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

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