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Showing posts from January, 2011

COMMON MURRE - first Connecticut record

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Congrats to the Newington Adult Ed class on another great find, this time Connecticut's first COMMON MURRE. A looong overdue species in the state, Common Murre had gone undetected despite being relatively common in recent winters in nearby RI and NY waters. In fact, they are apparently common as close as 40 miles from the CT border! This adult bird, in alternate plumage (typical for this species in late January), wandered into LI Sound long enough to be found and even chased by many birders as it slowly paddled its way eastward along the coast. Common Murre As we were watching the murre from the Moraine Trail, a Short-eared Owl appeared seemingly out of nowhere right over the murre before drifting towards the marsh behind us. Short-eared Owl Common Murre (bottom left) and Short-eared Owl (top right) Just how expected (or unexpected) was Common Murre in CT? When I wrote the "Next 15 Birds" article for the Connecticut Warbler a couple years ago, it placed

Landfill today

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A few hours at the Windsor Landfill today were so-so. Gull numbers were decent but not great at ~1500. Enough to pull in something good though. Turnover seemed poor but I was finding new individuals throughout my stay, so there must have been some comings and goings. Highlights were few...an adult LBBG and a third cycle "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull. There were also a couple interesting young Herring Gulls but nothing really suggestive of a different taxon. I already have a headache tonight so I'll spare the HEGU photos, except for two wing-tagged birds. **According to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the tagged/banded Herring Gulls were banded in the Quabbin area of Massachusetts. I will post more info as I receive it from them.** Lesser Black-backed Gull "Kumlien's" Iceland Gull tagged adult Herring Gull, '11' on left wing and 'K11" on right wing Herring Gull 'K7'; both wing-tagged HEGUs ha

Mid-winter ramblings

Another day, another landfill gulling session postponed by snow. Today's storm arrived a good 3+ hours ahead of schedule, effectively canceling my trip to the landfill with Frank Gallo. We've had a wonderfully snowy winter here in Connecticut. Every storm's highest totals seem to come from somewhere in southern New England, with CT right in the heart of each one. I happen to love it (even when it gets in the way of birding plans). We've already surpassed our seasonal snowfall average, and 6-10 more inches are expected from the current storm. Back to gulls. Where have they been? The regional gulling scene has been sub-par this winter. Other than a handful of Icelands and the occasional Glauc, it's been quiet here. The center of the continent has been much more exciting, with an early flurry of Ross's Gulls and a couple recent Slaty-backed Gulls. Newfoundland has enjoyed its 'expected' rarities like Slaty-backed and Yellow-legged, plus their second Black

Bohemian Waxwings in SW Vermont

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After spending a night in Killington, VT catching up with some old friends and various microbrews, I took the scenic route home today. Rather than heading back down I-91 I took the drive down Route 7 from Rutland. This road runs north-south through the Green Mountains in Vermont (and continues south into the Berkshires in MA and through western CT all the way to Norwalk). cold, calm morning with a fresh dusting of snow in Killington Following up on reports from the Vermont listserv and eBird, I spent a few hours birding the far SW corner of the state, just south of Bennington. Recently Bohemian Waxwings and both redpolls had been seen there. The area was rather quiet except for two concentrations of frugivores. Monument Road held several dozen American Robins, 8 Eastern Bluebirds, and 20 Cedar Waxwings along one short stretch. Southern Vermont Orchards on Carpenter Hill Rd, a bit further south, was the epicenter of activity thanks to some rotting apples still on trees. I picked t

Upcoming CAS Trips

In 2011 I'm slated to lead or co-lead two overnight tours for Connecticut Audubon Society: one kinda close to home and one just a bit further abroad. They are as follows: Baxter State Park (Maine) - June 16-19, 2011 Brazil's Pantanal - September 28-October 9, 2011 In June of 2010 I took a [mostly] solo whirlwind tour of Maine over just 4 1/2 days. I hit a few choice spots from the downeast coast to the far north to the heart of inland Maine. Baxter State Park lies in north-central Maine and boasts a fantastic diversity of breeding birds, with a few boreal specialties being of most interest to southern New Englanders. Boreal Chickadees and Gray Jays are fairly common in the right spots, and lucky birders may glimpse such highly sought-after species as Spruce Grouse or Black-backed Woodpecker. This trip will include stops on the way to and from Baxter, specifically for grassland birds at Kennebunk Plains and for breeding Black Terns at Messalonskee Lake. For my 2010 Maine trip

Lyman Orchards

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Inspired by recent reports of impressive American Robin numbers at Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT, I spent a couple hours there today in search of thrushes. I did find some Robins, but not in the numbers seen by others. My max count at one time was about 75 birds swirling in the air above the apple orchards, which came immediately after a Merlin made a dash overhead. a teed-up Merlin after unsuccessfully pursuing robins - NB

SLR all the way

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I spent this weekend dog/house-sitting at my parents' place in Orange. My mother got a Nikon D5000 with VR 55-200mm zoom lens for Christmas, which I decided to test out briefly on Saturday morning. Having never shot with an SLR, I was curious to see what the "experience" was like - i.e. how cumbersome it was to carry, if/how it affected my actual birding, and what is a 200mm zoom capable of? Long story short, even after spending just an hour with it, I'm convinced that I need something more than my current digiscoping setup. I was in denial for a while there, but now I know. Red-breasted Nuthatch Dark-eyed Junco in flight Turkey Vulture from a considerable distance I could do without one more thing to carry on me while birding, but the ability to photograph fast-moving passerines or birds in flight was a lot of fun. I am become more and more disenchanted with 'digibinning,' which is really starting to frustrate me. I'm not ready

Swallows and Martins of Brazil's Pantanal

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While co-leading the 2010 Connecticut Audubon Society trip to Brazil's Pantanal, I tried to pay as much attention to members of the family Hirundinidae as time allowed. We enjoyed nice diversity, recording the following species: ~Blue-and-white Swallow - a few at the higher/drier locations outside the Pantanal ~Southern Rough-winged Swallow - scattered in various habitats throughout the trip ~Brown-chested Martin - abundant ~Gray-breasted Martin - very common ~Purple/Southern Martin - a single unidentified adult male seen briefly along the northern Transpantaneira; according to Giuliano, Purple certainly occurs in the Pantanal while the status of Southern Martin is uncertain (and perhaps never confirmed?). Males are extremely difficult to tell apart. ~White-winged Swallow - fairly common in the Pantanal ~Barn Swallow - a small group of three along the Transpantaneira ~Cliff Swallow - generally a scarce migrant here, but we encountered a massive flock of ~170 birds along t