Archive for the ‘Connecticut’ Category

‘Tis the season

Since we are now in the peak migration period for Broad-winged Hawks in the northeast, I figured I’d share some videos I took this afternoon at the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich, CT (over 6000 were seen there today). Broad-wings migrate in large groups, often forming “kettles” of swarming, swirling birds. Quite a sight!

Make sure you watch FULL SCREEN in HD for maximum effect!


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Today was the inaugural field trip of the newly formed Connecticut Young Birders Club. Close followers of this blog probably know that I’m actively involved with the New York YBC, but I couldn’t resist joining the CT crew–especially with some great birding planned for the day.

Our destination: Hammonasset Beach State Park, one of the best (if not the best) birding spots in the state. As one of our leaders, Frank Gallo, put it (and I’m heavily paraphrasing here), a bad day at Hammo is a good day at almost any other place.

Indeed, this proved true. As one might expect in mid-November, there weren’t vast numbers of birds to be seen. But, those that we did see were pretty nice, regardless. One of our first birds was a Lapland Longspur, which did a terrific job of staying hidden in the grass (hence, no photos). However, it was surrounded by good numbers of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings, birds that I never get tired of watching.

Snow Buntings in flight.

Other nice birds at Hammo included eight Common Eiders and a lone Purple Sandpiper.

We then drove to East Shore Park, the home of a sewage treatment plant. That’s terrific for birding, as the warmth produced by the plant attracts insects during the cooler months, which in turn attracts lingering insectivorous birds. We weren’t disappointed, as there was an impressive amount of late migrants, including American Redstart, Pine Warbler and Blackpoll Warbler. But, best of all, were two Cave Swallows–Mexican birds that, for largely unknown reasons, occur in small numbers along the coast in the northeast during November.

Cave Swallow

But why not stop at Mexico? We also went to check up on the local celebrity, a Fork-tailed Flycatcher staying in Stamford, CT. This bird is thought to be a member of the nominate subspecies savana, birds from southern South America that migrate north for the austral winter (our summer). Conceivably, this first-year bird, instead of migrating south after the winter, migrated north, to us. However it got here, it’s an awesome bird. I phonescoped this video:

I think I can safely say that this was a great first trip for CTYBC. Looking forward to many others!

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More migrants

Warbler migration is beginning to wind down for the year in the northeast, but there were still plenty left for a nice morning flight this Saturday at Greenwich! Here are some pictures from that morning.

Swamp Sparrow

Black-throated Green Warbler

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Quick quiz...anyone?

And morning flight:

Yellow-rumped Warblers made up most of the flight.

Redstarts had been very plentiful just a couple weeks ago, but I only picked out a couple on Saturday morning.

Still many Black-throated Greens.

And a decent number of Blackpoll Warblers.

Probable Bay-breasted--strong wingbars and brightly colored face with buff wash below.

The first male Black-throated Blue I've photo'd in flight.

Some Magnolias around as well.

Palm Warblers have become more common in the past week.

So have Purple Finches.

Northern Parulas


Blackpoll. I think.

And still many Monarchs moving through.

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I don’t have time for a lengthy post, but here are some pictures from the weekend:


Clapper Rail at Marshlands Conservancy



Crappy picture of a Swainson's Thrush.



American Goldfinch enjoying breakfast.



A Dickcissel flying away. Only reason I knew it was such was because it called several times.



Broad-winged Hawks



Northern Harrier








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For the past couple days I’ve been counting morning flight at the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich, CT. Morning flight consists of passerines (songbirds), mostly warblers, initiating reorientation flights in the first couple hours of the day. Yesterday (9/10) I counted 558 warblers, and today (9/11), 457, in only one hour, from 630-730 am. That’s one warbler every 7 seconds!

Cape May, NJ is probably the most well-known morning flight location, but there’s no need to go all the way to Cape May, or even to a well known “morning flight spot” to see lots of warblers flying over, as these pictures prove (though the number of birds flying over are often greater at those locations). Morning flight is a ubiquitous phenomenon given the right conditions, so, who knows, you could see a Cape May Warbler flying over your house tomorrow morning!

Here are some pictures of birds in flight (and a couple on the ground) from a weekend at Quaker Ridge:

Tennessee Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Northern Waterthrush

Red-eyed Vireo

Northern Parula

Palm Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

Blackburnian Warbler


Chestnut-sided Warbler

American Redstart

Canada Warbler

Magnolia Warbler


American Kestrel

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

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Here are some pictures of a White-tailed Kite spotted in Stratford, CT this morning. What an awesome bird, all the way from Florida/Texas/Louisiana (or potentially even further)!

Other birders posted photos; here are a few links to additional pictures:
Frank Gallo
Alex Burdo
Scott Kruitbosch

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For the past couple weeks I’ve been doing a lot of birding along the New York coast. Late summer (yes, mid-July is late summer in the birding world) brings many early migrants to the area. These include some songbirds (Louisiana Waterthrush and Yellow Warbler are good examples), but also large numbers of shorebirds and other coastal species. What better places than Cupsogue Beach, on the south shore of Long Island, and Jamaica Bay, south of Queens?

Sorting my sightings reverse-chronologically, this afternoon I stopped my Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to see a just-found Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. This species normally occurs in Florida and Texas only, but strangely enough, it’s been found in many northeastern states this year, including New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. There is a possibility that some of these birds are escapees, but many (including the one I saw today), had no leg bands and normal feet (captive waterfowl often have clipped toes). Global warming? Possibly, but who knows. . .

A content Black-bellied Whistling-Duck surveys several birders watching from afar.

Rewinding to last weekend, I spent an adventurous half-day at Cupsogue Beach park with the New York State Young Birders Club. Despite a failed seawatch in the early morning (just wasn’t one of those days), we headed out to the flats at low tide to observe the large congregation of shorebirds and terns. Luckily we had the help of superb NY-area birder Doug Gochfeld, who found most of the notable birds that morning. Highlighting those was a Sandwich Tern, followed by other nice terns (Roseate, Royal, Gull-billed, Least, Common). Western Sandpiper, an adult, provided a good opportunity to study its structure (more upright stance, different head shape than Semipalmated), and several of the the declining Red Knots were heartening to observe as well. Of course, I managed to not get a photo of any of the notable birds seen that day. Not sure how that happened. Returning to the parking lot was an interesting experience, as it was about six hours after the time we got out there — in other words, high tide. Some faired better than others; it depended on if you were unlucky enough to step in a low area while wading to shore.

A close flyby American Oystercatcher. Really cool looking birds.

The state-endangered and federally-threatened Piping Plover nests at Cupsogue.

A relaxing Least Tern (state-threatened).

A Snowy Egret, great to see, as always.

A Saltmarsh Sparrow checks us out in the early morning light.

Just as a side note, I visited Jamaica Bay last week also and saw lots and lots of terrific birds, led by American White Pelican, Hudsonian Godwit, Least Bittern, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black Tern and Tricolored Heron, but I had left my camera in the car to prevent it from being dropped in the East Pond while slogging through the mud and water. Bad decision, since there were lots of photo opportunities and I never actually tripped. Inexcusable, I know. Next time.

As a further aside, I was up in Connecticut (away from the coast) doing some bird banding earlier in the month, and got to band some really cool birds that you don’t normally think of as CT residents, like these three:

A really nice male Magnolia Warbler. Probably my second-favorite warbler.

A female Blackburnian Warbler, my first favorite! Unfortunately we didn't catch any males that day, though there were many singing high above us.

A female Canada Warbler, from the bog down below us. Some really nice habitat in that area of northwest Connecticut.

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