Friday, March 30, 2012

Seasonal technician needed for Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds

For immediate release:

Connecticut Audubon Society is seeking to hire a seasonal technician for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds.

Position Summary:
To aid Connecticut DEEP and US Fish and Wildlife Service efforts for inventory, monitoring and stewardship of coastal waterbirds in Connecticut as part of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbird Conservation.

Essential Functions:
The waterbird technician will assist conservation scientists with monitoring, research, and management activities for nesting and migratory shorebirds on the coast of Connecticut. Stewardship, inventory and monitoring activities include: 1) Posting and patrolling bird colonies on beaches and offshore islands, 2) educating island and beach visitors about beach nesting and migrant birds, 3) recruiting, training and organizing volunteers for inventory and stewardship efforts, 4) monitoring of beach and island nesting birds for productivity and assisting DEEP and USFWS staff in stewardship activities of Piping Plovers as needed. Additional duties may be assigned.

Preferred applicants will have previous experience working with beach nesting shorebirds and waterbirds. Weekend and holiday work will be required. This is a great opportunity to work with several species of shorebirds and waterbirds in a unique estuarine ecosystem. Salary is $10 per hour, 35 hours/week for a period of 26 weeks. Starting date is flexible but the position will be available by early April. No benefits. Assistance with project-related mileage will be provided, but applicant will need to use personal vehicle. Limited assistance with housing may be available.

Qualifications and Experience:
Basic qualifications include: coursework in active pursuit of a degree in biology, wildlife management, or related field; experience with waterbird and shorebird identification and/or monitoring for the US east coast; experience working with Microsoft Office Suite software; experience with GPS units; must have valid driver's license and safe driving record; experience and ability to communicate clearly via written, spoken and graphical means.

Working in physically strenuous settings, in variable weather conditions, at remote locations, and on difficult and hazardous terrain.

MS Office Suite, GPS operation, experience with boating and/or sea kayaking is a bonus.

To Apply:
Please send a CV and letter of intent to:

Twan Leenders
Conservation Biologist
Connecticut Audubon Society
2325 Burr Street
Fairfield, CT 06824
Tel. (203) 259 6305 ext. 114

Connecticut Audubon Society conserves Connecticut’s environment through science-based education and advocacy focused on the state’s bird populations and habitats. Founded in 1898, Connecticut Audubon Society (CAS) operates nature facilities in Fairfield, Milford, Glastonbury and Pomfret, an EcoTravel office in Essex and an Environmental Advocacy program in Hartford. Connecticut Audubon Society manages 19 wildlife sanctuaries around the state, preserves over 2,600 acres of open space in Connecticut and educates over 200,000 children and adults annually. Working exclusively in the state of Connecticut for over 100 years, CAS is an independent organization, not affiliated with any national or governmental group.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sports Illustrated - Bird what?!

With all of the intricate conservation work and complex biology we have focused on in the last month, I had to post this to give everyone a little break. I am an enormous sports fan, and I was flummoxed by a stupendous tweet on Tuesday. It featured one of the craziest magazine covers I can remember and left me with many vexing questions.

It was tweeted by Andy Gray of the Sports Illustrated Vault, their online archive. He said:

Once upon a time (1955), SI costs 25 cents and promoted Bird Watching on the cover. Times have changed:

Which is a link to this photo...

Really? First of all, I thought birding was more popular than ever, and secondly, I am wondering where the split came in here, from bird watching as a nationally revered sport to something nerdy tree huggers do (it may be improving somewhat in the last few years, but the general perception is not far from that). Is this really how birding was viewed 60 years ago, on par with Yogi Berra, and or was this an anomaly? Most of my questions were answered by browsing through some of the other SI magazines from 1955 as they featured everything including fishing, sailing and rowing, horses, dogs, diving, hunting, archery, and even how to climb the Matterhorn, apart from the expected baseball, football, tennis, and so forth.

Still, they did a wonderful job on that cover - can you identify all of the birds depicted? Here is a link to the issue in question and here is one to the key for the birds, 60 in all. Now if only they could get that sort of attention today in SI...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

April Stratford Point bird walk

Connecticut Audubon Society Conservation Technician Scott Kruitbosch will lead a public bird walk at Stratford Point on Saturday, April 21 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. with an inclement weather date of April 28, same place and time. We will likely see the last of the wintering waterfowl as they head back to the north. We will be welcoming in the first warblers, some new shorebirds, more long-legged waders, and migrant sparrows, kinglets, and swallows. There may be a chance we will have Purple Martins in our gourd tree. It is a good month to see a Brown Thrasher, American Kestrel, Savannah Sparrow, and more of the well over 30 state-listed bird species Stratford Point has held in the last few years.

We will also discuss the conservation projects that Connecticut Audubon Society will be involved with in the coming spring and summer and the ongoing work at the site. The walk will be free and we suggest bringing binoculars and a spotting scope, if you have one. Make sure to dress for the season! It is usually safe to assume that this exposed coastal spot is windier and colder than much of the state even on warm days. Please meet in the visitor parking lot by the buildings. Stratford Point is located at 1207 Prospect Drive, Stratford. For more information, contact Scott Kruitbosch:

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Big season for ticks?

After such a warm winter and early spring there has been a lot of discussion among those who love the outdoors about ticks and whether or not this will have kept more alive to leap on us in the coming months. One would think that more would have survived without any frigid cold or much snow whatsoever, and the proof of this would be in how some were active even in the normally "safe" months. I have been telling people that you should check yourself for deer ticks, or black-legged ticks, year-round as I was picking them up in relatively surprising locations, such as one in my yard on December 26. If you cannot even leave the house without getting one the day after Christmas it is time to be wary wherever whenever!

It turns out that is not entirely how it works in the world of ticks. Twan sent me this intriguing article from Science Daily that says it will indeed be a huge season for ticks - but not for the reason outlined above. The mild winter may have led some otherwise dormant adults to leap onto us when they had the chance, but they are far from the real threat according to Dr. Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York. The issues are the white-footed mouse population and acorn crop, as explained in the piece:

What do acorns have to do with illness? Acorn crops vary from year-to-year, with boom-and-bust cycles influencing the winter survival and breeding success of white-footed mice. These small mammals pack a one-two punch: they are preferred hosts for black-legged ticks and they are very effective at transmitting Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

"We had a boom in acorns, followed by a boom in mice. And now, on the heels of one of the smallest acorn crops we've ever seen, the mouse population is crashing," Ostfeld explains. Adding, "This spring, there will be a lot of Borrelia burgdorferi-infected black-legged ticks in our forests looking for a blood meal. And instead of finding a white-footed mouse, they are going to find other mammals -- like us."
That does not sound very, uh, good. Again, I encourage you to read the entire engrossing article here and to keep this in mind when you are anywhere close to the woods in the next few months. Even if you venture into your yard you should keep an eye on yourself and your pets. You might use sprays and lotions, wear many layers, tuck your pants in your socks, etc., but the only way to truly prevent being bitten is to change all of your clothes immediately and check every inch of yourself when you come back into the house. Good luck and stay safe while we enjoy the bounty of birds on the way back to our forests.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Monday, March 26, 2012

More Blogging From Connecticut Audubon Society

Connecticut Audubon Society now has two great blogs (we say with all modesty): this one and a new one designed to follow our conservation advocacy work and other topics.

If you are a regular reader of or subscriber to this blog, thanks and don't let the new blog drive you away. Scott Kruitbosch, our conservation technician, and Twan Leenders, our conservation biologist, will continue to bring you first-rate reports and analysis of what they find in the field.

But please give our new blog a try as well. Our communications director, Tom Andersen, who has some experience writing about conservation issues and about Long Island Sound, will be writing most of it but we hope to persuade Milan Bull, our senior director of science and conservation, to contribute too.

Click here to read the new blog and, if you like what you see when you get there, click the subscribe link in the right-hand column. We'll do our best to provide good things to read on a regular basis.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Aspetuck Land Trust visitor from Greenland!

On March 15, I completed a solo survey of the Crow Hill and orchard sections of the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area, part of the Aspetuck Land Trust, where you likely know we are developing a conservation and management plan. While in the orchard I saw a group of Canada Geese in the farm fields surrounding it and noted that one of them had a yellow neck band with black lettering. This is not an infrequent event as I usually see at least a few birds like this every year, the vast majority inevitably leading back to birds banded in the immediate area in recent years.

However, this goose had a three letter code, not four, and held no digits - GNJ. That first letter had me intrigued immediately, and I snapped a photo of the bird and the band before all of them took off to fly further away.

As always, I went to when I returned from my day in the field to enter all of the pertinent data on my sighting and await word on its origin. That message came to me on Saturday while I was listening to one of the fantastic speakers during the COA Annual Meeting as my phone vibrated with a message all the way from Denmark. It was a delighful email from Tony Fox of the Department of Bioscience, Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, from the University of Aarhus. It turns out I had found one of his geese:

This was indeed a goose that we banded in Greenland, part of a project to mark Greenland White-fronted and Canada Geese in west Greenland over several years, and your observations are of great interest because as you will see, this individual was reported from Maine in September 2011, so we are delighted with your resighting to confirm that it continued further south and is still alive as the birds begin their journeys northwards!

The goose was first captured and banded on a lake simply known as Lake F to the catching team (very few lakes in this area have Greenlandic names) which is at 67°06’56"N 50°30’10"N in an area known as Isunngua, immediately north of the airport at Kangerlussuaq in west Greenland. This has been a study area for our investigations on and off over many years. On that occasion, it was banded with a yellow collar, a yellow tarsus band bearing the same engraved combination and a metal Copenhagen Zoological Museum leg band. It was an adult male captured on 23 July 2008, part of a catch of 13 adults but no juveniles.

Tony and I exchanged some more emails during the afternoon (or night for him after teaching undergrads all day) as I sent him more details and a photo of the goose and he told me more about the ongoing studies and research. You can find much of the information from the last few years here:

If you navigate to the "Recoveries and resightings of banded Greenland geese in 2011/12" at the top of the page, and scan down the page at that link, look for "GNJ". That is the goose I spotted and its history. You will also see a little "mugshot" of it, the goose being swabbed for avian flu, and it being held as well. This guy, at least four years old, has had quite a life! Here is a simple look at where he was originally banded compared to where I found him on a Google Earth map...

Whew, I get tired just looking at how far that is - and it is 1,987 miles! I cannot imagine how many more it has covered with stops in Maine and elsewhere over the years, flying back and forth each season.

The reasons to protect Trout Brook Valley keep coming lately, and this is another ironclad argument. Even the "common" species we see so frequently that we hardly notice may be depending on some of our lands for food, rest, and safety before or after a long journey, or during critical breeding times. Many people tend to think of Canada Geese as almost background noise in the bird world or pests as they leave their mark on golf courses and wander around small ponds and yards. Most of the species do not spend their lives loafing about the clubhouse, and the farm fields owned by the Aspetuck Land Trust and state of Connecticut have served this visitor (and likely other foreign friends) very well. Here's hoping I have more to report to Tony soon, and that someone else picks up our friend here on his journey back to the north.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Heat records keep falling

This view from Stratford Point could have been anywhere on the Connecticut coast in the past week.

Fog has been a constant because of the extremely warm temperatures over the still cold water. Plants are one to two months ahead of normal development in many areas, spelling disaster for many forms of life that depend on them sticking to schedule. We detailed how this affects vernal pools and their life and will write more on the science of what is occurring this spring soon.

For now, here are those temperature updates, deviations from long-term averages at these climate stations (in degrees Fahrenheit, via the National Weather Service):

November: +4.3
December: +5.7
January: +5.6
February: +6.3
March (through the 23rd): +9.4

November: +3.9
December: +5.9
January: +5.5
February: +6.0
March (through the 23rd): +11.4

I am almost speechless with that 11.4 - really?! Yes, really! A high of 83 degrees on the 22nd pushed the Hartford area to 36 degrees above the average high of 47. It correlates well to the unprecedented acceleration in growth showing us how important temperature and sunshine are for in comparison to total amount of precipitation. It is going to cool down in the near future to only slightly above average temperatures, and we'll have to wait and see how long that lasts.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Friday, March 23, 2012

Exploring spatiotemporal variation in migration phenology

Hey eBirders - you may not have known it, but you contributed to the paper in the title of this post, written by Allen Hurlbert and Zhongfei Liang using eBird data. You can see the post on eBird here and access and read the paper for free here. I was going to publish this post in April as more of the birds arrived in Connecticut but, well, I do not want to wait. With the unbelievably record-shattering warm weather continuing it is the perfect time to be reading such a fascinating paper and keep an eye open for early records.

Hurlbert and Liang stated:
"We examined the extent to which birds have been shifting the timing of spring migration in response to year-to-year variation in spring temperature over the past 10 years and at sites throughout eastern North America. We found what many of you have undoubtedly observed yourselves--that many species, like the Red-eyed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager, are arriving earlier in warm years and later in cold years. Other species, however, such as the Barn Swallow and Eastern Wood-Pewee, do not seem to be as able to adapt to this variation in climate, and their populations may be suffering as a result."
Even I have played around with temperature and bird observations in a very minor and only somewhat scientifically sound manner with local observations as it an obvious concept to explore. Utilizing all of the records put into eBird and weather observations for years across the country yields patterns that cannot be disregarded. I encourage you to read the paper - the trends are really staggering in some cases - and keep plugging in your data. Besides your year list, a sanctuary checklist, or even helping conservation organizations like ours in Connecticut, you may be contributing to some enormously important and groundbreaking science.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amphibians of Trout Brook Valley

Twan and I spent much of today in the field surveying the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area, part of the Aspetuck Land Trust, where we are developing a conservation and management plan. While we looked for birds, plants, mammals, insects, and more, much of our focus was on amphibians, and we had some exciting finds. Twan knew it would be a good time to find some of them active and possibly breeding in this unbelievably warm weather and our results backed up both his optimism for the habitat and the conditions. Take a look...

 Wood Frog egg mass

 Wood Frog egg mass now out of water, able to survive for some time still

Masses of Wood Frog eggs, some immersed, some not

 An American Bullfrog that should not be coming out until May or June

 Jefferson Salamander eggs! A state-listed species that was a fantastic find

Spotted Salamander egg masses, another important species - one pool we found had dozens of egg masses

Early for this Eastern Newt to be out and about, but we saw a few

Here are some great shots by Twan with his underwater camera...

 Spotted Salamander eggs

 Spotted Salamander eggs, note the positioning on the stick

 Spotted Salamander spermatophores

 Wood Frog eggs with Newts

Close-up of Wood Frog eggs

Finding those salamanders, plus more like Marbled Salamander, was a great sign for the health of some of Trout Brook Valley's precious habitats, and further motivation to do everything possible to protect parts of the sensitive areas of the preserve. However, there is one major problem - most of the eggs you see above of all species will likely die because the vernal pools are evaporating and drying out at a much faster rate than usual (you can see the beginning of this with the Wood Frog eggs). Twan remarked that some of the pools had water levels they normally would in June or July. Once again abnormally warm weather is to blame, and without any snow melt whatsoever or much in the way of rain lately, the majority of these will perish if we do not have substantial and sustained amounts of rain soon. Amphibians really do put all of their eggs in one basket, and they may not have another chance to breed until next spring.

Climate change alters every single system on the planet, and while we have all enjoyed lovely weather and flowers blooming a month early, it is wreaking havoc on the rest of the world around us. Not only do we have to do much more to protect sensitive vernal pool habitats and the threatened and conservation priority species that inhabit them, we have to now cope with a changing world that is throwing everything off. A year here or there may not manner in the grand scheme of things, but incredible weather and climate events are becoming the norm here, and that is a very dire scenario. Nevertheless, we left happy knowing that Trout Brook Valley possesses a fair number of very important salamander species and can really be a significant breeding area for a variety of amphibians and reptiles. We will be checking back on these pools very soon and keep you apprised of what happens to them and the life they hold.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician
All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and Twan Leenders and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds work underway

We have been mentioning the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) quite a bit recently. The AAfCW is made up of two organizations - Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society - that are partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut in an effort to aid the already tremendous work done by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The AAfCW has its own blog that we hope you will ready frequently all season to keep up on monitoring efforts, bird surveys and counts, cool photos, important information, and more:

If you're interested in becoming a monitor or volunteer, you can read the updated information posted here in our blog last week and contact USFWS as described there, or the AAfCW at and we will provide further direction.

Below is the first weekly update, and you can expect more of the same if you bookmark or follow the blog.


This is the first update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds for the 2012 season. We will include weekly updates with data from our staff and volunteers on our four focal species - Piping Plover, Least Tern, American Oystercatcher, and Common Tern. There will be additional data listed on these species from trusted anecdotal sources. There may also be updates on long-legged waders and other shorebirds, if applicable.

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/13
1 adult at Milford Point on 3/15
2 adults at Long Beach West on 3/16
1 adult at Harkness Memorial State Park on 3/17
3 pairs at Milford Point on 3/19
1 adult at Long Beach on 3/19

Anecdotal reports:

2 adults at Griswold Point on 3/11
3 adults at Griswold Point on 3/12
3 pairs, 1 mounting and copulating, at Milford Point on 3/17

American Oystercatcher

Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult at Milford Point on 3/6
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/7
3 adults flying by Long Beach on 3/9
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/9
2 adults not far up Housatonic River on 3/9
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/15
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/18
2 pairs, 1 adult at Milford Point on 3/19
1 pair at Stratford Point on 3/19

Anecdotal reports:
3 adults near Branford Harbor on 3/9
2 adults at Haycock Point, Branford on 3/9
2 adults at Hammonasset State Park on 3/9
1 adult at the Norwalk Islands on 3/11
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/14
2 adults near Branford Harbor on 3/16
3 adults at the Norwalk Islands on 3/17
3 adults at Compo Beach in Westport on 3/17
2 adults at the Oyster River mouth on 3/17
1 adult at West Haven on 3/18

There have been no reports of Least Tern or Common Tern thus far in 2012.

Including anecdotal information, multiple Great Egret and a few Great Blue Heron have been seen migrating into Connecticut in the past week, both in groups on the coast and in locations otherwise not seen in this abnormally warm winter. Two Snowy Egret have been reported, one in East Lyme (Rocky Neck State Park) and one in Stonington (Quanaduck Cove). One Glossy Ibis was reported yesterday at Hammonasset State Park.

This concludes update #1 through 3/19/12 as of 5:00PM.

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, March 18, 2012

USFWS, CT DEEP, & Audubon Alliance training videos

You probably read about how wonderfully the training session went for our volunteer monitors last weekend at Milford Point, and that we still need more caring citizens to help out the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds this spring and summer. The following videos are only portions of the three-hour plus session conducted by the aforementioned parties, and they are meant to be used as a part of training future volunteers or those who could not attend the session.

Anyone else who signs up now will also be given further information, instruction, and documents by the USFWS and Audubon Alliance plus some time on the beach with Master Plover Monitors or our staff. If you're considering signing up or just interested about what goes on, they give you a great sense of what volunteering involves, from how to handle yourself on the beach to legality to the work being done by the Audubon Alliance.

The videos are primarily of USFWS Ranger Shaun Roche and Refuge Manager Rick Potvin. You will also see and hear from CT DEEP Supervising Wildlife Biologist Jenny Dickson, Audubon Connecticut IBA Coordinator Corrie Folsom-O'Keefe, and hear Connecticut Audubon Society Conservation Technician Scott Kruitbosch, who was behind the camera.

The first video discusses the job of a volunteer monitor, their role, responsibilities, and some of the legalities pertaining to this service.

The second video details the difference between volunteering some of your time for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as more on your role as an educator on the beach, how to go about that duty, situations to avoid, and how to report incidents or disturbances.

The third video goes further into handling situations on the beach, everything from who to approach or not approach, what to do when you see loose dogs, and what the responsibility of USFWS is to you and the municipality is with respect to their beaches and laws.

Again, if you want even more information or to sign-up as a volunteer please email us at or call/email USFWS Ranger Shaun Roche at (860) 399-2513 or

Please stay tuned for upcoming information on International Shorebird Surveys that we will be seeking volunteers for this year, a unique project run solely by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds that is perfect for the birder who loves the shore.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, March 16, 2012

Hot winter continues!

Nearly a month ago I wrote about how this was actually a "hot" winter with far above normal temperatures across our region of the country. The deviations we had been seeing were extreme, and I doubt I have to tell anyone who has been in Connecticut in the last week that this continued in an "off the charts" way. Vernal pool activity has been full steam ahead as frogs are singing their choruses night and day. Fox Sparrows and others are making a quiet march through the state, not being pushed into the open by snow that we could easily be having at this time of year.

Trees are exploding with buds as countless species of woody vegetation and flowers pop open with days in the mid 70s. In 2010 we experienced an incredible leaf-out with many trees full of leaves before most of the neotropical migrants had returned, making life easier for them but harder for eager birders. This year we stand a good chance of beating that. Take a look at the newly burned Stratford Point as green shoots pop up everywhere in the black earth!

We are shattering daily temperature records with by several degrees, and look to do much of the same again next week. So where do we stand on temperatures? Here is where we stood as of March 14 (in degrees Fahrenheit, via the National Weather Service):

November: +4.3
December: +5.7
January: +5.6
February: +6.3
March: +7.0

November: +3.9
December: +5.9
January: +5.5
February: +6.0
March: +6.8

Unbelievable. The early birds keep coming, too. Have you seen (or maybe more accurately heard) your first of year Eastern Phoebe or Pine Warbler yet? More will be on the way next week.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Utilities Merger Leads to Big Conservation Victory

As an organization, we want to see government agencies, landowners and non-profits work together to protect important habitats in Connecticut forever. That’s the model that has worked at Stratford Point, on land owned by the DuPont Corp., protected by a conservation easement held by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and managed by Connecticut Audubon Society.

But we don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good, which is why we supported an effort by Connecticut Fund for the Environment to use the proposed merger of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR as leverage to extend for another decade a memorandum of understanding concerning 9,500 acres owned by Northeast Utilities.

The 9,500 acres is spread around the state in 375 parcels. A decade or so ago, when it looked as if Con Edison was going to buy NU, the sale agreement included a memorandum of understanding that said if NU-Con Ed wanted to sell any of those parcels, it had to give advance notice to municipalities, land trusts, conservation organizations, etc.

That memorandum expires in two years. CFE used the proposed merger to push for a 10-year extension.

Which they achieved, for 8,500 acres.

The great news is that the other 1,000 acres will be preserved forever. Here’s what the Hartford Courant reported (the link includes a link to a PDF list of the 375 parcels):

... nearly 1,000 acres of that land — sparkling gems among the 375 tracts owned by NU — will be placed in an irrevocable land trust controlled by an independent board with appointed members, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection told me today. The trust will provide stewardship for 188 acres on King’s Island in Enfield and Suffield; 723 acres on Skiff Mountain in Sharon; 57 acres off Hanover Road in Newtown; and 13 acres off Bartlett Road in Waterford.

CFE led the conservationists’ efforts. Connecticut Audubon Society supported the work. Last month, Robert Martinez, CAS’s president, wrote to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority:

… we urge the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to require an extension of the current Memorandum of Understanding that obligates NU to give advance notice to municipalities, land trusts and other conservation organizations when it offers any of those 375 tracts for sale. This advance notice is designed to give us and others time to evaluate the conservation value of the tract and formulate an acquisition strategy before the land is offered to developers.

We got what we wanted, and more. Which is good news for conservation in Connecticut.

Tom Andersen
Director of Communications and Community Outreach

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

March movement on the Sound

March is known for starting migratory movement, but the incredible +20-25 degree temperature deviation that occurred in the region yesterday only helped spur on even more birds our way. There have been multiple reports of Piping Plover, Osprey, Tree Swallows, Pine Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, and so forth arriving already, before we hit the midpoint of the month. I will let the incredible "heat wave" play out before analyzing that and its obvious effect on our environment (do you see all the trees with buds and flowers everywhere?!), but here are a few shots of birds coming and going around Stratford Point in the last week.

This Snow Bunting was one of a bunch on the way north. I do not think we will be seeing any more until fall after this...

Here is a record shot of three Northern Shovelers, a pleasant surprise last Sunday. I spotted another drake a few moments after I took that, and a hen has been seen as well as all five seem content to stick around in Long Island Sound. They are an uncommon find, though even more so in this spot, and quite rare for Stratford Point.

This pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds is feeding on the freshly burned grasslands, which have drawn in Common Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Robins, and of course unfortunate pests in the form of the European Starling. Killdeer have also been seen wandering over the blackened earth. It will be fascinating to see what else is attracted to the changed habitat.


Finally, this Song Sparrow may be a resident, or it may not, as many of the species and other wintering sparrows filter back to the north. Their numbers have increased while birds like the American Tree Sparrow are seen out of place, quietly moving back to their northern homes before the big waves of migrants commence flight.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Monday, March 12, 2012

Town of Stratford/CAS bird walk results 3/11

The latest Town of Stratford bird walk with CAS took place yesterday at the Stewart B. McKinney NWR "railroad track trail" and associated areas on Long Beach Boulevard. This popular birding destination is well known for its spring bounties of shorebirds and neotropical migrants, and can hold uncommon or threatened birds year-round. It is home to many state-listed species of birds, plants, reptiles, and more.

About 25 people enjoyed good views of a decent variety of birds considering the date and number of us traversing through the habitat. Two cool sightings bookended the walk with a Northern Harrier cruising by as we prepared to set out and a group of 31 migrant Fish Crows flying to the northeast as we said our goodbyes. Here are all of the species seen:

Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Green-winged Teal
Great Blue Heron
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull (American)
Mourning Dove
Downy Woodpecker
Fish Crow
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
American Goldfinch

The list reflects mid-March rather well, with recently arrived blackbird species and Killdeer along with a few more ducks. In the next week we will see Tree Swallows zooming through the sky and warblers like Palm and Pine not long behind with this constant warm flow. Our next walk will be at Long Beach on 3/25 at 8 a.m. when we should be seeing more shorebirds and perhaps the infamous Piping Plover! We hope you can join us.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More volunteers needed

Yesterday the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, as well as Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society, both organizations working as the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, joined together to help train volunteers to conserve threatened beach-nesting coastal waterbirds. The session went wonderfully with well over 40 enthusiastic volunteers in attendance, many new to this valuable service.

However, for those who could not make it Saturday or missed signing up, you can still join in helping monitor threatened species like the Piping Plover and Least Tern. You can call USFWS Ranger Shaun Roche at (860) 399-2513 or email, or email and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds will instruct you about how to go about it. We will provide information, videos of the training session, and if you are new to volunteering, time with Master Plover Monitors or seasonal technicians on the beach.

Below is some of the original information for we sent out for potential volunteers so you can get a sense of what to expect as one.


Connecticut's shoreline provides critical habitat for the federally threatened Piping Plover. You can help us conserve this threatened beach-nesting species:

    Do you have an interest in wildlife?
    Do you enjoy walking along the beaches of Long Island Sound?
    Can you spare at least two hours a month to help threatened birds in our state?

Please consider volunteering as a Piping Plover monitor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service!

For the last several years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Audubon Society, Audubon Connecticut, The Nature Conservancy and The Friends of Milford Point/Stratford Great Meadows NWR have partnered together to monitor beaches between West Haven and Stratford for nesting Piping Plovers.

These migratory birds return to the Connecticut coast each March from their wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast and stay here up to five months to nest and raise their young.  Located on the beach, their nests are extremely susceptible to human disturbance, destruction by predators, and tidal wash outs. Volunteer monitors make a big difference, enhancing the survival and productivity of plovers and terns in our state.

As a monitors, you will observe and record data about various beach nesting birds and their chicks on a variety of Connecticut beaches. The primary duties involve assisting the USFWS with observation and data collection about nesting Piping Plovers, and helping to educate the public about these species. Volunteers work 4-hour shifts from April until the end of the breeding season (usually in August) and must donate a minimum of 4 hours per month.


Thank you for your interest!

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbird Conservation, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, March 9, 2012

Stratford Point bird walk 3/8 results

There is a reason I always advise visitors to keep in mind that Stratford Point is typically colder and windier than the rest of the state, and yesterday was a perfect example. While inland Stratford was in the mid 60s with a light and warm-feeling breeze, Stratford Point topped off in the upper 50s with strong cold-feeling wind off the still chilly Long Island Sound. I had scheduled the walk the day after the full moon coinciding with low tide in the hopes we would have plankton-feeding birds (see this post on that subject) as well as many coming in to rest on the sandbars in the mouth of the Housatonic River. Normally calm waters are better for this type of feeding, but even with some waves the gulls were here!

Despite the windy and rough conditions, and the fact we felt frozen as the sun went down, a nice group of people enjoyed a bird walk that featured thousands of gulls. I estimated, considering how many were in front of us and going in and out of the area, feeding on the water and on the sandbars, we had around 4,000 gulls. About 75-80% of them were Ring-billed Gulls, with the rest being Herring, sprinkled in with a few Great Black-backed. Walk participant Tina Green picked out a rare adult Lesser Black-backed Gull that was plankton-feeding in gull groups the size of the shots below. They were actually far closer to shore than they appear (not all white dots) but I wanted to show everyone the magnitude of what occurs, and scopes offered excellent views.

Also in the large group of gulls feeding along with them were American Black Duck, American Wigeon, Greater and Lesser Scaup, and Bufflehead - very cool! Here is the full list of birds seen on the day, a few being before most of the group arrived as I walked the property.

Mute Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck 
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Surf Scoter
Long-tailed Duck 
Red-breasted Merganser 
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon 
Great Cormorant
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull (American)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Song Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird 
House Finch 
House Sparrow 

Thank you to everyone who came! If you couldn't make it we hope to see you next time and will schedule an April walk soon.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Merlin and more raptors coming back

I mentioned in this post on the Stratford Point controlled burn that the Bald Eagle that flew over may have been a returning migrant as it moved in the correct direction and we do not often see them fly over in such a manner. Last week I also had this Merlin show up at Stratford Point, and having not had one for over two months, I presume this bird was also on the move back north.

It sat in the White-tailed Kite's old tree doing absolutely nothing else, likely tired from a journey back to New England and resting up for another one to who knows where. It was not there in the morning, only the mid-afternoon, and may well have flown in. We often see such birds at Stratford Point, and in the past I have observed them coming up the coastline and landing here, or even out from the middle of Long Island Sound. Last year I recall an American Kestrel zooming in from out over the water and landing on one of our telephone poles.

It is a very good time to see some of these falcons and others returning to known areas or passing by migrant traps. Get your kestrel boxes up now!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician
All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Shorebirds flying by

Actually, some shorebirds are doing more than just flying by as their numbers are also building on the Connecticut coast. I have seen an increase in the number of Dunlin and, to some degree, Sanderling. I know Killdeers are being seen in much higher numbers, and this is a great month as always for American Woodcock to start making their amazing mating displays. Yesterday the state's first American Oystercatcher for 2012 was seen by Frank Mantlik, and any day now the first Piping Plovers will be here.

So how many Dunlin and Sanderling can you count in the picture above? Are you able to identify which is which between the similar species? If you find a Curlew Sandpiper in there please do tell...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Scott Kruitbosch and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Monday, March 5, 2012

More controlled burn photos

Here are a whole bunch of photos of the Stratford Point controlled burn taken on the front lines with the CT DEEP Forestry Division by our own Conservation Biologist Twan Leenders who donned a uniform and watched the event up close. Read more about the burn, why it was needed, how it progressed, and see my photos and two HD videos in post via the link above. These shots mostly speak for themselves!





Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

All photos © Twan Leenders  and not to be reproduced without explicit permission