Saturday, June 29, 2013

Volunteer for fireworks displays outreach

This year's fireworks displays are coming up soon across Connecticut and with them comes an increased need to help the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds to protect coastal waterbirds at busy beach sites in the middle of nesting season. We will be looking for help at Milford Point on the evening of July 3 during the Stratford display. We will also be looking for help at Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven on July 3 and July 4 for the West Haven and New Haven displays, respectively. Please email us at if you would like to join AAfCW and CT DEEP staff in monitoring and outreach at these locations from around 9PM on those nights until the shows have concluded.

There will also be a few dates we will be looking for additional volunteers later in July in eastern parts of Connecticut. I should note that a week ago Sean Graesser and I completed a detailed and methodical official survey of the sand spit at Milford Point in order to tally all of the Least Terns present and how many nests were going. There were at least 700 birds with about 325 pairs/nests and a couple dozen more courting. Since then the first eggs have hatched and there are likely more nests. If you visit Milford Point please remain on Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center property and try not to go past the platform if you can. We really want to voluntarily have everyone give all these hundreds of birds (plus multiple families of Piping Plovers with over 20 chicks of various ages) as much space as possible so that they are successful. This could be a big success if we can limit traffic and disturbances and continue educating the public on why these birds are both imperiled and important. If you want to become a coastal waterbirds monitor for AAfCW please email

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Odonates are popping up

Dragonfly and damselfly populations have been exploding during the warm and wet month of June. Get out there now if you want to see the peak of diversity in Connecticut. Even at places like Stratford Point you can find some migrants like the Painted Skimmer...

Or the Black Saddlebags...

Numbers will be on the rise for a while yet and after the next week of wet and unsettled weather we should have a bonanza of them in every expected habitat.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rain means rainbows

We have had a heck of a lot of water fall from the sky in the last couple of weeks as I mentioned in this post. From the remains of a tropical cyclone to anomalous lows moving in from the west to convective thunderstorms it has been a nonstop parade of rainmakers. I wanted to share some photos of some of the weather I saw at Stratford Point while attempting to conduct waterfowl surveys without getting too wet or being threatened by lightning.

You can see a nice rainbow in this shot looking to the south.

This is looking east into Long Island Sound as a rainbow attempts to brighten - you can even see what's at the end! Here's a hint - more water.

Lastly this thunderstorm was coming in from the north near sunset creating a lovely shade in the sky.

How much more can we get? In our state of extremes I do not know. Let's hope that one tropical event was it for the entire year.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Deer tick nymph

I was very thankful to observe a little bit of...something...on my dog's face about a week ago. I went up to him and let this tiny speck of a parasite crawl on to my finger.

That deer tick nymph would have gone unnoticed on 98% of his body as he's a Shetland Sheepdog. I am relatively certain that 99% of us would have never known it was on us, either. This makes me wonder how many I miss on myself or on him. All he had done was go outside in the yard at home with me watching his every step. Please be careful where you walk, run, hike, play, or whatever else, and please take the time to check yourself for even nearly microscopic ticks like this one at this time of year. This is why Connecticut has to focus on restoring the balance of wildlife in its woodlands while removing non-native and/or invasive plants as high levels of certain mammal species combined with plants ticks favor all help to maintain these ridiculously high populations in our own backyards.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Friday, June 21, 2013

Parents hard at work

I have not seen the fox family all together for a while now. They must be well on their way to advanced learning at this point of the development. They seem to be staying primarily nocturnal and crepuscular (appearing at night or near dawn or sunset, respectively). I did see one parent running around in the rain recently and snapped this shot.

It was much more concerned about fishermen walking on the property than me standing by the main building. Maybe they have gotten to know us. Or perhaps they are more interested in what the fishermen may leave behind in the form of fresh free meals. I have noticed the local squirrel population, low as it was, has taken quite a hit. The upper limits of the grasslands at Stratford Point were shielded from the tidal surges of Hurricane Sandy and allowed mammals to survive. This did not happen along much of the coastline and many perished during the storm leaving populations lower than usual. The additional blast from the Blizzard of 2013 also dropped populations further as those that were not prepared for over 30 or 36 inches of snow in a little over 24 hours did not survive. The times are tough in many areas for birds and mammal predators that rely on these small mammal populations but they will rebound very quickly.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

From drought to record rainfall

We had been in the midst of a drought after a dry spring season, but that ended quickly, didn't it? Bear in mind when I say "spring" I am referring to meteorological spring which runs from March 1 through May 31, and if you were living near the Bridgeport area it was the fifth driest spring on record out of 49 years of observations.

Take a look at this cool graphic provided by the National Weather Service in Upton, New York of local climate stations. This was through only June 13!

It was right after this daunting anomalous low had passed through the area to add to the total.

We have had several rain events since then, but I don't think we can touch Bridgeport's insanely high monthly record.  As of June 18, with more rain to come today, the "Bridgeport" station in Stratford's Sikorsky Airport has received 8.62 inches of rain in June with probably more to come even today. The Hartford area station at Bradley Airport is extraordinarily close to the shore at 8.63 inches, a strong 5.88 inches above normal. While we can't be sure what will happen beyond a couple of weeks with any sort of certainty in terms of actualized weather I can be sure it will be a strong year for insects unless we immediately go back into drought and extreme heat dries us out for a prolonged period.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The answer to the shadow

By that I mean the answer to what this shadow of a bird is. Take a look at it again here.

What can you tell about the size? Relative to the vegetation surrounding it the bird seems relatively small. It is holding its wings out a little and it has a somewhat long tail with some feathers worn. This bird has seen quite a tiring migration. It has a small short bill and round average-sized head. Even knowing what it is this profile strikes me as almost prototypical for a little songbird.

Still, the dimensions and positioning help betray the fact this is an insect eater. That tiny bill is somewhat pointed and definitely not meant for eating anything too hard. You can probably tell this is a warbler - but what kind? That would be quite a task, but do you remember what I said about cheating in the first post with this photo? I meant this "enlightening" look as we lower the quality of the image while markedly raising our ability to identify the bird...

That is a Canada Warbler that spent the morning singing and foraging around my yard. I hope it is at its breeding grounds so that it can relax, start a family, and then finally molt before the trip back.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Lego birds!

I had to pass along the following link to these Lego birds:

They are not made by Lego but they should be. What impressed me the most about them is that Mr. Thomas Poulsom made them so true to life. They resemble the given species to a nearly perfect degree. As someone who spent thousands of hours of life as a child playing with Legos I know how difficult this is and how limited one can be by pieces that cannot imitate everything. Somehow he managed to make them exactly as they should be.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Butterfly or moth answer

If you take a look at this post you can see the original question I asked of what the below insect is - butterfly or moth?

If you guessed moth you guessed correctly. This is a day-flying species as you can tell from the photo and my mention of it being seen on a May morning. Its wings are folded in and you can see four yellow spots. If you multiply that by two and add in the woodlands that I mentioned you have your answer...huh? It has four more white spots on its wings when fully open and is an Eight-spotted Forester. It is a common and widespread species that has a flight season in our area from April through June. See if you can find one in your yard before the month is over!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The shadow of a...what?

Take a look at this photo of a bird I took in late May.

It was a cloudy day with showers in the area but no real rain to speak of. This bird was a migrant feeding in my yard. I had been looking to take some photos of it in poor light and ended up finally having it pop out into the open in a backlit and terrible position for the settings I had put my camera on as I was looking for it among the dark foliage in the shrubs in front of me.

Do you have any idea what it is? Take your best guesses, even if it is a whole family, and I'll give you the answer soon. No cheating! If you know what I mean...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Big Day 2013

Oh, the Weatherman Lied
The Raven Luna-ticks 2013 Big Day Run
by Frank Gallo

The weather was setting up nicely for the Raven Luna-ticks 2013 Big Day birding fundraiser: south winds starting in the afternoon to bring migrants up from the south, with thunderstorms predicted for late evening to drop them into our area. Fog was to settle in on the coast to keep things down, and would lift by late morning so we'd be able to see off the coast in the afternoon. Things couldn't look better for our run—ah, if only weather forecasts were true, and the weather people hadn't lied!

The afternoon of May 21, 2013, arrived, along with those predicted south winds, as we finished up last-minute scouting, tweaked final plans for our Big Day run, and headed to bed for a few hours of much-needed sleep before midnight. All was going according to plan.

Patrick Dugan showed up at the door at 10 p.m., right on schedule. We loaded his stuff into the car, and my partner Vanessa drove us to the meeting spot. Our longtime Raven Luna-ticks teammates—Nick Bonomo, Fran Zygmont, and Dave Tripp—were already waiting at the Dunkin Donuts when we arrived. Ten minutes later, coffees in hand, we prepared to leave for our first stop, the swamps of South Windsor.  We could hear birds calling as they passed overhead. Things were looking good—but where were the predicted thunderstorms? I hoped that they'd come, without messing up our night birding too much.

Rails and other marsh birds were the targets for our first stop. Standing at the edge of the marsh, we were met first by a winnowing screech owl, then by the calls of migrating thrushes moving overhead; Swainson's, Hermit, Gray-cheeked, and Veery were passing over us and headed, it seemed, right out of Connecticut . . . When was that storm coming to drop them all down? Cuckoos had already arrived, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called from the edge of the marsh; a woodcock displayed at our next stop, and, surprisingly, a Short-billed Dowitcher called as it migrated past.

Between 12:00 and 4:15 a.m. we tallied 34 species—a new record—including Horned Lark, Grasshopper Sparrow, Great Horned Owl, Northern Saw-whet, Common Nighthawk, Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, Great Blue Heron, Cliff Swallow, and a Black-billed Cuckoo serenading the night. By 5:10 a.m., we'd totaled 55 species. It was a great start, but still no thunderstorms. We drove off to the west.

As we rolled on past dawn, our scouted stops paid off, yielding tough northern breeders such as Magnolia Warbler, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Waterthrush, Purple Finch, Winter Wren, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. A quick stop at an inland lake added a resting Common Loon. An hour ahead of schedule, we raced off for more . . .

Kingfisher, Nashville Warbler, a lovely male Ruby-throated Hummingbird resting on a fence near a feeder, Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, a beautiful male American Kestrel hunting near its nest, and a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher wheezing away in an oak by the roadside all greeted us at our scouted sites.  By 8:17 a.m., our tally had climbed to 114.

White-eyed Vireo (our yearly nemesis), Red-shouldered Hawk, Black Vulture, Hooded Warbler, Northern Flicker, and a Mourning Warbler singing an interesting alternate song took their place on our tally sheet. By 11:35 a.m., we'd gathered 138 species and were right on schedule, and were tracking our 192 species record-breaking year nicely.

Here's where the tactical error occurred. It involved math, and math shouldn't be done on the fly. It seemed like a good idea at the time (more sleep may have helped) to go to Hartford. What we didn’t calculate was the extra hour it would take us to get to the coast after that. By 2:00 p.m., we had made it to the shore, having gained just two additional species, Upland Sandpiper and Cooper's Hawk (which we happened to see en route).

But we rallied. Scouted birds cooperated: Common Eider, check. Purple Sandpiper, check. Black Scoter, nope, not today—the only ones we had pinned down during scouting were nowhere to be seen. It's always something, so we moved on. Greater Yellowlegs, check. Least Tern, check. Surf Scoter—those weren't there the day before, extra check. Summer Tanager—wow, we could use a few more rarities like that.  Hey, we're gaining ground again. Little Blue Heron, nope. Weird Little Blue x Tricolored Heron hybrid—cool, except we can’t count it. Red-breasted Merganser, check. Red-throated Loon, thank God, check. White-faced Ibis, check. Wait, White-faced Ibis . . . flying by right in front of us . . . and not the one we'd staked out but wouldn't have time to get to—wow, we could use a few more surprises like that.

At 5:00 p.m., our bird list had 175 species checked off; there was 3 hours of light left and it was going to be close. In New Haven, we hit big: Lesser Scaup, thank you! Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Monk Parakeets, nesting near a friend’s house; and Gadwall and American Coot, followed by a quick save on Green Heron . . . and we were off to the races. Sandy Point held Piping Plovers and a Clapper Rail, but the scouted Laughing Gull, Red Knot, and Skimmers were nowhere to be seen, and there were no land-bird migrants along the coast. Two flyby White-winged Scoters were a bonus, and we left in good spirits, with 184 species and still a distant chance at the record of 194. It was 6:40 p.m., and the light was fading fast.

At 8:07 p.m., a surprise Merlin flew directly over our heads and flushed all the shorebirds on the sandbars at Milford Point. We didn't see a Red Knot in the group, but the Merlin was #185 for the day, equaling our second-best Big Day effort. Our scouted birds, it seemed, had taken the afternoon off. Where did the Greater Scaup go, and the Iceland Gulls and Great Cormorant?

Well, we still had scouted rails and bitterns to get . . . King Rail, no. Least Bittern, no. American Bittern, nope. Our last new bird, a Sora, called at 10:47 p.m., giving us our second-best total of 186. It was followed by another Sora calling—good for us. (I really like Soras.) At midnight, as we were setting up for the team photo, a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls was quietly winnowing back and forth to each other and slowly coming closer to us. At midnight, as the flash went off and the camera recorded our picture, they were directly above us, serenading and soothing our finish. It was a nice way to end a day of birding with dear friends.

Dave, Fran, Nick, Patrick, and I would like to thank the Connecticut birding community for all your support; we'll be out there again next year to break the record. It’s only a matter of time. We achieved 192 species in 2011; our goal to surpass the New England Record of 193, and reach 200, is in sight. All we need is an honest weather report, and the right day. You know, come to think of it, we never did run into that thunderstorm.    

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Another "cold" and "dry" month

May was widely felt as another cold month according to most people I spoke to for Connecticut until the heat of the last couple of days as the first weekend of June was well-above average. We had some periods of rain and a few thunderstorms - all depending on where you are in Connecticut and very localized at times of course - but we still needed more. Whether it is someone mowing their lawn and kicking up a dust cloud or a naturalist who tells me a creek they have frequented for years is running lower than usual there seems to be a good agreement on drought conditions persisting as well.

Sometimes our personal observations actually do reflect the truth quite well, and this is the case when it comes to precipitation so far in the spring of 2013. We are definitely at a continued deficit overall with various parts of Connecticut abnormally dry to others at moderate drought conditions. Only a tiny slice of the northwest corner resembles what we could call normal as you can see in the Drought Monitor graphic.

The National Weather Service data indicates that the March-May period in the Bridgeport area was 5.40 inches below average in terms of precipitation. That is the fifth driest spring on record since 1949. I can't imagine how dry our earth would have been if not for the Blizzard of 2013 in February.

I certainly would have agreed with the general sentiment on temperature had it not been for the fact I am a weather nerd and constantly watched the daily and month-to-date temperature departures. It felt a heck of a lot cooler than normal to me for the most part. Apparently my normal is out of whack with long-term averages as I grew up in the climate change influenced past few decades. That same March-May period was 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. That is remarkably average! May itself was 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the Bridgeport area and 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in the Hartford area.

At least the weather has been pleasant for our insects to finally emerge in strong numbers. Check out your local pond, stream, creek, lake, marsh, or other water source and you'll finally see a lot of dragonflies and damselflies. For our collective benefit - insects included - keep hoping for an excess of rain. We may actually get too much rain with a deep tropical flow later this week into the weekend...

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Butterfly or moth?

Take a look at the below photo and see if you can tell me what it is. I photographed this beautiful "bug" on a cool and damp May morning in a Connecticut yard. The temperature was a little below normal and the sun was trying to peek out when I spotted this resting along the back of a home facing some woods.

The insect is decidedly of the order Lepidoptera. Could it be a butterfly? Or perhaps is it a moth? If you can pick out which one of those it is you may have an idea as to the species. I'll give you the answer in an upcoming post.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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