Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Final thoughts about Big January.

January 07 has come to an end. I started the month with something new in hand. It was a bright yellow checklist entitled: 'January Birds of Connecticut'. This was a list given to me by Adrian of The Hartford Audubon Society. He encouraged me to take part in the tradition of trying to find 90 or more species of birds in the month of January.

At first, I did not take this challenge very seriously. I went about my birding like I always do which is simply to enjoy whatever I might happen to see. The only thing that I did differently was to tick off each new species seen on the yellow list.

As the month rolled on, the number of species seen began to grow. The beginning of the month started out unusually warm. This allowed the area lakes to remain unfrozen . I was able to add species that I normally would not have seen in this area during the month of January.

By the last week of the month my list was at 70. This was 22 species short of the goal. I thought that the 90 species was probably out of reach as I only had one weekend left to add to the list. Much of what was left on the list were species of birds I had not seen before. I would have to search for most of them down at the shore using a spotting scope. I am not comfortable searching for shoreline birds with spotting scopes .

Adrian offered to help me out on the final Sunday of the month 1/28/07. I was able to add 23 species to my list in one 8am to 5pm marathon birding day. Eleven of the birds I saw that day were lifers. I was able to get a good view of the field marks that were needed to identify each new species. This was because Adrian knew just where to find the birds that I needed to complete the list.

I will be investing in a decent tripod for my inexpensive scope. The one that I have now shakes in the wind. I already have an idea of where I would start my search next year.-Stratford area, Westbrook Town Beach at low tide, Hammonasset Sate Park, Glastonbury Meadows, and Saybrook Point.-My final tally is 94 species. Most people who are serious about this stuff easily exceed 100 species.

Overall, I would say that I learned from this experience. I was able to become familiar with many new species. I enjoyed taking part in this tradition which was was addictive and fun. It was also a little bit exhausting. Unless you are retired , you need to spend your whole weekend birding in order to get good numbers. Now it's time to look forward to February for some easier-paced birding.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sunday 1/28/07-species summary.

Here is a highlight of the birds we saw today:
Chester/Hadlyme Ferry Landing (Chester side)
Brown Creeper
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Bald Eagle (2)
Common Mergansers
Saybrook Point
Monk Parakeets
Bald Eagle (taking an easy ride on the floating ice)
Long-tailed Duck
Westbrook, Salt Island Road
Glaucous Gull (still there)
Westbrook Beach (low tide)
Purple Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Black-bellied Plover
Surf Scoter
Ruddy Duck
Greater Scaup
Hammonasset State Park (Meig's Point only)
Black Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe

(Areas listed below are located in Stratford)
Mondo Pond
Canada Goose
Ruddy Duck
Ring-necked Duck
American Wigeon
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Black Duck
Birdseye Boat launch
American Coot
Pied-billed Grebe
Fish Crow
Frash Pond
Pied-billed Grebe
Hooded Merganser
Long Beach
Long-tailed Duck (10+)
Long Beach Blvd (almost frozen over)
American Coot
Hooded Merganser
Black Duck
Railroad Trail off of Long Beach Blvd
Killdeer (3)
Greater Yellowlegs (2)
American Tree Sparrow
Red-tailed Hawk

Monday, January 29, 2007

Highlights for Saturday 1/27/07

I spent a couple of hours birding Saturday Morning. First, I decided to take a ride over to Cox Road in Portland to check the power line crossing. I saw 5 EASTERN BLUEBIRDS and 1 HERMIT THRUSH picking at berries from the cedar trees. I didn't even need to get out of my truck to see them (but I did anyway).

Next stop was Portland Fairgrounds and Wangunk Meadows. On the way, I ran in to an acquaintance who is handling animal patrol on the weekends. He told me about a 30 pound Rattlesnake he had to relocate over the summer in Portland. He also gave me some information about where and when to see certain ducks in the area.

I drove to the end of the fairgrounds and parked near the river across from the overgrown weeds. From my understanding, this section was purchased by Mattabeseck Audubon. Before I exited the vehicle, a boldly patterned sparrow flying from the weedy patch to the other side caught my attention. I walked over to see if I could find it. What popped up on a branch was a FOX SPARROW . This one was very colorful! (red variety)

It was very cold-maybe about 15-20 degrees but with very little wind. I didn't have much time, and wanted to find a Creeper to add to my January list.
I was fairly confident that I could find one if I followed the river trail to the area where it narrows and enters a densely wooded area that has lots of scraggly trees. The BROWN CREEPER was there as I had suspected. Along the way, I watched a pair of RED-TAILED HAWKS moving to different trees along the edge of the field. The size difference between the larger female and male was really noticeable when they were side by side. I passed a BELTED KINGFISHER on my way back. There were numerous BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES and DOWNY WOODPECKERS pecking at the hollow weed canes in the field. I also had a nice view of a HAIRY WOODPECKER in a larger tree. There were plenty of other birds around as well including SWAMP & TREE SPARROWS.

I took a quick ride down to the Indian Hill Avenue Fireman's grounds on the way home. I wanted to see if I could find a Bald Eagle but had no luck. What I did see though was an impressive 32 COMMON MERGANSERS clustered together in the open water. There was also a couple of GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULLS hanging around the area.

Later in the day I took a brisk walk through the Portland Riverfront trail area. There is a short path that cuts through the woods to connect the chip trail to the main trail. I found another HERMIT THRUSH in this area. DURING the summer I had a really good view of a WOOD THRUSH in the same location. Overall, the area was dominated by numerous WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS and AMERICAN ROBINS. Plenty of CAROLINA WRENS around as well.

I plan to post descriptions of all of the above mentioned birding locations in the future.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Young Red-Tailed Hawk Posing at Hammonasset

Back in November of 2006, I took a ride over to Hammonasset State Park. On this particular day, I saw a young Red-tailed Hawk making itself very noticeable at various locations. At one point, it was sitting on a curb. Later in the day, it was sitting on the top of some cedars watching the crowds pass by. It was an immature bird, which did not show red on the tail .

Bird-Song Lyrics Game.

Here are some lyrics from four different songs which mention a bird somewhere in the song.
Name the song and the artist who sang it. (some have more than one). You can e-mail the answers: or post them under comments.

1) "In the tree by the brook there's a songbird who sings"..............

2)"Birds singing in the Sycamore Tree"...........

3)"The chief bird standing at the birdbath stand---taught him how to do the bop and it was grand"..........

4)"If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me?"

Monday, January 22, 2007

Mattabeseck and Hartford Audubon Society field trips.

Both the Hartford and Mattabeseck Audubon Societies offer free birdwatching field trips during the year. To see what field trips are coming up, just click on the link and then the field trips heading. Here's what's coming up in the month of February for The Mattabeseck Audubon:
February 3rd (Saturday 10 a.m.) Backyard Birding in Portland. For years, Joanne Luppi has led this annual MAS walk through the Thompson Hill Road neighborhood in search of Woodpeckers, Bluebirds, Carolina Wrens, and more. Each year, many species are seen. Such diversity is the result of numerous feeders throughout the region. This walk will begin at 10 a.m. and has a limited group size. To get directions, please call Joanne at 342-1326.
February 16–19 The 10th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology want birders to count bird numbers and species they see at their feeders, local parks, and other areas. Participants can then go online and report their findings using BirdSource ( Since the beginning, tens of thousands have participated to help monitor bird populations.

Saturday 1/20/07- Sunday 1/21/07.

On Saturday I went on a field trip at Machimoudus Park in East Haddam. It was led by Larry Cyrulik, of The Mattabeseck Audubon Society. I arrived at the park early. It was about 30 degrees , cloudy, and very windy. As I scanned the property nearest The Sunrise Resort, I saw an AMERICAN KESTREL perched at the top of one of the trees. I also spotted an adult BALD EAGLE fly over , just as Larry arrived.
We decided to explore the less traveled borders of the property. As we hiked through the area he pointed out the boundaries of the park. There were hidden stone walls, streams, and stands of Hemlocks along the way. I could almost imagine that I was traveling back in time to the colonial days as we entered the isolated heart of the woods.
There wasn't a bird heard for the early part of the trip. Eventually, we came upon GOLDEN CROWNED KINGLETS, WHITE -BREASTED NUTHATCHES,TUFTED TITMICE, AND BLACK-CAPPED CHICKADEES. As we reached the bottom of a hill, we came upon 2 WOOD THRUSHES. One of them perched up on a branch at eye level. We had an excellent view. As we passed by a section of a river which runs in to the Salmon (forgot the name), a BELTED KINGFISHER flew upstream letting out it's ratchety call.
We eventually came to the top overlook. Viewing conditions were poor but we did spot a couple of immature BALD EAGLES. There were loads of MUTE SWANS in the Cove as well as many other birds which were too distant for us to identify without a scope. We walked down to the Salmon River, and saw a deer along the way. A COMMON MERGANSER was seen diving for it's breakfast .

Larry pointed out all sorts of plants and rock formations during the hike. He also expressed his views about people who destroy natural resources. He keeps a close eye on protected land in the region.
The entire walk took about three hours. I definitely worked off a few calories by the end of the trip. Not a bad way to spend a winter morning. Afterwards, I tried to locate the SANDHILL CRANE reported in East Haddam but had no luck.

SUNDAY 1/21/07-Took a ride along the shore and stopped at Hammonasset along the way. I added a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER to my January list while there. I saw some COMMON GOLDENEYE off of Meig's point. The LAZULI BUNTING is still near the East Beach parking lot. Someone mentioned that a PEREGRINE FALCON was seen perching up on a broken OSPREY platform. I didn't spend much time there as I had to prepare for what turned out to be a disappointing loss by the New England Patriots to The Colts.

The scenic Machimoudus Park in East Haddam Connecticut

Machimoudus Park-(formerly Echo Farm)-is located on route 151 next to Sunrise resort in East Haddam. The 300 acre parcel of land was acquired in 1998 by the DEP for 2.1 million dollars .

Upon entering the park you will see a large open area with two man-made ponds . There are Bluebird houses scattered about in this area. Eastern Bluebirds can be seen here in good numbers throughout the year. I've also noticed a male American Kestrel wintering over in this area for the last couple of years.

As you follow the main trail past the first pond turn left and walk through the woods to the top of the Hill. There is a scenic overlook of Salmon River Cove. The East Haddam bridge can be seen off in the distance. This is a good place from which to search for Bald Eagles in the winter. Gulls and waterfowl can usually be seen in the cove. As you are facing the cove, there is a path to the right which brings you to another overlook at a lower elevation. If you stay on the main trail from here it will bring you back to the park entrance.

There are several other trails to explore. Some of them lead to the Salmon River. In some areas there are stands of Pine and hemlock. As you walk around you will notice that several of the trees have large woodpecker holes . Red-bellied , Hairy, Downy, and Pileated Woodpeckers-Pileated Woodpeckers are fairly common in these woodlands.

Machimoudus Park is also a great place to search for Warblers in the spring. I counted nine different Warbler species on one particular day last year. You can also find Indigo Bunting , Scarlet Tanagers, and loads of Orioles including the less common Orchard Oriole. It is best to get an early start as this park is a very popular place to walk dogs. If you enjoy a scenic walk while searching for birds , Machimoudus park is definitely worth a visit.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Summary for Saturday 1/13-Sunday 1/14/07.

The entire weekend weather can be summed up as damp, drizzly and in the 40's. Saturday I headed out to the eastern shoreline area between Old Lyme and Stonington. With the help of six veteran birders, I was able to add three birds to my January list.: RED-THROATED LOON(lifer), COMMON GOLDENEYE (The James Bond Duck), and GREEN-WINGED TEAL.
Sunday I headed out on my own to Vibert Road in South Windsor and met a few friendly birders along the way. I along , within three others, tried to locate a Northern Shrike with no luck. I learned that it was later located by others. While at Vibert Road I was able to add COOPER'S HAWK, RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD and SWAMP SPARROW to the January total while I was there. I then took a ride to ST. Patrick's Cemetery to search for a LARK SPARROW reported on the rare bird report. With a little patience we were able to locate the bird toward the back of the cemetery. Five of us were able to get excellent close-up views using a scope. The last stop was at a private residence in Somers Connecticut to see a RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD. I ran in to Judy who led the Salmon River Christmas Count in my area this year. We both had a brief view of the Hummingbird. We were not able to see much detail or color. It was amazing to think that a Hummingbird is still around in the middle of January. I am still about twenty species short of ninety birds but have two weeks to go.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Sunday/Monday birding highlights(1/7/07-1/8/07).

This year I am keeping track of birds seen in the month of January. Trying to exceed ninety birds in the month of January is an annual goal for many birders. I am giving it a try this year. I think it should make the start of the year more interesting. Highlights of birds seen Sunday 1/7/07: East Haddam, Machimoudus Park-RED-SHOULDERED HAWK, East Haddam Bridge-GREAT CORMORANT, BELTED KINGFISHER


Branford Supply Ponds-CACKLING GOOSE, AMERICAN COOT (lifer).-

Durham, Brookfield Game Club Pond on route 68-,RUDDY DUCK, BUFFLEHEAD(smaller pond across road), TURKEY VULTURE (flying overhead not swimming in the pond).

Monday 1/8/07-Portland , Great Hill Pond- 12- RING-NECKED DUCKS (No Partridge in a Pear Tree).

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Me Birding at Sleepy Hollow

Don't tell me you fell for that one. What would you expect at Sleepy Hollow?

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Snakes in January!

I didn't do any birding this morning, although I did notice an adult Bald Eagle Flying around Gildersleeve Island in Portland and Hooded Mergansers on Pine Brook Bog in East Hampton. I took a walk along the river to the quarries in the afternoon. It was a beautiful , sunny 70 degree day. It looks as though this Garter snake - was taking advantage of the warm weather to sun itself.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Cameras for the clueless.

Having a camera on hand can be a useful tool for the inexperienced birder who is still learning new species. I was looking for a camera which would be easy to use as well as easy to carry. There are several 12x optical zoom digital cameras with image stabilizers on the market now these days. I chose the Canon S2 IS. It has several advantages-

  • It is lightweight.

  • It can be carried in a case which can be hooked on to your belt.

  • The 12x optical zoom is good enough to take nice photographs of birds if you are close enough. (You need to be a lot closer when taking a picture of a finch as compared to an eagle).

  • If you're not good with cameras, just set it on auto.

  • You can use it to take nice video clips.

  • reasonably priced at about 250 dollars.

Here are a few things that I learned in my first year of using this camera:

  • If you don't keep your hands steady the picture will still come out blurry even with the image stabilizer on.
  • Taking photos while sitting in your car is a great way to get close up shots of birds.
  • Make sure you shut your engine off before taking the shot as the vibration from the engine will make the picture blurrier.
  • Make sure you take several pictures of something if it is worthwhile. You can always delete it later.
  • I avoid taking photos of birds if lighting conditions are poor or the bird is to far away.(unless the bird is rare or I need i.d. help).
  • It is very difficult to get an in-focus picture of a bird that has is sitting inside a bush when using auto-focus on the camera. The camera focuses on everything but the bird sometimes.

That's about it for now. If the light bulb in my head goes on again I'll let you know.-

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

"Honey I shrunk The Goose"

I recently went to find a Cackling Goose which was reported to be at Branford Supply Ponds. I remember having looked in a Peterson field guide , which showed variations of the Canada Goose. I was wondering if I would be able to pick this Goose out as being unique from other Canadas because the markings were very similar. When I got a look at the Cackling Goose I was shocked at how tiny it was compared to the others!