Sunrise Bird Walk – December 7

8 12 2008

Baby, it's cold outside

Baby, it's cold outside

We set off on a beautiful snow dusted day to Bridgeport and Stratford looking for winter goodies. As I drove down along the Saugatuck River the scene was beautiful, as the snow had dusted every surface that it had touched the night before. A photographers dream and the kind of scene that is reason enough to want to spend ones winters in New England.

Birding on the day was to be slightly problematic as every municipal park seems to close for snow days in Bridgeport and Stratford even when the snow is literally a half inch deep. Anyway, first stop was the little known but often highly productive Captains Cove. Here we managed to pick up our first uncommon birds of the day LESSER SCAUP. Last year we had so many here Roy who runs the listserve was so surprised by the number I reported he wanted to double check with me that I hadn’t posted either the wrong number of wrong species accidentally.

I love these identification challenge species like scaup, as it allows you to earn your keep as a tour  leader and hopefully impart some identification details that are much more vivid to people in the field than they are staring at them in a field guide. With scaup the head shape is all important but I find although not overly illustrated by Sibley the flank coloration is usually a very reliable fieldmark and usually quite easy to see even at distance.

After an abortive stop at Seaside Park (closed) where we did at least spot a large raft of Common Goldeneye (and a chance for another field class on picking out Barrow’s Goldeneye – a shame there wasn’t one in there !) we stopped over at  Long Beach in Stratford. On entering the park we almost ran over an AMERICAN PIPIT as it lurched out in front of the car flashing us it’s white outer tail feathers. We also found on site an IPSWICH’ SAVANNAH SPARROW (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps). This subspecies breeds only on Sable Island in Nova Scotia and is a real rarity with perhaps as few as three to six thousand birds existing on the planet. It is distinctive enough that it was considered a full species until 1973. Other birds of note were 2 Northern Harriers, a huge mixed flock of Sanderlings and Dunlin and 4 stunning PURPLE SANDPIPERS. Purple Sandpipers are one of the few species that are much more exciting in their basic (non-breeding) plumage than they are in their alternate (breeding plumage) with their jaunty orange legs and bases of their bills.

The final couple of stops on the day were less productive than hoped for but we did get a NORTHERN GANNET heading west at Stratford Point. Until recently Gannets were considered rare in Long Island Sound but there numbers have built steadily so that although still considered uncommon they are at least expected during this season.

Next Walk

Trip Species List

Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed hawk, Wild Turkey, Sanderling, Dunlin, Purple Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Monk Parakeet, Belted Kingfisher, Downy Woodpecker, American Pipit, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, Blue Jay, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, House Finch, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, ‘Ipswich’ Savannah Sparrow, DE Junco, European Starling, House Sparrow.

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