Thursday, June 28, 2012

Volunteers needed at Milford Point and Sandy/Morse Points on July 3

I am re-posting this from an entry I made this morning on the blog for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. I hope that speaks of the importance of it, and how badly we need some of our Piping Plover monitors and other volunteers to help us out for the fireworks displays on July 3.


We are looking for volunteers to assist the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection in monitoring beaches on the evening and night of July 3. This is the night of the fireworks displays in both West Haven and Stratford. Since the Stratford fireworks are set off near Short Beach, this means a great deal of traffic comes on Milford beaches surrounding Milford Point. The Coastal Center at Milford Point will be closed from Tuesday, July 3 at 4:00 pm until Thursday, July 5 at 7 a.m. to all foot and vehicle traffic, but many people still take to the beaches and general area. West Haven's display will create a lot of traffic on Sandy/Morse Points.

Essentially we are seeking monitors to keep an eye on our birds and talk to any beachgoers who may not realize the importance of providing a little room for the nesting species on this active evening. We will have seasonal and full-time staff posted at both of these locations at the same time. CT DEEP staff will also be present all along the coast, and police officers will be patrolling both locations. However, the more eyes the better in these large areas! We really need all the help we can get considering the number of people that will be on the beaches. This is a stressful night for Piping Plovers, Least Terns, American Oystercatchers, and Common Terns, and anything we can do to ensure their safety is vital to their overall success for the season.

If you can make it to Sandy/Morse Points or the Milford Point area on July 3, in the early evening before sunset or after dark during the display, we would love to have you join us. Please email us at to tell us you will be there or if you have any questions.

Thank you so much for the consideration and all your efforts this successful season! We hope to see you then.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Name this uncommon breeder answer

In this post I asked you what this uncommon Connecticut breeding bird was. It is not rare, but it is definitely not one you see often. Here is the first photo again...

Followed by another photo that should really help you out.

Still stumped? If so that may be because this species has different first-year plumage for a male bird. This guy was born last year, and only next year will he look like the Orchard Oriole he should. Nevertheless, he was able to get a girl this season.

They are nesting yet again this year at Stratford Point, and after seeing a female carrying food this weekend I was able to confirm they have young. It feels like they only just arrived! If you stop by you will be able to hear this guy singing away most of the day along the U.S. Coast Guard property adjacent to Stratford Point. Occasionally he moves over to the pines lining the driveway or other larger trees behind the buildings.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Larsen Sanctuary breeding bird survey walk

Yesterday morning I led a small group on a breeding bird survey walk along with waterbird technician Sean Graesser at our Larsen Sanctuary in Fairfield. Our intent was to find some late June birds, possibly some fledglings or nests, and discuss what we do in our conservation work in terms of classifying nesting species. We also talked a great deal about breeding pertaining to several of the species we saw, their habits and habitat selections, nest choices, building and placement, as well as molts and plumage features.

Our breeding bird surveys essentially boil down to whether a bird is a possible breeder, a probable breeder, or a confirmed breeder. Examples of a possible breeder would be a male singing in appropriate habitat in the season. A probable breeding record would be a pair of birds seen acting as a pair in the same sort of situation, nest building, and more. Confirmed nesting is straightforward - finding fledglings, nests with eggs, but also some more specific actions such as seeing a fecal sac dropped or an adult carrying food a sizable distance.

Some of the breeding confirmations we had included:

Wild Turkey - four poults!
Red-bellied Woodpecker - at least one fledgling putting on a show with mom and dad
Downy Woodpecker - a couple of young feeding with their parents
House Wren  - at least three young learning how to feed
Common Yellowthroat - food being carried back to a nest
Yellow Warbler - at least two little yellow-ish ones feeding feet in front of us with their parents

We had a bunch of nice sightings such as this Green Heron...

That did not appear to be a breeding bird, but we enjoyed it regardless. Thanks again to everyone who joined us!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Friday, June 22, 2012

Eastern Box Turtle at Trout Brook Valley

On a guided hike for birds in the Aspetuck Land Trust's Trout Brook Valley on May 27 Twan and the attendees were able to uncover this Eastern Box Turtle!

It may not have been the target of the day, but it was a very important find. There are many areas in the preserve that support suitable habitat for the species, which has a 'Special Concern' status in the Connecticut Endangered Species Act. While we can assess whether or not the habitat of a given area should contain or would be able to support a species, actually finding one is very important, especially when they are state-listed. This turtle will now become a permanent listing in the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's Natural Diversity Data Base.

Box turtles have a very limited range, but they require at the very least a corridor to be able to move through when it comes time to nest and mate. Trout Brook Valley's expansive habitat and woodlands interspersed with some openings in the forest should support some of the species for a considerable time at least. In the future habitat fragmentation on a large scale may become a problem for the species if it surrounds tracts of preserved lands like Trout Brook Valley and if there are not enough individuals currently in it. This has occurred in smaller habitats over most of Connecticut, necessitating the listing it currently has.

When I was a child, I would see many of the species all over my grandparent's backyard, with mature woodlands and wetlands plus a power line cut not far away, a perfect mix of habitats to cater to their various needs. I have not seen one in the area in quite some time now. There are likely a few that remain that elude my eyes, but development all over the area has probably cut them off from some other populations, and the remaining turtles will dwindle to none in time.

This is only one of the reasons why having sizable blocks of habitat, hundreds or thousands of acres, set aside for all kinds of wildlife and connected to other areas is so critical to their survival. If we do not maintain these corridors then those who cannot fly like the birds will not have a viable or sustainable population, being expatriated from the state entirely.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Twan Leenders and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Name this uncommon breeder

Take a look at this photo of an uncommon breeding species in Connecticut and see if you can nail down the species. It was taken not long ago at a location where they have bred for years.

So what do you think? The number of species that nest in Connecticut is far fewer than the number that migrate through, so your options are more limited. As always, I will post the answer in a few days.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

More odonates from Trout Brook Valley

Here are some more odonates I have seen and/or netted at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust in the last week.

Swamp Darner female, one of several

Stream Cruiser male patrolling, you guessed it, a stream

Widow Skimmer female

  Harlequin Darner males, both "netted" because they landed on me!

Delta-spotted Spiketail

Eastern Red Damsel female

Dusky Clubtail female

Prince Baskettail record shot, tough to photograph or net!

Tule Bluet male

Violet Dancer

Twin-spotted Spiketail, my highlight netting of the week

 The twin spots

We are now up to 32 species with hopefully many more to come!

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

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stratford Point butterfly walk

Today the Connecticut Butterfly Association came down to Stratford Point for a butterfly walk, and I tagged along to give a little information about the site and all of our efforts that are going into restoring it. We had a beautiful day for this special weekend event. The target species was Swarthy's Skipper, a rarity Connecticut. Leader Lenny Brown explained that we would be seeking to see if it was present now and therefore actually breeding on site, or present only in August as it was last year, having moved across Long Island Sound from known breeding locations in New York. Here the group looks at a few field guides while discussing the species.

The middle of June is often a quiet time for birds, relatively speaking, being in the small window between spring and fall migration. Shorebirds will start to move south soon enough, but for now we have to watch out for nesting species, and many of those are attending young or on eggs. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a quiet enough day on the butterfly front as well. Nevertheless, a decent number of species and individuals were seen and netted. Using CD cases to view captures is a great idea.

So many butterflies are so alike, and studying them in this way and then releasing them is a very helpful approach. Taking photographs only aids the process. I captured something else while wandering in search of a Swarthy's, this female Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

The group fanned out across the 28-acre upland area, also enjoying the tremendous variety of plant life we have at Stratford Point.

There was much discussion about a few plants in particular, one being a species of Senna growing along the rocky and sandy area just behind our dune. It is a host plant for Cloudless Sulphur and Little Yellow butterflies, and we may be in store for some nice sightings later in the fall. That is the best season at Stratford Point with the migration of many species occurring, and on a good day one can see hundreds of Monarchs and much more.

We were unable to come up with any Swarthy's, and apart from Tawny-edged, the only skipper we saw was a number of European.

Thank you to all who joined us today! We will be searching for the Swarthy's once again this August and attempting to find much more during the busy season on the site.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Aspetuck Land Trust and Connecticut Audubon Society vernal pool walk

In late May, the Aspetuck Land Trust set up a vernal pool walk for kids at the Trout Brook Valley Preserve led by our own Conservation Biologist Dr. Twan Leenders, one of the best and most experienced herpetologists in the world. I joined Twan along with Sean Graesser, one of our Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds technicians. We met at the orchard and proceeded into the woods where Twan had a couple pools staked out for us.

He found some pools that still had water (it had been quite dry until then as opposed to the last couple of weeks) and that would not be injured by children hopping through them (they were without critical species or eggs). The best kind of education can be the wet and muddy kind, and all of the kids (and parents!) had a blast hopping after frogs and searching for salamanders.

 A friendly Spotted Salamander

 A hugeeeee snake skin Twan had found a couple days before

 Looking here there and everywhere

 Catch one?

 We had a big crew

 There's a happy catch!

Another salamander making visits

It turns out that they were better than expected as one of the kids turned up this tremendous find well away from the pool on the way out, a species Twan himself sees only a couple of times a year in the state, a Four-toed Salamander. So many of these species are extremely difficult to find outside of a few nights every year.

  A tiny species

It curls up in the leaf little for passive defense and can also shed its tail

He expected to find one here considering the habitat requirements and some of the high-quality pools, but this was real conservation science in action. Everyone got a great look, and Twan took some great shots of it later on, including this one.

Thanks to all who joined us for a fun afternoon!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Odonates at Trout Brook Valley Preserve

In another example of our continuing survey work at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust I wanted to display some of our non-bird finds in the form of odonates, the order that holds dragonflies and damselflies. Some "odes" are easy enough to note while one is surveying for birds, and Twan and I started to record them briefly at the end of last season, then beginning again in May. Still, if you want to collect the most data, you need to focus on certain habitats, search specifically for them, and carry a net.

After doing just that this past Sunday, I brought our number of ode species for Trout Brook Valley up to 20. Some are common and expected species such as Fragile Forktail, Common Green Darner, Ebony Jewelwing, and Twelve-spotted Skimmer. Others are less frequently found such as the uncommon woodland Harlequin Darner. Some require specific habitat such as the small sandy streams of the Stream Cruiser or Delta-spotted Spiketail, or the vernal pools that seem to harbor Spatterdock Darner.

I said I wanted to display them, so here are some photos!

 Delta-spotted Spiketail

 Common Baskettail

 Common Whitetail immature male that found my net on its own

 Harlequin Darner, a female who is getting late in the season

 After I released her, boom, she flew right on my head/Yankees hat to warm up again

 Lancet Clubtail

Spangled Skimmer female

While also conducting breeding bird surveys, odonates will be one of my primary focuses through the end of the summer at Trout Brook Valley and elsewhere. I hope to bring our list substantially higher with more survey time and the beginning of later flight seasons, and perhaps even record a state-listed species here.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spot-winged Glider migration

We have a lot more going on at Stratford Point than simply surveying for our wondrous birds. This includes planting more beneficial native vegetation and restoring the habitat and monitoring horseshoe crabs as well as identifying and often capturing odonata (dragonflies and damselflies). I have really enjoyed witnessing Spot-winged Glider migration, tallying the numbers as best as I can, netting some occasionally, and observing their behavior.

It is one of several species of dragonflies that migrate each spring and fall, those moving north laying eggs for the next generation that will head south and do the same in the fall, repeating the process each year. Here are photos of one I netted on June 7.

The most fascinating part was that on June 8 I noticed a few females ovipositing (laying eggs) in the rain pool that often forms at the bottom of our driveway.

They are an opportunistic species, utilizing nearly any standing water. One pair flew by in tandem, quickly dropping eggs in the pool as opposed to the slower more methodical work done by the solo females with males guarding nearby at times.

This is only a small taste of the stupendous amount of action going on in our natural world during the summer months. See what else you can spot flying around with our birds on warm and sunny days.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tree Swallows nesting in gourd tree

Miley (CAS Senior Director of Science and Conservation Milan Bull) decided to check our Purple Martin gourd tree at Stratford Point this morning to see if the pair we have been seeing a lot of had a nest and eggs. It is the perfect time for martins to be on eggs right now, as you can always see live at Gazebo Phil's Martin Acres by the Sea:

Today I saw three Purple Martins flying about Stratford Point, and in the last few weeks I have watched our pair and occasionally one or two more feeding all day long, going in and out of the gourds. I even observed them carrying some nesting material on a couple of occasions. Anyway, after he had reeled the tree down we took a gander in to each of the gourds, unscrewing the top to check them out. A couple had a little more nesting material than the pine needles we had put inside to assist them, but there were no Purple Martin nests. Hmph!

What we did find almost instantly was this Tree Swallow nest and one egg!

We frequently seem them flying around, often landing on the poles, but these birds could be nesting somewhere else nearby and feeding here, simply moving through our area for some reason, or young birds that are not ready to nest. It turns out they are using the gourds...and I say "gourds" plural because this other gourd had a big Tree Swallow nest (note all the feathers) and five eggs (buried underneath all).

Wow! Miley had never seen Tree Swallows nesting in gourds, and in this case, these two nests are the start of a mini colony. Hey, we may have been going for Purple Martins, but we will take it.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Butterfly walk at Stratford Point

On Saturday June 16 at 10 a.m., the Connecticut Butterfly Association will be leading a walk along with Connecticut Audubon Society at our managed Stratford Point property at 1207 Prospect Drive in Stratford. The leader is Lenny Brown, an expert who helped us identify a few choice skippers last season in our own survey work. He along with Greg Hanisek and Bill Banks were able to locate a couple of Swarthy's Skipper on site, a rare breeding species for the state at the north end of its range. It is only more evidence of how vitally important Stratford Point is to all forms of life along Long Island Sound.

Here are some of the more common visitors we have.

 Common Buckeye

 Red-banded Hairstreak

Zabulon Skipper

We will hope to find some more on this walk as well as plenty of the common species and other surprises. I know I will be watching out for odonata, dragonflies and damselflies, along the way as well. Please feel free to stop by and join the walk as all CBA field trips and CAS Stratford Point walks are free and open to the public. We all also remind you to wear comfortable hiking shoes and bring water and sunscreen if you come down. Visit for more information about their organization and upcoming trips.

Oh, and don't forget your net!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Monday, June 4, 2012

Uncommon breeders at Trout Brook Valley

In this update concerning our ongoing conservation study, research, and analysis at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area of the Aspetuck Land Trust I wanted to highlight a couple uncommonly seen breeding species in Connecticut. We have encountered some species late into May that are likely on territory and others that would not be present if they were not attempting to nest. These finds are important in several ways, whether they are conservation priorities, because they indicate high quality or other notable habitat, or because we just do not find them nesting in any significant widespread manner in our state. This holds especially true of the largely developed and heavily populated Fairfield County.

We knew Acadian Flycatchers historically bred in some areas just north of the Bradley Road entrance. However, we did not expect to see sometimes two or three pairs and even more individuals passing through. You would have a hard time not hearing a singing male during most of our surveys in May.

I took a photo of this guy in between calls in the dark woodlands on May 13.

I knew the Jump Hill section of Trout Brook Valley had a good chance at landing a specific target, one that would be drawn in to the dense understory formed by the invasive Japanese Barberry. I succeeded in acquiring it but could only snap off this poor record shot of a singing male Hooded Warbler on May 23 as it dashed between perches on a showery day.

He was a real stunner. Let's hope he can find a mate. Deer have devastated the landscape of the county to the degree that few ground and low-level woodland species can nest successfully each season. Managing the deer and the vegetation on the forest floor will be a priority in the future after the invasive plant species have been removed for Trout Brook Valley and much of the state of Connecticut.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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