Friday, July 18, 2008

Three Lifers At Hammonasset

I met up with some members of the Hartford Audubon Society to do a little birding on Saturday. It was hot and there was plenty of mosquitoes to go around for everyone. Still, it felt more comfortable along the shore than it has on some of my recent woodland hikes. I think this is the first time that I've made a visit to Hammonasset for the purpose of birding in the middle of the summer. Generally I only go there in the off season when it is less crowded and there is no entrance fee. A few of the birds we saw included: Cedar Waxwings, Spotted Sandpiper, Barn Swallows, and American Oystercatcher. I could go on with a long list.There are always plenty of birds to see at Hammonasset. We saw Willets everywhere we turned and Terns everywhere we looked-which brings me to my first lifer-the Least Tern. this is not a hard bird to find. It's just that for whatever reason I've only seen Common Terns up until now so finding new terns is a little project that I can work on. They are really interesting to watch when they hover and then plunge into the water.

This Great-crested Flycatcher seemed a little out of place at the shore. I'm used to seeing them in more wooded areas. They were nesting and made sure that we knew it.
The best way to tell Empidonax flycatchers apart is to listen to their call. I'm guessing that this might be a Willow Flycatcher because it had a sort of orangish bill and not much of an eye-ring. But that's just a guess.
It was near the nature center that I saw my first Purple Martins. What struck me most about this species was just how large they were! They are only about 8" long with a wingspan of 18" but compared to other swallow species they seem like giants! They way about 3 times as much as a Tree Swallow. As we worked our way along the first path at Willard Island Trail, we saw several Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows. They have a nice orange color in a triangular pattern on the side of their face and crisply streaked underparts. Also, their heads have a little bit of a flat shape compared to other sparrows. Along the same area, we heard a Marsh Wren singing. I was able to get a brief look at one but they ike to stay dwon in cover.

I was also rewarded with my first sightings of Little Blue Herons. We actually saw several of them flying around the area. This photo shows it as a kind of bland looking adult bird in non-breeding plumage. I did have a nice view of one that showed a nice iridescence as the sun reflected off of its feathers. Juvenile Little Blue Herons are white and easily confused with immature snowy egrets. The juvenile Little Blue Heron is distinguished from the snowy by its two-toned bill which is thick and at the base and dark at the tip.
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My first birding trip to Hammonasset in July turned out to be a good decision! I'm looking forward to making more visits to the shoreline before the summer is over.

14 comments:

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Hi Larry,
Congratulations on the life birds! We were at Hammonasset on Sunday. We didn't see the flycatchers or the little blues, but we did see the other things. I can't believe all the willets there this year. Your pictures are terrific! My shot of the Cedar Waxwings is terrible. It's so far away.

John said...

Congratulations on the lifers! I think you are probably right about the flycatcher being a Willow. I have read that a good field mark to check is how much the primaries project beyond the secondaries. I can't really see that on this bird, though.

Lynne said...

Congrats on the lifers Larry!
You took some fabulous pictures too.

Jayne said...

Oh, I love the photo of the Martins Larry! Sounds like a great birding day. :c)

Larry said...

lin-thanks-I was lucky enough to be close to the birds but the light conditions weren't good.I have to rely on good conditions because I just put the camera on auto-settings and cross my fingers. I was amazed at the amount of Willets too.

John-I actually have more pictures at other angles but I figured that more than one photo would be overkill.I'll try to check on that i.d. suggestion although it sounds like something for a more advanced birder than myself.

Lynne-thanks-and I get to keep the photos!

Jayne-thanks-I was thrilled to see them!

Lana Gramlich said...

There's a purple martin house not far from where I work, so during my breaks I like to go out & watch the action. I never knew that purple martins dine on the wing, although I did watch one chase down & eat a dragonfly a couple of weeks back.

Larry said...

I'd like to go back and watch them some more.-I was with a group that day so I didn't want to keep them waiting.

Ruth said...

Great to see three new birds in mid-summer. I saw my first Purple Martins last month in NY, but have never Id'd the other two. Wrens are difficult for me (like Flycatchers) I saw a wren in a marsh last week, but for lack of details, just called it a House wren.

Kathiesbirds said...

Hey Larry, I visited Hammonasset for the first time last summer and saw the little blue herons in the pond and the purple martins at the Nature Center. I saw many other birds but missed out on the sharp-tailed sparrows. Good for you! I'm back in AZ now after a whirlwind 2 week trip to New England. I saw some lifers while in CT and Maine and can't wait to post about them.

Mary C said...

Great job, Larry. It's so nice when we can add lifers, isn't it? It's amazing how many birds you can see when you're with a group. At least that has been my experience.

Larry said...

ruth-Since seeing that Marsh Wren, I've been hearing Marsh Wrens along the shore.They have a different song than the House Wren so that is probably the easier way to tell.

Kathiebirds-Sounds like you had a great trip.I like the state of Maine a lot.-I'll be looking for that post soon!

Mary C.-I don't go anywhere expecting to see lifers but sometimes it just happens. I only like to join a group occasionally but I have to agreee that I usually see more birds that way.

Mary said...

Oooo. A Little Blue Heron. I'd love to see one! Herons are way cool birds.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Congrats on adding to the life list!

Leedra said...

Thank you for visiting my blog. I also saw my first Crested Flycatcher this summer, the photos were not good enough to share. I have several lifers this summer.