Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coastal Center Osprey chicks hatched

The Osprey eggs are hatching at the Coastal Center at Milford Point! A friend of the birds sent us these screenshots from the Connecticut Audubon Society cam you can watch live by clicking here.


Thank you to all of you who support Connecticut Audubon Society's Coastal Center at Milford Point and allow so many viewers to watch the lives of our Osprey pair and their young. Keep an eye on them for us, will you? And please do send in any interesting tidbits and observations.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Piping Plover chicks at Milford Point

I took some photos of Piping Plover chicks at Milford Point this weekend during our monitoring and surveying efforts and I wanted to share some. These are the little ones we at CAS work 12+ hours a day for seven days a week.

At the Coastal Center and adjacent beaches we started off Memorial Day weekend with one family of four chicks, hatched another four, and then hatched another three, totaling 11 little ones running around with another couple of nests to go. This is one of the most productive areas in the state for the federally-listed species, though also one of the most heavily trafficked. CAS staff kept a close eye on them all weekend from nearly dawn to dusk, and even into the night with one of our technicians living at Milford Point. They are doing as well as can be expected thus far, but they still need our constant attention and the assistance of our all wonderful volunteers.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red-necked Phalarope at Milford Point

Last Thursday, May 24, Piping Plover monitor Steve Spector found a rare Red-necked Phalarope at the Coastal Center at Milford Point not far from a Piping Plover family of four hatchlings. It fed in the water along the shore with hundreds of Semipalamted Sandpipers and a couple White-rumped Sandpipers. Frank Mantlik obtained these gorgeous photos.


I had some nice looks at it for a few minutes and it was awesome to see a bird in breeding plumage as this female was. Most of Connecticut's shorebird rarities end up coming in the summer or fall with juveniles and birds already having molted out of this beautiful stage. Our Coastal Center at Milford Point always knows how to draw those shorebirds and rarities in...

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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Help coastal waterbirds Memorial Day weekend

The hazy, hot, and humid beach days have arrived in Connecticut as we enter Memorial Day weekend. As you can read in the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds blog we have been recruiting all the help we can get to watch over tiny Piping Plover hatchlings during this extremely busy time on the beach. Please see this entry concerning the holiday weekend and this one from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. We need all the volunteers and monitors we can get to be out and active monitoring and surveying the birds, talking to beachgoers, and educating the public on the birds and what we can do to aid their survival. We can easily co-exist on the beach with these threatened species if we only keep an eye out for them and stay away from string fencing and nest exclosures.

However, volunteers are not the only folks out on the beach as full-time staff from Connecticut Audubon Society is joining in the effort with all of the seasonal staff from the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. As the coordinator of the AAfCW project I was in field for several hours, and CAS Director of Education Michelle Eckman, an incredibly and experienced knowledgeable birder and Piping Plover lover, joined me for the day in Stratford and Milford. Below you can see her tying some flagging on to fencing we assisted CT DEEP in erecting around an area where a pair of Piping Plover and their four tiny hatchlings have been spending their time on Long Beach in Stratford.

I will show you all some of the images I captured of these adorable little cotton-ball-on-stilts looking chicks in an upcoming post after our busy weekend. Check out this new AAfCW entry for some astounding images from a volunteer.

CAS staff is active from dawn to dusk (and, well, sometimes all night too) seven days a week right now working to help ensure a successful breeding season for some of Connecticut's most imperiled birds. We hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend, but there are no weekends or holidays for birds or breaks in our nonstop efforts. We would not have it any other way.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spring birding programs at Milford Point

Check out some spring birding programs from the Director of the Coastal Center at Milford Point, Frank Gallo.

The Early-bird Walks
Saturdays, May 26, and June 2, 8:00 – 9:00 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 I.D 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 Connecticut’s total of 424 have occurred at Milford Point! Fee: $5.

Sorting Out Bird Songs
Thursday, May 31,  or Wednesday, June 6, 7 – 9 p.m.

Discover the basics of birding by ear!  Using a variety of sound resources, instructor Frank Gallo will teach you tips, tricks, and even pitfalls to identifying birds by sound.  Is that an oriole or a tanager singing? Come find out, as we delve into the secrets to birding by ear. Meet at the Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point. Fee: $35. Seniors $31.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Coastal habitat restoration at Stratford Point continues

Last week students and staff from Sacred Heart University's Biology Department joined Connecticut Audubon Society staff at Stratford Point for a day of planting. Almost 100 native trees and shrubs, acquired through funding from the Connecticut Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership and the Connecticut Ornithological Association, were planted in the site's upland in an effort to enhance the coastal habitat and provide food, shelter and other resources for local wildlife.  

Habitat management of the remediated upland recently involved a prescribed burn to remove a thatch layer that had been building for several years. Encroaching invasive plant species are tackled as they crop up and last week's planting session is a next step towards fighting the unwanted and unsuited plants in the area and gradually replacing them with native vegetation that historically would have occurred in the area.    

SHU graduate student Jennifer Gazerro provides directions to her crew as they stake out the exact locations of the new plantings in one of the four vegetation 'islands'

Previous vegetation surveys at Stratford Point during the summer of 2011 have provided a solid baseline assessment of the habitat prior to all the work that is being done, while similar surveys in high quality coastal habitat at our coastal center on Milford Point help us understand what a desired restoration outcome could be. Hopefully the new plants will put us another step closer to re-creating a functional coastal habitat.

Native trees and shrub, such as Red Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Serviceberry/Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis), Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), Beach Plum (Prunus maritima) and Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina), were planted in four identical, circular vegetation 'islands.' This configuration allows us to carry out specific monitoring studies to compare the well-being of plants in each 'island' as a result of different environmental conditions. In addition, it is easier to protect  clusters of vegetation rather than scattered individual plants from deer browsing.
Sacred Heart University students work hard to dig a large enough hole to accommodate the tree that CAS Sanctuary Manager John Laiacone is bringing over.  

CAS Conservation Technician Scott Kruitbosch is distributing shrubs to their designated spots
 Some additional plantings will take place in late summer/fall after we have carried out some contouring in the terrain to create a foundation for a back dune system that can trap wind-blown sediment. We're also hoping to create a temporary wetland on-site that can provide additional stop-over habitat for migrating birds. The remaining plantings will be applied to these projects to further enhance the habitat.    

The SHU Biology Department van was turned into a green delivery vehicle
A soil/compost mixture left over from the dune construction project carried out earlier this year is used as planting medium for the new trees

Many hands made the planting project manageable and by the end of the day all 96 trees and shrubs were in the ground
Luckily the rain and overcast weather in the past few days have provided perfect conditions for the new plants to catch on and we'll be watching and watering them as the summer progresses. Stratford Point's appearance is rapidly changing and we're hoping that our ongoing monitoring will reveal that these changes have a positive effect on the local flora and fauna. Come see for yourself sometime!    

Twan Leenders
Conservation Biologist

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Larsen Sanctuary walk on 5/19

I joined CAS Director of Education, Michelle Eckman, as she led a spring bird walk through the Larsen Sanctuary at our CAS Center in Fairfield on Saturday morning. Michelle is not only a brilliant educator but also an excellent birder, helping all to observe birds by both sight and sound, the latter being a very important skill at this time of year.

I meant to take more photos but I became way too caught up in finding birds! Here is a shot of the group looking for a singing Red-eyed Vireo.

These are our full results with my notes on what was seen and/or heard.

Canada Goose  1     Flyover, heard
Double-crested Cormorant  1     Flyover, seen briefly
Red-shouldered Hawk  1     Chased by AMCR a couple times
Red-tailed Hawk  6     Seen all
Rock Pigeon  1     Seen flying by
Mourning Dove  3     Seen on building
Chimney Swift  4     Pairs seen/heard in a couple spots
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1     Seen early in parking lot
Red-bellied Woodpecker  6     Seen and heard
Downy Woodpecker  2     Seen and heard
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1     Heard
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1     Heard
Eastern Phoebe  1     Seen and heard at farm pond
Great Crested Flycatcher  3     Heard
Warbling Vireo  2     Heard
Red-eyed Vireo  8     Heard and a couple seen
Blue Jay  4     Heard and a couple seen
American Crow  6     Heard and a couple seen
Tree Swallow  2     Seen in clearing
Barn Swallow  2     Seen in clearing
Black-capped Chickadee  8     Heard and a couple seen
Tufted Titmouse  4     Heard and a couple seen
White-breasted Nuthatch  4     Heard and a couple seen
House Wren  5     Heard and seen
Veery  3     Heard
American Robin  4
Gray Catbird  8     Heard and a couple seen
Ovenbird  1     Heard
Blue-winged Warbler  1     Heard
Common Yellowthroat  1     Heard
Magnolia Warbler  1     Heard
Yellow Warbler  2     Heard
Blackpoll Warbler  1     Heard
Pine Warbler  1     Heard
Eastern Towhee  2     Heard and seen
Chipping Sparrow  4     Heard and seen
Song Sparrow  1     Heard
Scarlet Tanager  1     Heard
Northern Cardinal  4     Heard and a couple seen
Red-winged Blackbird  4     Heard and a couple seen
Common Grackle  3     Heard and a couple seen
Brown-headed Cowbird  2     Heard
Baltimore Oriole  3     Heard and seen
House Finch  2     Seen
American Goldfinch  6     Heard and seen
House Sparrow  2

Considering the time and the fact many birds departed the night before (seen via radar) while relatively few came into the state from points south we were happy with our results. There will be more walks coming soon for both of us, so stayed tuned!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, May 18, 2012

Least Tern mating ritual and fish dance

I captured this HD video of a pair of Least Terns on Long Beach in Stratford on May 16.

They were in the middle of one of their mating rituals. In this case, the male captures a fish and brings it back to the female on the beach. He holds it while standing behind her, she hunching over flapping her wings quickly but only slightly up and down, veering her head back and forth. He performs the same left to right fast glances. This would go on for a few minutes in this case and typically end in copulation, though I left the area before seeing any more so that they could have their privacy.

At any rate, it is very encouraging to see this state-threatened species getting off to an early and decent start this season in terms of numbers of birds on several of Connecticut's beaches.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

USFWS hosts Stewart B. McKinney Luncheon

This past Saturday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted a Stewart B. McKinney luncheon and awards ceremony at the Connecticut Audubon Society managed Stratford Point with the consent of the site owner, DuPont. The event was meant as a "thank you!" to all of their volunteers, Friends Groups, and staff of their partner organizations including Audubon Connecticut and Connecticut Audubon Society, the two organizations that make up the two halves of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. The weather was very cooperative as it turned out to be an absolutely stunning day.

With 40-something people in attendance the event was a great success as everyone discussed conservation efforts, birds and birding, monitoring, and the progress of coastal waterbirds thus far in 2012.

Here is a photo of an award received by the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge being named U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Recovery Champions for 2011, a testament to the hard work of all its volunteers.

Lining up at the grill on the beautiful day.

Everyone in attendance also kindly brought side dishes and desserts.

Refuge Manager Rick Potvin speaking to the group.

Rick and Ranger Shaun Roche giving out awards to volunteers.

One such recipient was Ewa Holland, a past volunteer who is now an AAfCW waterbirds technician.

We thank USFWS and all of our volunteers for the wonderful afternoon and for all of their constant and vigilant efforts on Connecticut's beaches.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Cerulean Warbler at Aspetuck Land Trust

Our continuing survey work at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust keeps yielding great finds. Once again today the best sightings were of birds including the highlight of the spring, a singing male Cerulean Warbler, a rare species for Fairfield County even though it breeds in low numbers across the state. They are canopy dwellers and with all of the leaves out at this point of the season they are quite difficult to see and photograph. Nevertheless, I was able to zoom in tight and snap off some record shots.

While I did not see it often or for long, I could certainly hear it constantly, so I took a moment to record his song with my camera which you can hear in MP3 form here.

Apart from being a stunning bird to look at, it is one of the fastest declining songbirds seen in the U.S. It is rapidly losing its wintering grounds in South America and declining throughout its breeding range, possessing a global population of just over 500,000 after dropping more than 80% in the last several decades. Many birders know it to be a particularly tough bird to locate outside of known breeding areas, mostly concentrated in northwest and southeast Connecticut, with a few in the northeast corner. Typical migratory hotspots right on the coast do not pick up the birds, but I am guessing this bird was a migrant based on the location around the clearing on the green and white trail where many other migrant species and birds were feeding. Whether it is "only " a migrant or may actually try to breed somewhere nearby, this is a very important discovery.

There was loads of other wonderful species seen today, but this guy is the current winner for bird of the year for Trout Brook Valley.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

COA Raptor Workshop

This is something to mark down on your calendar for a few months from now. The Connecticut Ornithological Association and I will be running a COA Raptor Workshop at our hawk watch site at Boothe Memorial Park as you may have seen in the summer bulletin. We hope to see you there at this free and public event!

Saturday, September 15th, 2012 at 9:30 am
Raindate: Sunday, September 16th, 2012

Boothe Memorial Park, Stratford
Learn how to identify raptors, including eagles, vultures, buteos, accipiters, and falcons. Watch for raptors in flight as they pass over this excellent CT hawk watch site on their fall migration. Boothe Memorial Park is on Main Street in Stratford, off Route 110, just south of the Wilbur Cross Parkway at Exit 53. Meet at the hawk watch site, between the clock tower and rose garden. Free and open to the public. Birders of all skill levels are welcome. Leader: Scott Kruitbosch, et al. Contact person: Chris Loscalzo at or 203-389-6508.

That could be at a wonderful time for Broad-winged Hawk migration. You may recall that on September 16 of last year we tallied 8,234 raptors in 9 hours! Those sort of daily totals are far from yearly events, but we could certainly have a day with thousands of Broads passing through right around that time.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, May 10, 2012

More spring migrants and breeders

I found 76 species of birds including 21 species of warblers at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust on May 8. It was another dark and dreary sort of day, far from a photographers dream amongst a sea of leaves, but here are some shots from the journey:

 Blue-winged Warbler

 Eastern Kingbird

 Field Sparrow, multiple pairs breeding in orchard

 Scarlet Tanager, many back on territory now

 Tons of Worm-eating Warbler singing from high perches on territory in the darkened forest

Another Worm-eating

Many more birds to come as the conservation department accumulates loads of baseline data...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Big Day 2012

It's that time again! Here's information on the Big Day 2012 effort from Coastal Center Director Frank Gallo:


In 2011, our team, the Connecticut Audubon Raven Luna-ticks (Nick Bonomo, Patrick Dugan, Frank Gallo, Dave Tripp, and Fran Zygmont) finally broke Connecticut’s Big Day birding record of 186 species (see the details in this post). We broke it by six, besting the New England record by one, as well, with a hard-earned total of 192 species in 24 hours. Our New England record lasted a week. Friends from Massachusetts now hold the record with 193 species. It’s a new year, and we want it back! Nick will be away, so we’ll have to work even harder.

In 2011, we again found amazing birds for late May in Connecticut, including Barn Owl, Northern Gannet, and Horned Grebe,  25 species of warblers, a late Great Cormorant, Common Eiders, Blue and Green-winged Teal! Tough misses included, Purple Finch, White-throated Sparrow, and Northern Saw-whet Owl. The highlight for me was descending from Meig’s Point with 185 species, having just seen a late gannet, both loons, and two species of scoters. Luckily, we had Seaside Sparrow in the bag to tie the record, and there in the marsh pond by the parking lot was a female Blue-winged Teal, like a little gift from the heavens. An already great day had just gotten better, and with hours of light left… 192! Ending our day with both a Barn Owl and Least Bittern calling was pretty great too…   

This year, we’re busy nailing down raptor nests (please let us know if you have any in your area), and are already out scouting. Our sights are set on 200 species, and we’ll give it our all! We invite you to join our team by pledging your support. Help us achieve our ambitious goal of reaching 200 species and raising $5,000 -- every dollar you pledge directly supports the Coastal Center at Milford Point – voted Yankee Magazine’s best birding destination in Connecticut.  We cannot do this without you, and we thank you in advance for your generosity! 

Pledge forms (in PDF format) are available by clicking here 


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds weekly updates

Below is an example of the updates we help provide as a part of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. Connecticut's beaches are becoming much more active now with some species nesting and nearly all at least back on the breeding grounds. You can see them all and many more updates on coastal waterbirds in the AAfCW blog located here:


This is the eighth update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2012 season. It includes reports of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, and Common Tern received from 12:00 p.m. on April 30 through 12:00 p.m. on May 7 with sightings of birds spanning April 29 through May 7 by our staff and volunteers.

Informational updates:

The terns have returned to Connecticut, and with them come additional responsibilities in monitoring. We need all of the data and information on Least Tern and Common Tern, and much more rarely Roseate Tern, that you can provide to us, just as you do with Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher. These are priority species that should be tracked in an identical way. We hope we will end up with many tern colonies that require our monitoring and care, especially Least Tern on beaches such as Morse/Sandy Points in West Haven, Long Beach or Pleasure Beach in Stratford or Bridgeport, and so forth. Please provide us with all of the data you can including precise numbers of birds seen, breeding status, location, nests or eggs, age, behavior, threats, bands, etc. Thank you as always!

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
5 adults at Griswold Point on 4/29
1 adult at Fort Trumbull Beach on 4/30
1 at Silver Sands State Park on 4/30
1 pair, 3 adults, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/1
5 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/2
3 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
3 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
5 pairs, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
1 adult (male) at Silver Sands State Park on 5/3
4 adults on 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
4 adults, 1 nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
2 adults on 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/4
1 adult at Stratford Point on 5/4
6 pairs, 5 nests at Long Beach on 5/4
4 pairs, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
2 pair, 5 adults, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/5
1 adult on Pleasure Beach on 5/5
3 pairs, 3 adult, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/5
6 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/5
1 pair, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/6
3 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 2 adults, 5 nests at Bluff Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/6

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs, one 3-egg nest and one 4-egg nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/30
3 pairs, 1 nest at Milford Point on 4/30
1 pair, 1 nest in Branford on 5/2
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 pair, one 3-egg nest and one 4-egg nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 pair, 1 adult at Barn Island on 5/3
4 pairs, at least 2 nests at Menunketesuck Island on 5/3
2 pairs, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
3 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/3
1 pair, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/3
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/3
1 adult at Tuxis Island on 5/4
3 pairs, 1 nest at Menunketesuck Island on 5/4
1 pair at Stratford Point on 5/4
4 pairs, one 3-egg nest and one 1-egg nest at Milford Point on 5/4
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/4
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/5
1 pair seen copulating at Long Beach on 5/5
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/6
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/6
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
1 pair, one 1-egg nest at Griswold Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy Point in Stonington 5/7
1 adult at Bluff Point on 5/7

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/1
1 adult at Stratford Point on 5/4
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/5
4 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
8 adults at Long Beach on 5/7

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Russian Beach Stratford on 5/2
16 adults at Stratford Point on 5/4
2 adults at Milford Point on 5/4
10 adults at Stratford Point on 5/5
8 adults at Long Beach on 5/5
3 adults at Pleasure Beach on 5/5
5 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
4 adults at Bluff Point on 5/6
70+ adults at Stratford Point on 5/7

There have been no reports of Black Skimmer in 2012, but they should be spotted soon. All long-legged waders are in expected breeding areas at this point and frequently encountered foraging at many of our monitoring locations as well. Semipalmated Sandpiper are slowly growing in number, but Least Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover are now regular sightings with numbers into the dozens at times. A high number of 51 Semipalmated Plover were seen at Stratford Point on 5/4, with many other spots recording groups and singles of these birds. We make a special note of this because observers should be aware not to confuse these birds with Piping Plovers as both share some identification points.

This concludes update #8 through 5/7/12 as of 4:00 p.m.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Olive-sided Flycatcher #3

Today I had an Olive-sided Flycatcher in my Stratford neighborhood that represents, as far as I know, the third bird ever recorded in Stratford. It was perched, as the species nearly always is, at the top of a dead branch. I first spotted it through the trees as it flew back to its perch from the porch! This was actually an entirely dead and considerably tall tree, but I was able to snap off some record shots.

And some more photos from this evening...

It was flycatching though unfortunately not calling. It stayed in this spot until a Blue Jay flushed it away, but it did not go far, staying in the tops of many dead branches in the neighborhood, feeding nonstop. In 2010 and 2011, I and others were able to find an Olive-sided Flycatcher each year at the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in the southern end of Stratford. Here you can see record shots of the 2011 bird:

As you may read there, the most amazing part of those finds is that the bird appeared on the same day in the same location, mere feet from the first sighting a year earlier. It is likely the same individual, a male, taking the same route each year. I have always looked for Olive-sided Flys on the snags in my neighborhood but have come up empty until now. This is a good example of how not getting in your car and instead walking or biking through a neighborhood or nearby park can yield some astonishingly wondrous results. It is a great time of year to stroll down the street with your family and friends on a beautiful day. No one else is going to be birding these areas and you never know what you might find. I will keep you updated on whether or not we see that bird return again on May 20.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chuck-will's-widow at Stratford Point

I had a sensational morning at Stratford Point yesterday, the highlight being a very rare and state review list species, a Chuck-will's-widow! That was one of the last birds I was expecting to find during a busy migration morning, but here is how everything played out.

I arrived at Stratford Point around 8:30 a.m. yesterday, and hearing Wood Thrush while coming in told me that many migrant birds had been dumped here, obviously out of place in regards to their normal habitat, with the rain hours earlier. I did a sweep of the perimeter of the site, finding some first of year for me shorebirds like dozens of Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper, before moving on to searching through the perimeter. I intended to look through the limited amount of woody vegetation on and along the site including the surrounding neighborhood and Coast Guard property. This area can be searched well on Stratford Point property, walking roughly from the lighthouse to our main entrance, while checking the small pine trees along the driveway. I found many migrants that I will list out at the end of this summary.

While walking and looking for little birds, I flushed a large one that was obviously roosting in one of these small pines. After my shock and the first flush, I flushed it again unintentionally a few seconds later and it flew around me, calling twice (a grunt or croaking kind of noise, rough and low). It then went back into the thick shrubs, brush, and trees on the adjacent Coast Guard property. Subsequent extensive searches of the immediate area and playback with Twan Leenders, Sean Graesser, and Frank Mantlik came up empty, which was not a shock. This was like looking for a very camouflaged needle in a haystack, and it was likely not to flush again unless one of us were nearly on top of it. The views I had in those brief glimpses in decent light directly in front of me were relatively good. It was large, with long wings, a moderate brown overall with a little tawny towards the tail. I felt strongly enough that it was a Chuck-will's-widow, not a Whip-poor-will, based primarily on size and coloration. I hoped we'd have success later that evening with it coming out to fly off, or simply calling from wherever it was, but I doubted we would be that fortunate.

This evening a small group of experts waited in the area I had discovered it, and at about 8:15 p.m. I spotted it fly out from just about the same pine it was in that morning. It landed perfectly on the fence in front of us, sitting on it in plain view in decent enough light for a minute. We were absolutely astonished and flabbergasted, delighted but also trying to make sure my initial thought of a Chuck was correct. The large size and head combined with good looks at the body showing some of the brown, then subsequent flight and hunting showing long and pointed wings, all said Chuck. Every identification marker we were able to come up with kept pointing to it and those on hand with experience watching Whips fly around really felt strongly it was not one. It had no white and the tail and did not sing, thus making this a female.

It kept making that grunting rough call I described earlier when it flushed basically the entire time, and by the end of the night everyone had heard it and seen every aspect of it, locking in the identification as a Chuck-will's-widow. It would occasionally land on the fence again or a tree branch, sometimes going out of sight for a few minutes. It was out of our view for a while after 9 but was hunting again as of 9:45 when the last of us departed. Photos were not obtained (well, none of real use despite effort), but several of Connecticut's best were on hand who all had excellent views and continual looks. Fortunately we were able to have this bird in a situation where we could confirm the identity without photos or video, something all of us probably rely on too much at times, myself certainly included.

I will open up Stratford Point tonight and we can take a shot at this bird once again. Feel free to come on down - 1207 Prospect Drive, White-tailed Kite country. Since I anticipate many visitors please drive in the driveway, slowly because this is where the bird will be if it is there, and head up it until you take a left and get near some buildings. Park here wherever and then you can walk back down towards the entrance where the bird was seen and continued to hunt all night. Email me at if you have any questions.

And here is the list from the day at Stratford Point alone, many species first of the year for myself and the site:

73 species
Brant  23
Canada Goose  10
Mute Swan  3
American Black Duck  1
White-winged Scoter  4
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Red-throated Loon  14
Common Loon  4
Double-crested Cormorant  11
Great Egret  2
Black-crowned Night-Heron  1
Osprey  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
American Kestrel  1
Black-bellied Plover  13
Semipalmated Plover  51
Piping Plover  1
Killdeer  1
American Oystercatcher  2
Willet (Eastern)  1
Least Sandpiper  8
Dunlin  1
Ring-billed Gull  20
Herring Gull (American)  31
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Common Tern  16
Rock Pigeon  3
Mourning Dove  3
Chuck-will's-widow  1
Chimney Swift  3
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Least Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  242
Fish Crow  8
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  8
Barn Swallow  9
Carolina Wren  1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  12
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  3
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  4
American Pipit  1
Cedar Waxwing  8
Black-and-white Warbler  2
Common Yellowthroat  1
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1
Black-throated Green Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  2
Field Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  8
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  1
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Red-winged Blackbird  14
Common Grackle  26
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  1
House Finch  6
American Goldfinch  12
House Sparrow  2

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Leps and birds increasing at Trout Brook Valley

Lepidoptera are now back to being seen across Connecticut in many forms. I found this and more Eastern Tiger Swallowtails at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust during a recent survey.

I actually recorded over a dozen species that day without too much effort. Subsequent surveys have uncovered dozens of migrant and potential breeding bird species as well. This was one bird of a pair of Tree Swallows already on to nesting in the orchard.

During a few hours there today I tallied 59 bird species in only a small section of the massive preserve. I will list off more of some of our cool finds soon, but "Ovenbird city" was the theme of the day as it was the most frequently heard (and seen!) warbler species of the 14 that I was able to find at this early enough date of May 3.

Their ringing song is a classic one, but it was so great to be able to see so many of them as well. The Ovenbird is a species nearly anyone should be able to find in abundance there, let's hope, throughout the spring and summer. I hope the same can be said for the Louisiana Waterthrush and the Worm-eating Warbler, two species I heard only today but would be thrilled to mark down as confirmed breeding birds. All of these discoveries and potential findings do and will have an impact on our management planning and habitat recommendations.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Bird Walk with Michelle Eckman

With all of this migration talk here is another great upcoming event in the prime of spring movement. I plan on joining Michelle for the walk detailed below and I hope some of you can as well. She is a fantastic birder and extremely knowledgeable, and I am so glad to have her with us at CAS.


It’s that time of year when our feathered friends are making their journeys back north towards their breeding grounds. Fortunately for us, many of them find our Larsen Sanctuary to be a wonderful stopover site for rest, food and water. Some may even decide to call the sanctuary home for the summer.

Join long-time birder and CAS Director of Education, Michelle Eckman, who will lead you on a beautiful walk through our sanctuary while helping everyone observe birds by sight and sound. Our Chiboucas Trail is stroller-accessible and birders of all levels and ages are welcome.

The program is on Saturday, May 19 from 9-11 a.m. Meet at the covered trailhead at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Center at Fairfield’s Larsen Sanctuary. Bring your binoculars, note pad and field guides. Identification books are also available in the Nature Store.

Program fee: $5/person for CAS members; $8/person for non-members. All proceeds support Connecticut Audubon Society environmental education programs. Register in advance by calling 203-259-6305 ext. 109.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Name this April migrant answer

So do you have the answer to this quiz yet?

Here is that photo again...

To me, this is an odd look for a bird that never stops moving and flitting about through the trees. To see it perched in a (seemingly) stationary position is strange, but it was actually moving around quite a bit outside of this photo. You cannot see the eye but it has a white eye-ring and a white-edged tail.

Any thoughts now?

Take your guesses because the answer is in the next line!

That is a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. We see them migrating both north and south at Stratford Point. 
They are diurnal migrants, moving through most often one at a time during warm days with a nice southerly flow in April, and then sometimes in small groups heading through our trees and out to Long Island Sound in the late summer.

This bird had a few snacks and kept moving, calling away with it's classic wheeze. We are little more than a fast food restaurant for dozens of birds each day.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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