New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"Long Island Spoonbills and a CT Hide-and-Seek White Ibis"

     Thursday, January 17, 2012- Port Jeff , Long Island and CT -

    Seaside Park (west), Bridgeport, CT, 7:00 am- I was going to Port Jeff for business and would be taking the 7:30 am ferry. Unfortunately sunrise was just around 7:00 am and this early start didn't allow me any time to go Gulling. But I did have about fifteen minutes to look before I had to grab the shuttle and be on board.

     Seaside Park was still closed, but the extreme western end of the Park at the end of Atlantic Avenue was open. I was quite surprised to see that nearly the entire length of the beach was spattered with Gulls all the way to the breakwater at Fairweather Island. I didn't have any time to look through the Gulls, but there were good numbers there. A small group of Gulls greet the day-


     On the Bridgeport/Port Jeff Ferry-  After boarding the ferry and purchasing my round-trip ticket, I walked up to the bow on the upper deck and waited to cast-off. There were a few Common Loons in the Harbor, and this one surfaced by the ferry-

      Another Common Loon flies by the bow as the Park City steams out of the Harbor-

     On the end of the breakwater were three Great Cormorants-

     The sun trying to escape from in between the thick clouds on the horizon-

     There were a few scattered Oldsquaw at the mouth of the Harbor. I began to reminisce about crossing the Sound over twenty-five years ago when the Sound was still a vital resource for wintering waterfowl! I remembered  when it would be possible to see a few thousand Oldsqauw in this same area of the channel......let alone the thousands of Scaup and Scoters carpeting the Sound!

     From the upper deck-

      A Horned Grebe decides it might be in its best interest to move out of the way-

     Penfield Reef Lighthouse with Manresa Power Plant in Norwalk in the background-

     Interesting current line heading towards Penfield Reef-

     A trio of Surf Scoters....the only Scoters I saw off the CT shore-

     Three Gannets were a delight to see and enjoy-

     Red-throated Loons were common on the crossing, even in mid-Sound-

     Entering Port Jeff Harbor- A single Great Cormorant perches on the channel marker with a pair of Greater Black-backed Gulls as we entered Port Jeff Harbor-

     A few small flocks of Common Goldeneye take it easy in the lee along the beach in the entrance channel-

      Sadly, I didn't see a single Oldsqauw in Port Jeff Harbor! This Harbor was guaranteed to hold a thousand or two Oldsquaw in the past! Now not one!!

     Setauket- My friend and collector Jimmy from Port Jeff, picked me up as usual, and after a bit of business, we went looking for ducks! The village of Setauket in the town of Brookhaven is located just a stone's throw to the west  from Port Jeff. There are a few small coves and bays that I like to look for waterfowl, but the Mill Pond is where you have the best opportunities for photographing less "common" species such as the Northern Shoveler.

     But I was hoping to locate and photograph the Black-headed Gull that has been seen here recently and over the past few years. The Gull likes the small feeder creek at the inlet just north of the Mill Pond in the
Frank Melville Nature Preserve. We made a quick loop around the small Mill Pond on the north side of the road. Almost immediately a single drake Shoveler swam out form the edge a few feet in front of Jimmy's truck. It was a male still holding onto a bit of eclipse plumage. When I had my aviary, my drake Shovelers would reach their mature feathering late usually n January. Many of the males never fully reached mature feathering and would hold onto a few "eclipse" feathers (Like the male below)-

     Also in the Mill Pond were a few Ruddy Ducks such as this hen-

     There were also a sprinkling of Gadwall, another common species in the Mill Pond-

     Another hen Ruddy-

     Another pair of Shovelers; this drake wearing its mature plumage-

     As I was photographing this pair of Gadwall, a Pied-billed Grebe swam in-

     This hen Ruddy takes a snooze-

     This Grebe seemed to enjoy having its pictures taken. I like these backlit shots-

     More sleeping hen Ruddies-

     Another magnificent drake Shoveler-

     We walked over to the second section of the Pond on the north side of the road. There we found more Ruddies.......

      .....and plenty of Hooded Mergansers-

    But my favorite birds of the day went to this trio of juvenile Double-crested Cormorants. They were quite comfortable on this log only a few feet away-

     Nearby on another log, a Great Blue Heron-

     Jimmy, his Golden Retriever "Daisey" and I took a walk down one of the well-maintained Trails in the Preserve along the marsh to the inlet creek. After quite a bit of searching, I never located the Black-headed Gull. It hadn't been reported for a week or so and apparently it has moved on. We will try again next year....this time a bit earlier!

     When we walked back to the Pond, a pair of male Shovelers were feeding along the edge-

     A stunning pair of Gadwall swim by.....

     .....followed by another Pied-billed Grebe-

      Another pair of Shovelers......

     .....and the Grebe! In total there were eleven Shovelers at the Mill Pond including four hens.-

     We drove back by Jimmy's house near Mt. Sinai and looked around the Harbor. The usual high numbers of Brant were present-

     There were plenty of Gulls around, but we couldn't find any Iceland Gulls. These Gulls were waiting for a few handouts of  sandworms from this clammer!-

     It was low tide and with the rising tide. the Wigeon began filtering in-

     Back on the Ferry, Port Jeff-  Having spent a few hours with my friend Jimmy enjoying beautiful waterfowl, I was back on the noon Ferry heading home. From the bow of the upper deck, another Common Loon entertained by the docks just as one did nearly five hours earlier in Bridgeport.-

     I was looking through the small roost of Herring Gulls on the docks behind Danford's Inn. One of the Herring Gulls had a very dark mantle. At first I just assumed it was a Greater Black-backed and kept looking through all the other Gulls. But when I returned to the Gull through my binoculars, it was not a Black-backed but a Herring Gull. Just as I picked up my camera to take a few pictures, the Gull tucked its head in and went to sleep.

     Although the mantle of the Gull is slightly darkened by the shadow from the bright sun, you can clearly see  how dark it is by comparing it to the Gull in the top center of the image which is facing in the same direction. The mantle of this Gull is slightly darker from the sun's shadow, but not as dark as the Gull in the center bottom. Since I wasn't able to leave the Ferry and get closer for better images (for a better ID) this Gull is probably a Herring x Greater Black-backed Gull hybrid.-

     A drake red-breasted Merganser flies across the docks-

     A trio of Wigeon feed along the bulkhead-

    Underway, there were a few Common and Red-throated Loons in the Harbor.....but NO Oldsquaw!-

     Middle Ground Lighthouse-

     After passing Middle Ground by a couple of miles, this single Razorbill passed by the Ferry-

     About two miles from Bridgeport, tow more Gannets sepen the afternoon loafing n the Sound-

     The ride back was nearly a carbon copy of the trip over in the morning. With the exception of the Razorbill, Red-throated Loons were seen across the Sound, and a few Oldsquaw were in the channel outside Bridgeport Harbor.-

     Greater Black-backed Gull-

     Stratford- On my way home, I made a stop in Stratford to Long Beach Park to look for the Iceland Gull. I didn't have to go to far. I started walking down the beach to the eastern point at the breakwater when a small flock of Gulls were flying my way along the beach. In this group was the Iceland Gull (right)-

     The Iceland Gull flew by and kept flying west down the beach heading towards the parking area where I thought it landed with the other Gulls. I walked back along the path by the main entrance and found two nice Ladies who were looking into the marsh. After saying hello, they asked if I had seen the White Ibis? I mentioned that I didn't believe that the Ibis was reported for a week or so, but there was a beautiful adult Iceland Gull that was hanging out somewhere on the beach. I wished them luck and they walked down onto the beach.

     The marsh was busy with feeding Black Ducks-

     I drove over to the small beach at the end of Fifth Avenue to look and see if the Iceland Gull may have flown back to its favorite perch; a piling just off the beach, A quick look around and the Gull wasn't there. A small flock of Gulls started circling overhead, and one of them was the Iceland Gull-

     The Gull flew low over the houses and then went towards the small pond behind the houses along the beach. I assumed the Gull had landed in the pond since I didn't see it fly out the other side-

     I drove down along the road and began looking through the houses with my binoculars. I noticed a medium sized brown bird walking along the backside of the small pond. The bird had a white flash on its chest and breast and I realized that I was looking at the missing White Ibis-

     Next to the Ibis was a single Great Egret-

     While I was standing on the road trying to take a few pictures of the distant Ibis between the driveway allies of two houses, a car drove up. A very friendly (and curious) woman got out of her car and asked me the question which I expected- "What the heck are you looking at"??

     I explained about the rare Southern visitor to her pond and gave her my binoculars. She knew a little about birds and told me that she hadn't seen this bird there before. I asked the inevitable. and she enthusiastically gave me permission to walk into her back yard to the edge of the pond for a closer look....
Thank You Angela!! She accompanied me and was very excited about the Ibis.-

          I inched my way to the edge of the pond for a closer look, the bird was very accommodating-  

     The Egret kept more distance between us-

     While I was enjoying the Ibis, the Iceland Gull reappeared and landed on the peak of the roof of a nearby house-

     I enjoyed the Ibis, Egret and Iceland Gull for over a half an hour and said Good-bye and Thank You to Angela. Just as I opened the door to my truck, a car pulled up- it was the two Ladies I ran into from Long Beach nearly an hour earlier. I told them that I had (ironically) found the Ibis and the Iceland Gull. After very brief introductions (Susan-left, Harriet-right....Ibis to the left of Susan) we walked back down the driveway and pointed out the birds for them. They were excited! I mentioned who wouldn't be!?....How many birders in New England in January can say that they were standing in one spot looking at a White Ibis, Great Egret and an adult Iceland Gull??!!

    As I was leaving I took a few closer shots of the Iceland Gull on the peak of the roof.-

     I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts (by Frash Pond) for a coffee to go. Just as I was getting into my truck I spotted five drake Canvasbacks swimming along the wall behind Dunkin' Donuts. I took a few quick pictures between and below the chain-link fence-

     The day was nearly over and since I was going by....I stopped at Circle Beach in Madison. The Iceland Gull continues.......

     Winter Birding and Gulling from December 21, 2012  through January 15, 2013 continues.....          
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