Friday, May 30, 2008

5/29 shorebirds

Yesterday was one of those perfect evenings at Sandy Pt and Milford Pt. A light breeze, the sun at your back, and a rising tide to concentrate several hundred migrant shorebirds. It felt like a Wilson's Plover or Curlew Sandpiper would come into view at any moment, but no such luck. Sandy Point at mid-tide had a few hundred birds, which is a decent number for this site. It doesn't hold the numbers that Milford Point sees, but its track record of rarities speaks for itself. Nothing rare tonight, but three stunning Red Knot were great to see. One of the birds was flagged, but it never allowed me to read the numbers on the tag.

Red Knot at Sandy Point

Milford Point held several hundred migrants (for example, 1150 Semipalmated Sandpipers) including 4 more Red Knot and 5 White-rumped Sandpipers. It was difficult to fully concentrate on the migrants when three newly hatched Piping Plovers were running around.

One of three Piping Plover chicks at Milford Pt

Least Tern chicks should be soon to follow...


Friday, May 23, 2008

LARK BUNTING at Hammo 5/22

While in class this morning I received Mike DiGiorgio's report of a Eurasian Collared-Dove, just the state's second record, from Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison. I was stuck in the classroom and hospital til 4pm when I left straight for Hammo. While walking towards Willard's Island with Dori Sosensky at 5:15pm I was stunned to spot this female LARK BUNTING. We watched the bird for about a minute and I digibinned a few photos to document this rarity (the third state record). I consider myself lucky to get anything useful with such a brief sighting. It quickly flew around the corner and was never refound. After a quick reference check to confirm a field mark I was hazy on (my only prior Lark Bunting was a male in Texas), we got the word out. Unfortunately it didn't re-appear. Probably still in the area, and with tonight's less-than-stellar migration conditions, I wouldn't be surprised if it's refound tomorrow.

Upon seeing the bird, Dori realized that she had seen it in the same spot around 3:00 this afternoon. She had a quick naked-eye look of what she figured at the time might be a sparrow with some white feathering in the wings.

I never did catch up with the dove...maybe tomorrow. What a day for Hammonasset.

More Photos Here


Sunday, May 18, 2008

E.J.'s school"work"

Many New England birders have come to know E.J. Raynor, especially those in CT and ME. Well, E.J. has moved onto warmer climes (at least for now). He is currently working toward his Master's Degree at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Here are a couple pictures he forwarded my way:

At the tern colony.

This would NEVER happen in Connecticut.

Tough life, eh?


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Milford Pt and tonight's migration

Kim and I spent a couple of hours at Milford Pt this morning around the high tide. While we were there, the volunteer Piping Plover monitors found a new piper nest that was outside of the roped-off area. Kim and I helped them put up new stakes and rope to protect this Piper and her eggs:

On eggs.

Two laid, probably more to come.

Shorebird numbers were not too impressive today, but there were still birds to look through. Several Least and a few Common terns were about. Best bird was probably a Merlin hanging out near the coastal center.

A nice southwest breeze is in place for this afternoon, which will extend overnight and into tomorrow. Tomorrow (Sun) and Monday will be good days to check for southern overshoots. Some species that come to mind for this time of year are Kentucky Warbler, Black-necked Stilt, Wilson's Plover, and Mississippi Kite.

If we get any rain tonight, that could help concentrate birds wherever that rain is falling.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Birds moving tonight

Winds tonight are quite variable across the northeast, but there appears to be a southerly component in many areas. The result is migration...not a surprise since birds have been backed up for about 6 days now. Here's a radar image from about 11pm:

As you can see there is a nice movement underway in southern New England and the mid-Atlantic. There must be an easterly component to the winds, at least along the coast, because the birds appear to be heading slightly west (notice the high density in western CT and NJ as compared to the eastern half of those states).

Tomorrow morning should be a good one to be birding. My guess is that the further west you go, the better.

Tomorrow night has very good potential for more migration. There may be rain to knock down birds, which is exactly what happened last Wednesday night, resulting in a mini-fallout across CT on Thurs morning.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Black Skimmers, yard Blackburnian

Four Black Skimmers at Milford Point this evening.

I stopped at Milford Pt on my way home from Shea tonight and there were four Black Skimmers flying around the bars there. Shorebird numbers and variety were about the same as yesterday, with that White-rumped Sandpiper still present.

I made it to the Maltby Lakes this morning to find the place dead. Spent 30 mins walking the spruces and pines. Even the deciduous woods were basically migrant-free. Highlight was a vigorously singing Golden-crowned Kinglet in the spruces. Interestingly I had a singing GC Kinglet at this location back a few summers ago. Could they actually be breeding here? Seems unlikely but I hope to check back later in the season. In the deciduous woods there was a singing Eastern Wood-Pewee, my FOY. I try this place about once per year in May, and it's always dead. Of course I came home to 8 species of warbler including a male Blackburnian in the driveway.

East winds are blowing, and they're only going to get stronger tomorrow. Probably won't be able to get out and watch the sound, but a quick run to Sandy Pt between morning classes and evening hospital is very possible.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

White-rump, light migration tonight, etc.

Had my first White-rumped Sand at Milford Point this evening. It was great to see several hundred shorebirds roosting there...couldn't have come soon enough.

This crummy shot is all I could manage with today's White-rumped Sandpiper.

Birding in the region has been very good over the past few days, ever since Wednesday night's migrants were downed by the weather. The birds haven't left yet, although some are on their way out as we speak. The radar is showing a light migration out of the area, and probably very little replacing it.

I'm hoping that very little leaves tonight because I plan on walking the Maltby Lakes tomorrow morning. These are a few small lakes surrounded by pines and spruces. I've wanted to walk there in search of Cape Mays for a few years now, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Now that these migrants have been in the area for a few days, a local Cape May may have found those spruces. Or so I hope.

The upcoming weather pattern is an interesting one. Right now they're calling for strong E/NE winds from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday, with rain on Monday. Sounds like shorebirding and sound-watching will be the way to go. Maybe someone will turn up some Black Terns or a Red-necked Phalarope. After that, it looks to clear with lighter east winds for a few days. That wouldn't bode well for our passerine migration, as birds tend to move around us to the west. But we'll see what happens.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Operation: Curlew Sand

Lots of things happening in the birding world right now. There's a Wood Sandpiper in Delaware (where there was a White-winged Tern about a week ago), both kites in northern New Jersey, and two Curlew Sandpipers in NJ. WSB scouters and participants will likely find more goodies down there over the weekend.

I spent the afternoon getting drenched at Hammonasset, Guilford, and Sandy Point. Surprisingly nothing notable seen. My FOY Common Tern was a bit overdue.

It has been a good spring for Ruffs on the east coast, and hopefully a good spring for Curlew Sandpipers will follow. It's been 10 years since a Curlew Sand has been seen in Connecticut (though I remember an unconfirmed report ~6 years back), despite the species being about annual in MA and NJ. I'm going to try hard for this one in 2008, as long as my schedule allows it.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

First Post: May Warblers and Camera Thoughts

Well, I can't think of a better time to start a birding blog. May is here, and so are the neotropical migrants. With school being so busy and the birding being so good, I doubt I'll have time for much else this month. I just picked up a new camera, a Canon Powershot A590IS. It's my second digiscoping camera, with the first being the old Nikon CP4500, a digiscoping classic. It was time to move on...the rechargeable battery was losing life, the auto focus wasn't as sharp as I remember it, and it's just a big clunky camera. So I decided to take advantage of a very low price on the Canon ($149 at and upgrade to an 8 megapixel.

Pretty good results so far with the camera. First, the menus are intuitive, the screen is much larger than my old one, and it's size and shape are ideal for easy handheld use. Probably the best thing about this camera is the ability to 'digibin'...the binocular equivalent of digiscoping. The camera is small and light enough so that I can photograph through the right eyecup while I look through the left eyecup with my right eye (got that?). My initial results, shown here, have really pleased me so far. With the old Nikon I had no hope of documenting warblers and flying birds, but now I can!

This Yellow-rumped Warbler was one of many at East Rock Park in New Haven this week (digibinned)

Black-throated Blue Warbler at ERP (digibinned)

Worm-eating Warbler at ERP (digibinned)

The digiscoping has not gone as smoothly as hoped, yet. I am having some trouble with vignetting at the moment, but I hope to figure out a way to get around this. I'll get into detail some other time.

This pair of American Oystercatchers has taken up residence at Sandy Point in West Haven (digiscoped)

So that's it for the inaugural post. There will be much more to come as migration develops. Shorebird numbers are building...hopefully this will be the year I see Curlew Sandpiper in Connecticut.

Thanks for reading.