Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Trying to UN-Seagull Myself

I know, I know they aren't seagulls. Yet when you have a group of birds that are superficially similar, it's difficult to get out of that mentality. Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull are easy enough to separate when those are the three options and they are all in "adult" plummage. When you add in first cycles and second cycles, take out size as a reference, and throw in a couple of other species that can show up during this time of year and the lines get a little muddled. So, Here's a couple pictures to help clear a few things up. This is definitely not complete but rather one mornings find.

Over the wire came the mention of a first cycle Iceland Gull at the Oyster River... (that means at the beach where to Oyster River meets the sound on the Milford- West Haven line to most people). I made an early morning trip down to the beach, book in hand, with no real hope of being able to spot the gull. I quickly glanced at the book and got the general impression the overall color was lighter. Glancing through the individuals present, one seemed 'different' and a bit lighter.. back to the book to look a the color of the primaries. Sure enough, Iceland Gulls had white primaries. Amazingly the gull was on the little patch of beach only about 20 feet away from me. AND I was able to identify it.

Other features to look at are bill color and leg color

A Ring-billed Gull in it's first winter: features to observe are the gray on the wings, pink bill, and pinkish legs.

This Herring Gull is a second winter, the slight gray coloring in the wings, the majority of the bill is pink (not mostly black) and it also has pinkish legs.

Practice is the best way to begin to see the little differences. I'm on a quest to additional pictures of a Herring Gull in it's first winter and a Great Black-backed immature. Who knows maybe I'll stumble across another species or two along the way.

Friday, January 22, 2010


While I would like to buy a nice big expensive telephoto lens for my new camera... it's just not gonna happen. So, I went and bought about the least expensive new one I could find at Best Buy on a Thursday evening. Today, I had some time off in the afternoon and decided to see what I could do.

Ok I may have taken the easy route and started at Long Wharf with some more willing models.

Ring-billed Gulls lining up for their shot at fame.

Some cormorants where posing as well.

I headed inland and tried to get some snapshots of some little guys. Or maybe something a little bigger.

Turkey Vultures are not so pretty but still have a certain grace.

A Tufted Titmouse was a little shyer.

The Golden-crowned Kinglet was out in full fashion. To bad I ran out of light and patience I guess. Definitely found a place to try for some more photos though.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a CRANE!

You heard it right a crane. And not just a few flying over on their way to other parts of the country but one that's just hanging out here in CT. Reports started coming in a couple of days ago about a Sandhill Crane found in a field. With a chance to see not only a great bird for CT, but a life bird for me, I made the plan to go take a peak.

So, Waking up an extra hour early I quickly made my way north to the field that holds a mysterious calling of the crane. Arriving at 7:15am I met up with some friends who had been in the area still searching for the bird. We continued making rounds of the neighborhood for 45 minutes without ever finding our goal. So, with sad hearts, two of us continued on our way to work. My other friend remained behind to continue looking. Sure enough, 30 minutes after we left the bird had shown up in the field it had been seen in yesterday.

With a shoulder that was not making work an easy thing, I decided to take the afternoon off to rest the shoulder before physical therapy. Why drive south to have to head north later, might as well head norther and then south later. (I know I make up words from time to time). Once again I got in my car and drove to find the crane. I arrived to find 3 other birders there and no bird. I was informed the crane had disappeared into the woods about 20 minutes before. I missed it once again! But with a couple of birders coming and going to socialize with and nowhere to be I decided to hang out and wait.

The payoff for patience was great! Without even having to wait that long, I glanced out of the corner of my eye... THE CRANE! I stayed for another 30 minutes until my cold hand said it was time to leave. Three very nice birders let me use their scopes to take a closer look and also attempt a couple of digibinned picts. Here's Sandy!!

165 driving miles = 1 crane, seems like a good equation to me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Counting

(View from the top of the dump in New Haven)

I completely admit to being a slacker with the blogging but not with the birding. I have just finished up all of my planned Christmas Counts, a total of 2 full days and 2 half days. Not to mention we did a little unofficial Christmas bird count here on the grounds at work. I have no idea how many species I saw in total over those 2 weeks but the number is probably north of 100 species. Instead of trying to break down all of the excitement into separate posts, I'll just summarize them all here!

12/19- New Haven Count, We had a group of 10 birders on and off throughout the day. The morning started with owling and calling in about 9 Screech Owls! Then the highlights after day break were; 1 Snow Bunting that we practically stepped on, Greater White-fronted Goose, Snow Goose, and lots of sparrows. All together there wasn't a stand out species but we were lucky enough to get all the ones we always know should be there.

12/27- Stratford-Milford Count, I can't really pull out a species that was extraordinary for the day but the number of American Robins still around was astounding. Also a good day for hawks, Red-tailed, Coopers, and Sharp-shinned with one of our counters seeing a Rough-legged Hawk!

12/30- West Campus unofficial Count- A group of 3 coworkers decided to try birding our 136 acres in Orange/ West Haven. We had 33 species total in the 6 hours of birding. The highlight of this excursion is definitely the Brown Thrasher that was huddled in the Bittersweet tangles.

1/3- Wesport Count, I started out the morning in Westport with a plethora of ducks. A group of 6 Field Sparrows were a treat as well. The best bird of the day for me... the Lesser Black-backed Gull which has apparently been visiting every year for the past 7 years.

1/3- Oxford Count, I took off about lunchtime and headed north to help our single birder doing an entire count area. I never met up but looking over the river I had a total of 27 Common Mergansers!

Yesterday I made a quick swing around Stratford staying in the car as I'm sick :-( I guess I should have gotten out of the car at Long Beach since later posts I've read list a Snowy Owl which would have been a life bird for me! But the best stop was Frash Pond, with Canada Geese, Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Canvasbacks, and a Lesser Scaup swimming in the open areas.