Friday, October 30, 2015

Late October CT birds

I've gotten out a bit here and there over the past week or so and have seen a few things worth mentioning.

Oct 23 - A strong raptor flight at Lighthouse Point in New Haven was highlighted by a GOLDEN EAGLE.

Golden Eagle

Oct 28 - A rainy day drive through Whirlwind Hill Road in Wallingford resulted in two CACKLING GEESE among a modest number of Canadas.

Cackling Goose #1

Cackling Goose #2...or is it? This one is more of a CACG/CANG tweener...

Oct 30 - Not a birdy day along the coast, but an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER in East Haven was nice to see, as was the continuing injured/ill HUDSONIAN GODWIT in Stratford.

Hudsonian Godwit hobbling around the dock; swollen left leg and right foot

Orange-crowned Warbler

A "Yellow" Palm Warbler from the same location, for comparison

 - NB

Monday, October 19, 2015

Long Island Sound drama

My brother somehow talked me into fishing with him yesterday morning around the Norwalk/Westport/Fairfield area. Given the weather conditions (cold, strong NW breeze), I would have rather been birding on land. However, it was very cool to see passerines reorienting north back towards land after obviously having been blown over water by the night's gusty winds. Several Yellow-rumped Warblers, sparrows, and Dark-eyed Juncos could be seen struggling to fight their way back towards land. Birds were dropping onto whatever piece of solid ground they first reached. At one point we were right against the Penfield Reef Light, and on/around the lighthouse itself at one time were Chipping, Song, Savannah, and Swamp Sparrows. Kinglets and juncos also made brief appearances before continuing the short distance to the mainland. These birds were tired.

I wasn't the only one who noticed the struggling passerines though. Laughing Gulls were opportunistically picking these birds off. The gulls were most interested in the nearby bluefish blitz, but every now and then I would see a few gulls break away to chase a landbird over water. One of the juncos almost landed on our boat to take cover. It was pretty dramatic stuff. A couple of the birds did seem to get away. I had never seen Laughing Gulls do this out there before.

Later in the morning, on our way back through Norwalk Harbor, two Laughing Gulls were pursuing a larger, long-tailed passerine as it crossed the harbor moving west. It was clearly a cuckoo, though I could not tell which species with my naked eye from that distance. The cuckoo somehow broke away and safely dove into cover on Peach Island.

Has anyone else seen this behavior from Laughing Gulls?

 - NB

Weather worth mentioning

After a rather lackluster September for migration in these parts, things are finally starting to kick into gear as we hit mid-October. Sound familiar? This is very similar to what happened last year. Classic cold fronts were lacking until this time last year, then rolled through with regularity for much of the rest of the fall.

Often these cold fronts are preceded by periods of southwest winds and warm weather. I tend to look for this pattern especially from mid-Oct into early Dec because it can be associated with central/western vagrants. Cave Swallow is the hallmark species here, as they ride the SW winds ahead of front towards the Great Lakes region, then get pushed to the coast when the winds shift to the NW.


As you can see above, we do have winds pumping from Texas up through the Great Lakes. This will not be a particularly prolonged event, the winds are not terribly strong, and there is no associated strong low pressure system. So I'm not getting too excited. But it's worth sticking this in the back of your mind. Even if the setup were more impressive, we are still a bit early for things like Cave Swallow and Ash-throated Flycatcher. There have been a few central/western birds being found sporadically over the past few weeks (a few Bell's Vireos have been seen, for example), so perhaps more will follow.

 - NB

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hybrid Tricolored x Little Blue Heron continues

While at Hammonasset Beach State Park a few weeks ago, Phil Rusch and I saw the sporadically continuing adult hybrid Tricolored x Little Blue Heron. The bird (one of two or three) was first seen as a juvenile during the summer/fall of 2011. A couple prior photos of mine can be found HERE.

hybrid Tricolored x Little Blue Heron

Note the bill size and shape, yellow lores, pale thigh feathering, and white flecking on chin and throat (poor chin/throat view in this photo).

 - NB

Sunday, October 4, 2015

3 Oct 2015 - Sandy Point

Yesterday I sneaked a late afternoon walk out a raw, windy, dreary Sandy Point in West Haven, CT. Not expecting much honestly, I was surprised to kick up several sparrows as I began walking out the base of the point. Among them was a nice-looking NELSON'S SPARROW. Getting the sparrows to tee up for more than a few seconds was a challenge, as they were driven into the vegetation by the strong winds.

Nelson's Sparrow

Further out towards the point a MERLIN strafed a flock of about 20 HORNED LARKS, among which were two LAPLAND LONGSPURS. The birds were surprisingly approachable once they landed, preferring to hunker down rather than take flight. I was about to photograph the longspurs when I ran into Tony Amato, who reported seeing BAIRD'S and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS at the tip of the point. So I abandoned the grassland birds in favor of the shorebirds. We refound the sandpipers without much difficulty. The shorebird flock consisted of about 35 Sandering, 2 Least Sandpipers, 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers, a White-rumped and a Baird's. Not bad diversity there! Both the White-rump and the Baird's were juveniles and were also quite approachable. Nearly all of the Baird's Sandpipers we see in New England are juveniles, from mid-Aug to early Oct. Occasionally a late July adult is seen, but most of the adults migrate down the center of the continent. In contrast, most of the White-rumps I see here during fall migration are adults, so this juvie was great to see. Juvenile 'rumps are late arrivals at our latitude...typically appearing right about now.

juvenile White-rumped Sandpiper

juvenile Baird's Sandpiper

juvenile Baird's Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper in flight with Sanderlings

 - NB