Friday, December 21, 2018

CT DOVEKIE

Today's well-timed sou'easter delivered a substantial alcid flight to the western RI coast, with some trickling in to CT waters. The key for us in Connecticut is the wind direction - winds out of the southeast are best because our coast is south-facing. Northeast wind, which is great for places like Andrews Point and Race Point in Massachusetts, doesn't work so well for us. Today's winds were sustained around 30mph per buoy data in eastern Long Island Sound, which is enough to pin alcids against a shoreline. A mid-morning report from Rhode Island, where Chris Raithel was seeing hundreds of westward-bound Razorbills, kicked my lazy butt into gear and sent me to Stonington Point, the eastern-most point of land in CT. Here, Russ Smiley and Dave Provencher had already been watching.

Apparently the early morning was quiet at this site, but Dave had his first Razorbill not long after arriving just before 11am. I pulled in at 11:30 and they had a few RAZO on the water.

The rain picked up, and we retreated to our respective cars for cover. At 12:37 I looked up from my phone to see a DOVEKIE flying right at me, eye level, at the tip of the point. I got the bird in my bins for a second or two before it dropped out of sight down towards the water's edge. The others had not seen it, so I motioned to them, and we crept towards the tip. The Dovekie flew up and out towards the west and disappeared into the fog.

Record photos below.




Dovekie

Dovekie is a rare bird in Connecticut. A storm is required to "wreck" one (or more) into Long Island Sound. This was my first for the state. Before this, I had seen a dead one being eaten by Great Black-backed Gulls at Stonington Point, and Frank Gallo and I had what I'm sure were two Dovekies as specks in the heat shimmer following Superstorm Sandy. So it was nice to officially add this one to my state list.

The final Razorbill tally was estimated at about 15 birds, a great number for the state.

Razorbills

 - Nick

Friday, December 14, 2018

Narragansett, Rhode Island

I have spent surprisingly little time birding Rhode Island over the years, especially considering how often I have driven through the state, particularly when I was attending Stonehill College in Easton, MA. Still, I know that the Ocean State has some fine habitat to offer birders. In fact, birding just over the CT/RI state line into Washington County, RI is a sad reminder that modest tracts of public ocean-facing land are so close to my home state...and yet it feels so far. Connecticut, of course, lacks a true sea coast, as we are essentially blocked by Long Island and Fishers Island. The Rhode Island coast doesn't really "stick out there" like eastern MA or Long Island, but it sure beats Connecticut, at least for those of us who feel drawn to the sea.

On this seasonable windless December day I found myself in Narragansett and aimed to spend the afternoon poking around the coastline. I'm quite sure this was actually my first time birding here, unless you want to count driving to Galilee to hop on a boat. This was as much a scouting mission as anything, with a particular focus on gulls (shocker).

At Narragansett Town Beach, upon pulling into the parking lot I noticed a fine adult BLACK-HEADED GULL among 50 or so Ring-bills. An eBird check shows this bird was first reported here about two weeks ago. This is a known stretch of coast for wintering BHGU.


Black-headed Gull

Down at Point Judith, a few trawlers were working offshore and were followed by gulls and GANNETS. Scoters and eider could be seen close to land, and a single RAZORBILL was with them.

Driving around the corner to Camp Cronin, a BARRED OWL was hunting in broad daylight from a fence along the road. On a return trip later in the day, two owls were working the same field. While we have had noticeable winter incursions of this species in the past, the current Barred Owl movement appears much more significant than any I can recall previously.

Barred Owl

From the Camp Cronin lot itself, some 5,000+ gulls could be seen on the breakwaters. Most were out of range of ID, but I did pick out a single immature ICELAND GULL.

The fishing port of Galilee also held some gulls that included a first cycle LESSER BLACK-BACKED.


Lesser Black-backed Gull

I really enjoyed exploring a new stretch of coastline, and close enough to home for a day trip, really. The gull numbers in the Galilee area were impressive and should get me back there sometime this winter for a more thorough scour. Gull numbers in CT generally remain modest until the plankton event begins in late Feb-early Mar, so this area could make a fine early-mid winter alternative.

 - NB

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Bermuda Trip Report


Greetings!

Allison Black and I are recently back from 5 full days in Bermuda, where we were in search of Bermuda Petrels (AKA Cahows), among other things! Yes, we succeeded in seeing the birds, including a seawatch that tallied 25+ individuals! Unfortunately, both of our boat trips were canceled due to weather, so we were unable to see them up close and personal.

Though not a classically hardcore birding trip (we mixed birding and relaxation), I put together a brief report for independent traveling birders who are looking to do Bermuda on their own. It is meant to be just a starting point. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to email me.

Of course, for those wishing to truly maximize their time with the petrels, I would recommend joining Bob Flood's "Cahow Experience" tour. Contact him via http://www.scillypelagics.com/. I have not taken his tour but have heard fantastic things and have no doubt that this is the best way to observe this species.

CLICK HERE FOR TRIP REPORT

 - NB

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Pantanal 2018 - One last Jaguar search, and north up the Transpantaneira

Oct 27 (PM)

We spent our last evening on the river in search of more mammals. We ended up 3-for-3 on Jaguar searches...or more like 4-for-3, since we would see two cats this afternoon.

One, a thin young female, was cruising the water's edge for prey. Alas, no luck there for her. Later we would only briefly view a large male that stayed out of the open. Photos of the female below.




hey, life is good

Oct 28

After breakfast on the boat we said our good-byes to the crew and disembarked at Porto Jofre. A pair of HYACINTH MACAWS was feeding in the palms near the dock.

Hyacinth Macaw

We made our way back about two-thirds the length of the Transpantaneira to the Pousada Rio Claro, where we would stay for one night - our last night in Brazil.

your typical Transpantaneira bridge




Nanday Parakeets were the stars here.

Nanday Parakeets

In the afternoon we took a walk around the grounds followed by a boat trip up the Rio Claro. We ended our final full day with a bang when we came across a SOUTH AMERICAN TAPIR near some water hyacinth! What an absurd-looking animal.

South American Tapir



Our one and only GREEN-AND-RUFOUS KINGFISHER of the trip was spotted perched in the shadows of the river's edge; we enjoyed more SUNGREBE and SUNBITTERN sightings.

Green-and-Rufous Kingfisher

Marsh Deer

Wattled Jacana

Yellow-chevroned Parakeet

Chestnut-bellied Guan

Oct 29

With afternoon flights out of Cuiaba, there was not much time for birding on our final day. We did, however, squeeze in a productive pre-breakfast walk, highlighted by a male MATO GROSSO ANTBIRD, a regional endemic.

On that note, we said goodbye to the Pantanal...for the time being. Another successful Connecticut Audubon Society trip was in the books. I would highly recommend the Pantanal to anyone who loves wildlife. It is not just for birders...in fact, it's really the mammals here that steal the show.

 - Nick

Pantanal 2018 - To the Paraguay River and (almost) Bolivia

Oct 25

This morning we would continue towards the west and then turn north onto the Paraguay River. The scenery really began to change here. Accustomed to a very flat landscape, hills and mountains were now visible to the west.




Sergio spotted a LEAST BITTERN peeking up through the tops of marshy riverside vegetation. Raptors really took to the air mid-morning, and glancing upward paid off in the form of a dark morph adult WHITE-TAILED HAWK. Had never before seen a dark morph before!

Least Bittern

White-tailed Hawk (dark morph adult)

immature Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Bare-faced Curassow

Wattled Jacana on giant lily pad

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Hyacinth Macaws

Straight-billed Woodcreeper

Brown-crested Flycatcher

Later that afternoon we would set foot on land for the first time in a while, at the Acurizal Reserve on the west bank of the Paraguay River. Safe from jaguars here, we could actually walk around a bit. The forest here was a bit quiet, but we did manage fine views of a GUIRA TANAGER.

Oct 26

We returned to Acurizal in the morning for a walk and tractor ride around the grounds. The bird of the morning was certainly the BOLIVIAN SLATY-ANTSHRIKE that spent several minutes singing off-trail. We did manage a few brief views. This is about as far east as this species gets.

Bolivian Slaty-Antshrike
After our walk, we continued north up the Paraguay River to Lagoa Gaiva, which lies partly in Brazil and partly in Bolivia. We motored right up to the marker, where an Osprey was guarding the border.


This was as far northwest as we would get. It was time for us to turn around and head back in the direction of Porto Jofre. As we cruised back down the Paraguay we noted two migratory flocks of SNAIL KITES, one 155 birds and the other 110. These birds keep very tight kettles in migration, which was a first for me to witness.

migrating Snail Kites

Later that day we returned to the stellar oxbow with all the terns that we had seen a couple days prior. This time we had more light to enjoy the show.

Large-billed Tern

juv Large-billed Tern

Large-billed Tern

Large-billed Tern

Southern Screamer

Roseate Spoonbill

Oct 27 (AM)

This morning's wildlife cruise took us almost all the way back to Porto Jofre. A flyby BICOLORED HAWK was a nice surprise, as was a flock of 21 MISSISSIPPI KITES. The status of MIKI in the Pantanal has apparently only been clarified in recent years, as difficulty in separating from the resident Plumbeous Kites kept the MIKIs hidden in plain sight for a long time.

Mississippi Kites

The Negrinho tributary was again productive.

Amazon Kingfisher

Green Ibis

Cocoi Heron

Rufescent Tiger-Heron

Black-and-Gold Howler Monkey

Hooded Capuchin

Amazon Kingfisher

Toco Toucan

Sunbittern





We would return to the heart of Jaguar country for the afternoon...

 - NB