Sunday, October 28, 2012


I am going to refer to what most people call Sandy as Frankenstorm, and not for a cute Halloween reason. The name is not simply for the holiday, and it was first coined in a discussion by the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center because of what this is - an incredible and unbelievably monstrous storm that has been pieced together into something we have never seen before. "Sandy" is not going to be a hurricane or tropical storm at landfall as she loses her warm core and other tropical components, ending up without most of what we define as a tropical cyclone. She will be pulled in and actually strengthened while moving north because of a cold front moving in from the west, and the so-called "jets" in the upper atmosphere will be aligned in stunning way to feed the storm incredible amounts of energy.

However, the system will still have winds in excess of hurricane force, which is why most are still going to refer to it as Sandy (and why there should be hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings on our coastline even if it is not the definition of one, a colossal failure in my opinion by the National Weather Service). These watches and warnings help the public take the storm much more seriously and initiate safety processes and various procedures on local levels that should be started in this scenario.

I cannot stress enough in the most emphatic terms that there has never been a storm like this one in recorded history, and that no storm of this magnitude has ever moved in on the angle of attack that it is projected to make landfall in New Jersey. Taking a very wide northwest swing, with Frankenstorm coming in from the southeast, is putting us in a perilous position.

Imagine the storm spinning around in a counter-clockwise direction as it moves up towards us, banking to New Jersey, and the right-front quadrant (or northeast) part of the storm moving over us. The winds will be howling out of the north, then northeast, and finally really crank up from the east, gusting to 70 or 80 MPH or more, as we move through the day on Monday into Monday night. Now think of how Long Island Sound is crafted, and imagine all of the water that this far-reaching system will be able to push into the Sound. The water will build and build up until we hit a high tide Monday night. This is the Bridgeport tidal prediction as of now at around 9AM on Sunday morning.

Check out that peak with a water level of nearly 16 feet! This would result in greater flooding than any ever recorded in Bridgeport and many points in the western Sound. I believe the total water level record is 12.3 feet from the 1938 Long Island Express, and the totals it left in our record books are going to fall across the area. The storm surge on that graph is projected to be "only" a little over eight feet, but it could very well end up past ten feet in the worst-case scenario. Major damage far in excess of Irene caused will likely occur on the Connecticut coastline as a result of Frankenstorm, and dramatic changes will be wrought that last for a considerable time. If you live close to the Sound near sea-level you should evacuate immediately.

Another aspect of the hybrid Frankenstorm is that it will have a wind field far beyond what one would expect with a tropical cyclone. The effects will not be limited to the landfall area. Hurricane force wind gusts could be expected hundreds of miles away from the center, and the overall size and scope of the storm means an enormous part of the Mid-Atlantic and New England will be feeling much more than they expect for a storm plowing into New Jersey. In the right-front quadrant, we can expect the worst of the winds, though likely less of the rain, with "only" two or five inches in many areas. Inland flooding may not be an issue, though again, the storm surge and coastal flooding could be catastrophic.

When it comes to birds, I would say that we could expect to see anything and everything because of the uniqueness of the situation. While the center of Frankenstorm is going to be to our southwest, we will be in the northeast part of it where the most are usually found (with the most wind). It is staying offshore for the most part, but again, the tropical storm and hurricane force wind field is much larger than usual, and I think it could suck up birds from thousands of miles in any direction. We are dealing with something we have never seen before, and everyone needs to put their safety first before any birding or heading out of the house. Expect to be unable to access the coast for days, and to have no power for a week or more, with possibly contaminated water supplies. When the storm does clear, likely on Tuesday, be aware power lines and trees will be down across the area, and that Connecticut will not be back to "normal" for weeks. If you do get out immediately after the storm I would suggest focusing in on inland lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, minimizing travel and avoiding the coastline. Please get the word out on rare birds as soon as you can on the CT Birds listserv (charge your cell phone!). There will be birds departing as the storm does (Sooty Terns anyone?) and birds possibly put down here for days (shorebirds and long-legged waders and more).

Take this storm seriously and be as cautious as you can be at all times. I will post rarities and photos to this blog once I am able to (I anticipate having no power at home or the office for a considerable time). Good luck, but be safe!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tufted Titmouse irruption!

There are so many species irrupting into Connecticut this year that I have not had time to focus on all of them individually. Pine Siskins and Purple Finches have probably visited your feeders. Red-breasted Nuthatches have been on the move since July. Red Crossbills are being seen heading south from time to time in Connecticut and in large numbers elsewhere in the west. The legendary Evening Grosbeak is even making a dash down into our state with small numbers seen here and there. Amazingly, we have already had a report of a Common Redpoll! These and more species should continue to be seen in increasing numbers, and maybe we will add White-winged Crossbills, Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings, and more.

What is often overlooked is how many of our common resident birds stage irruptions as well. Blue Jays migrate south in a regular manner but with varying numbers. Black-capped Chickadees can sometimes stage large movements in certain seasons. Today I wanted to focus on the Tufted Titmouse as the species has been making a tremendous push to the south in the last couple of months. These striking little familiar faces may enjoy your backyard, but many to the north and possibly some in the state have decided it is a good time to find winter quarters further down the coast.

Now how can you tell if the Tufted Titmouse at your house is a migrant or a resident? That is a very good question, and unless they're flying over high in the sky heading due southwest in the early morning, I have no idea. However, if you see a group of 15 or 20 of them feeding in your backyard together, that sounds much more like a group of migrant birds. Yes, that actually happens, and it is as strange to see as it sounds! While families often stay together in the fall and winter, seeing more than six or maybe eight in a group is probably a definitive sign.

My first sign that they were on the move came at Stratford Point. The species as a whole is rare there year-round due to its location, and prior to this fall, in over four years and thousands upon thousands of hours of observations by Twan and me at the site, we had recorded them there six times. Since September 25, I have found them present on 14 surveys! The largest group that I have seen was at least 26 birds, all foraging in one tightly packed bunch. Who knows how many thousands of these little gray guys and gals have worked their way through more appropriate habitat across the state instead of the coastal grasslands on Long Island Sound, and we will see how many more have yet to arrive.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Moose at CAS Croft Preserve

Take a look at these trail camera shots from our Richard G. Croft Memorial Preserve in Goshen. Looks like our moose family is doing very well, and there is a new calf as well!

The last shot is a bear who apparently felt like saying hello. As for the moose population, we can see one male, one or two adult females, and the calf. The calf from a few years back has probably left the area, and it is great to see a member of the new generation is roaming the 700-acre property. If you would like to visit Croft please see more information and the directions on our website here:

Be aware that there is no infrastructure of any sort as it is managed exclusively for wildlife. There is a very rudimentary trail in place for those who seek a rugged hike in one of the most spectacular sections of Connecticut.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Scarlet Tanager eating Tiger Spiketail at Trout Brook Valley

Just as the title says, Jim Zipp was kind enough to send me these amazing photos he took of a male Scarlet Tanager eating what certainly looks to be a Tiger Spiketail!

I mentioned the state-listed threatened dragonfly in this post after I found a small population at the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area this summer. Jim took the shots a few years back. Sure enough, the area where he recalled taking it was very close to the Tiger Spiketail population. Fortunately, for the most part, losing one or two dragonflies is not overly harmful to a population, but in the future, we may have to erect signage for the birds and request that they make their meal selections from the other dozens of dragonfly and damselfly species found on the property. Thanks for sharing, Jim!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos © Jim Zipp and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

Monday, October 22, 2012

Big Sit 2012 results

Below are the results of the 2012 Big Sit at Milford Point. Thank you to everyone who donated to the cause, and all of the funds go directly towards helping the Coastal Center and their staff. Director Frank Gallo was away leading a trip in Spain this year, but expert birder and Surf Scopers teammate Frank Manlik sent me the results and the following information on the day.

The team - Jim Dugan, Frank Mantlik, Tina Green, Patrick Dugan

Oct 14, 2012 5:00 AM - 6:30 PM

Comments:    BIG SIT by "Surf Scopers" team of Frank Mantlik, Jim & Patrick Dugan, Tina Green, and Tom Murray (7am-12 noon). Frank Gallo was out of town.  Weather was very windy (SW 15-20, gusts to 30 mph) all day, mild 56-68F, cloudy/overcast most of day, till skies cleared and wind decreased a bit about 3pm.  84 species, including some uncommon/rare species, some of which were new to our BIG SIT location; but we missed Downy Woodpecker and American Robin!  Our predawn start (5am) went unrewarded as there was no audible night migration,  and very limited diurnal passerine migration, resulting from the unfavorable strong SW winds.  As a consolation, a fair number and variety of waterbirds (loons, seaducks, etc.) were migrating west over the sound throughout the day.  Among exciting rare species (for the season) were 2 single NORTHERN GANNETS, an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, a late COMMON TERN, and a a juvenile BLACK SKIMMER. Two birds caused some tantalizingly exciting moments. The first was a chipping wren that we thought might be a Marsh or a Sedge Wren, but later revealed itself to be a House Wren.  The other was an uncooperative loon that might have been a Pacific Loon, but the ID could not be confirmed (see notes below).  Mammals seen were Raccoon (on the marsh mud) and Gray Squirrel.  Butterflies seen included Monarchs, Red Admirals, Mourningcloak, Question Mark, Orange Sulphurs, Cabbage Whites, and a LITTLE YELLOW (a rare southern vagrant).
84 species (+3 other taxa)

Brant  300
Canada Goose  40
Mute Swan  6
Gadwall  2
American Wigeon  1
American Black Duck  80
Mallard  30
Northern Pintail  1
Green-winged Teal  24
Surf Scoter  45    small flocks migrating west over Sound all day
White-winged Scoter  25    small flocks migrating west over Sound
Black Scoter  1
Long-tailed Duck  1
Red-breasted Merganser  2
Red-throated Loon  4
Common Loon  20
loon sp.  1    Patrick alerted us to an interesting loon - possibly a Pacific - that was flying west, landed for a bit (10 minutes?), then took off again flying south then west behind breakwater.  Head, neck, and bill proportions suggested Pacific.  But because it dove frequently, water chop, and distance, we weren't able to positively ID it.
Horned Grebe  1    seen well with scopes for 20 minutes as it swam around not too far behind the main sandbar. Basic-plumaged.
Northern Gannet  2    one adult first spotted (with scope) by Frank early (7:30?), and seen by all, as it flew around far offshore.  Distinctive size, shape, color.  Later in day, Patrick spotted a second.
Double-crested Cormorant  240
Great Blue Heron  4
Great Egret  12
Snowy Egret  7
Black-crowned Night-Heron  3
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  3
Turkey Vulture  14
Osprey  9
Northern Harrier  4
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper's Hawk  3
Bald Eagle  2
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Clapper Rail  1
Black-bellied Plover  40
American Golden-Plover  1    good views of it standing on sandbar, then later flying around over salt marsh with 5 BBPs.
American Oystercatcher  2
Greater Yellowlegs  23
Ruddy Turnstone  3
Sanderling  50
Semipalmated Sandpiper  1
Dunlin  85
Short-billed Dowitcher  1
Bonaparte's Gull  2
Laughing Gull  30
Ring-billed Gull  300
Herring Gull (American)  300
Great Black-backed Gull  30
Common Tern  1    flying and foraging among the Forster's Terns over LI Sound was one COTE first spotted by Patrick, and seen by several others (scopes) including Frank.  The darker cap/nape and dark primaries could be seen.
Forster's Tern  14
Black Skimmer  1
Rock Pigeon  25
Mourning Dove  17
Belted Kingfisher  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  3
American Kestrel  6
Merlin  6
Peregrine Falcon  3
Eastern Phoebe  2
Blue Jay  3
American Crow  15
crow sp.  4
Common Raven  2
Tree Swallow  25
Black-capped Chickadee  25
Tufted Titmouse  13
House Wren  1
Carolina Wren  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  15
Blackpoll Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  15
Eastern Towhee  2
Nelson's Sparrow  1
Saltmarsh Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  8
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  11
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1
sparrow sp.  4    distant sparrows flying weakly over salt marsh were probably either Nelson's, Saltmarsh, and/or Seaside.
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  45
House Finch  8
Pine Siskin  10
American Goldfinch  13
House Sparrow  4

Thanks again to the team and everyone who gave for conservation, education, and advocacy at one of the best birding destinations in the northeast.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 30 Community Forum, Old Lyme: Where Is The Next Generation of Conservationists Coming From?

An expert panel of environmental educators and activists, public health researchers, and outdoors advocates will join Connecticut Audubon Society for a community forum to discuss ways to improve outdoor education for children, on the evening of October 30, in Old Lyme.

The forum is co-sponsored by the Old Lyme Land Trust, the Lyme Land Conservation Trust and Connecticut Audubon Society.

The forum is set for 7-9 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 2 Ferry Street, Old Lyme. It is free and the public is encouraged to attend and participate in the discussion.

The goal of the forum is to engage the community in an in-depth discussion of the issues raised in our Connecticut State of the Birds 2012 report, Where Is the Next Generation of Conservationists Coming From? The report concluded that because children today do not spend enough time outdoors, they will not have the education, experience and connection with nature to become committed conservationists as adults.

This will be the fifth community forum we’ve organized on the topic this year. The discussion will be moderated by Milan Bull, Connecticut Audubon Society’s senior director of science and conservation. Michelle Eckman, Connecticut Audubon’s director of education, will discuss what our organization is doing to address the issue. Other panelists are:
  • Thaxter Tewsbury, director of Project Oceanology, based in Groton.
  • John Sargent, and artist and retired teacher who is active in the New London Environmental Educators Coalition.
  • Beth Jones, a member of the faculty of the Yale School of Public Health, and a member of the Lyme-Old Lyme (Region 18) Board of Education.
  • Emily Gerber Bjornberg, who started the Lyme Land Trust’s Trekkers youth group.
  • Arthur Lerner, executive director of F.R.E.S.H in New London. F.R.E.S.H. stands for Food: Resource, Education, Security, Health.
Our four spring community forums successfully brought together well over 100 people to discuss the issue and propose solutions. You can read our final report on the spring forums by clicking here.

Tom Andersen
Director of Communications and Community Outreach

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Identify this silhouette answer

Have you been able to come up with an answer as to what the silhouette in this post is? Here is the photo once again.

The first hint that I provided was that it was taken this month. October can be a good time to find the species in Connecticut as it is a rarity for our state, and that is your second hint. Your third hint is that I took the photo at Stratford Point (think of the habitat present there - coastal grasslands, scattered trees and shrubs, lots of weeds and small plants of various types, etc.). My fourth and final hint would be to really examine the profile of the head and to note the massive bill.

Does that help at all? The photo I showed you was the actual photograph that I took near dawn. However, I took this photo and lightened it up, greatly reducing the quality but really improving what you can see.

What do you think of it now? It is a Blue Grosbeak! That huge bill is still the most obvious mark to me, and while it resembles an Indigo Bunting, that sets it apart. The head and tail are also rather large and in the case of the latter, long, and it has a couple of rufous wingbars as well that are so bright you can even see them in this enhanced photo. I never saw it again after I took this shot as it hid in the weeds and shrubs along the edge of the property.

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

Monday, October 15, 2012

Trout Brook Valley hawk walk 10/13

The second Trout Brook Valley fall hawk walk of the season by the Aspetuck Land Trust (check out results of the first here) was on a very different sort of day, as a crisp and sunny October morning greeted the over 70 people who joined us to learn about raptors and see some up close. Once again, Larry Fischer, licensed bird bander and raptor expert, was up and out early to try to catch a couple of hawks for us. The incredible orchard and grasslands were full of life as a cold front had passed through the day before allowing millions upon millions of songbirds to take the skies that night, migrating to the south and along the Atlantic coast on the northwesterly winds. With all of the birds and the wonderful number of visitors, I scarcely had time to stop and take photos! One had to look this direction, that way, up here, then over the horizon, then down in the tree in front of us, and so forth.

Charlie Barnard Jr., expert birder and naturalist, also once again came to help discover birds all morning. As everyone arrived, we chatted with visitors while excitedly tallying species. Eastern Bluebirds were lining the fence and flying over while Blue Jays were migrating to the west. Palm Warblers were pumping their tails in front of us in the blueberry patch.

 Palm Warbler

Pumping its tail and wondering if these dozens of people are going to compete for its insect breakfast

White-throated and Chipping Sparrows were heard in good numbers, and a loud Eastern Towhee made sure he was not forgotten. We saw an adult Bald Eagle fly just overhead moving to the south while a Northern Harrier cruised through several feet off the ground. Most of the visitors had arrived by the time Jacquie Littlejohn, Aspetuck Land Trust volunteer, gathered everyone together to tell us that Larry had captured a couple of raptors. She discussed the site and introduced us, and I spoke a little more about the property as Larry arrived and got ready to speak. The crowd continued to build as he began to talk about raptors.

Larry on the right holding a couple of beautiful surprises

Larry focused on the American Kestrel, the most ubiquitous raptor that morning. Kestrels are the most important raptor that the orchard and grasslands host as they are such a rapidly declining species. Throughout their existence, they are dependent on properties such as this one for nesting, feeding, stopping over to rest, and all other facets of life.

  Can you identify what he has in those cans from this view alone?

As Larry and I mentioned that morning, agriculture has declined precipitously in our region, and fields and grasslands of the past have converted to forest or have been used for development. The open spaces we do have are typically baseball or softball and soccer fields, perhaps parks or picnic areas, all mowed lawns that cater to only a very small sliver of already abundant birds like the American Robin. These overwhelming common development types certainly do not fall into the category of "open space", and when they are called such it should be understand that their usage is solely for humans. Areas like Trout Brook Valley prioritize the natural world and thousands of species over just one.

  Discussing the geography of the property featuring habitat that can be seen from lofty heights

Maintaining this property forever is of vital important to the American Kestrel in the northeast. Birds can see this area from very high in the sky and decidedly favor it in migration, hosting thousands every season. This was a perfect transition into the raptor presentation as the two birds Larry had trapped to band and show the crowd were an American Kestrel male and female, two of at least a dozen seen that day.

 American Kestrel male

The huge crowd was extremely excited to see these two fantastic birds in hand, and they were very tolerant of the many eyes locked on them. Larry went on to discuss some of their biology, from flight styles and abilities to their talons and bills, what they hunt and how they hunt. They stayed calm, occasionally biting at Larry's hand, knowing he was the guy who made them take this little morning break.

 They look so small up close to me, every single time

Larry talked about bird banding and how he became a federally licensed bander, going through the process of studying under master banders all the way to different band sizes and types. He discussed how he trapped these two birds, using the same system as he did for the last hike. While talking about all of this we had a juvenile Bald Eagle fly slowly right overhead offering wondrous looks for everyone. Larry mentioned that the bird was probably banded itself from one of the Bald Eagle nests in the county. As if that was not enough we also had more American Kestrels demonstrating their flight abilities behind us in the orchard.

Female on the left, male on the right

Those who were bold enough were able to take a quick feel of the feathers of one of the birds, though they were not quite as cooperative as our previous pair on the last hike. Nevertheless, these birds were never agitated in any significant way whatsoever, and if they were Larry would have let them go immediately. These two birds were also very healthy and came in at a strong weight for their species and respective sex, and there was no concern about them not hunting for a half hour. We all took one last look before handing them off to some of the children present who assisted them in taking flight back into the wild.

 Saying goodbye, and we hope to see those two back again soon

They soared over our heads and resumed hunting almost immediately. We then continued the discussion on more of the incredible life Trout Brook Valley holds, from its vernal pools with state-listed amphibians to state-listed dragonflies and state-listed turtles and more. At that point, the group readied to set out on our hike through the orchard to see what could be found.

Ready to set out on the perfect October morning

Here is the superb list of birds seen on the day along with some very high totals far into the hundreds for some species. All of those American Crows were feeding on pumpkin leftovers in the farm fields, keeping away many other would-be diners and any raptors from that section of the orchard. Most of the songbirds were lining the western edge of the fence line in the grasses and shrubs separating the orchard from the trees that are the beginning of the forested section of Trout Brook Valley. Some were migrating throughout the morning, like Purple Finch and Pine Siskin, while others were feeding right in front of us, like the Eastern Phoebe, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit, and so many more. All of my numbers are conservative if I could not fully count them, and who knows how many "goodies" were missed in the masses.

Canada Goose  77
Double-crested Cormorant  300
Black Vulture  4
Turkey Vulture  14
Northern Harrier  1
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  2
Red-shouldered Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  5
Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  3
Downy Woodpecker  2
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  7
American Kestrel  12
Eastern Phoebe  13
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  37
American Crow  270
Fish Crow  4
Common Raven  1
Tree Swallow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  9
Tufted Titmouse  6
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
Carolina Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  7
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  3
Eastern Bluebird  18
American Robin  24
Gray Catbird  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
American Pipit  33
Cedar Waxwing  8
Common Yellowthroat  1
Palm Warbler (Western)  1
Palm Warbler (Yellow)  26
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  18
Eastern Towhee  5
Chipping Sparrow  46
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  11
Savannah Sparrow  34
Grasshopper Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  425
Lincoln's Sparrow  3
Swamp Sparrow  22
White-throated Sparrow  136
White-crowned Sparrow  7
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  19
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Common Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Purple Finch  42
House Finch  55
Pine Siskin  29
American Goldfinch  56

A big thanks to everyone who joined us - we hope you had a terrific morning! Thanks again to Larry for capturing such awesome birds for everyone to learn about up close and personal. If you are looking for a lovely spot to enjoy the birds, the views, and the colors of the fall season, stop at Trout Brook Valley before October ends. You will not regret it. While our survey period for the year-long study at the site for the Aspetuck Land Trust has now ended, I will be back there soon when I have a little free time just to enjoy all that it has to offer.

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Identify this silhouette

I took the following photograph this October during an early morning survey, and it is your task to tell me what it is!

I was able to see the bird clearly before I took this, but I think the photo alone is a great indicator of identification. The month itself is a hint and I am not going to provide any further help. There is a reason that Roger Tory Peterson placed the "Roadside Silhouettes" in the front and back of his field guides as sometimes that is all you are going to see of a bird, and it is often more than enough to accurately identify it. I will post the answer and a more "illuminating" photo in another blog post soon.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tiger Spiketails at Trout Brook Valley

My favorite find of the 2012 dragonfly and damselfly season was the Tiger Spiketails (Cordulegaster erronea) that I discovered at the Aspetuck Land Trust's Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area. I have mentioned and shared some of the previous odonates discovered on the property in this entry as well as this entry. I also found Delta-spotted Spiketail, Twin-spotted Spiketail, and Arrowhead Spiketail at Trout Brook Valley over the course of the season, meaning all four of the spiketail species that can be found in Connecticut were confirmed as breeding on the property.

The below photos are of a male I captured (and subsequently released unharmed where he was netted) while he was on patrol then briefly took to a nearby clearing to examine and photograph. Look at this stunning insect!

Although I discovered the species on the site in June, I purposefully held back this find because of its significance as the Tiger Spiketail is listed as "Threatened" on The Connecticut Endangered Species Act. This is defined by the Act as, "any native species documented by biological research and inventory to be likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state and to have no more than nine occurrences in the state," which is obviously the absolute definition of a conservation priority species. I did not want to call attention to its location in case a well-versed collector stumbled across this entry, and I also wanted to ensure the heavily-trafficked area where it was found did not see an even greater increase in activity. While I will not share the precise spot, those who know Trout Brook Valley well will be able to deduce where the prime habitat is.

Most spiketails utilize forest streams for breeding, with males flying routes back and forth along the waterway, checking for females and rivals at all times. There are often nearby clearings for feeding. The variety of streams and associated vegetation in Trout Brook Valley lends itself to a diversity of species. I discovered the perfect habitat favored by the Tiger Spiketail, "[s]mall forest streams and seeps, often with skunk cabbage and interrupted fern", (Paulson, Dennis - Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East) in a main section of the preserve. The stream in question is actually split by a trail, but the Tigers seem to have no trouble flying over it and continuing up and down the water as it passes underneath the path.

Here is a photo of the section of the stream where I observed repeated and continual activity during the summer, complete with skunk cabbage and fern.

However, the Tigers utilized hundreds of feet of this one stream, and the entire waterway and surrounding area is very important habitat. I noted multiple males on occasion, one spotting the other followed by a fast fight in flight through the woodlands. Females were only occasionally seen, as is typical in many dragonflies, with males monitoring breeding locations continuously and females only visiting them when they are ready to breed.

My hope is that we will be able to ensure the continued increased protection of this vital patch, including the stream, surrounding vegetation, nearby clearings, and so forth, limiting activity as much as possible near the site. Even keeping people, dogs, bikes, horses, vehicles, and all traffic on the intersecting trail itself and not straying off it would help a great deal. Mammals and birds, along with woody vegetation like trees, often seem to be the primary focus of public education, conservation, and advocacy. Other species like the Tiger Spiketail and Jefferson's Salamander (see this entry for it in Trout Brook Valley) are just as important even though they are much harder to detect and may not be seen by the causal visitor, and their preservation is of the highest priority in Connecticut with its unique wetlands, waterways, and vernal pool habitats.

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

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hummingbird attractor

I may have discovered a new item to use as a hummingbird attractant unknowingly while playing outside with my dog recently. The market is untapped though demand may be low considering the item and how readily it is available. Look!

OK, yeah...never mind. As I was throwing this tennis ball across the yard, I saw something zip right towards it. This unidentified flying object was instantly believed to be a dragonfly, but it became readily apparent after a couple of seconds that it was a hummingbird following the flight of the ball, and then bouncing along with it before it came to a rest. The bird literally moved up and down before it stopped, inspected the then stationary ball, and seemingly decided that this lovely looking and fast flying flower would not actually taste as good as it looked, moving off before my dog arrived to snatch it up.

I have to guess that had I been using a green tennis ball this would have never occurred. The bright pink and orange much look very tasty to a migrant Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I suppose we will have to stick to more bland colors in the future so that we do not cause any further distractions.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fog-aided putdown at Stratford Point

I have to post today's list from surveying Stratford Point because it is even better than yesterday. After rain cleared out last night the birds got on the move, and they flew into the foggy coastline of Connecticut. This stopped and concentrated many of them along the coast. Hundreds of birds were hopping just after dawn through mid-morning at Stratford Point. Some were flying south still, stopping at the water, and some were moving out to Long Island Sound. Yet others were flying in off the water or turning and heading back to the north or west. It was a hectic and awesome time and is a great start to the Great Stratford Bird Festival weekend.

Here's the list!

Canada Goose  8
Mute Swan  4
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  1
Green-winged Teal  6
Common Loon  1
Double-crested Cormorant  187
Great Egret  6
Snowy Egret  3
Osprey  2
Northern Harrier  1
Cooper's Hawk  2
Black-bellied Plover  7
Semipalmated Plover  2
American Oystercatcher  1
Greater Yellowlegs  1
Sanderling  64
Semipalmated Sandpiper  12
Laughing Gull  6
Ring-billed Gull  168
Herring Gull (American)  339
Great Black-backed Gull  18
Rock Pigeon  6
Mourning Dove  38
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1  
Belted Kingfisher  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
American Kestrel  2
Merlin  2
Peregrine Falcon  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2 
Eastern Phoebe  14
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  16
American Crow  3
Tree Swallow  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  21
Red-breasted Nuthatch  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  2
Carolina Wren  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  41
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  33
American Robin  31
Gray Catbird  6
Northern Mockingbird  5
European Starling  254
American Pipit  3
Cedar Waxwing  5
Common Yellowthroat  7
Bay-breasted Warbler  1    
Blackpoll Warbler  8
Palm Warbler (Western)  2
Palm Warbler (Yellow)  19
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  28
Eastern Towhee  3
Clay-colored Sparrow  1  
Savannah Sparrow  39
Song Sparrow  32
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  8
White-throated Sparrow  26
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  1    
Northern Cardinal  4
Blue Grosbeak  1 
Bobolink  3
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  7
Brown-headed Cowbird  120
House Finch  12
American Goldfinch  26
House Sparrow  9

There were a few new birds for my fall list, a couple new species for the year, and even a couple more new to the site. All of our hard work restoring the property is paying off, and even more birds will be found there as the newly planted trees and shrubs mature work continues on the coastal oasis.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stratford Point birds 10/4

Take a look at the great list of 51 species I was able to tally at Stratford Point today despite (and in some cases because of) the foggy and showery conditions.

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck 
Double-crested Cormorant 
Great Egret 
Snowy Egret 
Sharp-shinned Hawk 
Cooper's Hawk 
Black-bellied Plover 
American Oystercatcher 
Laughing Gull 
Ring-billed Gull 
Herring Gull (American) 
Great Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern 
Forster's Tern 
Black Skimmer 
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker 
Downy Woodpecker 
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 
American Kestrel 
Eastern Phoebe 
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tufted Titmouse 
Carolina Wren 
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 
American Robin 
Gray Catbird 
Northern Mockingbird 
European Starling 
Common Yellowthroat 
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler 
Palm Warbler (Yellow) 
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 
Field Sparrow 
Savannah Sparrow 
Song Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow 
Swamp Sparrow 
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow 
Northern Cardinal 
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird 
House Finch 
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

That is a nice mix of residents, expected migrants, and rare sights, with the Caspian Tern passing directly over the point about 30 feet off the ground over my head. These birds and many more could be seen this weekend during the Great Stratford Bird Festival as Stratford Point will be open for much of the time. Please come visit and enjoy the birds, join a walk, and browse through what will be on display.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Autumn Meadowhawk

Yep, it's the season - go find your last odonates now before they're gone! This Autumn Meadowhawk is an aptly named common sight as we wrap up the insect year.

Once the calendar flips to October a great deal of dragonflies, damselflies, butterflies, and more seem to start disappearing almost overnight in Connecticut. I will share a few more odonate sightings in the next couple of months, including my favorite find of 2012 that I will post next week. It's a dragonfly, and it's state-listed. Take your guesses!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Great Stratford Bird Festival 2012

The fifth annual Great Stratford Bird Festival is this weekend, October 5-7, and as usual it is headquartered at the Connecticut Audubon Society managed Stratford Point coastal grasslands property. For those who have not yet attended the festival it is a celebration of Stratford's incredibly diverse array of bird habitats as thousands and thousands of individual birds of over 200 species make their way south in fall migration. You can see the festival's website here, complete with a schedule of events. Here is a press release by the town of Stratford with more information where you can read the following from our favorite bird expert:

"With its beautiful beaches, marshes and woodlands, Stratford is the premier location for birding in Connecticut, and early fall is the best time to take advantage of the thousands of birds stopping by here on their way south," said Milan G. Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation of the Connecticut Audubon Society. "From eagles, hawks and herons, to ducks, shorebirds and songbirds, there is something for every bird enthusiast, and The Great Stratford Bird Festival celebrates this migration with enthusiasm, offering the public a host of opportunities to see some spectacular birds in some spectacular Stratford habitats. If you love birds, this event is not to be missed," Bull said.

I will be leading some walks and talks including raptor migration viewing at Boothe Memorial Park. You can find more about the hawk watch site and what we have seen so far this year on our HMANA page here. We will need some conducive weather for raptors, but not necessarily for all of the songbird migrants. This is a great opportunity to check out Stratford Point and the awesome work that Connecticut Audubon Society and Sacred Heart University have completed on the site. If you have not had a chance to visit, please come down this weekend to enjoy all of the events happening at the property and across the town. See you then!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician