Saturday, November 1, 2014

10/31 - Halloween morning

Yesterday morning I took a walk out the barrier beach that is called Long Beach (Stratford portion) or Pleasure Beach (Bridgeport portion), which is something I should probably do more often. It looks so promising as an oasis that sits south of a heavily populated area, yet it is vastly under-birded during peak migration times, which may explain why few vagrants have been found here. Or maybe it's just not as good as it looks on the map...

map showing Long Beach/Pleasure Beach in relation to the city of Bridgeport and other nearby notable birding locations

Looks like a rarity magnet, right?! Don't get me wrong...some rare birds have been found here, my personal favorite being an "Audubon's" Yellow-rumped Warbler that Charlie Barnard found a couple years ago.

To access this place, one parks at the eastern end of the beach at Long Beach in Stratford and walks westward. (Note: water taxis to Pleasure Beach on the western tip were implemented this past summer, but I do not know if they continue into the fall/winter or not.) As you start, you're on a very narrow beach with some dune grass and goldenrod as your primary vegetation. As the beach widens towards its tip there are plenty of weeds and thickets, some patches of young deciduous trees, many tall dead trees, and more grassy dune.

Northern Harrier

I've been out here a few times during autumn migration, and each time there have been birds but never BIG numbers of birds. This is not a place where waves of migrants proceed down the beach on good mornings, at least in my experience. Still, it is a very interesting place to bird and has what I'm convinced is above average rarity potential.

On this morning, with a light NE breeze following a clear night with light North wind (in other words, excellent migration conditions), a few birds were moving down the beach...but again, not as many as I would have thought. Small flocks of passerines were passing overhead, including Pine Siskins and especially American Pipits. My first two SNOW BUNTINGS of the season circled but did not land near me. Just a few nocturnal migrants were filtering through at ground level, particularly Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and various sparrows.

This large "Ipswich" Savannah Sparrow was looking really nice in bright morning sunlight

I did run into a few nice flocks of sparrows in better habitat once I reached Pleasure Beach. Song, White-throat and Junco dominated, and a nice VESPER SPARROW teed up briefly but flew away as I raised my camera. A handful of Eastern Phoebes and Hermit Thrushes were kicking around, as expected.


This Merlin was terrorizing the passerines at Pleasure Beach

On the marsh side, a few shorebirds were feeding including a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. Very few ducks around. On the Long Island Sound side, really only Common Loons were to be found on the water. A molting adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL flushed off the beach and flew towards Bridgeport Harbor.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Overall a really nice walk with a few good birds, to boot.

 - NB

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