Monday, April 29, 2013

Rare Grasshopper Sparrow at Stratford Point

I was conducting a waterfowl survey at Stratford Point earlier today and walking on the perimeter path with my Shetland Sheepdog Zach when he flushed a small brown bird out of the grass ahead of me. Instantly your mind goes to sparrow, but what species? I knew it was something great by the time two or three seconds had elapsed and it made its way to the rock revetment wall. It was small with long wings and flew with irregular motions, staying low to the ground, without calling. This secretive type of maneuver was enough for me to think Grasshopper Sparrow, and a quick look at the bird with my binoculars as it sat on the revetment wall confirmed it. Good job Zach!

Here is a photo of it later after it moved down to the fence line along the lighthouse while we continued our survey.

Zach accompanies me to help flush waterfowl and gulls from the perimeter of the site which is part of the survey protocol in the historic shot fall zone, but occasionally he also comes up with something else hidden along the edges. Grasshopper Sparrows are grassland birds that are very difficult to find outside of breeding areas because of how uncommon they are and how secretive they try to be. I do not have any personal records of a bird during spring migration, but I do have some in the fall including one at Stratford Point on October 24, 2010 that came only 13 days after another seen by Frank Mantlik and me at the community gardens in Stratford. My last Grasshopper Sparrow was October 13, 2012 at the Aspetuck Land Trust's Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area.

If you see the below photos you can get a good look at the white crown stripe followed by the first record shot I got of it sitting on the wall. Even that sort of view would be sufficient to identify this bird with its bold white eye ring and orange face.

The end of April through May is a wonderful time for all sorts of birds including scarce species like this all the way to the extremely rare. This is only the beginning!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Leucistic Dark-eyed Junco

I recently received an email from Emily Fitzpatrick who had a unique bird to share with me. Take a look at this leucistic Dark-eyed Junco.

Emily tells me, "After years of regular backyard birdwatching, we have spotted our first case of Leucism!  This Junco was foraging with a number of other Juncos under the feeders in our yard, but they spooked much more quickly than this little guy (not a good tendency for a bird who already sticks out with atypical plumage)... it kept hopping around long after the other birds took to the bushes."

She added that the bird remained around at their home for only about an hour. One would guess that considering the date and the uniqueness of this individual, who surely would have been noticed earlier in the season, that it was a migrant individual who stopped by for a snack before continuing to the north the subsequent night. Remember that leucism is essentially a reduced pigmentation as normal colors still occur over much of the feathers. It is not the same condition as albinism, a mutation that prevents melanin from being produced at all. This bird is probably very healthy and only looks different than all of the rest typically do.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Emily Fitzpatrick

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Forman School 21st Annual Rainforest Dissertation Day

Frank Gallo, Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point, and other teachers, take high school students to do research in the Costa Rican rain forest every March. See the results live today from 8:45 to 1:45. Frank's bird team goes on at 12:35pm. Follow this link:

You can see a schedule of events by clicking on this link.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Brown Creeper creeping up a pole

Yep, that is exactly what it sounds like - check out this Brown Creeper I caught creeping up a telephone pole.

Why would it be doing that you ask? Because this was outside the main building at Stratford Point, an area devoid of all but a few trees. If it moved back towards the south side it could visit a lot of different woody vegetation along Prospect Drive on the Stratford Point property and in neighboring areas. However, this is still a bit inadequate for all of the birds that use the property as a stopover site during migration.

Increasing the diversity and availability of trees and shrubs on Stratford Point is also why Sacred Heart University's Biology Department joined Connecticut Audubon Society staff at Stratford Point in planting almost 100 native trees and shrubs, acquired through funding from the Connecticut Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership and the Connecticut Ornithological Association, in spring 2012. You can see more of that work from last May in this entry. The vegetation's placement in the site's upland is an effort to enhance the coastal habitat and provide food, shelter and other resources for local wildlife, primarily migrant and wintering birds. In 10 years birds like that Brown Creeper will hardly recognize the place.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Red Fox season

On April 6 I noticed a Red Fox roaming around Stratford Point in broad daylight while surveying the property. We have a known fox den in front of the main building on the edge of the mowed lawn and grasslands that has been inhabited since last year. Getting a look at this individual showed it was healthy and behaving precisely as one should...when it has pups to feed. At this time of year you may see them during the day because they have to do some extra hunting to feed a young family. Sure enough my suspicions were proven to be correct as CAS Director of Conservation Services Anthony Zemba got this sensational photo of mom and a pup later that week.

Anthony said that he believes there are two pups. We have also had reports of them at other locations in Stratford, Milford, and Bridgeport recently. The point is that while it is odd to see them during the daylight hours out in the open do not automatically assume they are sick or injured. When it is spring it may just be a hard-working parent looking to provide for the next generation.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Anthony Zemba © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Friday, April 19, 2013

CAS Coastal Center gate closing

Via Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point Director Frank Gallo: 

Connecticut Audubon Society Gate Closed April 20 
from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 
Our Annual Return of the Osprey Party 
(Tickets available - see below)

Hi all,

Just a reminder. As usual, we're having our Annual Return of the Osprey Party Special Event at the Coastal Center at Milford Point this Saturday, April 20 at 5:30 p.m. The parking lot will be closed to the general public all day Saturday. Party goers can still park in the lot. Fisherman are asked to be out by 9 a.m. Saturday and may return after 9 p.m. To avoid disappointing anyone, please pass the word along to others.

There are still tickets available for the event. Folks, this is a wonderful event that grows each year. We thank you for your continued support, and we look forward to seeing you here. There is always delicious food and drink, live music, and friends new and old to meet.

Milford's wonderful Bistro Basque Restaurant is providing a delectable Spanish torte and hors d'oeuvres; Villa Gourmet has kindly offered a selection of their amazing cheeses; and Milford's terrific Southport Brewing Company and Restaurant is generously providing a variety of delightful appetizers. I love to cook, so I am making 10 lbs. of salmon with herbs, as well; some of my chef friends have a few surprises planned, also.

Once again, we have some incredible auction items, including original art works from Michael DiGiorgio, Frank Gallo, AJ Hand, Mark Szantyr, Jim Zipp and many others. One of the auction highlights is a beautiful native garnet necklace from Vincent's Jewelers in Milford.

This year we've added some wonderful new gift baskets, and a few of our hand-made Osprey Nest center pieces will be auctioned.

We hope you can join us in welcoming back the osprey, and to enjoy a wonderful evening at the shore. We thank you for your continued support of all we do. We'll see you tomorrow.

Please RSVP, ASAP, to Louise at 203-878-7440 x 502.

Thank you.


Frank Gallo, Director
Connecticut Audubon Society
Coastal Center at Milford Point
1 Milford Point Road
Milford, CT 06460
203-878-7440 x 501

PS. July 4th Holiday: Please make note that the gate will also be closed at 4 PM July 3, and remain closed until dawn July 5, as it is every year. Thank you.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Saying goodbye to the ducks

Waterfowl surveys at Stratford Point in April have one very noticeable difference from the preceding month - less birds! Most of our duck species as well as loons and geese are on the move and heading north. Some year-round species like the American Black Duck and Mallard will persist in diminished numbers. Shorebirds are at very low levels right now as well as the wintering species have moved on before the spring migrants have arrived.

Here's a shot of a Long-tailed Duck resting in the survey zone at Stratford Point by me followed by a shot of two Ring-necked Ducks by Alex Kearney.

As Alex notes you can see the rings that their name comes from in the photo - our thanks to him for a nice look at the departing species.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo 1 by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission; photo 2 by Alex Kearney (

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sandy Morse Points/Long Beach string fencing dates

Here's a cross post from the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut. Please help us out if you can!

We have received the string fencing dates for Long Beach in Stratford and Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven from CT DEEP. We would love to have as many volunteers join us as possible!

Sandy/Morse Points - Wednesday 17th 10:30am. Meet at the parking lot. Should take a couple of hours.  Rain date Thursday the 18th.
Long Beach - Friday 19th 10:30am. Meet at the parking lot. Not sure how long it will take. Rain date Monday 22nd.

Volunteers should bring work gloves, pocket knife/scissors for cutting string, mallet (if they have one), snacks/lunch, water, and sunblock. Depending on the weather, a wind breaker might be necessary – it can be surprisingly cold and windy on the beach in April. Plan for heavy lifting and toting, but be mindful of your safety. We do not want any injuries.

If you have questions you can email Laura Saucer of CT DEEP ( All volunteers are welcome including those who are not monitors. Please email us at to let us know you plan on going. Thank you all!

Scott Kruitbosch
AAfCW Coordinator
Conservation Technician

Friday, April 12, 2013

Palm Warblers and more have arrived

As we hit a surge of warmth earlier this week migrant birds were finally able to make it into the area on strong southwest and westerly winds. I had several first-of-year sightings during survey time at Stratford Point on Tuesday. One of those was this Palm Warbler who hopped around our grasslands.

The temperature soared to an official 81 degrees Fahrenheit as KBDR (Bridgeport's airport observation station in Stratford) broke the daily record. Considering it was April 9 I think this was a good total of birds for a couple hours in the morning.

Brant  8
Canada Goose  3
Mute Swan  2
Wood Duck  1
Eurasian Wigeon  1    
American Wigeon  13
American Black Duck  9
Mallard  2
Greater Scaup  4
Long-tailed Duck  1
Common Goldeneye  1
Red-breasted Merganser  4
Red-throated Loon  1
Common Loon  3
Northern Gannet  2
Osprey  1
Northern Harrier  1
Killdeer  2
Ring-billed Gull  36
Herring Gull (American)  47
Great Black-backed Gull  3
Rock Pigeon  2
Mourning Dove  4
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  6
Eastern Phoebe  2
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  1
Fish Crow  5
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Tree Swallow  3
Tufted Titmouse  1
Brown Creeper  1
Carolina Wren  1
Golden-crowned Kinglet  4
Hermit Thrush  1
American Robin  21
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  5
Palm Warbler (Yellow)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1
Eastern Towhee  1
Chipping Sparrow  1
Savannah Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  9
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  7
Common Grackle  11
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
House Finch  1
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  7

That was just a taste of what is to come as we are about to enter six or seven weeks of nonstop bird migration madness. While we definitely encourage you to visit some of Connecticut's hotspots and some of our wonderful properties get out there as much as you can in your local patches and find some close by areas within walking or biking distance to keep your birding as green as can be.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photo by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

AAfCW weekly updates

If you are not a shorebird and tern monitor through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal should be! It is a great experience and you can learn more about it by visiting the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds blog here. If you have questions or want to enlist with over 100 other volunteers who will contribute to the program this year across Connecticut email us at at any point during the spring and summer.

If you are a monitor you will receive the following weekly update plus other information. You can always check the AAfCW blog for them as well. Here is a snapshot of what is going on after week two of field work in the 2013 season.


This is the second weekly update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2013 season. Today's update includes reports of Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher received from April 1 through 4:00 p.m. on April 8 with sightings of birds by volunteers and staff spanning that period.

Informational updates:

A huge thank you to all of the volunteers who joined TNC, CT DEEP and AAfCW staff at the first fencing party date at Griswold Point. Your help made it into a fast and fun effort on a beautiful day at the shore, and we all enjoyed seeing a lot of birds and spending the time at the beach with you. There will be more fencing dates to come across Connecticut and we will really need your help. We will put the word out on those dates as soon as CT DEEP determines the best time for them at each location based on Piping Plover behavior and nesting.

Once again if you have yet to schedule your monitoring visits please send us your preferred site, dates, and times when as soon as possible. If this is the first email you have received from us it means the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds has yet to receive one from you and if you are planning to participate as a USFWS monitor for 2013 please tell us where and when you would like to conduct this monitoring while sending us your data and information. We are now well underway with the season and if you have any questions as we go please contact us at at any time. While we do not have any nests yet please keep in mind that we will want to avoid going out on especially cold and windy or rainy days when the birds are on eggs.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover

5 pairs at Milford Point on 4/1
3 pairs, 1 adult at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/2
1 pair, 1 adult at Bluff Point on 4/4
7 adults at Milford Point on 4/4
1 pair, 4 adults at Griswold Point on 4/5
2 pairs, 6 adults at Milford Point on 4/6
3 pairs, 1 adult at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/6
2 adults at Long Beach on 4/6
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/6
8 adults at Long Beach on 4/7
2 adults at Milford Point on 4/7
2 pairs at Long Beach on 4/7
10 adults at Bluff Point on 4/7
1 pair at East Broadway Milford on 4/8
6 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/8
2 pairs at Milford Point on 4/8

American Oystercatcher
2 pairs at Milford Point on 4/1
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/2
1 pair at Greenwich Point Park on 4/2
2 pairs at Sandy Point Stonington on 4/4
1 pair at Bluff Point on 4/4
2 pairs at Milford Point on 4/4
6 adults at Griswold Point on 4/5
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/6
3 pairs at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/6
4 adults at Long Beach on 4/7
4 adults at Milford Point on 4/7
2 pairs at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/7
4 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/8
3 pairs at Milford Point on 4/8.

This concludes update #2 through 4/8/13 as of 5:00 p.m.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eastern Phoebes: 2013 vs. 2012

It does not take a meteorologist to tell you that March 2013 was substantially colder than March 2012 when much of Connecticut enjoyed temperatures in the 70s and 80s for days on end. While pushing through the bitterly cold month I frequently spent time amusingly bemused at what it must have been like in spring before climate change started adjusting our temperatures upward during the past century. When you go back and read historical accounts of birds in Connecticut you will find very different spring arrival dates for everything from the common birds that breed in our yards to the most rare that move on to our north.

I wanted to take a quick look at one of the most common and well-known early spring arrivals, the Eastern Phoebe. I have not been outdoors much at all besides spending time on the shore at Stratford Point or on some of the state's beaches and marshes for my role as coordinator of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. Nevertheless, one would have expected to find an Eastern Phoebe in some of these migratory stopover sites in March. This was not the case as my first of the season bird did not come until April 6!

Here are maps of sightings of Eastern Phoebes in 2013 followed by 2012 taken from eBird data.

That certainly looks extremely different to me. How about the raw data? There were 32 recorded for the month of March 2013, and 26 of those came from March 26-31. For the month of March 2012 I had to get a calculator out as we had 856 individuals! March 11-15 had 43 individuals alone, beating the entirety of 2013. They peaked before the end of the month with 360 coming from March 21-25.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Duck mix

Take a look at this row of ducks and see what you can identify. They were all relaxing off Stratford Point earlier in the week. This is a migratory time for waterfowl and they probably appreciated having a quiet and relatively safe spot to stay for a while. How many do we have of each species in what order?

What do you have? I have Mallard, American Black Duck, American Black Duck, Mallard, Mallard, American Black Duck, American Black Duck, Long-tailed Duck, American Black Duck, and Mallard. What always amazes me about such situations is how you get a sense of their actual sizes when multiple species are mixed together in such a tight group. American Black Ducks and Mallards are frequently seen with one another and have approximately the same build. They even interbreed from time to time. Then you see a bird like the Long-tailed Duck with this bunch and it is astonishing how tiny they really are!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Purple Martin gourd cleaning and monitoring

Last week Connecticut Audubon Society started to prepare for the Purple Martin nesting season. We help to manage several colonies in Connecticut for the state-threatened species and participate in banding young birds at multiple sites each year with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. We are hoping to expand our monitoring of select sites with the help of citizen scientists, and we encourage you to contact us if you are interested in joining the ranks. We will be posting more information about that soon.

CAS Senior Director of Science and Conservation Milan Bull, Director of Conservation Services Anthony Zemba and I got to spend a beautiful morning at Stratford Point cleaning out dozens of gourds that were used by Purple Martins last season. This consisted of clearing out all nesting material from each one and wiping them clean, washing them out with soap and water, scrubbing them clean of all debris, and rinsing each one until they were nearly spotless. Here are a few quick photos I took of the operation in action.

Miley scrubbing out emptied gourds

 Where we would empty the contents of each gourd

 Fresh and clean

Anthony readying more gourds for cleaning

After we were finished we put up the gourd tree at Stratford Point where we hope to have at least a few successful nesting Purple Martins this year after having a couple of pairs of young birds building dummy nests last season. Among the gourds cleaned were Gazebo Phil's, and don't forget that you can watch Purple Martins live all spring and summer long on his website here. Phil and I will be writing columns, updating information and answering questions regularly there for all of his viewers from around the world. It is a lot of fun and very addictive once nesting begins as you can watch a family come into the world on your computer screen. Please check it out when the cameras are online later in April as the birds return to Connecticut and remember to contact us if you want to get involved in Purple Martin monitoring! You can email me at at any time.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

Monday, April 1, 2013

Bald Eagle nesting season

Just a reminder that Bald Eagle nesting season is underway. Eagles can be quite susceptible to human disturbance and are protected by state and federal law. Please keep your distance from any active eagle nests! I probably don’t need to tell the birding community this, but perhaps there are folks who don’t know how skittish they can be in the nesting season and how vulnerable eggs and chicks can be. Human disturbance (generally not from birders) has been a factor in nest failures in Connecticut.

If you know the location of a new nest for eagles, please report that information to the DEEP Wildlife Division: or

If you see incidents that you feel are threatening to an active eagle nest, you can report it by calling: 860-424-3333


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician