BwBTC Meet-up October 15th

27 08 2011

The Bloggers - Luke Tiller

I did a walk a couple of years back for birding bloggers who live in the local area and I’ll be doing one again on October 15th this year. Last time  we held the event it was early early July, hardly conducive to getting good birds in Connecticut so you’d think but we ended up having a pretty good day with a few nice species including a lingering King Eider at Hammo.

This year however provides the perfect opportunity to showcase my old patch at Allen’ Meadows. It’s an amazing spot for open country migrants and recent greatest hits have included Harris’s Sparrow, Northern Wheatear and Lark Sparrow (the last two on the same day!!!!!!) in amongst the more prosaic possible good migrants: Blue Grosbeak, Dickcissel, Orange-crowned Warbler etc (checklist for the birds here). You can also read an article I wrote about the site for the towns conservation newsletter (here) and a bit on my website (here).

We’ll also hit a couple of other spots in town and then head for another local birding gem Sherwood Island State Park (checklist etc here). It should be a really fun day out if the last event was anything to go by. You can read more about that trip (here). More details on the BwBTC facebook page soon.

Roadside Assistance

12 08 2011

Barred Owl - John Deakins

The other night I popped out to play pool with a friend and take an evening off from thinking about birds and birding. It seems like the darned things just follow me around though 😉 As we were driving back along Riversville Rd in Greenwich I spotted a seemingly injured creature that was still moving around on the side of the road. I asked my friend to turn around and we went to check out what this mystery road accident was and whether we might help.

To my surprise and dismay, as we drew close and bathed the creature in our halogen headlights, it turned out that our poor unfortunate was in fact an owl, and a rather beautiful Barred Owl at that.  Using the car to block the road (and the owl from another drive by collision), and with emergency lights flashing, we got out of the car to survey the situation.

The owl was perched gingerly on the tarmac looking rather dazed and confused, but still with it enough to acknowledge my presence. As I approached closer it snapped it’s bill a couple of times in a somewhat vain attempt to ward me off. Recalling past experiences with injured wildlife, I realized the first thing we needed to do was try and calm the bird down. Luckily my friend had a blanket in the back of the car and we quickly had it draped over the owl. I’m not totally sure why this is calming to birds? If I was happily (or even unhappily) out on the street and someone threw a blanket over me I think it would cause me more stress than it relieved 😉

Barred Owl - John Deakins

It was about this time another car pulled up to see what was going on. I think it probably looked fairly suspicious with us standing by a car with the emergency lights on while a small, blanket covered form was sat in front of the car highlighted by the beams of headlights, however when we explained it was an owl the driver seemed relieved or maybe satisfied that something more terrible hadn’t happened and went on his way.

The next question was how to transport the bird, looking at the size of those talons there was no way I was going to carry the thing anywhere in just a blanket on my lap! The solution, I put in a call to my room mate and asked him to come find us with one of the many cardboard packing boxes that are in the store room of the house. After his initial surprise at the call he jumped in the car and within a few minutes he duly arrived, box in hand.

Now we had to get the bird into the box. Of course I had been involved in helping save raptors before, both at Allen’s Meadows (image here) and here on Riversville when I picked up a clipped Broad-winged Hawk. I knew that you have to be careful with these things when you handle them (most websites etc suggest not doing so unless it is an emergency – and this kind of was). The last thing you want is one of their talons connecting with any of your soft fleshy parts and the recent story of the guy who was blinded in England whilst trying a similar bird rescue came to mind (story here). Anyway with little more than some aggressive bill clacking and a few grasping attempts to connect it’s talons with my hands or arms I had the bird swaddled in a blanket and inside a box.

Barred Owl - John Deakins

Of course 11:00pm isn’t the best time of day to try and get hold of a wildlife rehabilitator (you can find contact details for them on this website) So the evening ended with me taking the box o’ owl back to my house to rest up for the evening until we could take him somewhere. In the end s/he spent a rather comfortable night in our second bathroom (I wanted to put him in a small room with a door on it just in case it managed to escape from the box) before being hooked up with a rehabilitator in the morning.

The bird seemed to be doing fairly well when he set out for the rehabilitators but you just never know what damage may have been caused that you just can’t see for yourself. So far all the news seems positive and I am keeping my fingers crossed for the little guy/gal. There is something about Barred Owls and their big brown eyes that make them look kind of melancholy – I hope the next time I see this bird it is about to set back off on its adventures around Greenwich. Maybe it’ll just have learned an important (and not too painful) lesson about hunting on roads.

Below is a Barred Owl found under happier circumstances, on a bird walk to Trout Brook Valley. I’m heading back there in a few weeks if you want to join me.

Barred Owl - Saurabh Mehandru

Sunrise Birding Walk – August 6th

8 08 2011

Yellow Warbler - Luke Tiller

The first Sunrise Birding walk of the fall season. I guess it was a little early on in migration to find too many birds on Saturday and I spent a rather slow day bird wise, but still not to worry because I got to catch up with a great group of trip regulars that I basically consider friends now. It was really nice to see some people that I really hadn’t seen much since last fall, what with my spring being spent up in Rochester.

Although there wasn’t too much around I think we had a pretty good time discussing some of the finer points of separating Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, aging shorebirds as a process towards identifying them and were also treated to the sight of a young Red-shouldered Hawk, which allowed me to bring some of my hawkwatching skills in to play.

As I joking said on Saturday at least we cleaned up on the North American Night-Herons 😉 The only real other bird of note was a rather elegant female Northern Pintail which Gina Nichol picked out amongst a raft of Mallards. A nice find for August down on the Saugatuck River – it’s hard enough to dig one up for the Christmas Bird Count!

To round off the trip we popped over to a rather birdless Sherwood Island, but it did at least allow me to show off some of my newly developed butterfly ID skills. Also cool to see were a number of Eastern Cicada Killer Wasps. Although large and intimidating looking, I was interested to discover at the bee walk and talk that I went to at Greenwich Audubon recently that solitary bees and wasps tend to be fairly docile. If you think about it they don’t really have anything to defend, unlike honey bees or most bumblebees, so they are less prone to attacking you.

Anyway a fun if slightly quiet day. Hopefully by the time my next trips come up on August 27th and 28th migration will be further progressed.

Species Trip List:

Double-crested Cormorant
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
American Black  Duck
Northern Pintail
Turkey Vulture
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Ring-Billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great black-backed Gull
Common Tern
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Monk Parakeet
Chimney Swift
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
House Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-Winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

As bad as it gets…

5 08 2011

Mystery Peep? Luke Tiller

So as lousy as this shot is, I think it shows that even with a terrible shot of something as generally tough to ID as a peep you can still get identifiable record shots of birds even at great distance under difficult conditions.

Interesting that many people chose the rise in the availability of digital cameras as one of the most important developments in birding in recent years in a current poll. Anyone want to guess what it is?