Monday, October 10, 2016

Today's diurnal migration - excellent!

With today's forecast showing a NNW wind at a steady 15mph, we were expecting a solid hawk flight along the coast of Connecticut. When the wind is that strong migrant raptors are pinned against the coast as they work their way southward, so a place like Lighthouse Point in Connecticut is a fine place to spend a few hours on a day like today. Julian Hough and I started at nearby Ecology Park for a while, then moved to Lighthouse for the bulk of the day's flight. In all, the observers at Lighthouse tallied over 850 migrating hawks, falcons and vultures. It's been a long day of looking at bright blue skies followed by this computer screen, so I only have just about enough energy to post a series of photos from today.

The last bird of the afternoon came in the form of a tired and hungry BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO that actually landed on the lawn upon flying into the park. A couple of late CLIFF SWALLOWS were another welcome non-raptor highlight.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Bald Eagle

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Eastern Meadowlark


Saturday, October 8, 2016

October has arrived

Here in southern New England you don't need a calendar to tell you when October has arrived. No, I'm not talking about the disappearance of summer-like weather or the rapidly shortening days. If you're a birder you can tell the calendar page has turned just by the arrival (and departure) of certain species. This has been apparent as I've spent a good amount of time in the field over the first week of the month.

Along the coast, Forster's Terns now outnumber Common Terns.

Forster's Terns

The first "Northern" Horned Larks of the subspecies alpestris can be found in coastal dunes and open spaces.

Horned Lark

Sparrow numbers and diversity skyrocket.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows are everywhere

Nelson's Sparrow is a common October migrant in coastal saltmarsh, though this may actually be a hybrid...

Raptor diversity peaks. At one location earlier this week I had 13 species of raptor/vulture in just a couple hours' watching the sky.

Bald Eagle

Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Hawkwatching often yields a few non-raptor bonuses, such as this adult RED-HEADED WOODPECKER that passed between me and the sun a few days ago.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Yellow-rumped Warblers dominate, while good numbers of Palm Warblers spill over from September.

"Yellow" Palm Warbler

Gull numbers continue to increase while diversity remains on the low side. Still, southbound Lesser Black-backed Gulls are often seen this month, particularly during periods of inclement weather and east winds, some of which we experienced last weekend.

juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull

Red-breasted Nuthatches have been moving since late summer, and they continue to be common statewide. Perhaps we will see more boreal irruptives as the month progresses.

Red-breasted Nuthatch


Friday, October 7, 2016

Hybrid Barnacle x Canada Goose

Migrant Canada Geese have really hit hard here in Wallingford this week. It seems a week or two early, but they are already here in force. What was meant to be a quick check of Mackenzie Reservoir late this morning turned into a 90-minute scan. There were 2-300 Canadas on the res when I arrived along with one continuing "Richardson's" CACKLING GOOSE that I first saw a few days ago. In this flock were Canada Geese of all body and bill sizes, including a few that in some ways seemed intermediate between Canada and Cackling Goose. This was reminiscent of last year's flock at this same location.

As I was about to move on I noticed a group of Canadas fly into the reservoir, followed by another and another...and so on. Before I knew it, there were 900 birds on the water. I did not notice anything different fly in, but obviously I missed something because a follow-up scan of the geese on the water revealed a hybrid BARNACLE x CANADA GOOSE. It was obvious at first that this bird was intermediate between a Barnacle and one of the white-cheeked geese (Canada or Cackling), but after some study I felt pretty good that Canada Goose was likely the other parent. This is based on the bird's body and bill size. A pure Barnacle Goose is smaller than a Canada Goose with a tiny little triangular bill. This bird's size was about equal to that of the adjacent Canada Geese, and its bill was a bit longer than that of your standard Barnacle. If the other parent were a Cackling Goose, one would expect a smaller-bodied bird with a stubbier bill.

- Nick