Fantastic Weekend of Bird Filled Activities

25 03 2009

This weekend was an action packed birding extravaganza. I awoke at 5:30am Saturday morning downed a couple of cups of coffee and flew out the door on my way to Middletown for the Connecticut Ornithological Association Annual General Meeting. The meeting is always a fun day out and manning the Sunrise Birding stand means that you get to meet lots of old friends from previous trips and get to put faces to names that you have read a number of times on the listserve. Anyway I got to meet lots of nice new people and catch up with some others that I hadn’t seen in a little while so it really was a fun day out. Particularly popular on the day were the Sunrise Birding “I’d rather be birding stickers”, although the quality of the presentations certainly kept everyone distracted from the possibility of the Common Gull being re-located (it wasn’t unfortunately, although somehow a rumor spread around at lunchtime that it had been, which had a few people getting a little twitchy!)

Everything ran nice and smoothly and being on the COA board I know just how much hard work everyone put into the day, including all the volunteers that got roped in to help deal with registrations, sort out the much needed coffees and all of that kind of thing. The presentations had a very Connecticut centric feel to them with local presenters and local topics and the consensus seemed to be that the day worked all the better for that. All of the talks were very interesting and well delivered. I even had to chime in to help ID a  Eurasian bird that was part of Chris Fields fascinating lecture. Thankfully I managed to dredge up the correct ID from the depths of my brain (Spotted Flycatcher) although I must admit that US bird identification is now more of a strength than the ones from my home country. All in all a long but hugely entertaining day where I got to meet friends old and new.

Sunday, I ran a free walk to celebrate my birthday. We joined up with my friend Frank Mantlik and his annual NHBC early spring walk in Stratford and all in all we had about 40 participants on the day. An auspicious start to the day was spotting a female Merlin bombing down the Sikorsky Airport Access Rd as we arrived, which then teed up for the rest of the group as we waited for everyone to appear. First surprise of the day was the absolutely huge birthday cake that a few of my friends had brought down for everyone to enjoy. It was amazing, with a picture of yours truly birding on it. Somehow I had managed to wear the exact same outfit on the day, which was all a little embarrassing!

After everyone had a slice of cake we headed off to check for a couple of Northern Shovelers that had been spotted pre-walk on the pond just at the junction of Access Rd. Luckily the birds had hung in there and the whole group managed to get great views of a bird that is surprisingly uncommon in Connecticut. To me he Shoveler is one of the great birding mysteries, in New York you can usually find multitudes of Shovelers hanging out on the ponds of Central Park and yet in Connecticut, just 40 miles away, they are almost as uncommon as hens teeth – one of those birding phenomenons that just makes you wonder why?

After that we swung by Lordship Boulevard and managed to track down a few Boat-tailed Grackles, a real outlier breeding population of these birds, although I hear that there was some suggestion that they may have bred at Hammo this past summer. Does anyone have confirmation on that? Apart from the grackles things were a little quiet though we did manage to encounter a large number of Green-winged Teal. There were no sign of any Eurasian subspecies, although a lot of the birds we saw were in flight.

Other highlights of the mornings birding were a Gannet or two at Long Beach and the huge rafts of distant scoter and scaup at Stratford Point, as well as an amazing spot by Gina of a white-winged gull out on the sea walls off of Short Beach. I saw the bird in flight a couple of times and down on the rocks and although pretty distant it seemed to almost certainly be a 1cy Icleand Gull. It wasn’t quite as warm as we had been lead to believe on the weather forecast, so apart from the one Tree Swallow I spotted from the car there wasn’t too much indication of burgeoning spring migration. That said it was a fun day to be in the field with such a nice group of birders and friends.

Post walk, many of us retired to Marnicks (another spot to add to my map of birding eateries in Fairfield County) for Chowder, Lobster Rolls and Burgers. Some more friends drifted in from other mornings activities and I enjoyed a great lunch with the group. I also was surprised to receive lots of great presents, including a few birding books that I will probably have to write a review or two for in the coming weeks. Anyway I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who came for making it a fun day out. It really means a lot to me to know that I have made so many great birding friends from my walks over the years.

Post walk I got dragged out to have a quick look for interesting gulls down at Oyster River and Bradley Point. The only real bird of note was a Black-headed Gull that thankfully had (as they often do) developed it’s hood earlier than the surrounding Bonaparte’s. The caveat was that one Bonaparte’s also had a complete hood, so for a little while everyone was getting confused as to which dark-hooded gull we should have been looking at. A fun end to a long weekend was stopping over at Joe Bears house to have some Birthday dinner and discuss plans for the forthcoming trip to Colorado. I can hardly wait, maybe next year some of you will come join me back there with the Sunrise Birding.

Trip Highlights:

58 species. Including 2 NORTHERN GANNETS (Long Beach), 15 species waterfowl including 2 NORTHERN SHOVELERS, 2 OSPREY (migrants), MERLIN, 2 PIPING PLOVERS, 2 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, 1 ICELAND GULL (1st CY), 1 TREE SWALLOW, 5 BOAT-TAILED GRACKLES.

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2 responses

25 03 2009
Nick Bonomo

Happy 39th Luke!

26 03 2009
underclearskies

You must have hit the 3 instead of the 2 right? – cheeky bugger. I guess everyone seems old to someone your age though! Get out there and find us a Ross’s Gull will ya instead of these boring ones you keep turning up 😉

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