Thursday, April 18, 2019

CALIFORNIA GULL in CT

This spring's gull migration in Connecticut has been the worst in at least a decade, as far as I can remember...which made this evening's find of an adult CALIFORNIA GULL all the more surprising.

Showery weather conditions have set in for a few days, which can mean downed birds during migration. It's been a loooong week at work and I was itching to hit the coast for just an hour or two this evening. The Oyster River mouth had nothing, and nearby Bradley Point in West Haven had just its usual loafing flock of a couple hundred gulls. Scanning with bins from the car, and not expecting to see much, I noticed at least three adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS straight away and decided to take a close look at the flock. The initial count of 8 LBBGs would have been my personal high count in the state by a wide margin. Then I saw the Cal Gull, which was facing straight away into the wind for a while before finally getting a bit active and showing all salient field marks just in time for Julian Hough's arrival. We watched the bird for a bit before it flew offshore, likely to one of the breakwaters to roost.

This is the state's second record, the first being seen in spring 2016 and reappearing briefly in September of that year.

The final LBBG tally was fourteen.

CAGU bathing, at right


Open wing includes a p9 mirror, a typical pattern for this species and differentiates it from a CAGU seen earlier this season in MA and NJ.

Behind a few Ring-billed Gulls. A bit of a bruiser, this one was closer to Herring than to Ring-billed in size.

Right of a couple Herring Gulls. The bird's legs were not bright yellow as I would have expected at this time of year, instead appearing an interesting dull grayish yellow-green.

Nine of the 14 Lesser Black-backed Gulls

 - Nick

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Antarctica in Feb 2020 via Connecticut Audubon Society



Antarctica Explorer: Discovering the 7th Continent

February 5 - 17, 2020             
13 Days!

Antarctica has been inspiring explorers for centuries and this expedition offers you the chance to discover why, with an unforgettable journey through the spectacular wilderness of the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. You’ll encounter a world where nature creates the rules, her unpredictable temperament making each trip unique, exciting, and personal. Imagine cruising in a Zodiac through crackling sea ice like shattered glass, witnessing penguins building their nests, or navigating through a maze of icebergs, each one uniquely shaped by its journey through the sea. You’ll enjoy iconic Antarctic highlights, exhilarating adventures, and be rewarded with memories to last a lifetime.
Leader: Nick Bonomo 
Fee: Call or email for more information 1-860-767-0660; ecotravel@ctaudubon.org


Ecotravel Home Page: https://www.ctaudubon.org/ecotravel-home/
Join us for the Ultimate Bucket List trip, and support a fantastic local non-profit while you're at it!

 - Nick

Friday, April 5, 2019

A pale Red-tail from late October in CT

Last Oct 30th (2018), I found myself at Lighthouse Pt in New Haven, CT during a healthy passage of buteos and eagles. These large raptor days are all too scarce at Lighthouse, where it takes a well-timed late Oct-early Nov cold front to produce a day like this along the Connecticut coast. One of the Red-tails that day, a juvenile bird, was strikingly pale below. The bird wasn't terribly low, was picked up when it was already just about overhead, and streamed westward across the harbor, never allowing for a topside view. I did manage a handful of poor ventral images, which show some features that suggest a Krider's intergrade.

In the photos below, note the overall ghostly underparts, in particular the faint patagial. A zoom-in on the face strongly indicates a whitish cheek that offsets a dark malar, which is another Krider's-like feature. As Red-tail expert Brian Sullivan notes, you can't say much without upperpart photos in this case. Wherever it came from, a unique bird for sure, and outside the norm for borealis.





 - NB

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ring-necked Duck x Scaup hybrid

Another New Haven Harbor hybrid Aythya, amongst a wintering mixed scaup flock. I have seen this bird three times, initially on January 19th. Trying to figure out the scaup species involved is a bit of a headache. In the field I certainly found the bird to give more of a Greater Scaup-like vibe, based on body, head, and bill shape & size, for what it's worth. However it has been hypothesized that the mediocre open-wing photo is pro-Lesser, as the obvious white is restricted to the secondaries, but I'm not convinced that is anything more than suggestive. All criteria seem shaky.

Click for larger images:


Hybrid's head shot pasted between GRSC and LESC for comparison (identical lighting conditions). Not to scale (hybrid's head is magnified). Vibrance kicked up a few notches to accentuate head color.















Older pics, with Greaters, from back in January:









 - Nick

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Tufted Duck x Scaup hybrid

On March 20th, while scanning the scaup flock from the West Haven Boat Ramp, I noticed a hybrid Tufted Duck. Luckily there were no tense moments here - with the sun at my back, though the bird was distant, the dark gray (not black) back and short, blunt-ended tuft immediately declared this bird as a scaup hybrid and not a bona fide Tufted. While a pure TUDU would have been preferred, this is a life hybrid, and a cool one at that.

The bird was too far to document by handheld phone-scoping. I tried. As luck would have it, I put my boat in the water early this year, and it happened to be located in this very same harbor. I hopped on the boat and tried to approach the scaup flocks, a process that turned out more difficult than I had hoped. The flocks were flighty. I've gotten close to ducks in this boat before, but it usually takes finesse. These flocks, though, were especially spooky.

I eventually refound the bird among the scattered Greater Scaup flocks and got as close as I could (which was not very close at all). Still, record photos were obtained.


did look rather black-backed at certain angles



with Greater Scaup

with Greater Scaup

bottom right, as marked





Separating scaup from each other can be difficult enough, so confidently assigning the scaup parent to species is a whole other level of difficulty. Comments are welcome, as always.

 - Nick

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Australia - Nov-Dec 2017

I'm nearly finished with photo catch-up from a few big trips over the past couple years. I think it's a tad late for a trip summary, but I did want to share a few favorite images from the three-week journey that included Cairns, Melbourne, Sydney, Alice Springs, and Darwin. I was with Ian Davies for the first three cities, and on my own in the Northern Territory.

Splendid Fairywren

Hooded Parrot

Wedge-tailed Eagle (immature)

Lumholtz's Tree Kangaroo

White-cheeked Honeyeater

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Red-capped Robin

Plainswanderer

Rufous Whistler

Short-tailed Shearwaters

White-capped Albatross

Spinifex Pigeon

Australian Owlet-nightjar

 - NB