Sunday, October 30, 2011

Northern Goshawk

This morning Phil Rusch and I made a last-minute decision to take the ferry from New London, CT to Orient Point, NY in hopes of running into a storm-blown pelagic bird. Though the winds were not ideal, our decision was based largely on yesterday's report from Angus Wilson of 300+ Great Shearwaters seen from nearby Montauk Point. With a pool of birds out there, we hoped that one would stray into the sound. But as is typical in the sound, the birds were few and far between. We only tallied a handful of Northern Gannets and just a few scoters and loons. Oh well.

From there we headed to Lighthouse Point in New Haven where a nice late-season hawk flight was underway. The highlight while we were there was an immature NORTHERN GOSHAWK that made a pass through the park before continuing west over the harbor, plus an apparent hutchinsii CACKLING GOOSE (tiny white-cheeked goose with slightly paler breast and upperparts) with a flock of migrating Canadas.

Here's a crummy photo I managed:

immature Northern Goshawk

- NB

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Incredible Early Snow Event

29 Oct 2011, Norwalk, CT

An unusually cold and intense nor'easter has arrived in New England. Autumn nor'easters are not rare, but those delivering measurable snowfall in October sure are! Here are some quick thoughts on how it may affect the local birding world.

- The strong NE winds may result in a few birds being blown into Long Island Sound. Expect a pulse of Northern Gannets, probably a scoter/loon movement, plus a shot at something rare (an alcid or jaeger perhaps? Parasitic is the default jaeger in CT waters, but we're entering into the time of year when Pomarine Jaeger should be looked for.)

- Check inland bodies of water, especially during Saturday's inclement weather. Waterfowl should be migrating on the northerly winds and will be knocked down when they run into the precip approaching from the SW. Could be a fallout at the reservoirs on Saturday or first-thing Sunday.

- Sunday should produce a nice diurnal migration as birds move south to vacate the cold and snowy inland areas. Hawks will be on the move (if it's quite windy, coastal spots like Lighthouse should be best...if lighter winds, Boothe Park and Quaker Ridge might rule). Geese could/should be flying if there's enough snow to cover their favorite feeding fields to the north. Check those flocks for rarer species like Cackling, Barnacle, Pink-footed, Snow, Ross's, Greater White-fronted and Graylag.

- Lingering passerines will be cold. Check sheltered and sunny locations. Insectivores normally found in the canopy may be found on/near the ground searching for insects. Check sewage treatment plants for birds drawn to the abundant insects. Scour swallow flocks for Cave Swallow or better. (Note: this is far from the classic Cave Swallow pattern, but we're at that time of year when the first one or two are sometimes reported). The swallows will be lower to the ground and more concentrated in this weather.

- Fill your hummingbird feeders, even if you've taken them in for the season. There are certainly a few lingering hummers still around, and they will be drawn to any food source. Consider rare species as well.

The above photo was taken this morning in Norwalk Harbor. The forecast had called for rain all day on the coast, mixing and changing to snow around dusk, with snow continuing through the night. Well, as you can see from that photo, so much for that! The snow is piling up on every surface and the roads are a mess. It looks like we're in for more than the few inches that had been forecast, which, by the way, would have been rather amazing anyway.

- Nick

25 Oct 2011 - Brown Pelican in New Haven Harbor (AKA Irene Update #6)

An immature Brown Pelican (well, at least one) continues to be seen up and down the Connecticut coast. It has recently settled into New Haven harbor and been seen by many birders. I happened across the bird on the 25th while I was birding East Shore Park for lingering passerines. It's amazing to think that we're still seeing the effects of Hurricane Irene, but a few pelicans arrived with the storm and at least this one has persisted in Long Island Sound. Below are a few series of dives as it was actively feeding in the rip.

Brown Pelican in New Haven Harbor on Oct 25, 2011. Here gliding above the horizon with the West Haven VA Hospital in the background.

- NB

Friday, October 21, 2011

Go birding this weekend

If you live in the northeastern US and were considering birding this weekend, go ahead and get out there. We've had two recent bouts of strong SW winds around here (good for western vagrants), and we're now finally going to get some good migration weather which should concentrate birds along the coast (particularly at our east-west coastline here in Connecticut). There may be a few rarities mixed in there.

Besides, it's going to be beautiful outside...clear and cool with light winds.

I'll be working, but hopefully somebody finds something good enough to make me jealous that I can't be out there.

- NB

"The Big Year" review

Not bad at all.

- Nick

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bear Mountain hike

Today I took a solo hike up Bear Mountain, a 6.7-mile loop from the Undermountain Trail at Route 41 in Salisbury, CT. Bear Mountain is CT's tallest peak at 2,316 feet. Interestingly, CT's highest elevation point (2,380 ft) is on a mountain whose peak actually lies in Massachusetts (Mount Frissel).

The hike up was not very birdy, as expected. The woods in October can be very quiet, and today's high winds did not help things. Highlights included a single Common Raven and two Hermit Thrushes.

View from the summit of Bear Mountain, just before a brief downpour began.

Two Black Vultures were soaring over downtown Salisbury on my way home.

- NB

6 Oct - Upland Sandpiper in Cape May

A week and a half ago I spent a fun 48 hours in Cape May, a visit that was long overdue. I had some time off from work that coincided with a couple days of NW winds. I did a fine job of missing two nice rarities...I arrived about 2 hours after a Swainson's Hawk was seen at the hawkwatch on the 4th, and while I was on the dike for the morning flight on the 5th an apparent Gray Kingbird flew past the hawkwatch. 0 for 2! Overall it was a good time though, with many quality birds to be seen. And the morning flight, while not outstanding by Cape May standards, was still fun (and incredibly humbling) to observe.

The clear highlight of my visit came while walking the 3rd field at Higbee Beach mid-morning on the 6th. I heard a rustle in the 3-ft tall ragweed to my left. Got a quick flash in the shadows of
a walking brown-backed bird with paler markings. Hmm...that description in a tall weedy field in New Jersey in October...Yellow Rail?? Nope. While I stood perfectly still a stupidly tame juvie Upland Sandpiper walked out of the weeds, onto the path, and just stared at me for a while. The bird was too close to focus on so I backed up a few steps to get full-frame photos. I carefully texted Tom Johnson who came over from the dike. Unfortunately the light was not good. We approached the bird from another direction while trying to get on the sun at our backs as best we could. We sat on the trail and the bird only came closer. After it disappeared back into the weeds I stood up to relocate it, realizing it was still only 10 feet from us. Rather than being startled by the 5-foot-11 human standing over it, the Uppie simply glanced up at me and walked closer. It proceeded to walk through my shadow and directly between me and Tom, who was still lying in the middle of the trail. Tom watched naked-eye (no need for optics, much too close for long lenses) as it crossed the path a foot or two in front of him. I just stood there in disbelief. Finally, after several minutes of keeping us company, the Uppie scampered back into the ragweed in pursuit of a cricket.

Yes, one of those birding moments that doesn't come along very often.

Tom Johnson, in his own words, channeling that photo in The Shorebird know the one

juv Upland Sandpiper

about to walk into my shadow

bonus bird on the trip...continuing adult BROWN BOOBY in Cape May

- NB

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Red-necked Grebe (10/7) & LBBG (10/8)

Oct 7 - juvenile Red-necked Grebe in Norwalk Harbor, Norwalk, CT

Oct 8 - juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull at Sandy Point in West Haven, CT

- NB