Friday, June 25, 2010

Off to Maine soon

On Saturday afternoon I'll start driving north toward Maine, kicking off 4-5 days of birding the largest New England state. My boreal birding has been nearly non-existent, which is a bit surprising given my location in southern New England.

My big targets are Spruce Grouse, 3-toed Woodpecker, Gray Jay (yep, still need it!) and Red-billed Tropicbird (would be a nice bonus). Black Rail was formerly part of the itinerary but the Plum Island, MA birds may have gone silent if recent reports are any indication.

I'll start with a boat trip to Seal Island in search of the tropicbird, then another boat further downeast to Machias Seal Island for nesting puffins, etc. From there I'll check a few Lubec spots if I have time before heading wayy up north past Caribou. I plan on birding Baxter State Park as I work my way back south. Then it's back home to CT.

I will be sure to post my results here, which hopefully will contain a few pictures of Moose and some fine boreal birds!

- NB

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Kowa 883 digiscoping adapters, part 1

Yesterday I received Canon's Conversion Lens Adapter for my A590IS. I planned on lengthening the tube with some homemade supplies, to make a hands-free tube adapter, as recommended by local Kowa digiscoper Don Morgan. While I still plan on doing this, I noticed that when I fasten the adapter to the camera, I can hand-hold the camera+adapter firmly against the scope's rubber eyecup, which happens to place the camera lens at just the right distance from the eyepiece for digiscoping!

I headed out to Sandy Pt this afternoon in hopes of testing this out in the field. Sure enough, I was able to produce a vignette-free image without having to max out the camera's zoom. This is still a form of hand-holding, so getting crystal-clear photos will be a challenge, if not impossible, due to the shake produced by holding the camera in your hands and pressing the shutter-release.

The following photos are unaltered (uncropped, unsharpened) except for being compressed, and show that decent vignette-free photos can be taken with this method.






Not a hint of vignetting, and the zoom is not maxed out in either photo. It looks like I'll be happy with this method until I'm able to make a hands-free adapter, in hopes of being able to take some print-quality images in the future. But that type of result may ultimately require a professional adapter and a higher-end camera. After just throwing down $2700 for a scope, I don't want to think about that quite yet...

- NB

Sandy Point shorebirds

Today I made a productive low tide visit to Sandy Point in West Haven, CT. Wind was blowing at 15+mph from the SSW ahead of a cold front that would bring strong thunderstorms later in the afternoon.

The lagoon mudflats were holding many migrant shorebirds, most notably 9 RED KNOTS and 100+ Semipalmated Sandpipers. A single Dunlin was also in the mix.






part of a flock of 9 Red Knots

Further out the point, beyond the tern colony, a few more shorebirds and gulls were foraging along the water's edge. These included 2 Short-billed Dowitchers and a handful of Black-bellied Plovers.


Black-bellied Plover


Short-billed Dowitchers

While out there I ran into a grad student from U of New Haven who was taking soil samples for analysis of invertebrates, sediment pollution, etc. He said now that much of Sandy Pt is now breached at high tide but Morse Pt is not, the water source for the lagoon is now largely from the harbor side. The harbor itself is more polluted than the open sound. Over the past 1-2 years the amount of pollution in the sediment has increased because of this change in water flow, they believe. Over the same time period they have noticed a shift in invertebrate life from more sensitive species to fewer species that are more tolerant of pollution. This, of course, is poor for biodiversity. One might correlate last spring/summer/fall's low bird diversity with this shift.

This spring though, I've seen what I would call typical numbers of shorebirds and terns here. Let's see what happens. Heck, their soil samples may show a reversal of the trends the researchers noted last year.

I really should have taken his name and contact info to follow-up on their project. I still might be able to contact him via their website.

- Nick

June 5 - Rhode Island pelagic

Yesterday I joined about a dozen birders aboard the 'Snappa' out of Galilee, Rhode Island for a pelagic trip to Cox's Ledge.

Visibility on arrival at the dock was awful!



Once we got a bit offshore the fog began to burn off. While we had to wait a long time to see sun, we could see far enough to identify most birds. When we got to an area called the Mud Hole, we came across a few trawlers and some birds: gulls, gannets, storm-petrels, and a few shearwaters.



The best bird of the trip came while we were moving along at a good clip...someone spotted a jaeger harassing a few gulls. It turned out to be an adult Parasitic...views were decent but brief.

Otherwise, we had only common species.


Greater Shearwater


Northern Gannet


Birders aboard the Snappa

We stopped to chum at a few spots here and there, some more active than others. At one of the slower spots, a couple of us grabbed fishing poles and tried our hands at jigging at Cox's Ledge. I hooked a fish but failed to land it, but Tom Auer boated a spiny dogfish.


Not the Cod he was hoping for!

Final trip list:
24 GREATER SHEARWATER

20 SOOTY SHEARWATER
11 CORY'S SHEARWATER
1 MANX SHEARWATER
214 WILSON'S STORM-PETREL
60 NORTHERN GANNET
1 COMMON TERN
1 PARASITIC JAEGER

- NB

Friday, June 4, 2010

June 3 - Stratford to West Haven coast

Yesterday evening's obligations brought me to the Milford area, so I spent a few hours birding various shoreline spots from Stratford to Milford to West Haven, CT. Weather was hot and humid, with a 15-minute strong t-storm that blew through the region. Shorebird numbers were quite good overall; 14 species were tallied.

Stratford Point held a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER in bright alternate plumage among a feeding flock of 26 Semipalmated Sandpipers.


White-rumped Sandpiper


White-rumped Sandpiper (with Semipalmated Sandpiper)

Milford Point had very good numbers of some species...600 Semipalmated Sandpipers was a nice tally. Here were 4 more WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS, but the real highlight was a small flock of 6 RED KNOT.


Six Red Knot, two Ruddy Turnstones, and an Eastern Willet in the foreground


Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Eastern Willet


As the tide came in, the roosting birds were forced to retreat. Here a Red Knot raises its wings as it hops from one stone to another.

Later, at Sandy Pt in West Haven, the tern colony was alive and well. There were a minimum of 60 Least Terns coming and going, plus a couple pairs of Common Terns. Still no sign of Black Skimmers though...they are irregular nesters here.


Common Terns. The flying bird arrived with food, which it passed to the perched bird without landing.

- Nick