willingness to acquire.

§ Minimum of 1 year’s experience teaching children; sound teaching ability, enthusiasm, and ability to work with children both outdoors and in a classroom setting a must!

§ Some experience with program scheduling and volunteer coordination preferred.

§ Knowledge of the care of reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates preferred.

§ Experience teaching mixed-aged general public/family programs preferred.

§ Must be able to work independently.

Duties/Job Description:

The focus of this varied position is on teaching, animal care, and program promotion.

§ Teach, assist, and develop education programs predominantly on freshwater, coastal, and terrestrial ecology, marine biology, and birds to school and summer camp classes for grades Pre-K to 8.

§ Teach and assist with various youth and family education programs, including scouts, after school, summer and EE birthday party programs.

§ Assist with various aspects of educational mission and daily operation of nature center, including some program scheduling and publicity.

§ Maintain collection of animals used in programs. Supervise animal care volunteers.

§ Complete individual project to benefit Coastal Center’s programs or exhibit room.

§ Live on site. Some assistance with upkeep of building and grounds as needed.

§ Work 40 hour week, (Tuesday - Saturday with occasional Sundays and evenings.)

Apply: E-mail cover letter, resume, and
3 references to

Closing Date:
July 19, 2010 or when filled

Contact: Frank Gallo, Director
Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center, 1 Milford Point Road, Milford, CT 06460
Phone: 860-878-7440 x 501; E-Mail:; Web:

Observation platform at the Coastal Center

Please apply today!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Upcoming classes at Milford Point

Please consider attending one or all of the following classes at the Coastal Center at Milford Point taught by Director Frank Gallo. You will have an enjoyable time while learning a great deal from a fantastic teacher at one of the best birding locations in the state.

Director Frank Gallo looking at Charles Island

Birding for Beginners
Tuesday, May 25, 7-9 p.m. (classroom),
Saturday, May 29, 9-11:30 a.m. (field trip).
Learn the basics for identifying birds on your own. Frank Gallo is an enthusiastic teacher who will cover choosing and using field guides and binoculars, how to identify birds, and where to find them in our area during this comprehensive hands-on course. You’ll acquire the tools you need to identify birds yourself! The course culminates with in-the-field experience at a local birding hot spot. No experience necessary. Bring the “Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds” (which will be for sale at the Coastal Center). Please register before May 22. Fee: $55 CAS Members, $85 Non-members.

Early-Bird Walks on Saturdays
May 29 & June 5, 8-9 a.m.
Would you like to share your interest in birds and learn identification tips from others? Here's a chance to see old friends, meet new ones and get your bird ID questions answered. We'll concentrate on the basics and learn from one another as we search for migrants with Frank Gallo on the productive beaches, marshes, mudflats and forests of Milford Point. More than 315 species (out of CT’s total of 423) have occurred at Milford Point! Fee: $5 CAS Members, $7 Non-members.

Sorting Out Bird Songs
Thursday, June 10, 7-9 p.m.
Bird song is all around us. It can be lyrical or lazy, haunting or harsh, inconspicuous or breathtakingly beautiful. It is also an incredible aid to finding and identifying birds. Instructor Frank Gallo is an avid student of bird song. He will introduce participants to the basics of birding by ear, covering available resources, as well as the tips, tricks and pitfalls to ID'ing birds by sound. Is that an oriole or a tanager singing? Come find out as we delve into the basics of birding by ear. Fee: $35 CAS Members, $55 Non-members.

New! Citizen Science Breeding Bird Survey & Training,
Saturday, June 19, 9 a.m.-noon (field trip).
Interested in becoming a CAS citizen scientist trained to do bird survey work throughout the state? Then join CAS staff for a half-day survey training course during the peak of songbird breeding season. Participants will gain experience with visual and auditory survey techniques and receive points toward their CAS citizen science accreditation. Fee: $45 CAS Members, $75 Non-members.

Family Birding:
Saturday, June 5, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
Teach a child about birding. Through a series of interactive activities, participants will learn the basics of bird identification before venturing out for a birding tour of the property. All equipment is provided. For children 6 years & older who must be accompanied by an adult. Fee (includes 1 child & 1 adult): $25 CAS Members, $45 Non-members; add $10 for each additional child.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Osprey excitement at the CAS Coastal Center at Milford Point!

Many people watch the Osprey pair nesting at the CAS Coastal Center on Milford Point through our website here. However, few are as fascinated and dedicated as Coastal Center regular Kevin Doyle, who routinely braves hordes of biting flies, sun and wind while he patiently stands along the edge of the Wheeler salt marsh or on our observation tower, watching Osprey life unfold in front of him. Kevin regularly gets an intimate look at the bird's daily routines but also experiences their exciting interactions with other residents of the marsh -- and since his camera is always at the ready, the latter sometimes results in some pretty spectacular imagery.

Regular viewers of our Osprey camera know that the female has been quite homely lately, rarely leaving the nest. In the past few days, "rogue" Osprey have harrassed the female on occasions when the male of the pair had left her side. Yesterday, Kevin documented another type of interaction when a Great Egret tried to land in the saltmarsh grass patch below the Osprey platform: apparently the female Osprey decided that she did not want this bird near her nest and before the egret could even land, she was on top of him with talons out. This bird means business!

The egret smartly decided to take the high road and booked it out of there! Herons and egrets are voracious predators, and especially night-herons are notorious nest predators. Even though this Great Egret probably did not pose much risk to the Osprey and their nest, it became clear this morning why the female was so tightly nest-bound and on edge: the first eggs have hatched and two hatchlings are visible in the nest! The screen shot of our webcam below shows the parents on the nest; one adult is in the process of tearing small pieces of a fish that the male caught and feeding its young.
Note that Osprey have a habit of bringing back all kinds of items from their forays and incorporate them in their nest. You can see what appears to be a newspaper between the two chicks and the parents, as well as plastic bags and other debris. Hopefully we will have better screen shots of the baby osprey available soon to share with you. If you want to see the action for yourself, just click through to our live camera here, or join Kevin some time at the CAS Coastal Center -- he'll be happy to fill you in on the latest developments in the marsh!
Osprey and Great Egret photos by Kevin Doyle, Osprey Cam screen shot courtesy of Pat Mishico

Migration forecast 5/17-5/21

As amazing as it may seem the end of the busiest spring migration period is coming up very soon. It seems like only a few days ago I was writing about when to expect the first substantial wave of warblers and other migrants. Here is what the next several days look like:
  • Tonight: With rain approaching from the south/southwest tonight may be tricky for the birds. There is little to no wind, and combined with the date, a fair number of birds will take to the skies before the rain hits. However, since rain is over much of New Jersey and points south, not many more will trickle in. We will likely lose more than we gain. It will be less active tomorrow morning than it has been lately (and likely rainy then, too).
  • Tuesday night: A combination of rain and a northwest wind mean a quiet night and an even quieter Wednesday morning. The birds you do find will have likely stuck around for the past couple days to wait out the weather.
  • Wednesday night: The winds will be shifting back to the west and, combined with clearing skies, we will see moderate to heavy migration. If the storm system can clear fast enough this may be a big night. If not it will be on...
  • Thursday night: With the green light turned on via a southwest flow and high pressure the birds will make one last huge push into Connecticut. This night and Friday night should bring the final substantial wave through the weekend.
While you are waiting out the rain tomorrow, try to figure out what species the bird in the picture below is. I took the photo today in the Stratford Great Meadows Important Bird Area. The only hint I will provide is that the species breeds in Connecticut.

If you want to take a guess or have anything else you would like to comment on/inquire about feel free to email me -

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stratford Point 5/9-5/15

While many other places may be focused on passerine migration, shorebirds were definitely the story at Stratford Point over the past week. We hosted 11 different species! This is not at all uncommon. Many of these species were present every single day or at least multiple times this week. The full tally included Killdeer, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, American Oystercatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandipiper, Least Sandpiper, and Dunlin. The amazing part is that we can do better! Whimbrel, White-rumped Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitcher (even Long-billed), and more can be found at the right time. The sheer number of individuals of each species that were recorded were spectacular as well. I found approximately 213 Semipalmated Plover with 134 Least Sandpiper, among several other species, on May 10. The best part about watching shorebirds at Stratford Point is that it is an easy exercise. Most of the time, especially on poor weather days or during high tide, you can find a sizable number of shorebirds hunkered down on the beach. At this time of year, you can find many feeding there during low tide. They can be spread out along the enter perimeter of the site, from the rocks in front of the Lighthouse to the beach on the east side. You might walk to the beach and see just a few. Trust me, they will be there - they blend in to the various rocks and sand so well you may not notice them until they hop up mere feet in front of you. Look no further if you want to find a convenient place to brush up on your identification skills.

I was happy to add another species to the Stratford Point list this week: Great Crested Flycatcher. It was calling from the trees between the Lighthouse and the Point. While this species is a forest resident, it can often be found in open areas with scattered or lines of trees during spring migration. Last week I mentioned the return of the Orchard Oriole and the breeding pair we had in the summer of 2009. This week I saw, presumably, the adult male who was here last year, singing loudly from the shrubs and small trees along the northwest part of the property. Twan mentioned seeing Orchard Orioles in and near the small tree where they constructed the nest last year. Twan also observed the first group of migrant Blue Jays coming across the Sound to the Point. They fly in groups of about 30-50, landing in the trees near the Lighthouse to rest for a bit before continuing northward. It is quite an interesting sight. Finally, I found the American Robin fledgling pictured to the left on May 9. It is the first of many young birds soon to come.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blackburnian Warbler in HD

I filmed the male Blackburnian Warbler in the video below earlier today. I was conducting one of the first few surveys of the 2010 Stratford Great Meadows IBA Breeding Bird Survey. The entire area was loaded with migrant birds. Migration was heavy last night, and combined with incoming thunderstorms from the northwest, birds were pushed and dropped along much of the coast. In about six hours I had 17 warbler species and 95 species overall. You can hear the voice of this male as he repeatedly belts out his soft and high-pitched song.

Blackburnian Warbler from Connecticut Audubon Society.

Video © Scott Kruitbosch

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Birds and baseball

Major League Baseball has always held at least some degree of affection for birds. They have the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and St. Louis Cardinals franchises, so that must mean something. As a huge MLB fan, I spend much of my free time watching teams across America. I never expected to see what I have this year. While the Minnesota Twins are not named after a bird, the start of the 2010 baseball season has been full of bird talk at their new stadium, Target Field. After decades at the Metrodome, their enclosed bubble of a park, the Twins are getting to enjoy open-air baseball. They have picked up a visitor in the form of an American Kestrel.

The male Kestrel has been spotted at several ballgames, and to my knowledge, all of them were at night. At first, most people there were bewildered. Why was this "hawk" of sorts sitting on the right field foul pole? It turns out he enjoyed the stadium lights attracting insects. When he kept showing up the Twins broadcast team became very engrossed in his activities, embracing the bird as something like a secondary mascot. They told all their viewers it was an American Kestrel and provided facts about the species.

On Thursday, May 6, the Twins were losing to (ironically) the Baltimore Orioles on a rainy and chilly evening. It had been an uneventful game except for the kestrel captivating the crowd as he caught moths and other bugs in mid-air. The fans literally cheered as it grabbed a large moth then brought it back to the foul pole to eat.

This performance won over nearly every Twins fan. By last weekend, the broadcast team was asking for text message suggestions as to what they should name their new friend.

Last night Kansas City got into the act, showing and identifying a Western Kingbird that was hanging around during the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals game. We will have to see if this bird becomes a regular fan.

Hopefully the Minnesota American Kestrel will stick around. He has been very educational and entertaining for many baseball fans.

Photos via Fox Sports North (1-4) and Fox Sports Kansas City (5)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

187 species in one day? Birding for conservation -- the CT Big Day!

On Sunday May 23 (rain date May 24) Connecticut Audubon Society's team of expert birders, the Raven Luna-ticks (Nick Bonomo, Patrick Dugan, Frank Gallo, Dave Tripp, Fran Zygmont), will again attempt to break the CT Big Day birding record of 186 species, to raise money for the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point.

Our total last year of 177 species (despite a flat tire!) is now the 2nd highest Big Day count for CT! We invite you to help us achieve our ambitious goal of raising $10,000 this year. Every dollar you pledge will go directly to support conservation and education programs at CAS's Coastal Center at Milford Point – truly one of the best birding destinations in the Northeast. We can’t do it without you, and we thank you for your generosity! Click here for the Pledge Form or contact Frank Gallo at 203-878-7440 ext. 501.

No matter where birds hide, the Raven Luna-ticks will find them!

CAS’s Raven Luna-ticks team would like to thank everyone who supported our Big Day birding run on May 24, 2009. We made an all-out effort to break the state’s 1-day bird-finding record of 186 species and raise funds for Connecticut Audubon’s conservation and education initiatives. Despite a flat tire that cost us an hour -- and the need to dodge tornados late in the day -- we managed to spot 177 species, surpassing the state’s old second place total of 176! We were very encouraged by the results and are already planning for next year. We’re also very proud that our efforts earned nearly $3,000 in pledged donations.

In case you have any doubts about the intensity of a Big Day effort, read this summary of last year's adventures in birding:

Our 2009 Big Day started at midnight in Dead Man’s swamp in Cromwell listening to Virginia Rails, a Black-billed Cuckoo and migrating Swainon’s Thrushes passing overhead. But the American Woodcock that called until 11:55 p.m. took the rest of the night off and went uncounted. Fortunately, we heard a few of his buddies later in the day. A quick dash upstate brought us to Rentschler Field in East Hartford where Grasshopper Sparrow, Spotted and Upland Sandpipers chimed in right on schedule. Station 43 did not produce Least Bittern or Sora but did have a screaming Great Horned Owl and Bobolinks. Dave's staked-out Horned Larks and Bank Swallows at the airport performed beautifully around 2:30 a.m. We were in the northwest corner before first light, and picked up quite a few species, including Whip-poor-will and a singing Acadian Flycatcher at Rattlesnake Swamp.

Highlights of our Northwest corner tour included Golden-winged, Hooded, Cerulean and about 22 other warbler species, Ruffed Grouse, Common Raven, Black Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and Pileated Woodpecker. We left the north around 10:30 a.m., right on schedule and with 130 species -- minus Hairy Woodpecker. Our goal was to be to the coast by 11:30 a.m. for high tide. But just before we reached the coast we blew a back tire, setting us back an hour, throwing us off the tide and making it real work to find the afternoon’s targets.

Extensive scouting in the weeks preceding a Big Day help locate tough-to-find species,
such as Peregrine Falcon, on schedule. Time is of the essence!

We picked up Peregrine Falcon in Bridgeport and all the essential targets in Stratford: Boat-tailed Grackle, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Common Loon, Piping Plover and Glaucous Gull (thank you Nick!) at Long Beach. But the staked-out Stilt Sandpiper had left, as had the Red Knot and Red-breasted Merganser. Sadly, harriers did not breed along the railroad trail this year. Milford Point produced Orchard Oriole, two Red-throated Loons and White-rumped Sandpiper. Things picked up as we headed east. Middle Beach in Madison produced two Purple Sandpipers that had been scouted earlier in the week, and Hammonesset Beach State Park still held King Eider, Black and Surf Scoters, Seaside Sparrow and Little Blue Heron.

We reached the Essex Docks with plenty of light but the thunderstorms caught us, and the Bald Eagles took shelter, and were not out in the open. We headed to Griswold Point for a beautiful sunset but there were no new birds to be seen. After dark we tried for Least Bittern, Sora and King Rails at several places, and ended our day back at Dead Man's Swamp listening again to Virginia Rails, Black-billed Cuckoo and the quite active American Woodcock. Our last bird of the day was a Gray-cheeked Thrush calling as it flew overhead.

Clearly this is not birding for the faint of heart! Keep an eye out for updates on this year's Big Day on this blog and please consider supporting our team's efforts by pledging here. Thank you!

Photos (Clapper Rail and juvenile Peregrine Falcon) © Twan Leenders

Monday, May 10, 2010

Northern Waterthrush

I filmed the Northern Waterthrush in the short video below on May 1, 2010, at the Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield. It was very cooperative for a species that is often heard more than seen. The Northern Waterthrush breeds in parts of Connecticut, mostly in the northern half. You can find them around forested swampy areas, bogs, and slow moving streams. The species always seems to enjoy the edges of the pond at Birdcraft. This individual likely continued on its journey north the next night.

Northern Waterthrush from Connecticut Audubon Society.

Video © Scott Kruitbosch

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yellow Warblers and Cowbirds - appropriate for Mother's Day

Last week I spent a bit of my own time checking out migrants in the Stratford Great Meadows Important Bird Area. This encompasses Great Meadows Marsh, the McKinney Wildlife Refuge, Long and Pleasure Beaches, the “warehouse pools” on Long Beach Blvd, and some other habitat connected to these areas. I discovered a female Yellow Warbler already building a nest in what we call zone 3. She was using mostly natural materials, but occasionally bringing a bit of twine or string back as well. What was fascinating about the sighting was the fact that I spotted a female Brown-headed Cowbird only meters away. The species is a brood parasite, as females lay their eggs in the nest of other birds. One is egg is laid in each nest with the intention of having their offspring raised by this other species. The Brown-headed Cowbird young will out-compete nearly any other offspring in the nest for food, often leading to the death of the host species’ young.

I almost chuckled when I saw the Cowbird so close to the nest, thinking about how it may lay an egg there in a couple weeks. However, I was surprised to see it immediately hop right in the partially constructed nest, seemingly thinking about laying an egg at that very moment! I am sure it would have toppled right out of the now flimsy nest had she done so. Perhaps the bird was simply checking out the progress of the nest – either way the female Yellow Warbler came back a moment later, calling loudly and becoming animated. She aggressively flew towards the Cowbird, pecking at it and chasing it out of the nest and away from the general area. I watched her return about 10 minutes later, and I did not see the Cowbird again that day. I am almost positive it will be back.

Last year we conducted a Breeding Bird Survey in the Stratford Great Meadows IBA over a six-week period in June and July. Yellow Warblers were confirmed as breeding in several areas. Additionally, Brown-headed Cowbirds were confirmed as breeding in three locations because of three separate sightings of Yellow Warblers feeding a young Cowbird. The picture below was taken in zone 1 on July 3, 2009. A male Yellow Warbler is holding an insect he caught. He proceeded to feed it to the Cowbird chick, which has it's back to the camera.

We used handheld GPS units to record the exact location of every breeding confirmation during the Breeding Bird Survey. Fortunately, I was carrying such a unit last week and recorded the location of the Yellow Warbler nest. It would be classified as a “probable” breeder now as it was in the process of creating a nest and not having actually bred or produced young. Now that we have the GPS coordinates anyone easily return to the spot to check on its progress. Decades from now others will also be able to look at the exact spot where a Yellow Warbler, or any other species, was found breeding. Hopefully we will be able to take these vital records on a yearly basis in critical habitats across Connecticut.

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stratford Point 5/2-5/8

In last week's entry, I wrote about hoping to be able to include in this entry that Bobolink and Orchard Oriole were seen for the first time this year at Stratford Point. My prediction came true, as both species were part of the 60 that were recorded in the past week. The Bobolink sighting came on May 6, while Orchard Oriole was seen on the 6th and the 8th. The latter sighting was of a first-year male and a female. This pair was probably migrating through the area. I hope that I am wrong and they stick around. Maybe this next week will bring the pair that nested here last year back to us. Bobolink will be here in much greater numbers very soon. They are often very cooperative to viewing and photography. I will be sure to take some pictures of both species and some HD video as well. Other notable returns were Least Tern and Common Tern. You can find both species relatively easily simply by walking the perimeter of the site. Eventually you will hear their calls and see them flying around. You may actually be able to see them resting or preening on exposed rocks, as the two Common Tern in the photo on the right are. Spotting scopes can offer fantastic views when they are relaxing like that. Other new arrivals included Chimney Swift, a species you will be able to find flying about with the various swallow species. We recorded the four expected swallow species this week - Tree, Northern Rough-winged, Barn, and Bank - as well as a Purple Martin. We will be erecting gourds for Purple Martins to nest in very soon, similar to the ones which they have every year at Milford Point. There is always a chance we could get them this year, but if not, we will be all set for next season.

New shorebird species for the year included Spotted Sandpiper and Semipalmated Plover. We also found Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, and Dunlin. I am sure we will find some Least Sandpiper soon, and perhaps a Short-billed Dowitcher. Today was a busy day at the Point despite the thick fog over the water and rain that moved in mid-morning. Passerines were hopping and singing by the gate and fence. I found four warbler species, and while this is a small total for a day in May, it is a lot for Stratford Point. The coastal grasslands habitat with very few trees does not lend itself to capturing many of them. We do get decent numbers on good days in the fall. However, we find Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler from time to time in the spring and summer, both of which I recorded today. Additionally, two new species for the Point were singing and foraging in the trees we do have: American Redstart and Black-and-white Warbler. They had not been recorded in the year and a half we have been observing birds at Stratford Point. A Warbling Vireo was also belting out it's song today, a rare bird for the Point. Sometime soon, we will give you the total number we have recorded. It is quite a high number in this diverse and beautiful spot. Can we get 70 species in the next week?

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

Friday, May 7, 2010

Chestnut-sided Warbler video

Below is a high-definition video that I shot of a Chestnut-sided Warbler. I found this bird on Saturday, May 1, at our Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield. As I have mentioned previously, Birdcraft's small size and attractiveness to migrant birds often lends very close views of species you may not often get good looks at. This cooperative male allowed me to sneak in close and watch as he bathed and preened in the pond and surrounding vegetation. Experiences like this are a common occurrence in the sanctuary.

Chestnut-sided Warbler Bath Time from Connecticut Audubon Society.

Video © Scott Kruitbosch

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Woodcock intrigue

My earlier video post of the two American Woodcock at our Croft Preserve in Goshen has spurred quite a few responses and I thought I'd share some of people's insights as well as the results of some additonal research today.
The synchronized "Woodcock Walk" shown in the video is a known behavior in these birds and apparently this is how they wander through the woods. However, WHY they do this is still a mystery.
When observing these kinds of social interactions, several questions arise: why is this behavior taking place & who is involved? In this particular case the interaction could be territorial (two males competing over prime real estate or the most desirable female); it could be a courtship behavior (a male and a female interact and may mate afterwards); or we could be looking at a parent/chick interaction. Due to the pronounced size difference between the two birds, the first option does not seem very likely as two competing adult males would be expected to be of comparable size. As for the other two options, the jury is still out but leaning towards the latter option.
There is a pronounced sexual size dimorphism in American Woodcock and females are considerably larger than males -- in extreme cases the female can be more than twice as heavy as the male -- so a ritualized courtship behavior has not been ruled out entirely. However, the fact that the larger bird vocalized after being separated from the much smaller individual and was visibly agitated because of this separation, hints at the fact that it was a parent trying to re-connect with its offspring. As was mentioned in a previous blog post here American Woodcock along the shoreline are currently still found sitting on eggs or caring for downy young. Apparently, at the same time, older (2-3 weeks judging form the bird's size) young are already moonwalking in the northwestern hills. Woodcocks have a protracted breeding season and the timing certainly works out.
So, even if we are watching a parent bird crossing a road with its single young (note that American Woodcock usually lay 4 eggs) the question of WHY still remains...
Many cryptically colored animals will persist their cryptic behavior even when they are placed in an environment that makes them highly visible (on many occasions I have seen bright green snakes sit really still, pretending to be invisible, in the middle of a tan dirt road, even when you walk right up to them). Perhaps this is happening here also and it is irrelevant to the birds that they are in the middle of a paved road: they simply walk like this regardless of their surroundings...
Another question that was brought up today is whether this behavior is innate (genetically encoded and present when the chick hatches) or learned from the parent(s). I don't think anyone has an answer to these questions -- I certainly have not been able to find any clues in the literature. Regardless, this is certainly a nice reminder of how much we still can learn about creatures that we share our environment with. Even if we never figure this one out we'll at least have a nice excuse to admire birds with some pretty slick moves!

Thanks to all who contacted me with information about Woodcock and their behavior!

The Woodcock Walk...

Yesterday right after leaving our Croft Preserve in Goshen I came across these two American Woodcock in the road, completely engrossed in some sort of social interaction. I watched these bird's antics for about 2.5-3 minutes before a passing truck flushed them.
It is not entirely clear if we're looking at courtship, territiorial display or something else, but the size difference between the birds suggests that this is an adult and a juvenile interacting. When the birds flushed they ended up on opposite sides of the road and the larger of the two continued to vocalize with a soft version of their normal "peent" call, seemingly to stay in contact with the smaller bird.
Whatever is going on here, these birds certainly have their choreography down!

Woodcock Walk from Connecticut Audubon Society

Video by Twan Leenders

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Migration forecast 5/5-5/9

Here is a quick rundown of what I feel will occur in the next several nights in terms of migration:

  • Tonight: Very heavy migration will occur across the state and surrounding region. Birds will be equally dispersed in all areas Thursday morning. Some locations will see 12-18 species of warblers. Any location will yield migrants.
  • Thursday night: Light migration only, mostly in the southwestern part of Connecticut, in the wake of a cold front. Focus on coastal hot spots.
  • Friday night: Heavy migration across Connecticut. The chance of showers and thunderstorms during what may be a very strong night of movement leaves us with a moderate chance of fallouts, birds that are stopped in the middle of the night by rain and concentrated in extreme numbers in a small area. Saturday morning may be very interesting. If you hear thunder overnight, you should get out the door in a hurry! Additionally, if you do not immediately find birds, do not be deterred. You never know where a fallout will put down a large group.
  • Saturday night: Light migration, focused primarily along the coast.

The only problem that may occur on Friday night is that if showers and thunderstorms are spread across the state before the birds can even get to us it will stop them from getting in at all. Ideally, (for bird watchers, not the birds themselves!) the rainfall would move in after newly arriving birds have taken off from areas to our south and made it into the state. I definitely advise anyone looking to head out on Saturday morning to keep a close eye on the Friday night weather forecast.

Severe thunderstorm as seen from Stratford Point last August. See the swallows on the wire?

This is the best time of year to go outside on a clear and pleasant night and listen to the skies. You may be surprised at how many chips and calls you hear from birds flying overhead. Listen very carefully when migration is heavy and keep in mind you will not hear any songs - only a variety of notes and flight calls. Tonight is a very good night to try it, but make sure you still get to bed early for what should be an active and exciting Thursday morning.

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Warblers are here

The first day of May brought in the first real wave of warblers to all of Connecticut. I visited our Birdcraft Sanctuary on April 30, May 1, and May 2. It is one of the best locations in Connecticut to find a variety of warblers, as has been mentioned in previous entries. The 6-acre sanctuary has a pond and well-maintained trails. The small size of the sanctuary means most people end up getting exceptionally close and prolonged views of some common, infrequent, and even rare birds. It is situated between residential neighborhoods and Interstate 95, and when viewed coming up the coast or after crossing Long Island Sound, it is obviously a very tempting place for birds to stop after a night of flight.

The evening of April 29 featured primarily northwest winds. Some birds were able to sneak through as southwest winds prevailed all the way to New York City. While the Central Park and points south had 15-20 species of warblers, Connecticut started a bit slower. On the afternoon of the 30th Birdcraft held:
  • 1 Blue-winged Warbler
  • 1 Northern Parula
  • ~25 Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • 4 Black-throated Green Warbler
  • 2 Palm Warbler
  • 5 Black-and-white Warbler
  • 1 Ovenbird
  • 1 Northern Waterthrush
This 8-warbler start was easily one of the best tallies in the state. Note that Birdcraft ends up landing birds such as the Blue-winged Warbler and Ovenbird, a scrub-shrub denizen and mature forest dweller, respectively, despite the lack of habitat there. You never know what you will find, and nearly any species is possible at our migrant trap.

Black-and-white Warbler

The night of the 30th opened up heavy migration across the region. My stop during the afternoon of May 1 yielded:

  • 1 Nashville Warbler
  • ~15 Northern Parula
  • 2 Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • 1 Magnolia Warbler
  • 1 Black-throated Blue Warbler
  • ~10 Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • 4 Black-throated Green Warbler
  • 15+ Black-and-white Warbler
  • 1 Ovenbird
  • 3 Northern Waterthrush
  • 1 Common Yellowthroat
  • 1 Canada Warbler
12 warbler species in one location, all counted during the less active afternoon hours, meant that once again Birdcraft ended up as one of the best spots in the state. Connecticut's likely best spot, East Rock Park in New Haven, tallied 14 warblers with many groups of people passing through during prime morning hours. I can almost guarantee I had much better views at Birdcraft as well, like with this Chestnut-sided Warbler:

One of the prolonged views of a Chestnut-sided Warbler

Heavy migration continued the night of May 1, but the birds ended up spread across the landscape on May 2. The totals from a quick stop late that morning at Birdcraft were:
  • 5 Northern Parula
  • 2 Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • 3 Black-and-white Warbler
  • 1 American Redstart
  • 2 Northern Waterthrush
  • 1 Common Yellowthroat
Even on a "slow day", you will likely find at least 6 or 8 warblers there. I am sure there were a couple more I did not find in my brief visit. During these slower days, you will still get exceptional views of the birds that are there. I watched Northern Waterthrush foraging along the trails, mere feet in front of me. They would, as their name implies, often stay around the edges of the pond, even hopping on the footbridge that goes over it.

Northern Waterthrush

I would never try to deter anyone from visiting his or her favorite spring hot spot, but I do encourage anyone who has never visited Birdcraft to stop by. My suggestion would be to look carefully in the areas around the pond, and to go towards the back of the sanctuary while looking high in the oak trees. These trees are favored especially by Northern Parula, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Blue-winged, Black-and-white, Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, Bay-breasted - nearly any warbler can be found in them at varying times. The areas around the pond frequently yield Nashville, Canada, Black-throated Blue, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow, Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Palm, American Redstart, Wilson's, and more.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch