Friday, September 27, 2013

Taking a Closer Look in Nature

The other day I was conducting waterfowl surveys at Stratford point and I started stumbling upon a lot of interesting insects. This time of year when you can look at a field with blooming goldenrod, take the time to do so. At Stratford Point, Seaside Goldenrood (Solidago sempervirens) is in full bloom, attracting a plethora of butterflies and other insects. Some are there to pollinate and eat while others have different agendas.  

The first thing I noticed was all the butterflies – a lot of different species were around that day.  First I saw a Monarch (Danaus plexippus), a seemingly common sighting any other year than this. Since I have seen very few this year, even at coastal locations, I decided to observe it and try to get some close-ups. Some of you may know that this species is poisonous and doesn’t taste very good to predators due to the fact they omit cardenolide aglycones from their system. Many people think they only feed on Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), but this is only true of the caterpillars. The adults are much less selective in the plants they are able to obtain their liquid diet from. That's why they can be found at a lot of coastal locations, where they take advantage of the wide variety of nectaring plants.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

After I looked at the Monarch for a bit I took notice of the Clouded Sulphurs (Colias philodice) and Orange sulphurs (Colias eurytheme). Both are beautiful species that have a wide range of colors and vibrancy this time of year. You should also keep your eyes peeled for the rarer Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae).

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)
My next finds were my favorite, and the kind you really need to take time to look for.  There are a lot of bees and hornets now in the fields as well nectaring on flowers. As I was carefully scanning the field I noticed something that seemed a bit different. A species of fly exhibiting amazing mimicry of a Yellow Jacket (Vespula sp.) or perhaps a paper wasp species (Polistes sp.). It was doing a wonderful job of fitting in so as not to stand out for a predator to feed on it. You can see that even down to its eyes, its pattern mimics the pattern and coloration of its mimic copy.

Syrphid Flie sp. (Spilomyia longicornis)

My next find was somewhat of a surprise. I believe it has not been recorded often in Connecticut as it is mostly a southern species.  The Eastern Leaf-footed bug's (Leptoglossus phyllopus) strategy is to blend in and look inconspicuous while it sucks juices from nectar producing plants.

Eastern Leaf-footed bug (Leptoglossus phyllopus)

As I was wrapping up my surveys and getting ready to head in I spotted one last nice but fairly common sighting at this time of year, a female Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes).

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

I only spent an hour and half or so looking around and was able to find a lot of great things. I encourage you to look and see what you can find hiding in your local field or even in your own back yard. If you find anything interesting or want help identifying something, we would love to hear about it, so feel free to email us. Thanks for reading and happy hunting.

Sean Graesser
Conservation Technician

Photo by Sean Graesser/ Copyright Connecticut Audubon Society.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Weekend Field Trip: Bird Banding in Pomfret

A Red-breasted Nuthatch at a banding station. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.
A Red-breasted Nuthatch at a banding station.
Make a weekend field trip to our Center at Pomfret and participate in a bird banding demonstration by Andy Rzeznikiewicz, a licensed bird bander and the sanctuary manager at our Grassland Bird Conservation Center. 

The demonstration starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, September 28, at the Center at Pomfret.

Participants will get close-up views of songbirds, observe and maybe get to practice bird-banding technique, and also learn about the information contained on a bird’s leg band and why it is important.

A second session will be held Saturday, October 12, also at 9 a.m. The cost for each is $5 for members and $10 for non-members. The Center at Pomfret is at 218 Day Road, Pomfret.

Click here for more information about the Pomfret Center and the surrounding Bafflin Preserve. If you make the trip, stop at Trail Wood, the Edwin Way Teale Memorial Sanctuary, in nearby Hampton.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Birds and Their Habitat Opens Friday Evening at Our Fairfield Center

bird and thier habitat croped (2)Join us for Birds and Their Habitat, Connecticut Audubon Society’s 4th Annual Art Exhibit and Sale, September 27 -29, at the Center at Fairfield, 2325 Burr St.

This year Birds and Their Habitat features Artist of the Year Sean Murtha. The Gala Preview Party is 6:30-9:30 p.m. on Friday, September 27. Tickets are $75.

The art exhibit and sale is Saturday and Sunday, September 28 and 29, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (all purchases are tax feee). Adults $5, children free.

Proceeds from Birds and Their Habitat help support Connecticut Audubon Society’s mission of conserving Connecticut’s environment through science-based education and advocacy focused on birds and their habitats.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Long Journey of a Semipalmated Sandpiper Scoped in Stratford

A Semipalmated Sandpiper. Photo courtesy of Frank Mantlik.

There was a terrific close-to-home example on the Connecticut Birds listserve of the point made yesterday by our colleague, Miley Bull, who wrote about the Partners In Flight conference he attended and the focus on protecting the wintering grounds and stop-over locations for migratory birds.

The Connecticut Birds notice was from Frank Mantlik, who was birding in early August down the road from our Stratford Point coastal restoration site. Frank wrote:

“Here's some follow up info on a color-banded Semipalmated Sandpiper ("JNH" on blue leg flag) that John Oshlick and I saw at Long Beach in Stratford on 6 August 2013.

“This bird was banded 26 January 2012 in Coroa dos Ovos, Maranhao, Brazil. It was then sighted 21 May 2012 in Mispillion Harbor, Delaware (migrating north towards breeding grounds).

“It then likely traveled much farther north into northern Canada or Alaska to breed on the tundra.

“Then our sighting as above.

“The distance between Stratford, CT and the Brazil site is roughly 3400 miles. And that's only part of their yearly journey. This for a bird that weighs 0.88 ounce (25 grams)!”

To protect these birds, we indeed need to think globally and act locally, and we need plenty of people in other locations to act locally as well. -- Tom Andersen, director of communications and community outreach.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Advancing Bird Conservation Across the Americas

Two weeks ago I attended the fifth International Partners in Flight Conference and Conservation Workshop in Utah.
For years, bird conservation groups have been speaking of the need to work together to save birds in every corner of their range. Unfortunately, there has not been a master playbook that identifies priorities and organizes such “full life-cycle” conservation plans. Partners in Flight is a cooperative migratory bird conservation effort involving partnerships among federal, state and local government agencies, philanthropic foundations, professional organizations, conservation groups, industry, the academic community, and private individuals. The Connecticut Audubon Society is an active partner in this group.

This fifth conference was organized by the American Bird Conservancy, the leading bird conservation organization in the United States,in an effort to use science to develop conservation business plans to protect migratory birds not only here on their breeding grounds, but also on their Central and South American, Mexican and Caribbean wintering grounds, as well as on migratory stop-over locations.  

The conference addressed key migratory bird species and their conservation needs by breaking down major habitats into eight linked “Geographic Focal Areas,” based on suites of Watch List species that share a common wintering geography. These wintering areas are linked through the migrations of the birds themselves to specific breeding areas in Canada and the U.S.

I participated in a three-day series of work sessions to develop a “Conservation Business Plan” covering the most important geographic areas in the Caribbean focal area, where our Connecticut Watch List breeding birds ­– including Worm-eating Warbler, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Prairie Warbler -- spend the winter. Other focal areas concentrated on Mexico and Latin America wintering grounds.

One of the outcomes is a plan to include Latin American countries as signatories on the Migratory Bird Treaty as a first step in bird conservation. Currently only Canada, Mexico, Russia, Japan and the U.S. have signed this important treaty.

Other projects include plans for supporting the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds and the Caribbean Birding Trail and other outreach efforts. The specific scientific actions we developed included connectivity research of migratory birds (full life cycle monitoring), establishment of winter monitoring banding/resighting stations, and population monitoring projects such as marking birds from species of concern with geolocator tags to identify migration pathways and wintering areas.

This is an exciting new direction in bird conservation, applying science to conservation actions for migratory birds on their full life-cycle range. We made many new friends, colleagues and partners in the gorgeous Wasatch Mountains of Utah and look forward to working together to conserve our birds throughout their life-cycle geography. -- Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation.

Photographs copyright E. H. Soderberg

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Join Us at Our Annual Meeting, September 12, in Southport

We invite everyone to join us on Thursday evening, September 12, to hear Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, as he gives the keynote talk at Connecticut Audubon Society’s 115th annual meeting.
The event is free and is set for 7 p.m. at the Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Ave., Southport.

Leiserowitz is a research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Science. His research, writing and public speaking focus on climate change perceptions and communication, and how our behavior is influenced by both.

He will talk about research that has identified six different ways Americans listen and respond to information about climate change – what he calls the “six Americas.” He will also discuss why the climate change message hasn’t been getting through to most Americans and why the top-down approach that the federal government has been trying has not worked.

We have also asked him to address how we as a Connecticut conservation group can do a better job making the link between climate change and the conservation of Connecticut’s birds and their habitats.

You also will have a chance to meet Alex Brash, our new president, and to hear a review of our achievements for the year.

It promises to be a lively and enlightening evening.