Sunday, December 29, 2013

Connecticut River Is One Long Birding Trail

 I spend a larges percentage of my time birding areas along the Connecticut River throughout the year. I especially appreciate the variety of options the Connecticut River offers during the winter months.On extremely cold days there are a number of access points from which you can scan for birds from your car. I took this photo of a Red-shouldered Hawk in East Haddam from my driver's seat window.
Birding along the Connecticut River is a much different experience than birding at a shoreline site like Hammonasset where all the birds are concentrated in one big park. The river is spread out over many miles so you have to cover more ground if you want to see a larger variety of species. At this location in Portland I saw a distant Bald Eagle a few cormorants, and a few boats passing through so after a few minutes I moved on to another location.
 During the winter months Common Mergansers are commonly found on the river traveling in teams as they hunt for fish and other food. They have serrated bills which help them hold onto their prey.
 I find them entertaining to watch. They do a lot of diving and displaying. Common Mergansers are the largest of the 3 North American mergansers and are quite dramatic in the way they take off. I found  8 of them at Haddam Meadows State park but this one seemed to keep to itself.
Old rail lines run along side most of the river in Connecticut. Some of the trains are still active. This is one of the old trains at Essex Steam Train & and Riverboat where they offer passengers scenic rides.
Deep River Landing is another easily accessible sight along the lower part of the Connecticut. Last winter I had a great view of Bufflheads and other wintering ducks from this site. 
On this day I had to settle for Mute Swans that spent a lot of time trying to avoid floating ice chunks.
Great Blue Herons are found near the river year round but I only see a few during the winter months. There's been some rare sightings near the river as well including the recent Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Hadlyme and a White-faced Ibis in Portland a couple of years ago.
I took this photo of a Red-bellied Woodpecker at the town riverfront park which is just a short walk from my house. I also found a ragged looking Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on the same tree but the camera didn't like it. 

I remember fishing with my father for Northern Pike on the Connecticut River when I was a kid. The water smelled nasty and my fishing line would be covered with river slime every time I reeled it in. The water quality has improved dramatically since then. It has gone from a class D to class B river over the past 40 years. 

I've come to appreciate this river a lot more since I've started birding. There is a variety of habitat including large agricultural fields, wetland, ravines with tributaries running into the river. There are also numerous nature preserves with trails to explore but the Connecticut River itself is one long birding trail.


Unknown said...

Beautiful Larry!

Jen Sanford said...

Great photos- your blog always makes me wish I had appreciated the birds when I was growing up in CT.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, I love the CT River and these are some great shots! I need to learn more of these access points when I move back east!