Monday, March 18, 2013

Migratory trickle

I am sure everyone is aware that it has been chilly so far this March. There have been plenty of days below freezing with a significant snow event occurring earlier in the month. We have had more days with flakes in the air even if they have not accumulated and a brisk northerly flow in place keeping the wind chill rather unpleasant. What if I told you that we were actually still above average in temperatures for the month in Connecticut? As of March 17 Hartford was about 2.2 degrees F above long-term averages and Bridgeport was at 1.6 above. That goes to show you how traditionally cold March is for our region. Personally I think I still have a memory of the gorgeous weather (for people, not for our environment!) we had in March 2012 with the temperature pushing past 70 degrees on multiple days that is making me think this is colder than normal when it is not.

Birds have begun to return but for the most part migration has been slowed by the uncooperative flow and poor conditions. While we may think they are "behind" they are probably right on track compared to the long-term arrival dates. We had a Piping Plover show up very early in Connecticut on March 5 at Long Beach in Stratford, but that has been the only bird in the state! Last year we had multiple birds and pairs beginning breeding season at Long Beach, the CAS Coastal Center at Milford Point, Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven, Harkness Memorial State Park, and Bluff Point State Park, all before March 20. That does not seem likely to happen in the next couple of days, and it was probably helped a great deal by the warm conditions in place in 2012.

Ospreys and Tree Swallows are among some of the other birds that have trickled in and been reported infrequently. They are far from widespread as of yet but both should be soon enough. Swallows in particular have to be careful during freezing conditions or else they will have very little prey available. Other early migrants like Killdeer have popped up in inland areas and some of the more rare species like the Northern Shoveler or Short-eared Owl have done the same. CAS Senior Director of Science and Conservation Milan Bull spotted a first of year Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in Stratford's Great Meadows Marsh last week, but even the waders have been slow in returning. Great Blue Herons seem relatively widespread but Great and Snowy Egrets still have yet to arrive in appreciable numbers. The remainder of March should be near climate averages and, for us, rather cold. We will see what the birds think of it.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician


  1. In the following sentence about Piping Plover--

    "We had a Piping Plover show up very early in Connecticut on March 5 at Long Beach in Stratford, but that has been the only bird in the state!"

    --may I respectfully suggest that after the words "the only bird" you insert the words "observed and recorded."

    It's possible that there have been others but that no one saw or recorded them. Not every birder reports every observation.

  2. True but I hope it's understood that we can of course only write about what we do know and that we need all the information and data we can get! Reporting birds in eBird or species like this one to us (and in turn the state of Connecticut and federal government) is extremely important in understanding the imperiled species.