Monday, November 30, 2009

Most of the Old and Some of the New

I had high hopes of spending a good deal of time this past loooong weekend outside, enjoying nature and our little flying friends. Sometimes though life and other loves get in the way and spending time with family, friends, and playing volleyball seemed more important. So, while I have little to report from the weekend, I will report something. I'll also through in a little bit about the weekend before when I conned an old friend into birding with me.

First off I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. After I finished consuming all the bird I could, I took a quick 25 minute walk into the woods behind my parents house. One of the first things I did was stumble across a Red-tailed Hawk who seemed to have already gone to roost for the night. She was very unhappy to have me disturb her and took off yelling the whole way. Of course the poor little squirrel she flew by freaked out for the next 5 minutes.

In the distance was a single woot call (could have even been a dog) but it seemed to get the Northern Flicker pretty upset who then made so much noise he upset his neighbor. A GREAT view of a Pileated Woodpecker! My father had seen it a couple of days before in the yard and it appears the bird has found enough food to hang around for a couple of days. After that the calls of both the Downy Woodpecker and the Red-bellied Woodpecker seemed to fill in the gaps.

The weekend before was a bit more of an adventure. I managed to get my friend Jeff to come out and look for birds with me. We've been participating in the Christmas Bird Counts for the past 12 years together.

First stop, Short Beach: Northern Harrier, Am. Black Duck, Great Blue Heron, Brant, Great Cormorant, Surf Scoter, and White-winged Scoter, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mute Swan, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, and..... Nashville Warbler. It took us a little time but we finally ID'ed it.

Frash Pond: Bufflehead, Black Duck, Canada Goose, Double-crested Cormorant, and a Canvasback.

A quick stop at the Sea Wall added: Horned Grebe, Red-throated Loon, and we heard a wren.

Last we headed over to the railroad tracks in Lordship to check out the National Wildlife Refuge: Palm Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, and a couple of sparrows that were probably Song Sparrows.

It was a nice day and thanks to Jeff's scope I got some nice views of some great birds.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

falling behind! 15 nov trip

Ok so, I'm a little behind with the blogging so here is a concise account of the trip I took two Sundays ago for a little birding. I started at Wooster Pond where the high light was a few Green-winged Teal.

Then I headed over to Short Beach and took a walk over to Stratford Point. It was an interesting morning after the remnants of the hurricane had blown through.

Here's what I found:
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Black-bellied Plover
Northern Mockingbird
House Sparrow
House Finch
American Tree Sparrow (first of the season!)
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-breasted Merganser
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Common Eider- about 100 yards from shore, i could see her meals!
American Kestrel (male)
Song Sparrows

Then I headed over to Long Beach for a really quick walk. There were the usual gulls and a couple of hundred shore birds congregating on the rocks. Light was horrible and fisherman were making then nervous so all I could really see were Sanderlings. I really wish I could have gotten a better look. At least it was a nice day and it was great being outside.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Birding and the cycle of life

Today I had a couple of interesting finds but before getting into those, here is the path I chose to travel today and the birds I found along the way. (I know it rhymes). I decided to make what is becoming my regular birding sweep of Stratford. Although I lived in West Haven for 9 years a mere 15 minutes from the shore, I never went to go just enjoy the shore. Now having lived in Stratford for only 4+ months, I've spent more time at Long Beach than I ever did in West Haven.

Starting the day I made a quick stop at Wooster Park and Pond, a small local park behind a middle school that I heard of through the Connecticut birding listserv. The pond has a large group of Mallard Ducks and Black Ducks that seem to be happily situated until the waters begin to feeze. There was also a group of Canada Geese that came in. I don't know if it's the way the geese look in the water as opposed to being on dry land but many individuals in this group seem to have fairly short necks and smaller in stature as opposed to others. It's definitely something I'd like to get a more experienced birders opinion on. Also, There was just one pair of Gadwall feeding at the other end of the pond from where I was observing.

Then I made a stop at Short Beach. Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Black-backed Gulls, and one Laughing Gull were all hanging out at the beach. A few House Finch were mixed in with House Sparrow feeding in the tall grasses at low tide. One cormorant was feeding in close to shore (I still need to work on the ID's of Great and Double-crested). The other birds of note were 3 White-winged Scoters between Short Beach and Startford Point area.

Finally, I made it over to Long Beach where things got a little interesting. First, here are the birds I saw: Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-backed Gull, Great Blue Heron (2), Great Egret, Cormorant (I think Double-crested), House Finch, Savannah Sparrow, Sandpiper sp., Common Loon, Black Ducks (up in the marsh), and three Brant. Here come the interesting finds.

This is a Diamondback Terrapin I found on the marsh side of the beach. I don't know how she (based on size) met her demise but one of the hind feet appear to be missing. Terrapin are our only turtle that lives in brackish water.

And this appears to be a Northern Gannet. I was already carrying around a dead turtle and people were giving me weird looks so I didn't want to flip it over and take any more pictures. They aren't the greatest shots because they were with my cell phone. This wasn't exactly how I wanted to have my first sighting.

If I made a mistake, please leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Walk to Wooster Pond

I took a nice little walk over to Wooster Pond in Stratford today. It was about 1 mile both directions. Wooster pond is a nice little pond behind a middle school. There is easy visibility of the open water in a nice little park-like setting. Diversity on the walk there and back wasn't exceptional but numbers were good with some nice views. Edge habitat along the streets: White-throated sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, House Sparrow, House Finch, and Euro Starlings. Around the pond was a large number of ducks. Gadwall (6), Black Ducks, Mallards, Canada Geese (one was pretty small...), and a mallard/black duck hybrid.

A quick note: I stopped by Southern CT State University this morning and there was a group of 80 Canada Geese on the baseball field with a completely white goose in the middle. I had no binoculars but I'd hazard a guess it was a Snow Goose. When I walked by again an hour later the entire gaggle was gone.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Window Strikes

As I've been spending more and more time outside looking for birds, I've found more and more birds that are hitting windows. Over the last couple of weeks, while bird watching I've had the unfortunate opportunity to get closer to a few birds than I would normally. One morning while checking out a glass walkway, I looked over in a small corner and found a Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Initially, I thought the little bird was dead but then noticed it was just dazed. I picked it up and after about 15 minutes it seemed to have recovered enough and flew up into a tree. Here is a picture of the bird (probably young) with my coworker holding it.

The following week I stopped in the same spot and looked over to see a Yellow-crowned Kinglet sitting on the ground looking a little lost. I left it alone for a few minutes while I checked the rest of the windows for casualties. When I approached this bird, it flew up into a small ornamental tree and immediately started yelling at me! No picture this time.

Then this past week, I headed out to do a little bird walking in a courtyard at my building and the first bird I saw was a Hermit Thrush who flew up into a tree. After a couple of minutes I took another step toward the bird (toward the door to go back inside. The bird, although perched above the roof line, quickly took a looping drop away and right into a window, about 15 feet from its perch. This time I took the bird and placed it is a box for about an hour. I took this young bird outside and opened the box and the bird quickly flew up to a nearby tree. The bird sat for a few minutes and when I headed out to check about 20 minutes later, it was gone. Here is a shot while still out of it.

Unfortunately we actually make rounds through this same courtyard to check for kills. There are see-thru hallways on both sides of the courtyard and the number of marks left behind by birds hitting the windows is mind boggling. On one side of one hall there are at least 15 residual marks from Mourning Doves hitting the windows. Last week I took did the first walkthrough after the weekend and here were the casualties from one week.

We are currently looking for options on how to reduce the number of window strikes in the courtyard. We've been discussing films to cover the windows, shiny objects to scare birds away, and possibly netting to protect birds that still fly toward the glass. I have stopped going by the building with the walkway where the Kinglets were found. They both seemed to have been startled by my being there and that caused them flying into the windows. Hopefully, I won't have too many more pictures like these to post.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quick Long Beach Stop

I stopped at Long Beach in Stratford on my way home last night. I must admit it was pretty quiet but nice! The water was pretty calm and only a few people were parked by the time I got there. One Ring-billed Gull was feeding by a jetty, with a Double-crested Cormorant not too far away taking a few dives. On the marsh side was about 20 Brant in two groups swimming 'upstream'. Dusk fell pretty hard and so I decided to head out and a woman was feeding another group of gulls on the way out, all ring-billed.

Luckily I had a chance to drive out to the West Haven shore at lunch with a co-worker and we got a great little group of birds. The standouts were the Peregrine Falcon that flew over and a group on 3 American Oystercatchers out on the mud flats.

I'm glad I got to do a little extra time outside because with the continued rain today and volleyball planned the next few nights, it will be Saturday before I have a chance to get out again!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A mish mash

Originally I had plans to take a little walk around on Saturday but a volleyball tournament and some rain got in the way. So I saved my birding for Sunday. I headed down to Long Beach in Stratford to see who was around. There were several species of gull but I realized that gull identification is something I need a lot of practice at. There were several Herring Gulls and a couple of Ring-billed Gulls. One gull seemed to have a very distinct margin to the mottling on the "hood" that seemed different to me and I've heard rumors of Thayers Gulls being around.... Also, there was one gull that to me had a very distinctive red spot with a black band on the bill in a mature bird. I might need to head back and see if I can see it again because I didn't look to see the skin color of the legs. Anyway, at least one gull was willing to cooperate with being identified.

Other birds of interest were a group of 15 Brant, a Great Egret, Double-crested Cormorants, and some Monk Parakeets. Pretty quiet over all and I didn't really see or hear any sparrow but maybe there isn't enough vegetation for them to hide in.

After that I had a pupkin carving party to go to on a small portion of a resevoir. I didn't have time to really look at things but heard were a TON of birds and I really hope I can go back and spend some more time looking around. A nuthatch was calling from an evergreen tree and sounded a little nasallier than the normal White-breasted... maybe a red-breasted. Three Mallard Ducks were swimming around. White-throated sparrows were chipping and singing from along the brush on the shore and sounded like they may have roosted in some evergreens across the way. Kinglets, Black-capped Chickadees, and Tufted Titmice were also heard. And even on the way out after the party in the dark there were 2 Great-horned Owls calling to each other, one was very near. All together it was great just being outside and having a chance to see some nature.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Practice and a Lifer

Anytime you have an afternoon off is a great time to get some things done that you've been putting on the back burner. For me that's almost how birding has been. It's something I have always had an interest in, I just have put spending time doing it for other activities. Now as I begin to relearn and expand my bird identification skills, I'm taking every opportunity to do it. So, with the afternoon off what better thing to do than go find some birds.

Well starting with a quick walk around lunchtime at work, Sue and I came up with about 10 species, (I'll have to check her blog). Then I headed over to Hammonasset to see the Hudsonian Godwit that has been around for a couple of days. After that I had stumbled across some people watching a Redtailed Hawk feasting on a Herring Gull. While trying to verify that I was looking at a Merlin in the distance, a different one flew right over my car at only around 20 feet up.

Then I made a quick stop at Boothe Park in Stratford and made a quick walk around: Bluejay, Tufted Titmouse, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, House Sparrow, and American Robin. Maybe not an exceptional list but still some good practicing!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sundays additions

Sunday was cold and rainy and I admit that I didn't go outside. I was planning on spending the morning looking for sparrows at a workshop but the rain cancelled those plans. But Sunday's weather couldn't keep the birds quiet and the yard species list grew.

American Robins, European Starlings and Northern Flickers finally decided the fruits on the dogwood in the front yard were ready to eat.

At the feeder were the usual suspects, House Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Rufous-sided Towhee, and Bluejays.

Flyovers included Ring-billed gulls and American Crow.

Since the feeders have gone up I haven't seen any Monk Parakeets. Hopefully they will stay scarce this winter.

I wasn't here during the daylight today so, no birds at home, only at work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

First Birds on the Feeder, Stratford, CT

So, I filled up the bird feeders for the first time at the new house a couple of days ago. Up until yesterday evening, the only bird to visit them had then been a single female house sparrow (BOOOORRRING!) Since then the action has picked up. Here is the first few species to visit.

House Sparrow
Field Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Song Sparrow

American Crow
Rock Pigeon
Downy Woodpecker
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
Kinglet sp.
Gimpy (Field Sparrow) at the feeder

I just put some suet out this morning so I guess we will see if that encourages any more new visitors.