Saturday, July 28, 2007

Too Late For Low Tide

So here we are, right in the middle of the hottest part of the summer.When it comes to birding, I'm all about the woods and fields. Shore birding is definitely last on my list when it comes to birding options. It is, however, on my list. If I'm going to become more familiar with shorebirds, this would be the time to do it according to: COA's A Connecticut Birding Year.

So, why is the top photo of an American Goldfinch and not of a shorebird? In order to get a good view of shorebirds , you need to go when the tide is low. This way, you can observe shorebirds feeding on the mudflats. I miscalculated, and showed up when the mud flats were already submerged.

Time was running out, and I had to make a quick decision on where to do some birding. One of places in Connecticut that is a consistently good birding spot is Hammonasset State Park. I usually like to explore lesser known areas, but it's nice to have this park available as a fallback plan. This is a place that is a good location to see land birds as well as shorebirds.

The park didn't open until 8a.m , so I decided to grab a coffee and a bit of breakfast to pass the time. I walked out of a Dunkin Donuts and a Friendly's because they were too busy. I finally found a private breakfast restaurant where I had a ham and cheese omelet, along with a cup of coffee.

Upon arriving at the park, I saw this Willet sitting on a sign. It seems that the state has decided to train Willets to patrol no trespassing areas in order to save a few tax dollars. Awfully nice of them, don't you think?

Here are a few interesting facts about the Willet ( from the DEP):

  • Willets are one of the noisiest of birds on their breeding grounds. When disturbed, the birds will fly around or perch on trees as they loudly scold the intruder. I can personally attest to this. There was plenty of noisy scolding going on.

  • Adults have been observed moving their young from danger by clasping the chicks between their legs and flying to safety. I haven't seen this. Although it might be interesting to watch, it's probably better if the birds aren't in danger. Have you observed this behavior in birds before?

  • The willet’s partially webbed feet (hence the species name semipalmatus) give them the ability to swim well, although they primarily walk or wade as they search for food.

  • The willet was listed as a state threatened species when Connecticut first established its endangered and threatened species list in 1992. Surveys in the 1990's indicated willets breeding at several locations in Connecticut. In 1998, the willet was officially reclassified to a species of special concern.

I believe this is a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. I once had field trip leader point this bird out to me. I caught a quick glimpse, but it was nothing more than a little brown job to me. Today, I had a nice view, and took these two photos of the bird. It seems to have the field markings of the S S-t Sparrow (orange malar, long bill, flattish head,distinct streaks), but I wouldn't mind getting a confirmation from someone who is familiar with the bird. One bird that was seen but not heard, was a Marsh Wren. This would also be a lifer for me, but I'm holding off on putting that one on my list until I see it. I will make an H-for heard mark on my life list next to the Marsh Wren.

I did come across a few shorebirds on the way out. There were Semipalmated Plovers, a Dowitcher (not sure which one), and the Semipalmated Sandpipers seen in the photo (right?). They were probing for food and bathing in a little saltwater pond.

One of my favorite moments came when I was watching Cedar Waxwings hover over a salt marsh. I actually thought they were going to be Eastern Kingbirds when I first saw them. They must have been feeding on some sort of insect, which is a small part of their diet. This is the first time that I have observed this behavior. Up until today, I've only seen them eat fruit and berries.

This Carolina Wren sang like a Carolina Wren, but was looking a bit tattered. I did see many other birds during the course of the morning including Osprey, Swallows, Flycatchers, Glossy Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and 18 Northern Mockingbirds!-That's right-I counted 18. They were all over the place.

On the way out, I was surprised to see a small flock of Monk Parakeets . They are considered a nuisance by many because of their habit of building huge nests on the tops of telephone poles. For me, it was a nice surprise to see them because I had never seen them at Hammonasset before.

That is my birding report for today. It didn't go exactly the way that I planned, but some times you just have to go with the flow. Have you ever had a sudden change in plans that led you to discovering something new?


Ruth said...

Wow...that was a successful outing, and your pictures are so good. I have to get back to the ocean again soon.

Jayne said...

Still sounds like a fascinating outing to me Larry! You seem to come across so many interesting birds no matter where you land. :c)

Anonymous said...

WOW, love all the birdies you were able to see, even with high tide!! The willet for sure would have been my highlight!

Larry said...

Ruth-There are usually more birds near the shore than anywhere else.

Jayne-That's part of the fun of birding-to be flexible and throw your expectations out the window.

Monarch-I'd like to see you band a Willet!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Larry,
That willet picture is too funny (especially with your commentary!)and also good news that they are starting to re-establish their population.

I'm glad you got to see so many birds. Sounds like it was a good birding day.

To answer your last question, I will say "I don't think so (at least that I can remember)"

Anonymous said...

Your Ammodramus is indeed a Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow: note the solid dark crown, the rather weak wash of orange on the cheeks, and the dull, streaked breast. Very cute bird.
Planning? I've heard of that....

Larry said...

Ruthiej-what commentary?-The state really is putting the Willets in charge of security!
Rick-thanks for the confirmation and identification details.

Anonymous said...

A nice variety of birds found by some sound birding! I know I e-mailed you about this before, but the header byline on your blog about being a "novice birder" just dosen't fit any more. Willet ever be changed?

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Cool birds Larry! A bunch of new ones for me. For me I think the trick is to not get frustrated or mad about the change in plans. If I just roll with it, I seem more open to seeing what's in front of me wherever I am.

OK, THAT'S easier said than done...

Anonymous said...

I love how you weave philosphical, even spiritual questions for your readers into your accounts... Unfortunately, I'm the type that has to ponder my answers for a while, so I won't ramble on about them now... But you can bet the gears will be turning as I drive to work this morning.

I especially love the willet on the sign. Stuff like that just cracks me up! Thanks for the giggle.

Mary said...

Larry, this is a great post. I learned a lot here and I think your photography is getting better each week!

The description of the Willet is interesting - I've never seen babies being carried that way.

I would love to be near the shore again.

Sometimes a change of plans can result in great surprises!

Anonymous said...

I really love that picture with the Willet on the sign! I should probably get out to the lakefront (Lake Michigan) soon... shorebirds are starting to pick up nicely!

Larry said...

Vern-lol-If my birding skills take a "Tern" in a positive direction, I'll change my heading some day.

Lynne-It can be frustrating to have your plans go awry but an open mind can lead to an open door.

Jennifer-I tend to ask a lot of questions in general-it's fun to ponder.

Mary-Thanks-I'm often discouraged at the results I get from my camera but that doesn't stop me from using them.

birdfreak-They just recently found a Sandwich Tern in CT. -I guess it's only the second recorded sighting of one of these.-Maybe I'll look for it this weekend if it's still around.

Anonymous said...

Nice post! Beautiful picture of a Willet. I was not aware that the Monk Parakeet was in Connecticut. We have them near Chicago, but I haven't seen one yet. I am intrigued even though they are exotic.
Just Monday, my son and I went birding and the heat forced us away from the prairie to another forest preserve where we found a Barred Owl flying about (usually we only hear them). So, I guess a change in the original plan caused the unique sighting, or should we just blame the weather?