Friday, November 28, 2008

SLATY-BACKED GULL, Nov 28th

In a hurry to get these up so I'll be brief. At 10:30 this morning I spotted this stunner at the Windsor-Bloomfield Landfill in Windsor, CT. My first glimpse was only ~10 seconds long, but I was able to relocate the bird about 20 minutes later (felt more like an hour...). Tentatively IDed the bird as a 4th-winter Slaty-backed Gull and made a few calls. Birders were on their way, and in the meantime I was finally able to view the wing pattern, which clinched the ID as the state's first SBGU. As always, click images for larger views.

My apologies, as many of the shots here are overexposed thanks to me just using the Auto feature of my p&s camera. This makes judging shades of gray in several photos rather difficult.

Note the "eye shadow" look, pale eye, broad tertial crescent, dark gray upperparts, and pink legs.

One can see here how the streaking becomes blotchy and warmish brown on the upper breast. Also gives an accurate depiction of the wing-tips that do not extend far beyond the tail at rest.




My only flight shot. Really bleached out by the bright sun...but gives a good idea of the upperwing pattern.


SBGU at rear, one of the smaller Great Black-backed Gulls in the foreground. This bird was much closer in size to GBBG than HEGU.


Larger than every HEGU on site. Note difference in leg color.


Note here the pot-bellied look, in addition to the features mentioned above.


Is that Frank Gallo?? Nope, just a Slaty-backed Gull.


Another shot of the bird's girth, and the blotchy brown across the upper breast.


SBGU partially obstructed by GBBG. Compare mantle color.


A look at the nape.

There was also a similary-aged Lesser Black-backed Gull present. For those going to look tomorrow without much experience with these gulls, watch out for this LBBG, which could conceivably cause confusion.


Unlike the SBGU, this LBBG is slim, long-winged, with yellowish legs.


This LBBG has less streaking on the neck and upper breast than the SBGU. The streaking here is fine, not blotchy.


Slim, small, longed-winged, and yellowish legs. But note how similarly-patterned the bill is, as compared to the SBGU above (both are mottled black and yellow).


View of the nape (compared to SBGU above). Another look at the yellowish legs.

There were 4 Iceland and 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls tallied throughout the day. Total gull numbers were somewhere around 2,000+.


1st winter "Kumliens" Iceland Gull


Lesser Black-backed facing left, Iceland facing right.


Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

- Nick

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving KING EIDER @ Milford Pt

Birding on Thanksgiving morning is one of my favorite traditions; seems like there are always quality birds around. And if not, there's always great food and family later in the day.

I started the day at 8am by walking Walnut Beach and Silver Sands in Milford, both of which were very quiet. Then on to Milford Point, where hunters in the marsh had flushed the dabbling ducks out to the Sound. While scanning through several dozen Black Ducks I picked up on a female KING EIDER that was loosely associating with the flocks. She was very settled into one general area straight off the back side of the "Piping Plover" sandspit, which was quite distant but close enough to provide the occasional decent scope view.




After being slowed down by the eider at Milford Pt, I had to hurry through the Stratford area so I wasn't late for dinner. Highlights here were 3 Semipalmated Plovers behind the warehouses at the McKinney refuge, and an adult Northern Gannet that was flying around Bridgeport Harbor for whatever reason.

Happy Turkey Day.

- Nick

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New look, random thoughts

I thought it was time for a new look to the blog and decided to change it up a bit. I switched the template and added a new banner at the top (a Snow Bunting from Lighthouse Point earlier this month). I hope to change the banner seasonally. The next step will be to replace that profile photo in which I look, according to my girlfriend, like I "just got out of prison."

Really looking forward to this weekend. I was lucky enough to get Thursday and Friday off, and I hope to do a good deal of birding to 'celebrate.' Goals for the weekend include White-winged Crossbills, my first gulling effort of the season, and of course western vagrants. The weather doesn't look perfect for birding, but it doesn't look half-bad either. We shall see.

As always, comments are welcome!

NB

Sunday, November 16, 2008

11/16 - Cave Swallow central

This Cave Swallow phenomenon continues to amaze me; the novelty has not worn off on this birder! This has been the largest [geographical] invasion yet, with birds reaching as far northeast as Newfoundland. Five years ago this was a major rarity in Connecticut. Now, the question is not 'will there be Caves this year?', but 'how many will there be?' Simply amazing. I'm not quite sure how this sort of explosion can happen so rapidly....heck, it wasn't even long ago that Cave Swallow was still considered rare at Cape May.

The prospect of seeing a Cave Swallow in CT still gets my blood pumping. Despite fully expecting to see one (or more) today, I could not help but yell out "CAVE SWALLOW!" in nervous excitement when the first one passed through Lighthouse Point this morning.

So, I started at Lighthouse Point with two goals: 1) see Cave Swallow, 2) photograph Cave Swallow. In a matter of minutes two Caves raced through the park at a distance. Objective #1...check! I got on a third Cave Swallow, also at a distance, which I was able to photograph in the form of a blurry silhouette. But that wasn't good enough for a photo and I was still looking for a decent view. Several minutes passed without another swallow when Mark Aaronson strolled up to the hawkwatch, casually mentioning that there were a couple dozen (!) Cave Swallows feeding at East Shore Park! I was on my way.

Just five minutes later I was looking at a swarm of Caves feeding low over the sewage treatment plant adjacent to the park. I stood there in awe for a few seconds, just letting it sink in that I was watching a large flock of Cave Swallows in Connecticut. Several other birders arrived and we estimated the flock at ~20 birds; three Barn Swallows were also taking advantage of the buggy sewage ponds. No sign of other swallow species.

At about noon the flock all of a sudden vanished, leaving only the 3 Barn Swallows behind. After a few minutes of waiting, a single Cave Swallow returned (or maybe it was a new bird arriving...no doubt there were dozens of Cave Swallows in Connecticut today).






Five at once.








One Cave flanked on each side by a Barn Swallow.


Barn and Cave Swallows.

- Nick

Canada Geese from Greenland

In my Barnacle Goose post from last week, I mentioned that there was a neck-banded Canada Goose within the flock. I reported the goose to the USGS website and promptly learned that the goose pictured below is an adult female banded in western Greenland this past summer.



In addition to this bird, eight more neck-banded Canada's were seen and reported by Richard Becker...these 8 birds were also banded in western Greenland as part of the very same project.

The circumstantial evidence seems to suggest that the Barnacle Goose is indeed wild!

- Nick

11/15 - Euro Wig

I birded Seaside Park in Bridgeport in the rain, hoping for scores of gulls roosting on the wet lawns, which is often the case at this location. Unfortunately the gulls were few and far between, with the exception being a nice showing of 35 Laughing Gulls. Other highlights were 10 Northern Gannets offshore and the returning drake Eurasian Wigeon.


Eurasian Wigeon in the rain @ Seaside Park

- Nick

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nov 12 - BARNACLE GOOSE

While on my way from Hartford to New Haven this afternoon I stopped into Northford to look for the Barnacle Goose that has been around for the past few days. I was able to relocate the bird around the corner from where it has apparently been spending most of its time. It was hanging out with Canada Geese on a lawn adjacent to a small pond. Julian Hough and I enjoyed good looks until the flock took off and flew back to its usual location on Old Post Road.

Interestingly the pond, located on private property, held a small flock of domestic and hybrid ducks. Not something I wanted to see next to that sharp Barnacle Goose! But these waterfowl did not associate at all with the goose flock; in other words I'm not particularly worried about this bird's origin.








In flight with Canada Geese


This was the only neck-banded Canada Goose in the flock. According to the USGS website regarding Canada Geese banded in Greenland, "we are extremely interested in any observations or recovery records of Canada Geese seen or shot in North America bearing yellow neck bands and/or yellow tarsus bands with three letter/digit codes starting with the letter 'G'." This bird fits that criteria, and it is possible that part of this flock traveled together from Greenland. I have reported the bird and am looking forward to hearing the results!


Lovely domestic waterfowl. Is that a pygmy-goose in there?...

- NB

Saturday, November 8, 2008

11/8 - Two SNOWY OWLS

After a mostly unsuccessful morning of blackfishing behind the Norwalk Islands, I squeezed in some birding on the way home before dark. The first stop was the Snowy Owl found during the week by Larry Flynn. We didn't see it while we were on the boat around the islands and power plant, so I figured it had been hanging out at Calf Pasture. Sure enough, I drove up to find two crows mobbing the bird. By this point it was raining moderately and there were no other birders around. As I was leaving, the owl appeared to be preparing for a hunt...it was actively looking around, craning its neck, and even took one short flight to another jetty and back. Great looks!





After the Norwalk Snowy I headed to Stratford to look for the flock of CAVE SWALLOWS found earlier in the afternoon by Frank Mantlik. I showed up at Long Beach just after 3pm and spent 30 minutes without spying a single swallow. As the light began to fade and the rain began to pick up again, I drove to nearby Stratford Point and was able to scope Connecticut's other currently reliable Snowy Owl. I was treated to the following spectaular view:



But I can't complain one bit about my first multiple Snowy Owl day in Connecticut!

Much thanks to everyone on CTBirds for updates on these great birds.

- NB

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nov 2 - Hammo, Lighthouse, East Shore

Spent Sunday morning at Hammonasset SP with several birders. I met Julian Hough very early to watch the morning flight along the coast. We had a nice movement of seasonal birds dominated by Pine Siskins. After watching the skies for a while our attention switched to birds on the ground. We birded the park for much of the morning. Highlights included, in no particular order: American Bittern, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, an American Tree Sparrow (my first of fall), 5 Lapland Longspur, 3 Snow Bunting, 1 Dickcissel, several hundred Pine Siskins, and a handful of Purple Finches.

I then moved on to Lighthouse Pt for an afternoon of hawk-watching. The hawks were flying in good numbers for the date, but the count was all about quantity rather than quality (no Golden Eagle or Snowy Owl today....).

On my way home I poked into East Shore Park. Soon after getting out of the car I began pishing, and up popped 4 Blackpoll Warblers and a Northern Parula! Not bad for Nov 2nd. A walk around the park yielded my third Red-breasted Nuthatch of the day and two continuing Barn Swallows hawking insects low over the sewage treatment plant.


Northern Parula @ East Shore Park


One of FOUR Blackpoll Warblers @ East Shore


A lone Snow Bunting @ Hammo




Dozens of Pine Siskins were swarming the pine trees @ Hammo today. Flocks generally held 30+ birds.

Love this time of year.

- NB

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Nov 1 - SNOWY OWL, Golden Eagle, etc

A great day of birding the New Haven area from mid-morning til the evening. Sadly, no photos of any of these great birds.

The bird of the day was a SNOWY OWL that moved through Lighthouse Point this afternoon on the heels of a weak-to-moderate cold front. Given the number of early reports to our north, this should be the first of many Snowy Owls in Connecticut this autumn/winter.

Earlier in the day I got on a distant juv GOLDEN EAGLE that nobody else really saw too well. Unfortunate, but I'll take it!! There was also a handful of Bald Eagles seen today, including a group of 3 young birds in view at once. We hit over 150 raptors for the day.

Passerines continually passed overhead. These included Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Horned Lark, American Pipit, Eastern Bluebird, and hundreds of Cedar Waxwings.

An evening walk out Sandy/Morse Pt produced 1 SNOW BUNTING, 2 LAPLAND LONGSPUR, 10 Horned Lark, and 1 Eastern Meadowlark.

A great (and warm!) afternoon of November birding!

- Nick