Sunrise Bird Walk – March 8th

9 03 2009
Northern Pintail - Lionel Stringer

Northern Pintail - Lionel Stringer

Spring has finally sprung in Connecticut, although it’s been more of a trickle thus far than anything resembling a spring. Last weekend I lead a tour around Fairfield County and we were all pretty happy with a productive day (maybe less happy with the hour change and the early start!). Highlights of the tour were 6 Wilson’s Snipe, including one sat out very nicely on the airfields at Sherwood Island and a group of six which went skittering away with their usual raucous croaks from the ditch alongside the fields. We got into a quick discussion on how to separate Common Snipe (the very closely related Eurasian species) from Wilson’s Snipe (our one) probably the best article I could find online to reinforce this difficult identification process was this article on identification of a Wilson’s Snipe in France which gives some clues on what the differences are (many are somewhat qualitative). From our side of the pond check Martin Reid’s section on Snipe ID on his website.

Other highlights included a regular Lesser Black-backed Gull (which we did a little impromptu ‘workshopping’ on as its telltale yellow legs were firmly tucked beneath this lounging bird), a cracking adult male American Kestrel and a flock of 4 Northern Pintail. Pintails has always been a favorite duck of mine so it’s sad to read how badly they are doing in the US (although this particular year in CT thee have been a good number of them showing up even in decent sized flocks (proof that localized observations aren’t that helpful when trying to give context to bird populations).  I note that Ducks Unlimited even have a specific initiative targeting this bird (here), my wife asked if this included not shooting them.In all seriousness though the hunting fraternity here in the US plays a massive role in protecting important habitat that support waterfowl, and as a byproduct any number of other species. Birders are often encouraged to buy duck stamps in order to support land preservation (details here). I do however wonder whether the introduction of a similar ‘Birders Stamp’ might let us gauge the support that birders provide to this preservation process.

Apart from that there appeared to be a few hirundines flying way off inland that I scoped from parking lot but couldn’t be certain of ID they were so many miles away, almost certainly Tree Swallow though. A beautiful day that certainly got me thinking about spring for sure though. Not long now until we have singing warblers and all those goodies streaming back to join us. I spoke to my friend EJ in Louisiana and he is already starting to see stuff that’s on the move. Making me look forward more and more to my first big spring trip in May over to NY State (details here – just a few spaces left). Post walk we went to the unbeatable Blue Bird Cafe in Easton (perhaps I need to update my local birding map with my favorite diners!). From there I was kidnapped and taken to go find the Cackling Goose that Charlie Barnard ad spotted at Trap Falls reservoir. I relocated it on the far side of the reservoir and although views were distant one could make out the stubby bill and the very boxlike head of the Richardson’s subspecies. Steep forehead, almost flat top to the head. The bird was generally very light and the upperparts silvery but one has to be careful reading too much into this due to the harsh light (Cackling Goose ID Tips). Nice bird though and probably a good addition to the boys Stratford Big Year. A great day out with a nice group of birders and 60 degree temperatures- can’t complain about that in March!

Trip Species List:

Horned Grebe, Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, CACKLING GOOSE (with some of group at Trap Falls), Brant, Mallard, American Black Duck, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal (TF), NORTHERN PINTAIL, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Ruddy Duck (TF), Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, AMERICAN KESTREL, Killdeer, Ruddy Turnstone, WILSON’S SNIPE, Wild Turkey, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Blue Jay, Fish Crow, American Crow, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Common  Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, American Goldfinch, European Starling, House Sparrow



One response

9 03 2009
Dawn Fine

Just found your blog recently and added it to my blogroll.. i am a Birder, originally from CT and now travel fulltime in a Motorhome…I am getting some ideas as to where to go birding when visiting family in CT.
Nice blog!

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