Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter! Ducks At Dawn

It was still dark when I woke up this morning. My wife, Joan, asked me "Where are you getting ready to go before 6am on Easter morning?" Maybe she didn't know exactly where I was going but she knew exactly what I was up to. (As always, all photos can be clicked on to enlarge)

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to see a wider variety of ducks in the month of March than I've seen in previous years. There are two reasons I've been lagging in this area. One is that I didn't have a satisfactory tripod for my scope. I took care of that problem in February when I purchased a tripod at The Eagle Festival. The other reason is that I'm a little bit stubborn when it comes popular places. I like to explore lesser known birding areas but I've come to realize that I'm only cutting myself by employing this strategy. Station 43 in South Windsor is one of the best known birding spots in Connecticut. It has a little marsh/pond that is loaded with waterfowl in the month of March. I knew that I would have an excellent chance of seeing something good if I got there at the crack of dawn.

I started my walk down Newberry Road (walk-in only). The sun was just starting to make its appearance but the wind made for very chilly conditions. The place was full of birds singing, blackbirds squawking, doves cooing, woodpeckers drumming, and geese honking. It sounded like an auditorium that was filled with noisy birds. Along the way I saw a number of species but the most notable for me was a Fox Sparrow. I tried to enter the pond area slowly but many of the waterfowl which had been near the shore flew off. As I entered the area where the marsh came into view, I immediately became aware of 3 ducks which looked unfamiliar to me. Before attempting any photos, I looked at them very carefully, making note of all the notable field marks. I was pretty sure that they were Northern Shovelers, but since it was my first time seeing them, I wanted to be extra sure.
Here is a photo of them before they took flight. The Northern Shovelers were not the only ducks in the pond. It was also loaded with Ring-necked Ducks, Canada Geese, Black Ducks,Wood Ducks,Green-winged Teal, and who knows what else. I didn't bring my scope because I planned on doing a lot of walking through the fields, but I never made it that far. The water was too high to cross without getting my hiking boots soaked.

On the other side of the pond was another surprise - 4 Blue-winged Teal ! These were the first of the year but the I've only seen them once before.

I also wanted to check out The Major Michael Donnelly Land Preserve. I found out about this place from two fellow birders that I had met during Big January. As I was heading toward the land preserve (traveling about 50mph), I passed by a small flock of birds gathered in a low bush that caught my attention. Something seemed odd about them. I decided to turn my truck around and head back to have a look. And they say people with cell phones are dangerous on the road - it's a good thing they don't know about birders! That little flock turned out to be Cedar Waxwings. I was able to take a decent photo by using my truck as a blind.

By this time I was definitely ready for some breakfast, but South Windsor seems to be sorely lacking in the breakfast diner category. Then, as I spotted this over sized rabbit, I remembered it was Easter. He was waving people into Dunkin Donuts. I guess that would have to do for today. This is a photo of him celebrating my life bird by doing a "Saturday Night Fever" impression! Here is a photo of the entrance to the Donnelly Preserve. Major Michael Donnelly is a Gulf War veteran who contracted ALS. He has been in his own private battle to prove that there is a direct connection between participation in the Gulf War and contraction of ALS. His efforts have helped the families of other veterans affected by the disease. You can read more about his efforts here .
The birding was a bit slow here today but I suspect it would be a nice place to visit in the Spring. The total area covers about 115 acres. The habitat consists of a small pond, marshy areas, low-shrubs, woodland, open fields, and it has a small stream running through it as well. The entire area was well laid out for easy access. There are trails, boardwalks, platforms, and several bird blinds. During my short visit I saw 4 Red-tailed Hawks, a Great Blue Heron and my first tail-wagging Eastern Phoebe of the year. The only downside was that there were an awful lot of people walking dogs here which makes it difficult for birding.

On my way back home I pulled into The Portland fairgrounds for a quick look around. At the end of the skating pond were 19 Wilson's Snipe. There may have been more but snipe are sneaky. They were sitting pretty in a muddy area covered with tall grass.
Yesterday, I made a quick stop at Hammonasset. I saw my first two Osprey of the year on the way in. They were busy checking out one of the platforms which is set up in one of the marsh areas. I also had a nice view of these two Canvasback (above photo). This is the best look I've ever had of these ducks. They were having a grand old time dunking and diving. Other notable sightings included Bufflehead and Northern Harrier.

On my way back, I also saw a Rusty Blackbird - (Where's my oil can when I need it?)-and three Wilson's Snipe at White's Farm in Durham. I spent at least an hour trying to get a decent photo or video. I even set my camera up on a tripod trying to get better results. The birds knew I was up to something. They always do.

So that about sums up my birding adventures for this weekend- (60 species total). I will leave you with this video of Blue-winged Teal that I saw at Station 43 today. It's not great quality, but along with the wind, you can hear plenty of birds in the background. Also, look for the Canada Geese which fly by in the video.

Happy Easter To ALL!!!


Mary C said...

Hi Larry -- It sure looks like your Easter birding adventure went well. I hope you and your family had a very nice Easter.

Anonymous said...

Stunning Easter Day and so many wonderful birds that are coming your way! I am hoping within the next week or two many of those make it here also!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I had to go back and re-read--60 species?!? That sounds like a perfect birding weekend to me. Loved your video, the sounds of spring! Hope you had a joyous Easter. Did you bring some donuts home for Joan?

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Wow! Great sightings!! Glad you were able to get out and see some good stuff. 60 species is incredible!!!

Happy Easter!!

Patrice said...

Happy Easter Larry! Happy birding!

Warren and Lisa Strobel said...

Larry - A very Happy Easter to you. And congrats on the Northern Shovelers. I enjoy this bird the more I see it....

Best wishes for a very birdy spring!

W & L
"The BirdCouple"

Jayne said...

WOW! What a day Larry! Love that you actually saw the Easter bunny too! Lucky you! ;c)

Ruth said...

Your outings are remarkable. You have the knowledge of where to go and the patience to find the birds. I love dogs, but get annoyed at the people who let theirs run free (and make messes) on the trails. Midday on weekends is a good time to stay at home.

Mary said...

Happy Easter, Larry! You find the best places for birding. My goodness, you saw so much in one morning!

Those Canada Geese flying by made me laugh. Don't they understand a photo shoot was taking place! LOL!

dguzman said...

Wow, Larry--that's quite a list! Those ducks are so hard to sneak up on; I am thinking about making myself some sort of mobile photo-blind, and then I'll just sit out on the marsh and wait for the ducks to come. Otherwise, it's almost impossible to get any photos! Good work on yours!

Larry said...

Larry said...
Mary C-Thanks-Same to you and your family Mary.

Monarch-I'm sure they will and I can just imagine the photos!

Lynne-Yes-I usually don't count species but it is easier than listing all the species name in a post.-Joan didn't want donuts-she likes ice cream and cake.I did get her coffee though.

Warren & Lisa-Thanks-I hope that I can say the same thing-the more I see them the better I like them.

ruth-Thanks-Following the advice of experienced birders and reading the rare bird reports lets you know where to go.

Sandpiper-60 species is good for me but you'd be surpised at some of the totals that other birders come up with in a weekend.

Patrice-Happy Easter-and-you're about due for a little birding yourself-aren't you?

Mary-Thanks Mary-but I don't find those places-I just find out about them from others.

dzugman-I'm thinking about doing the same thing.-I'm not liking the one I bought.

Lana Gramlich said...

Good birding advice & I love the dancing bunny! *L*

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a nice morning of Birding. Glad you got a number ow waterfowl. Though I was busy Easter Morning (church and all) I did manage a nice 4 mile walk later in the afternoon where I got my 1st Chipping Sparrow of the year.

Larry said...

lana-The dancing bunny is headed for Louisiana this weekend.

pa-birder-Sounds like a nice walk-I became a little more familiar with waterfowl this year-and where to find it.

Cathy said...

Larry, Your video clip did it. The next mild day I'm headed to the marsh some 40 minutes away.

You made me realize - I'm missing the firs arrivals.

I love your Shoveler pictures. They're such a handsome bird.

RuthieJ said...

Wow Larry, 60 species in one weekend! I'm impressed! Looks like you had some pretty good weather too.
I hope to try my luck at shorebirds and waterfowl in a few weeks when the ice is finally off our lakes. I hope my luck will be half as good as yours.

Larry said...

Cathy-Thanks-They really are a "handsome" looking duck.-I'm finally getting the hang of where the ducks hang out.

ruthiej-Thanks-Some how I think you'll do well!

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry - Great post with lots of ground covered. I passed the Station 43 spot onto my girlfriend who lives in Ellington. Sounds like it has lots of potential. :)

-Colleen from VA

Larry said...

Colleen-Thanks Colleen-That is a great spot-for Connecticut anyway.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, did you read about the rusty blackbird populations crashing on eBird? They are looking for people to record any sightings they have of this species. I saw some once at Corkscrew Swamp in Florida. Perhaps you are seeing one of the last of the species, a frightening thought!

Larry said...

Kathiebirds-No-I did not.That doesn't sound good at all! If I see any, I will report them.