Sierra Club Event

28 10 2009
350sierra club

Sierra Club Walk - Patrice Gillespie

Last Sunday I lead a walk in Wilton for the State Chapter of the Sierra Club as part of their Climate Days of Action. Of course planning events in October is always taking a chance with the weather and we were greeted by heavy rains on Sunday morning. Still the Sierra Club members are a tough crowd and a number of them ventured out for a morning checking out Allen’s Meadows in Wilton. It was also great to get introduced to local State Senator Toni Boucher.

I am by no means an expert on climate change but it seems likely that the kind of projected changes that most of the scientific community agree upon would be disastrous for bird life as we know it. Even in our own fair state the plight of such birds as Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow (which has perhaps 1/3 of it’s population nesting in the Nutmeg State) would be thrown into serious jeopardy by projected sea level  rises. Another threat to the Saltmarsh Sparrow is the fairly rampant development of coastal sites, of course Allen’s itself has always been under threat from development: ball fields, dog parks, DPW site but overriding all of that is that the piece of property is essentially owned by the DOT as part of the swathes of land bought up for the Super 7 project. Super 7 is kind of like a horror movie bad guy – just when you think it’s dead and buried it rises from the grave all over again.

Though the raindrops we managed to actually see some nice birds including an Americal Kestrel a couple of Coopers Hawks, a White-crowned Sparrow and a couple of Vesper Sparrows. I invited the club members to join me next Sunday Nov 1st for a free walk at Allen’s that I am running for Sunrise Birding when I hope to show them just how beautiful the spot can be when it’s not raining and raw!!!! A little piece on the event and more about the days events linked here.

Chinese Mantis 2

22 10 2009
Chinese Mantis - Ken Mirman

Chinese Mantis - Ken Mirman

Not sure what it is about Quaker Ridge but the place seems to be covered in mantis. Having seen exactly one that I remember previously, I have seen about a dozen or so here this fall. Pretty cool stuff, especially if you have an ace macro attachment on your camera. Thanks for the picture Ken, and for keeping me remotely sane through the slow days at the watch.

Sunrise Birding Walk – October 17

21 10 2009
Great Meadows - Catherine Hamilton

Great Meadows - Catherine Hamilton

After a little change of the planned route, we met up for a tour of Stratford and Milford on Saturday. We started off at the railroad tracks on Long Beach Boulevard and took the rather beautiful hike out to the viewing platform there. It’s amazing when you get out into the marshes at Great Meadows to think that you are just a stones throw from an industrial park and I95. Personally I love it when you can find that little secluded area of peace, beauty and serenity within the shadows of concrete and steel.

The forecast had been awful all week however we were greeted by a stunning blue sky and a brisk and invigorating northerly wind. As we tracked along, Yellow-rumps (the hangers on from the summer warbler party) chipped to our right and left and sparrows skulked in bushes paralleling the trail. We were joined on the walk by renowned, New York based, bird artist Catherine Hamilton (blog and artwork here) and it was her sharp eyes that spotted the first ‘goody’ of the day, a small group of Wilson’s Snipe weaving their way high over the marsh. The scenery was stunning, especially in that somewhat hazy morning light and we were soon on the platform overlooking the marsh and soaking up the beautiful surrounds. As we enjoyed the view, an adult Peregrine Falcon slid by us ,sending a shockwave through the surrounding birds and small groups of Tree Swallows floated past us – almost close enough to reach out and touch.

Returning back to the cars we soon discovered a small flock of sparrows hanging out in the lot (and perhaps using the cars as a little wind break). In amongst the group was a rather nice White-crowned Sparrow that had decided that feeding under the cars was the best way to stay out of the wind. There must be something about White-crowneds and cars because we found one doing the exact same thing at Silver Sands!? Mike noted many sparrows proclivity for perching on industrial steel fencing and pondered whether it might be worth installing a few stands of the stuff  in his yard 😉 After discussing the possible reaction of neighbors and spouses I think the group decided the fencing might just fit in that much better in an industrial estate in Stratford.

After a quick caffeine stop it was on to Stratford Point for a quick mosey around. Here we managed to flush up a nice small flock of Eastern Meadowlarks and had rewarding looks at a hovering Kestrel. We were somewhat battling the elements, and although there appeared to be plenty of sparrow activity around the birds seemed to be fastidiously staying out of the wind and in deep cover. It was much the same story at Silver Sands, with most birds resolutely staying buried in the bushes. A rather elongated looking and back lit Eastern Phoebe perched on a wire caused a frisson of excitement as we entered the site and an all to brief Lincoln’s Sparrow that avoided most of the group were about all we had to show for a little hike around. Still it was a beautiful day to be out in the field and all the more a pleasant bonus considering the dire weather reports that had been predicted for the whole weekend.

Trip Species List: Mallard, American Black Duck, Green-winged Teal, Canada Goose, Ring-billed Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON, Black Crowned Night-heron, Wild Turkey, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Coopers Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, PEREGRINE FALCON, Greater Yellowlegs, WILSON’S SNIPE, Rock Dove, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, Downey Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Black-capped Chickadee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, American Robin, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Cedar Waxwing, European Starling, American Crown, EASTERN MEADOWLARK, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Chipping Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow, WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, House Sparrow.

South Windsor Phalarope

6 10 2009

Red Phalarope - Bob Simon

Red Phalarope - Bob Simon

Hi All, I called Sara Zagorski after getting a message that she and Denise Jernigan were looking at a phalarope out on the river in South Windsor on Sunday post the Sunrise Birding Walk. Phalarope ID certainly isn’t easy at the best of times in fall, but at distance it can be very tough. This is a Red Phalarope and I am assuming its a juvenile bird molting into winter plumage hence the orange wash on the throat, and mainly gray upperpart feathering. It also shows a pale bill base which is a feature of Red Phalarope adults but can also be seen in younger birds. Red-necked Phalaropes molt later in the year and you’d expect to still see some/a number of dark juvenile feathers on a young Red-necked at this time of the year. There is a decent article (here), being a British article just substitute Red for Grey. Congrats to Sara and Denise for a great inland fall record and for having the gumption to flag down Bob for the record shots, which he sportingly took from his passing kayak.

Dickcissels at Sherwood

4 10 2009
Dickcissel - Mike Ferrari

Dickcissel - Mike Ferrari

OK, so here are the Dickcissels from Sherwood Island today. From looking at my field guides here is my best guess on age and sex. The brighter bird is an adult female (weak brown malar, brownish nape etc) the immature i’m not sold on either way. My guess would be immature female but would be interested in other thoughts on either bird.