Friday, August 31, 2012

Sports Illustrated bird issue revisited

If you read my posts here regularly, you have likely seen this one where I was astonished to find that Sports Illustrated had a birding issue featuring a gorgeous cover illustration with dozens of familiar species:

The immense sports fan in me was blown away that birding, a beloved passion often dismissed as nothing more than a children's activity or something silly for nerdy people, had attained a status nearly on par with baseball, basketball, football, and so forth decades ago. In my mind, birding is only more popular now, especially since technology has allowed us all to communicate and share our sightings much more, to better learn about birds and their behaviors, and find friends and birding patches that much more easily. This is precisely the exposure that birds and birding should be getting on a regular basis in the mainstream media while emphasizing the importance of conservation and our environment for this and many other sports. Capturing the attention of those outside of the inner circle of nature lovers is of the utmost importance.

However, I was unsure of who the cover artist was - at least until recently thanks to our friend Twan Leenders, who has moved on from Connecticut Audubon Society to become the President of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York. Twan and his staff are opening two new big exhibits at their center today, including one by a man named Arthur Singer.

Look at that, absolutely amazing! Thanks to Twan for putting up that photo on the RTPI Facebook page here and for answering that question for us. I reiterate that we should convince Sports Illustrated to make another edition with a bird cover today. The reaction and subsequent discussion of the decision to put birding on the cover would be sensational.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Environment and Science Writer Andrew Revkin To Speak at Connecticut Audubon's Annual Meeting

Andrew C. Revkin, an award winning writer and blogger with the New York Times, who specializes in using digital technology to create a greater awareness of environmental issues, will be the keynote speaker at the 114th Annual Meeting of the Connecticut Audubon Society.

The meeting is free, and Connecticut Audubon Society members as well as the general public are invited.

It is set for 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 13, at the Pequot Library, in Southport.

Andrew Revkin was for many years a science and environment reporter for the Times and is currently a senior fellow at Pace University’s Academy for Applied Environmental Studies. He continues to write the Dot Earth blog for the Times, and his particular interest is in using the latest digital technology to help people acquire a better understanding of environmental science issues. Time Magazine just picked his @Revkin Twitter feed as one of the 140 best Twitter feeds of 2012.

The evening’s agenda also includes a Year in Review, Treasurer’s Report and Nominating Report.

Connecticut Audubon Society members will vote on changes to the organization’s By-Laws. For more information on those changes, click here.

We will also be presenting the annual Dave Engelman Volunteer Benchmark Award for Outstanding Volunteerism.

The Pequot Library is at 720 Pequot Ave., Southport. Click here for directions.

Please RSVP by Thurs., Sept. 6, (203) 259-6305 x106 or

Andy’s talk will help us continue to explore the issues we delved into in our Connecticut State of the Birds 2012 report, “Where Is the Next Generation of Conservationists Coming From?” The report concluded that young people spend far less time outdoors interacting with nature than previous generations, and that the implications for conservation in the coming decades are significant.

We also are conducting a series of public forums throughout Connecticut on the issue, and are making major changes to our own education program, inaugurating a new Science in Education curriculum for third through eighth graders this fall.

Tom Andersen
Director of Communications and Community Outreach

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fall migration begins at Trout Brook Valley

I spent some time hiking through the Aspetuck Land Trust's Trout Brook Valley Preserve yesterday, covering all of the orchard and nearby wooded areas. While the previous night featured only light to moderate migration on mostly calm winds far from any cold front (the night after such a frontal passage being a great flight time), we are entering the time of year where many passerines are on the move even in only satisfactory conditions. This includes the swallows, swifts, and raptors flying through the skies as thermals build each day, or the warblers and sparrows moving through that darkness.

Considering all of that, the late August date, and the fact I was looking at leps and odes as well, my bird list of 54 species was impressive:

Double-crested Cormorant  6
Turkey Vulture  6
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  2
Broad-winged Hawk  4
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Mourning Dove  2
Chimney Swift  8
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
Pileated Woodpecker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  3
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  2
Red-eyed Vireo  2
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  3
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  2
Tree Swallow  6
Barn Swallow  22
Black-capped Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
House Wren  3
Carolina Wren  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
American Robin  3
Gray Catbird  3
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  2
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  5
American Redstart  1
Yellow Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  2
Savannah Sparrow  3
Song Sparrow  4
Swamp Sparrow  2
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Indigo Bunting  1
Bobolink  11
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  1
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  1
House Finch  2
American Goldfinch  9

It reflects some of the high-quality habitat the preserve contains, with the orchard being an especially wondrous place in the fall season. I am excited to see what I can dig up there in September and October (again) after some great results last year and knowing the grasslands, farm fields, and edge habitat will be extremely productive for likely well over 100 species of birds. If you enjoy sparrow season in the next couple of months, or just picking through hundreds of individual birds for a few hours, I definitely recommend you take the hike there. I am going to have to target a couple of elusive conservation priority species not yet detected (Grasshopper Sparrow anyone?), and if you see anything rare or unusual there please let us know.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gray Hairstreak

I have yet to see a rare Red-banded Hairstreak this season, as many now have in Connecticut, but I have picked up some others like this Gray Hairstreak at Stratford Point.

There are enormous amounts of butterflies on the move right now. Painted Ladies seem to be everywhere, and the common and familiar Monarchs are starting to stage at key areas. You will soon be able to see hundreds at the Coastal Center at Milford Point or Stratford Point. A number of rare and uncommon skippers can be found at this time, though they are some of the most difficult to identify if all one gets is a fleeting glance between flights. Even photographs can still leave a lot to the imagination.

The best method I have seen when it comes to identifying some of these tough butterflies is to catch them with a net and carefully let them fly into a sealed cassette or CD case. These clear containers are easy to carry and simple to quickly close on a tiny skipper, allowing you to examine them for a moment while they are relatively confined. The best part is, of course, that all you have to do is open the case to let them fly away and continue on their way completely unharmed. You can see an example of this by Coastal Center Director Frank Gallo in this post. Very clever!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Thursday, August 23, 2012

American Golden-Plovers have arrived

Many bird lovers are familiar with the Black-bellied Plover, a common shorebird during migration that you can find in a variety of locations, from coastal beaches to river mudflats and wet fields. At this time of the year some may have a very black belly while others have molted to the degree where they appear mostly gray. However, some of you may be lucky enough to see the golden version - but this is another species, the American Golden-Plover. This adult, molting as well, stayed at the Sikorsky airport in Stratford for a number of days.

It has a very striking pattern, doesn't it? Others have been seen at our own Coastal Center at Milford Point and Stratford Point. We are always happy to see one or even two of these birds, let alone the 99 (!) seen at one location in Riverside, New York in the last week. You would be lucky to see that many Black-bellied Plovers together, never mind their rare cousin. I am hoping to be able to tick another one off on this upcoming Saturday while I am conducting International Shorebird Surveys, or perhaps something even more elusive.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lark Sparrow at Stratford Point - again!

Frank Mantlik found a rare vagrant adult Lark Sparrow at Stratford Point yesterday, snapping this record photo of what was an elusive bird.

It stayed in the grasses most of the time and out of sight at a distance. Those who visited and did their best to relocate it throughout the day came up unsuccessful. It could very well be hidden away in the many open areas of grass and gravel driveway, or it could have moved to nearby yards or even Short Beach. There are plenty of open spaces on the Stratford coast for such a bird.

What was very cool about this rarity was that on September 2, 2011, Twan and I had walked into a Lark Sparrow feeding in the driveway on weeds at Stratford Point as you can see here. That bird was probably a result of Tropical Storm Irene - not an immediate and direct victim of the storm, but one that was driven to the northeast coast by the powerful northwest flow out of Canada and the central United States in the wake of the massive low moving away. With that said, hey, what a coincidence that we just had a cold front pass through with a lot of bird movement Saturday night and some more last night (probably not!). A handful of Lark Sparrows usually do show up in the east in the "fall" migration season, but having one at the same location in back-to-back years is awesome. Maybe this is the same bird that enjoyed its trip along the Atlantic coastline last year.

Even though I was at Stratford Point for hours on Sunday, and had covered the entire property including the area near the lighthouse where Frank found the bird, I did not come up with anything too out of the ordinary. My highlights were an American Golden Plover, a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher who sat out long enough for me to see its yellow throat, and a fly-by Red Knot. I did have 58 species, a strong but expected total for the date after such a frontal passage. Please stop by Stratford Point or Milford Point soon as we are now entering a big two months at the mouth of the Housatonic.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Frank Mantlik and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cool catches by the kids

Take a look at these dragonflies netted by the campers of the Coastal Center at Milford Point! They were taken at our own Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret and are definitely some worthy catches. Frank Gallo sent me these photos (and made me jealous in a couple of cases).

Black-tipped Darner

 Clamp-tipped Emerald

 Fawn Darner

Green-striped Darner

Thanks a lot for sharing some of the great work! While none is rare, each is definitely uncommon and not one to expect at any old pond. I have been lucky enough to have Clamp-tipped Emeralds cruising my neighborhood all summer. What always fascinates me is how much of a personality some dragonflies can have. The Clamp-tipped male, for example, patrols open areas near woodland, and often a sizable patch. When he sees an "intruder" such as you or I entering his territory he zips up within arm's reach, sometimes pausing or staying nearby briefly. After this examination, he will continue on his way, and you will have a very difficult time getting that close to him again. If you are looking to net one, do not miss your first chance because it is probably your last.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos © Frank Gallo and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Friday, August 17, 2012

Great Salt Marsh Island hike 8/16

I led a shorebird walk at Great Salt Marsh Island at Ash Creek for the Aspetuck Land Trust yesterday afternoon and evening. This spot, on the border of Bridgeport and Fairfield, is a wonderful area to watch for long-legged waders and shorebirds feeding at low tide on the mudflats. We had tremendous views of birds like Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, and more. We also saw the Osprey family hanging out and had some cool views of a Belted Kingfisher. All of the species seen or heard and approximate totals are listed below.

American Black Duck  11
Green-winged Teal  5
Double-crested Cormorant  14
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  9
Snowy Egret  7
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  5
Osprey  6
Clapper Rail  1
Black-bellied Plover  8
Semipalmated Plover  6
Killdeer  2
Spotted Sandpiper  2
Semipalmated Sandpiper  35
Least Sandpiper  90
Laughing Gull  4
Ring-billed Gull  16
Herring Gull (American)  31
Great Black-backed Gull  2
Rock Pigeon  3
Mourning Dove  6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Tree Swallow  3
Barn Swallow  10
Carolina Wren  1
American Robin  2
European Starling  45
Cedar Waxwing  7
Song Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Common Grackle  3
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  12

Thank you to everyone who attended! I hope to see you soon at more Connecticut Audubon Society events and walks and the upcoming Aspetuck Land Trust hawk walks at the Trout Brook Valley Orchard.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Long-tailed Skipper!

Last week Frank Mantlik found yet another very cool butterfly in his yard, a Long-tailed Skipper! Look at these great shots...

This was more than just a seasonally expected butterfly or passing rarity like the now widespread Giant Swallowtails as it seems there are sometimes not even one record a year in the state. Frank notes that The Connecticut Butterfly Atlas (O'Donnell, Gall, Wagner) lists this species as a vagrant, and there appeared to be only three records in Connecticut during the five-year atlas period (1995-1999). He explains:

Today (9 Aug. 2012), I saw and photographed a LONG-TAILED SKIPPER in my yard.  It was nectaring on Buddleia for about 10 minutes.  My wife Linda and I had seen many of these at Topsail Is., NC in Sept., 2000...on our honeymoon.  It's a species I've dreamed about seeing in CT.  Then I noticed this large Silver-spotted -sized skipper, I wasn't sure what it was.  So I ran for the camera, and later ID'd it with the help of Glassberg and the CT Butterfly Atlas.  This individual is lacking the long tail, but it's large body was definitely blueish.

Thanks Frank, keep the incredible sightings coming! If anyone ever wants to share some unique observations or spectacularly odd finds please email me at

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Frank Mantlik and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Color-banded Roseate Terns

The below entry I wrote in the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds blog per request by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and I feel it is important for everyone to read here as well. Let's see if we can help them out!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking re-sightings of color-banded juvenile Roseate Terns. Please watch for these yellow bands on any birds you see as you should be able to read them well with a scope up to 50 yards away. The bands have a letter and number combination - for example, those from Faulker Island have an H followed by two numbers. You can see an example in this really cool photo below by V. Koos.

If you sight one of these birds please send us a report of the observation at Include as much information as possible with the location, bird's health, behavior, status, the time of day and date, and as much of the band you are able to read, along with any other pertinent information. We will pass this on to USFWS and report back to you with any information on your bird's life history.

Roseate Terns are exciting finds at any time, and discovering one of these banded individuals would be fantastic! Thank you all in advance for any finds.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © V. Koos and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Little Yellow butterfly

That title is not a description but rather a rare Connecticut species. Frank Gallo and some of his summer campers from the Coastal Center at Milford Point captured this photo of a Little Yellow butterfly at Silver Sands State Park recently.

The vagrant species is most often found in our state in late summer into early fall. Some years have many more individuals than others. They will sometimes lay eggs in the open and sandy areas they favor, and Silver Sands fits their habitat well. I have been waiting to find one of these at Stratford Point, or a Cloudless Sulphur.

What I did find was my own Giant Swallowtail as many more people have since I posted about the species and it being sighted across the state. My sighting was in my yard in Stratford, the butterfly checking out a variety of bushes and flying nearly within arm's reach as I was outside with my sheltie. He loves butterflies and odonates, and certainly enjoys bounding after (but not catching!) the little ones. If only he had seen that monster flying by...

I actually had a net in hand at the time as I was attempting to snag a Clamp-tipped Emerald flying around, but I did not go after the swallowtail as it continued on its way. This is a great time of year for butterflies - keep checking your yard for any of these rarities or more!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Frank Gallo and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stratford/Milford fencing removal

The Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds has received the beach string fencing removal dates from CT DEEP for Stratford's Long Beach and Milford Point. The other sites, including Sandy/Morse Points, Bluff Point, and Harkness Memorial State Park, still have young birds, and their fencing will have to be removed in late August or early September. To those who responded for assisting at Bluff Point, we will look for help at those locations in weeks to come. For now, we will need volunteers for Long Beach and Milford Point at these dates and times:

Monday, August 13th at 11:00 at Long Beach/Pleasure Beach. Many volunteers appreciated. Wednesday, August 15th at 11:00 at Milford Point. Only a few volunteers needed.

Please email us at if you can assist at either site. Our staff will be at both locations on both days as well as CT DEEP. We hope to see you there, and thank you!

Scott Kruitbosch
AAfCW Coordinator
Conservation Technician

Monday, August 6, 2012

Giant Swallowtails across Connecticut

Last August I kept an eye out for a Giant Swallowtail butterfly whenever I was in appropriate habitat, and among the masses that move through Stratford Point in what is probably the best month of the year for the site for Lepidoptera. Several people had seen this spectacular (and large, wonder where they got the name from) insect flying around our state in multiple regions. It is a rarity that seems to be exhibiting a predictable pattern in the short-term, as once again as we enter this August we have been witness to a number of sightings across the state. Only in the last few days, the Connecticut Lepidoptera Listserver had reports from Branford, Sharon, Guilford (two separate ones!), New Haven, Old Lyme, and Stratford.

The last report was from our friends Frank and Linda Mantlik who were fortunate enough to have one in their yard. It was drawn to their Buddleia butterfly bushes along with some other species. He snapped off some great photos that can be seen below.

In the last shot, you can see the butterfly in the foreground out of focus as Frank made sure to get a clear look at two other swallowtails, Eastern Tiger and Black, also feeding on the bush. What more can you ask for? Thanks for the awesome views, Frank!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo © Frank Mantlik and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What a wasp

I snapped this shot at Stratford Point several days ago as this mega wasp caught my eye while I tracked dragonflies zipping around me.

For the most part the odes were Spot-winged Gliders, Wandering Gliders, Swamp Darners, and Common Green Darners, easy to identify and common species, but this thing was just as big. While we always have hundreds of migrant dragonflies, I have noticed that we are hosting a more diverse insect life at Stratford Point this summer, and it is likely due to the more diverse plantings we have growing as a result of the controlled burn in February. I cannot tell you how many visitors have mentioned this to me themselves, noticing how different it looks here or picking out a specific species or two they found now.

That beast is Sphecius speciosus, a cicada killer, and it is definitely as large as it appears. It can be found in a variety of habitats, maybe even your yard. From what I hear they do not sting unless you are handling them harshly, so that's a plus. I think I will leave it to others to test out that theory, though. Netting dragonflies and butterflies is enough bug fun for me.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Friday, August 3, 2012

Still time for baby birds

How many species have you seen migrating south already? I have mentioned how many shorebirds are on the way down, plus birds like orioles and warblers. Hawks - while not migrating yet in any semblance of big numbers - have begun to disperse from their breeding territories. Long-legged waders and terns are moving around to feed and young are getting a taste of life on their own. However, the last broods of some birds that nest multiple times in a season or those who breed later in the year, such as the always noticeable American Goldfinch, have yet to leave home or the care of their parents.

One of the most aggressive and common resident breeding birds is the Northern Mockingbird. These two fledglings blend right in to their unnatural surroundings, don't they?

I am not talking about aggressiveness in terms of bird-on-bird action, but rather humans, as the NoMo will go after you like to the point of physical impact in some cases if you are too close to their nest or fledged little ones. They have a temper that is distributed evenly to nearly any threat that becomes too much of an issue for them. When I was a child and trying to enjoy time outdoors in my yard I had to watch my head all of the years that a pair was nesting in a bush near our patio.

Suffice it to say, this mom and dad did not like me snapping photographs of these two, and if you could see more to the left side of that photo you would see a streak of white and gray flashing around me. I guess they frown on bird paparazzi, too.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Peep city

I snapped off the photo below of all these Semipalmated Sandpipers resting and preening along the Stratford Point beach during high tide on a recent International Shorebird Survey. There have been several thousand at times here and at the Coastal Center at Milford Point, where visitors and birders have reported everything from Whimbrels to a Marbled Godwit and Western Sandpipers already this "fall". At Stratford Point I am now regularly recording species counts in the 40s without much effort, and 50+ if I have the time to dig a few birds out. Soon enough it will be 60 and 70 as more passerines join the mix, hopefully utilizing some of our new and growing vegetation throughout the next few months.

Shorebird diversity is on the rise, too, with birds like Ruddy Turnstone, Short-billed Dowitcher, and Black-bellied Plover being seen more often. As for these peeps, can you pick out which one is not like the others below? Because it is actually not a peep...

I promise you it is an obvious enough target. If you feel like picking out something much more difficult from the photo, by all means...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy White-tailed Kite day

It is ridiculous that already two years have passed since the White-tailed Kite, Connecticut's first and New England's second, showed up at Stratford Point. I took this shot on August 1, 2010, as it was hunting our coastal grasslands for what we felt at the time was a brief yet wondrous experience.

Search this blog for much more on the White-tailed Kite if you were unaware of this long-staying friend or if you're reminiscing today, too. It was a superb time for everyone involved, and I hope it is still doing well, wherever it ended up. You can also always check out the Connecticut Ornithological Association's quarterly journal, the Connecticut Warbler (Vol 31, No. 1), from January 2011 for my complete and detailed write-up on the raptor's time with us.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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