Sunday, August 30, 2009

Storm chasin' on Cape Cod (8/29-30)

Well, after some deliberation I decided to head out to the Cape for the storm this weekend, hoping that either the storm would crank up, or it would fizzle out so much that I could sneak in some beach time on Sunday. Neither happened.

What we got were rather minimal winds; the only impressive part of the storm was the amount of rain that fell on Saturday.

But it was the right decision to go. Had a great time with some great folks and even saw some birds along the way.

Saturday -
I arrived pre-dawn to meet Jeremiah T. and Marshall I. for a day of storm watching. We bopped around the outer Cape, hitting spots along the ocean and bay. We had the most action at Head of the Meadow (ocean), Race Pt (ocean), and along Rte 6A in Truro/P'town (bay). We were joined midday by Jeremiah's father Peter and Matt "doghouse" G. Our highlights included 2 Long-tailed Jaegers (had all 3 jaeger species) and several Leach's SP.

hiding underneath the ranger's station at Race Pt

hiding behind an inn as we watch the bay

Major washout from the elevated parking area at this beach. The parking area was very elevated (good place for a seawatch), and the washout spilled all the way down the bluff onto the beach below.

Blair Nikula had a Sabine's Gull in P'town in the morning, but we were not so lucky.

Ended the day with the best part of the weekend: grilled fresh yellowfin tuna steaks at the Trimble residence caught the day before by Peter, plus a few beers and a few laughs. Great stuff.

Sunday -
Began with a rather uneventful watch from First Encounter Beach in Eastham (bay). As the drizzle moved in I decided to head home mid-morning.

- Nick

Friday, August 28, 2009

TS Danny

At the risk of sounding sexist, we may as well change his name to Danielle.

Tropical Storm (barely) Danny, which once peaked with 60mph winds and was forecast to be a Cat 1 'cane by the time it reached us, currently lies stationary off the SE coast with max winds of 40mph. TWC reports that he may even lose tropical characteristics before reaching our latitude. That's the bad news.

The good news? Well, it is still a tropical cyclone....a tropical cyclone that is sitting in the Gulf Stream and will continue to track up this bird-rich current before passing just to our east tomorrow. Any strong low with such a track, especially at this time of year, can bring good birds with it. Recall that a nor'easter in April '07 unexpectedly dropped a Sooty Tern in Southington, CT and three more in Rhode you never know. And being a weak TS, Danny will not pose a safety threat as long as you don't do anything too stupid, and that's a good thing.

So the question is...what to do. I have the weekend off and nothing much social planned. The boat is out of the question. So is the beach (well, for tanning purposes anyway). My options are 1) stay in CT, head to the eastern part of the state, and watch an empty Long Island Sound hoping for that one seabird to fly by. The upside is that anything more than a Wilson's Storm-Petrel would be exciting; something like a Sooty Tern would be a state bird; 2) head out to Cape Cod, where the center of the low may actually make landfall. Even if nothing tropical is swept up by the storm, it should still offer several seabirds visible from land. South Beach or a whale watch on Sunday is also an option if the storm clears quickly enough. I still need Sabine's Gull for a life bird, and my bet is that one is seen somewhere on the Cape before the weekend is over.

I haven't decided what to do quite yet...I'm 50/50. Not really feeling a 4-hr ride to the outer Cape in this weather. Either way I'll be out in some real shit weather tomorrow.

Note for those wondering: I'm not hoping that threatened species such as Bermuda or Black-capped Petrel are displaced by this storm....but if they are, I may as well be there to see them.

- Nick

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

8/25 - Milford Pt shorebirds; Marbled Godwit, WESAs

This afternoon's rising-to-high tide at Milford Pt was again productive. As compared to my 8/21 visit, there were far fewer peep but a much higher percentage of juveniles (from ~5% to 30%). Highlights included a Marbled Godwit and 3 juv Western Sandpipers.

Marbled Godwit

juv Western Sandpiper (note the new gray scapular on this sitting bird, revealing that it has already begun prebasic molt...something that juv Westerns do before Semis, on average)

juv Western Sandpiper

juv Western Sandpiper

adult White-rumped Sandpiper

- NB

Friday, August 21, 2009

CT Shorebird Day: 21 species incl Wilson's Phalarope

I set out this morning with a casual goal of seeing 20 species of shorebird across the state of CT. As it turned out, I would record 21 in the two adjacent towns of Stratford and Milford, making it one of my best local shorebirding days ever.

The 21 species were: Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, (Western) Willet, Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Stilt Sandpiper, Short-billed Dowitcher, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope.

Misses included Piping Plover (locals have departed already), American Golden-Plover, Marbled Godwit, Western Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, and other rarer species.

Here were the highlights:
Stratford, Access Rd pools - WILSON'S PHALAROPE
Stratford, Wooster Park - SOLITARY SANDPIPER
Stratford, Stratford Pt - 3 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS
West Haven, Sandy Pt - SORA, WHIMBREL, RED KNOT

This molting juvenile Wilson's Phalarope was not present during my first drive-by the pools at mid-tide, but was there at dead high tide with about half-dozen Lesser Yellowlegs. A scarce species in Connecticut, this was the bird of the day.

The above two photos show a basic-plumaged adult Long-billed Dowitcher. This is the third year in a row I've seen this plumage at this location, just about the same time of year. Returning individual each year? Although it is partially obstructed by a SB Dow in both photos, note the large size, slightly hunched back, and very long bill. In the bottom photo, note the more upright stance while the bird sleeps (as compared to the SB Dow to the far left).

Molting adult Stilt Sandpiper at the same location as the LB Dow above. Same bird as last week at Milford Pt?

This flagged Semipalmated Sandpiper was also present on the floating dock at the Stratford Marina.

Juvenile "Western" Willet. See this post for a comparison between Eastern and Western forms of Willet. This bird was classic Western in structure and could be IDed by it's silhouette alone.

Molting adult White-rumped Sandpiper at Milford Pt, one of 4+ individuals there

Whimbrels at Milford Pt

Flagged Red Knot at Sandy Pt, West Haven

First birds of the day, immature Sora and a Clapper Rail side-by-side at Sandy Pt.

Sure warblers, hawks, and gulls are fun, but August shorebirding is where it's at. Like a kid in a candy store today...

- Nick

Sunday, August 16, 2009

8/13 - Stilt Sandpiper @ Milford Pt (Back Home!)

Quick post here...still catching up after getting back from KY a few days ago. Had a nice time, learned quite a bit of valuable medicine, got to see a couple southern towns (Nashville/TN, Ashville/NC) but more on that later.

Spent much of the 13th shorebirding CT since the inclement weather scrapped my boat&beach plans; came up with 18 shorebird species and 4 tern species. Highlight was a molting adult Stilt Sandpiper on the bars at Milford Pt:

Busy week ahead but hope to spend a long weekend on the Cape including a pelagic trip and South Beach.

It's good to be home.

- Nick