New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Friday, September 14, 2012

6) "Avocet in Stratford", and 7) "Windy Day- Laughing Gulls, Solitary and Pectoral Sandpipers"

      Sept. 7, 2012- Stratford Greenway, 6) "Avocet in Stratford"-  On Sept, 5, Donna Caporaso found a stunning Avocet standing on the Birdseye Street boat ramp. I was in Stratford on the 6th at Bond's Cove, but searched the area early that morning at low tide, but couldn't find the bird. However there were a few medium-sized flocks of Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers, Black-bellied and Semi-palmated Plovers wheeling around to watch.

      The Avocet was located again later that that day by a few other birders including Frank Mantlik. After we spent a little time that day enjoying the White Ibis in West Haven, Frank went back to Stratford and took a few stunning images of the bird ( ). Friday morning, the bird was again sighted standing on the breakwater at the Greenway. That afternoon the tide was high in the Housatonic River which seemed to be the time that the Avocet had appeared at the boat ramp.  I had finished painting for the day and since the tide was ideal, I decided to take a run down to Stratford. Jen thought I was crazy considering the horrific traffic that is common on 95 during the afternoon rush especially on a Friday afternoon! But I am not sure if it was the bird or my stubbornness (maybe both) but  I decided to go. I figured if I timed it right, I could beat the rush hour traffic home, that is of course if the Avocet cooperated!

     I made it down to the boat ramp in good time while keeping an eye on the northbound traffic. The traffic looked OK, so I felt better, I had a little more time. I pulled into the Birdseye Street boat ramp hoping the bird would be there, but it wasn't. However, the ramp did have a few birds there; about fifty mostly first summer Laughing Gulls. The Gulls were standing on the paved ramp, swimming in the water and standing on the pilings and docks-

     I checked the small marsh at the south side of the parking area, but no Avocet. While I was standing there hoping to see a flash of white creeping through the marsh grass, a hen Gadwall flew over, circled the area and landed in the marsh-

     After the Gadwall settled I drove over to the Greenway to look for the Avocet. I spotted the bird standing on the outer breakwater standing among a few Laughing Gulls and Cormorants. Sara Zagorski and a few other birders drove up and we watched the bird for awhile. We all kept hoping that the bird would move to the boat ramp as the tide kept rising. As the rocks became slowly covered, the Gulls and Cormorants would leave, but that very long-legged Shorebird kept sleeping!-

      The Avocet shuffled around once and a while as the larger Cormorants scrapped over the last exposed rock perch positions-

       With the majority of the Cormorants gone, the Avocet eventually was a bit more isolated. As we watched a wake from a large boat travel towards the breakwater, we all hoped that this would be helpful to gently persuade the Avocet to seek better roosting arrangements; maybe the boat ramp?......

     .....and thats just what happened. The wake approached and the Avocet decided to leave its slowly vanishing roost. It took off just as we all hoped it would and started flying up the river......


     ......being a bit presumptuous figuring the bird was focused on the boat ramp, we all started thinking about rushing up to the ramp to welcome the arriving Avocet! But our hopes were dashed as the bird suddenly turned and circled the marsh.......

     ......and again landed on the breakwater, this time a little farther north from where it started......

     .....where it went back to sleep!-


      While we were gathered talking about this wonderful bird, a Red-tailed Hawk flew in and landed on the utility pole which made the roosting Starlings quite unhappy-

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT

7)"Windy Day- Laughing Gulls, Solitary and Pectoral Sandpipers"

   Sept 8, 2012- Hammonasset BSP, Madison, CT- It was early afternoon on a very windy Saturday, Jen and I had a few quick errands to run including stopping by to see her parents who live in Madison. We were going on the NECWA "Seabirds and Whale Tales Excursion" out of Plymouth, Massachusetts on Sunday and it would be an all day affair starting at 3:30 am. We would be meeting our friend Tom (Robben) and then drive to the town wharf. Since the excursion ended at 6:00 pm and including supper and a three hour plus ride home we wanted to be back early to try and get to sleep at a reasonable time!

     Since we would be in the area, we should take a quick run through the Park to see if any Shorebirds are using the puddles. In the field next to the west end parking lot a large number of Gulls were laying low using the field as a roost to escape the wind. We noticed a very high number of Laughing Gulls in the roost. We stopped and started counting and ended up with one hundred eighteen. In fact we ended up counting over two hundred twenty-five in the Park and feeding in the swells just off the beach. That is the highest number of Laughing Gulls I had ever seen at Hammo.

     While we were watching the Gulls, Jen said that "some Shorebirds just landed in that other puddle". Just across the small parking lot was a small puddle and it was chocked-full of Shorebirds: 9 Pectoral Sandpipers, 3 Semi-palmated Plovers, 7 Least Sandpipers, 5 Semi-palmated Sandpipers and two Solitary Sandpipers-

      The Shorebirds were really enjoying the fresh rain water. They spent much of their time preening such as this bird which is stimulating its Uropygial Gland for the oily fluid to maintain the condition (and water resistance) of its feathers-

         When the oil is secreted from the gland, it rubs its head plumage through the oil......

      ......and disperses it on the "hard to reach" feathers on its chest, mantle and hindneck, and then re-distributes the oil onto the back of its head-

    A handsome bird and a little uncommon in Hamonasset.

    This view clearly illustrates the typically barred axillaries of the underwing; a field mark of a flying Solitary Sandpiper-

     A Least Sandpiper takes a bath-

     Striking Pectoral Sandpipers-

     Good studies of Pectoral Sandpipers-

     A flock of Mallards kept the Shorebirds company, including this hen Black duck x Mallard hybrid-

     We had timed our visit perfectly with the Shorebirds arriving in the puddle right about the time that we got there. That great timing continued as we were just about ready to leave. Suddenly the large mass of Tree Swallows that usually gather in the Park this time of year decided to come to the puddle and "scoop-drink"-

     In the Nature Center parking lot, a small flock of Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers were also enjoying the fresh rain water puddles-

       Preening Semi-palmated Sandpiper-

      A Semi-palmated takes a swim......

     .....and so does this Least Sandpiper-

      Interesting interaction over the marsh. A Harrier chases an Osprey; not sure if it was a territorial affair, play or the Harrier wanted the fish!-

      Suggested Reading-  For those of you (like me) who enjoy New England Maritime History, I just finished reading this book, I highly recommend it!

This Report continues......8)- "NECWA- Seabirds and Whale Tales Excursion"- Plymouth, Mass.- Searching for the Sabine's Gull (part 2)

It is currently under construction- check back later! Thank You,

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT