Thursday, November 28, 2013

Snowy Owls in Milford and Stratford

Snowy Owls have moved into Connecticut. One has been at our Milford Point Coastal Center and at least one other, and maybe two, has been across the Housatonic in the Sikorsky Airport area.

Here are excerpts from the Connecticut Ornithological Association’s daily compilation of bird sightings in the state:

“11/27/13 - Milford, Milford Point -- 9:00 AM; Snowy Owl out on the tip of Milford Point, visible by looking west from the tower.

11/27/13 - Milford, Milford Point -- 10:00 AM; visible from the Stratford side of the river.

11/27/13 - Milford, Milford Point -- 11:30 AM; one Snowy Owl visible from Knott's Landing in Stratford.
Stratford, Sikorsky airport -- another Snowy Owl.

11/27/13 - Stratford, Long Beach -- 1:00 PM; Snowy Owl.

11/27/13 - Stratford, Sikorsky Airport -- 2:30 PM; Snowy Owl (1) behind airport fence near the spot where the northern wheatear was a few years ago.

11/27/13 - Stratford, Sikorsky Airport -- 2:50 PM; 1 Snowy Owl visible in the large field on the western side of the airport. It was quite far out and could not be seen from the pullover out on the road. It was seen from the pullover within the airport. The eastern side of the airport was checked with no luck.  I checked Milford Point from Sniffen's Lane in Stratford, as well as from Short Beach in Stratford, but could not spot a Snowy from either location.

11/27/13 - Stratford, Sikorsky Airport, Eastern Side -- 3:45 PM; 1 SNOWY OWL on the edge of the tarmack.  We first viewed it from Oak Bluff ave, then closest view was from Lordship Blvd.  Still being seen at 4:15 PM.”

The photo above was taken at Stratford Point two years ago and is copyright Connecticut Audubon Society.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder for November 27, 2013: Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian&AmericanWigeonsEurasian WigeonAnas penelope
Where to find it: Eurasian Wigeons (up to four males) have been visiting Milford in recent weeks, at the Mondo Ponds Nature Preserve and Education Center and Jonathan Law High School pond. Eurasian Wigeon can occur anywhere in Connecticut but are often found with concentrations of American Wigeon and Gadwall. Like any migratory waterfowl, they can depart without notice but often Eurasian Wigeons settle in for a while, as long as there is open water and they have a steady food source. The parking lot at Mondo Ponds is on Naugatuck Avenue; the high school is on Lansdale Avenue. Some winters, a male Eurasian Wigeon or two spend time in the mouth of the Housatonic River, often commuting between the Stratford Point and Short Beach area of Stratford, and the Wheeler Marsh and sandbars at Milford Point. Read the rest of this week's Bird Finder here...

This week's Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder was contributed by Frank Gallo, director of Connecticut Audubon Society's Milford Point Coastal Center.
Photo courtesy of Frank Mantlik
To sign up for future Connecticut Bird Finder emails, send your name and town to

Friday, November 22, 2013

Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder for November 22: Rusty Blackbird

Blackbird, Rusty male2 SouthportNC_carolinaBirds.orgRusty Blackbird
Euphagus carolinus
Where to Find It: Rusty Blackbirds are now seeking out their wintering range. They are not common but you can find them in Connecticut, mixed in as individuals in flocks of other blackbirds species, or as small flocks of up to 30-plus individuals.

How to Find It:
Look for them in farm fields and wooded swamps, or even occasionally at backyard feeders.To read the rest of this week's Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder, click here...

Photo by Dick Daniels,

Friday, November 15, 2013

Introducing 'Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder,' A Weekly Guide to the State's Birds and its Great Outdoor Places

rsz_mileyNovember 15, 2013 – Connecticut Audubon Society is launching a new weekly guide today, called Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder, to help birders plan weekend trips to great outdoor settings throughout the state.
Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder is a carefully curated guide to an unusual or interesting bird that has been sighted that week in a publicly-accessible location.
The bulletins will be compiled by the expert birders on Connecticut Audubon's staff, including Milan Bull, Frank Gallo, Sean Graesser, Andy Rzeznikiewicz, Andy Griswold, Anthony Zemba and Alex Brash.
Each Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder will tell you where that week's bird is located, how to find it and, for those who might not be experts, what it looks like.
And because birds sometimes leave before you arrive, we'll try to compensate by giving ideas of what else to look for if that week's bird has flown.
Each week by Friday morning we will post a new Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder on our blog. If a truly special bird arrives, we'll publish a special edition.
  • You can subscribe to get blog posts by email (the links are on the right side of the blog page).
  • You can go to our Facebook page, where we will post each week's guide.
  • You can follow us on Twitter, where we will tweet links to each guide.
  • You can send us your email address and we'll notify you each time we post a new weekly guide (send your name and town to
The first Connecticut Audubon Bird finder features Black Scoters, by Milan Bull, our senior director of science and conservation. You can read it here.

We hope you enjoy it! Send us your feedback and let us know what we can do to make it better.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Rare and Unusual Hybrid Duck in Stratford

For several years this adult male Northern Pintail X Mallard (the bird on the left in the photo to the left) has returned to Wooster Pond on Freeman Avenue in Stratford where locals provide food for wintering waterfowl.

Waterfowl crossbreed more often than any other family of birds. Scientists have recorded more than 400 hybrid combinations among waterfowl species. Mallards crossbreed with nearly 50 other species, and Wood Ducks hybridize with a surprising 26 other species. Nearly 20 percent of waterfowl hybrid offspring are capable of reproducing, unusual in nature where hybrids are commonly sterile.

In general, hybridization is rare because each waterfowl species has unique characteristics that serve as barriers to interspecies mating. These characteristics include distinct physical attributes, behaviors, life-history requirements, and the unique ecological niche the species occupies. But on the breeding grounds, territories of many waterfowl species overlap, and barriers occasionally break down, presenting opportunities for interspecies mating.

Although this bird seems strange and unique, in North America one of the most common wild hybrids results from Mallard/Pintail breeding. Mallards also commonly crossbreed with Black Ducks, American Wigeon, Northern Shovelers, and Gadwalls.

Beyond creating interesting-looking ducks, hybridization can potentially lead to the extinction of a species. When individuals of two species mate and produce fertile offspring, which then mate with the parent species, this essentially contaminates the pure genes of that species. Mallards are highly aggressive breeders, and several cases involving Mallard hybridization with closely related species present waterfowl biologists with conservation challenges.

This really hits home in Connecticut where Mallards often breed with Black Ducks, which have been on a long-term decline throughout their range. Habitat loss due to agriculture and forestry practices have altered much of the Black Duck’s original breeding habitat and has allowed Mallards to move east (they were originally a western species) where they now frequently interact with Black Ducks. This alteration has allowed Mallards to expand their range, leading to more interaction with Black Ducks and increasing opportunities for hybridization.

Changes to Black Duck migration and wintering habitat have also fostered encroachment by Mallards. Forests that once separated these species have been cleared, giving Mallards more opportunities to interact with Black Ducks during the nonbreeding season. Interspecies interactions on the wintering grounds are important because this is when waterfowl form pair bonds for the upcoming breeding season. This interaction could lead to mixed-species pairing and contribute to the hybridization problem.

Although Mallard/Black Duck hybridization is an ongoing issue, the two species coexist for the most part in Connecticut and by far the greatest threat to Black Duck survival is the loss of suitable nesting and wintering habitat.

This beautiful, but strange looking hybrid reminds us that the fascinating world of birds is a complex and ever-changing natural system. -- Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation

Top photo by Frank Mantlik
Bottom photo by Rick Wright