Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May storm birds

A low pressure system is parked off our coast for the duration of the week, spinning constant northeast winds, rain, and thunderstorms our way. While it is undoubtedly hampering the landbird migration, it means shorebird and waterfowl birding is excellent. The northeast winds alone put some good birds in the air and water by Stratford Point early today including 4 Northern Gannet, 3 White-winged Scoter, a Surf Scoter, at least 9 Common Loon, and more.

Morning and afternoon thunderstorms and showers forced a whole bunch of other birds to the ground. While we usually have plenty of shorebirds at Stratford Point, this brought down one very nice not-usually-seen-in-spring species, a Red Knot! It also instantly dropped around 15 Semipalmated Plover, 2 Least Sandpiper, 1 Dunlin, and 1 Sanderling in the muddy upland area. It was only a matter of chance that we did not get something even more significant.

My find of the day was at a pond not far from my home, indicating how important it is to check every body of water, whether it is a tiny pool or a large reservoir, on days such as this. While walking up to it I saw a Solitary Sandpiper and a Greater Yellowlegs, already uncommon birds for the spot. After noticing a Green Heron relaxing in the vegetation I saw something behind it - what is that? A Least Bittern!

Least Bittern hanging out in the open

That is a very tough bird to find anywhere outside of a handful of locations in Connecticut, and seeing one in this neighborhood pond was amazing. It foraged and walked in the open 10 to 20 feet from me. I did not want to flush or bother it too much, but I do not think it would have cared if I walked right up to it. Perhaps it was dropped here while migrating along the Housatonic River (on the other side of the road from this pond). That is only speculation on my part. Unfortunately, it was also raining very hard most of the time while I observed it, and I managed only these few tough photos holding the camera under my jacket.

If only it was a step ahead...

Looking for a snack

The Green Heron

Tomorrow may bring the exact same conditions - check those ponds, pools, lakes, marshes, and anywhere on the shoreline for oddities and rarities. Good luck!

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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