New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Early-May Highlights

May 08 through May 15

    Spending many late nights in my studio this month secured by deadlines, I haven't been out birding as much as I would like, but I did manage to sneak out a few times for an hour or two.  It seems like the only days that I could get out it was overcast and most of the time raining. But this summer will have many exciting birding adventures on our schedule; codfishing, whale watch trips, BBC pelagics, and a week in Maine sea birding. Jen and I will be spending four days on Vinalhaven with a few chartered trips with John Drury ( )  then to Monhegan Island, and a few other Puffin trips to Eastern Egg Rock; what a great summer to look forward to! BTW- the Red-billed Tropicbird has returned to Seal Island again, it was spotted on May 12.

     Not much happening along the coast here, but here are a few highlights:

Hammonasset SP, Madison, May 08-

Purple Martin pair-

Male Cowbird. ( I don't know why I am posting this image, just something different on this blog)

Lesser Yellowlegs

"Willets in trees" - this always fascinates me!

Baltimore Oriole-

Killingworth- On my way home I stopped off at our local store/Post Office to pick up my mail. When I came out, I saw this Black Vulture circling overhead. I grabbed my camera quickly and managed a few shots as the bird disappeared over Pharmedica heading northeast.

     During the day on breaks I walk around my yard (with my camera) searching,  but usually only find the common spring species (mostly Robins, Catbirds, and Grackles). On one day, I had to go out to my shed for a few pieces of wood, and of course I didn't bring my camera with me! While I was out back in my shed, a wave of passing migrants had picked that time to go through! The trees were covered with birds mostly White-throated Sparrows which included many Chipping and at least one White-crowned that I could see. Also mixed in with the sparrow group were many Warblers (mostly Common Yellow-throat) and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The birds passed through very quickly heading northeast and were gone in only a few minutes. Make a note to myself- Never go out to my shed without bringing my camera!

 May 14- Heading over to Long Island- I was taking the 7:30 am ferry to Long Island from Bridgeport for business which gave me a chance for a little birding.

     I was a bit early so I made a quick run down to Long Beach in Stratford to look for shorebirds and to see if the Terns were showing up in good numbers yet. Other than a few small flocks of Glossy Ibis flying over 113 by the airport in the distance, the beach was empty. On my way out of the park I spotted this Yellow-crowned Night-Heron near the road stalking Fiddler Crabs in the marsh.

Bridgeport/Port Jeff Ferry- Bridgeport Harbor- Mostly Common Terns and a few Least Terns were hunting in the mouth of the Harbor and up to a half mile outside. About the same number of Terns in the mouth of Port Jeff Harbor as well. I also saw a male Gadwall and a pair of Black Ducks in the harbor by the boat building dock, and three Red-breasted Mergansers and a single drake Oldsquaw outside the west wall of the Harbor.

Common Loons were scattered all the way across the Sound.

    Getting back in Bridgeport at 1:15 pm, I made another quick run through Stratford on my way home.  I only spotted a few Dunlin and Terns flying outside. On my way to the seawall,  I couldn't refuse taking a few shots of the Monk Parakeets on Ocean Ave.

    Before I left Stratford, I stopped at the boat ramp near Knapps Landing Restaurant and scoped the mouth of the River.  Other than the large concentration of Brant, I could see a few flocks of smaller shorebirds (probably Dunlin and Sanderling) on the flats. A flock of 17 Yellowlegs flew down the River and landed on the flats. I also saw several Kestrels flying over the marsh and a single Peregrine flew up the River as I was leaving.  Oyster River, West Haven Beaches, West Haven Boat Ramp, and Long Wharf- Brant were just about everywhere!

     New Haven, Long Wharf- I spotted a few ducks near the pilings behind Leons. Most were the expected Mallards, but there were three smaller birds mixed in with them. I drove into the parking lot of Leon's to get a better look, and found three immature drake Bufflehead. They swam around the back of the Restaurant in the pilings. As I was driving out of the parking lot, I heard a commotion in the small cedar trees on the other side of the parking lot a few yards in front of my truck. I looked up and found this female Redtail being mobbed by a large group of Grackles. Knowing the Grackles nest in these cedars, I knew what was happening!

     The large female had located one of these nests and had landed near the nest, and the Grackles were not happy.....

     .....she pinpoints her prey......

     .......and reaches in......

     .....and those massive talons find their mark......

     .....and emerge with two hatchling chicks.

     The female Redtail flies off chased by a swarm of Grackles. The Redtail flies across the street over the Post Office and disappears from view (followed by the Grackles).

   Even with the female gone, the commotion continued! I looked to my left a few yards from my truck, and to my surprise was the male Redtail! He was also being mobbed by Grackles, and he also had a hatchling Grackle in its talons. Apparantly they had found a food source bounty!

    He is also chased off by the Grackles.......

     .....and makes a short flight landing on a street light across the street where it is constantly harassed by Grackles.......

     .....and Herring Gulls!

     The male is again chased from its perch with the Grackles in hot pursuit.......

     .....he lands on the roof of the Sports Haven building, and the attack continues.....

     .....and is again chased from the roof......

     .....and a Crow joins in the chase.

     The Crow breaks off the attack as the Redtail approaches the roof  of the Long Wharf Maritime Center building.......

     .....and it lands on the edge of the roof to have its meal. The Grackles realizing that they have lost, retreat!

     The whole event lasted about fifteen minutes. As I left the Redtail was now perched on the railing high on the roof......


     ......where it was sizing-up its own reflection!

    To end on a lighter note- Guilford, Shell Beach- a handful of Common Terns were active.....

     ......and a few Least Terns in the impoundment in Great Harbor!

Keith Mueller