New England Coastal BIrds

New England Coastal BIrds

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Late January along the CT Coast-(well nearly)

Highlights and random images from January 10 through 26, 2012

West Wharf, Madison, CT- January 10


     This Ring-billed Gull walked up the beach and I immediatly noticed it had very bright (and unusual) yellow/orange legs. It then flew over to the wall near my truck. The gorgeous sunrise illuminated this bird with orange highlights on its plumage.


     Certainly not a rarity, but a beautiful portrait of this overlooked Gull species non-the-less!

          Showing the bright yellow/orange of the legs. At first I assumed that this bright glow to its legs was aided by the cast off light of the morning sun. But I remembered that when I first saw the bird it was in the dark area of the beach un-effected by the sun. Its legs were even brighter against a dark background.

Hanover Pond- South Meriden, CT- Wednesday, January 18

    I had to make a stop in South Meriden, so I decided to drop by my "old back yard" to see if I could see the reported Iceland Gull. I missed the Iceland Gull by minutes (how many of us have had that happen ) but there were plenty of Gulls present. A steady procession of Great Blue Herons came out of Soddum Brook across Hanover Pond and flew over me heading down the Quinnipiac River. I met two really friendly birders when I was there: Melissa Baston and Jim Tyrrell who live nearby. We talked for a while and were hopeful the Iceland Gull would re-appear. Jim looked up and spotted a Peregrine Falcon that was swooping across the pond. It passed by us and headed for Red Bridge.

    A few Gull portraits; Herring Gull....


    ...........Ring-billed Gulls....

........first winter....

   ....and an adult.

   But the best part of the afternoon were the Common Mergansers (my absolute favorite Merganser species), and there were lots of them! This hen flew very low over my head.


      A flock of hens.

     These birds were in the area where the Quinnipaic River joins Hanover Pond. The drakes were aggressively courting the hens. They were in their full gorgeous adult dress complimented by their typical salmon-pink "tinged" stained plumages a result form the oil in their uropygial (or preen) glands which made them glow on the water.

Hanover Pond, South Meriden, CT-  Friday, January 20-

     Since I had to return to South Meriden that morning, why not stop by an look for the Iceland Gull (which wasn't there-probably a one-hit wonder). As I pulled up, the Gulls on the pond exploded into flight. As I grabbed my camera, the reason why became clear. A single Peregrine in a blazing glide passed a few yards over my truck.....


     .......and disapperaed as quickly as it came; a blurr! I managed one shot as the bird vanished from sight.

   But on Hanover Pond was a good variety of waterfowl. This single hen Lesser Scaup.....


    .......this drake Ring-necked Duck.......

    ...........and plenty of Coot.

    As I walked along the edge, this pair of Gadwall jumped. This was the first pair of Gadwall I have ever seen on Hanover Pond.

    Along with the Mallards, Canada Geese and Common Mergansers were many Hooded Mergansers.

   While I was watching the waterfowl and looking for the Iceland Gull, a gentleman (sorry- I didn't get your name) pulled up and asked if I was looking for the Eagles. Although I had seen Eagles there many times over the years, I am still excited when they are present at the pond where I grew up. He pointed in the distance to the big old tree behind Al Goss' garage. In the tree was an eagle, and it was very close to River Road. As I drove into the parking lot of the restaurant across the street, the bird posed for a minute and then took off across the pond........

    .......where it landed with its mate.

    I watched for quite a while from the parking lot at Dawson Beach. One of the birds took off and was sooned joined by the other. Both birds circled Hanover Pond and slowly drifted down the Quinnipiac River.

Hammonasset Beach SP, Madison, CT- Monday morning, Jan 23

     I stopped by in the morning in hopes of photographing the Iceland Gull that everyone saw on Sunday (Jen and I were trying to fix her Mothers computer). The Iceland Gull was not there but there was a large gathering of Shorebirds (Dunlin, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone and a few Purple Sandpipers) on the beach at Meigs.

     The flock suddenly rose up, circled the area and returned to the same spot on the beach.....

   .........probaly caused by this hunting male Harrier cruising the dunes.

    The wind was out of the East and the Gulls were gathering on the rocky beach at the beginning of the Moraine Trail. The waves were pushing large piles of Atlantic Slipper Shells ( a marine Gastropod mollusc)
on the edge of the water and the gulls were feasting on the snail animal portions of the shells.

      Love the plumage of this third winter Herring Gull!

    There were two drake Common Eiders swimming just outside the feeding Gulls.


     Purple Sandpipers

Hammonasset Beach SP, Madison, CT- Tuesday noon, Jan 24

     One more time for the Iceland Gull! I was in the area on business so I decided to try again. The Iceland Gull was long gone, but the two drake Common Eiders were quite close this time at the beginning of the Moraine Trail.

   As I was watching the Gulls feed on the Atlantic Slipper Shells, I noticed that they were unwilling to give up their feeding spots, even with the pesky waves that pushed them around. It became very entertaining watching them negotiate the waves head first not relenting their small feeding spot! I watched this for half an hour, it was fantastic!

    More Shorebirds on the beach......

    .......and more Harriers causing them a bit of anxiety!

    And it appears that banded Ring-billed Gull "AAH" is still visiting Hammonasset!

 New Haven Harbor, West Haven boat ramp- Wednesday, January 25

     In search of White-winged Gulls, I stopped by the boat ramp of New Haven Harbor. There was a large gathering of Gulls present, but no white-wings. But the waterfowl show was the best. The usual winter concentrations of Scaup and Brant were present and giving a great show!

5th Avenue Beach, Stratford, CT- Wednesday 10:00 am

  Finally an Iceland Gull! Frank Mantlik's adult Iceland Gull continues with excellent views. It came and went from its favorite piling perch several times. Once it flew over the cottages and joined a large swarm of Gulls towards Stratford Point, but returned to its piling after a minute where it was when I left. This is a stunning bird! Thanks for finding it Frank!

Frash Pond, Stratford-

     Great Cormorants......

    .....and Canvasbacks, another stunning species of waterfowl.

Stratford boat ramp-

    This bird was spotted by Jim Link soaring high over the boat ramp.

New Haven Harbor, Long Wharf-

     Behind Leon's Restaurant there were small rafts of Scaup (mostly Lesser as shown in the image below) with mixed Gadwall....

           (three drake Lesser Scaup-their characteristic small "bump" on the back of their heads is clearly evident in this image)

    ...........and Ruddies!

East Shore Park, New Haven, CT- 1:45 pm Wednesday-

     When I reached the shoreline of the Park, this flock of 300+ Scaup were tucked in close to shore.

     A Greater Scaup lands in the raft near all Greater Scaup. The complete white wing bar extends into the primaries, a field mark for Greater Scaup, where as the white of the wing is only obvious on the secondaries and does not extend onto the primaries of the Lesser Scaup.

    Below is a digiscoped image from the raft of Scaup. It shows the comparison of a drake Greater Scaup (above) and a drake Lesser Scaup (below) in the image.


      On the walk out of the Park, I walked the edge near the fence at the Treatment Plant.  I was looking in the pine trees at a few Warblers, a single Swallow flew over my head. It was flying from the south of the Park over the soccer fields and flew towards the stack and disappeared over the Plant. It soon reappeared with a second bird. The two Swallows flew around the treatment tanks and buzzed the area so typical of a Swallows flight. I tried to take a few images but it was like trying to photograph bees. Eventually there were five Swallows buzzing over the Treatment Plant at the same time throughout the area. I was able to ID two of them as Northern Rough-winged, but I couldn't ID the others. Here are the only images I could get of the Swallows.  Bird 1 showing a very faint wing covert bar:

     Bird 2 dsplays a very prominant wing covert bar.....


     When I was cropping my images, this bird (#3) has a very slight wing covert bar.....


    This is the fourth bird. It is obviously too blurry for a good ID.


The Pine Trees along the fence held a handful of Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers

Keith Mueller
Killingworth, CT