Sunday, July 19, 2009

Off to Kentucky

Adios for a month! I'm on my way to Kentucky for a 4-week rotation at a Primary Care clinic in the far eastern part of the state. Bummed that I'll be missing the bulk of the adult shorebird migration (and beach season...), but this should be another valuable learning experience.

- NB

Black-capped Petrel!

A last-minute delay in travel plans allowed me to get on board Saturday's Brookline Bird Club EXTREME PELAGIC to the edge of the Continental Shelf, and boy am I glad. I've been on several of these over the past few summers, and yesterday's trip was certainly one of the best. Normally these trips are characterized by hours of empty ocean between bursts of activity, but there were very few periods without birds yesterday. The real highlight was a BLACK-CAPPED PETREL that gave somewhat brief but fantastic views as it made a couple passes by the boat! Bigtime thanks to James P. Smith for being the first to spot and yell out to the rest of us!

James was somehow able to obtain a couple of fantastic digibinned images which I'm sure will be posted to his blog, Pioneer Birding, in the coming hours.

Jeremiah Trimble has already posted a fantastic set of images, including a few of the day's star pterodroma!

Soon after we lost the petrel we attempted to draw it back in with a chum slick. During this time I fired up my phone and attempted to log the coordinates using its GPS function. These are not the 'official' coordinates, but it should be very close. I mapped the location on Google Earth. You can see that the petrel was NOT seen in the deep water of the canyon or beyond the shelf edge; rather is was seen in 400-or-so feet of water before we reached the Atlantis Canyons. That's not very deep. To put things in perspective for any Connecticut birders reading this, Long Island Sound is well over 200 feet at its deepest points.

The rest of the trip was characterized by fantastic numbers of Leach's Storm-Petrels and Audubon's Shearwaters, not to mention an abundance of Cory's Shearwaters, particularly on the way to and from the deep water.

For anyone who hasn't tried it, pelagic birding is among the most exciting birding there is.

I will be updating this space with more links, as photos and trip reports become available.

- Nick

Thursday, July 16, 2009

more Wilson's Petrels in CT

7/19 UPDATE: Andy Griswold captured some nice images of the petrels and posted them to his BLOG!
[end update]

This morning Glenn Williams, Jim Denham and I accompanied Andy Griswold on a boat ride into eastern Long Island Sound. We spent the bulk of our time mid-sound, just north of the 'state line.' Once we found a few Wilson's Storm-Petrels we threw out some menhaden oil, and before we knew it we had a handful of stormies pattering right behind the boat! Our high count at one time was 10 birds. The views were just spectacular...wish I had a real camera. Andy took a few shots with his SLR, and if he posts them to his blog I will be sure to set up a link.

The petrels were in 150+ feet of water near the middle of the sound, immediately south of Bell 4. This area is off the CT coast between Niantic Bay and the mouth of the Thames River. All but one of the birds were presumably molting adults; there was a single freshly-plumaged individual which was likely a bird hatched this past winter (during the southern summer).

- NB

Friday, July 10, 2009

Long Island Sound - Wilson's Storm-Petrels

Long Island Sound, half of which is Connecticut's portion of the Atlantic Ocean, is terribly deprived of pelagic birds. One of the few species that can be expected annually in small numbers is Wilson's Storm-Petrel. This morning Glenn Williams and I took the round trip ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point, NY in search of pelagic birds in CT waters. We had a few storm-petrels on the way out, but on the way back Glenn spotted a loose flock of 7 birds zig-zagging and pattering along the surface. I was able to 'digibin' one of the birds, albeit poorly:

Flying to the right, angled away


Saturday, July 4, 2009

7/3 - Henslow's Sparrow, Sedge Wrens, and Mississippi Kite

Nope, I'm not on vacation in Missouri. These three species were seen during a fantastic morning of birding in southern New England!

The highlight of the day was the continuing HENSLOW'S SPARROW found by Mark Fairbrother in Montague, MA. The word on the street this morning was that Mark first heard the bird while driving by the field with his windows down!

As always, click for larger images:

This guy spent much of his time teed-up towards the middle-rear of the field, but made occasional forays closer to the road during which he would either disappear into the grass or sing from a much lower perch.

On my way north to Montague I stopped at a private location in South Windsor, CT to check out a Sedge Wren found by Paul Cianfaglione. I arrived around sunrise at a fogged-in wet meadow and quickly heard not one but two SEDGE WRENS singing away. At 6am one of the birds stopped singing while the other continued on and off until I left. I wonder if either bird is paired-off? At the edges of their breeding range, Sedge Wrens have a habit of suddenly appearing in small groups to nest. Hopefully Paul will be able to monitor this situation (on private property) for signs of breeding success.

During my time standing in the fog I was only able to glimpse one of the singing birds for a short time:

On my way back home from the Henslow's I took a detour to Simsbury, CT and was able to locate one of the nesting MISSISSIPPI KITES.


I have been told that the birds are nesting in the same spot at last year and currently have eggs or a small chick in the nest. Recall that last year these birds fledged one chick, the first MIKI known to fledge in New England! (Note: The remarkable New Hampshire nest discovery was the first breeding record of this species in New England, but the Simsbury kites were further along in the process and fledged their young before the NH birds.) For anyone interested in looking, they have been reliably seen soaring and hunting over Great Pond in Simsbury.

Overall an outstanding morning of birding capped off by dinner and a few drinks with some CT birding friends.

Enjoy the holiday!

- Nick