Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Norwalk Islands, 3/09

-Longitail ducks starting to change into summer plumage-
Yesterday (03/09/10), Larry Flynn invited Dennis Varza and myself on his boat to both check out the feeding habits (what they are eating, where they were eating, and finding what they are eating) and numbers of gulls, and to survey the wildlife around the Norwalk Islands. The Norwalk Islands are made up of something like 25 small bodies of land in a several mile stretch from the far eastern end of Westport into Norwalk. The islands range from big enough to have a quite decent sized summer home with several trees and some docks on it.... to some that seem like just rocks or small beaches. It is an amazing stretch of landscape, especially on a gorgeous day like we had.

Temps when we docked back in were in the mid 50's, somewhere in the low 40's when we left. The sun was glaring (Larry and I got a slight facial sun burn... you're right! It does feel good!) We got out going around 10:30am, and docked right around 1:45pm. The wind was very calm, though picked up a bit by the time we were done. The Sound was nice and calm and visibility was also good.

All added together = A great day to be out!

I'm not familiar with the name of the Islands themselves, but I do know we covered 22.1 (right, Larry?) nautical miles, and saw a lot of water and island shoreline. We also cruised past the Maritime Aquarium up the river to the sewage treatment plant, where were found out ONLY SHOREBIRD of the entire 3 hour trip in the form of a Killdeer call. I only heard it, I'm not sure if the guys saw him.

Notable birds seen include a fly-by Red-necked Grebe Larry snared as it moved through, A tight ball of (6) Northern Pintails in a super busy waterfowl area (I had them in the binocs too, and over-looked them!!) and Dennis was able to recognize the body shape and flying patterns, a 1st winter Iceland Gull Dennis found mid-air among a bunch of Herrings, a single Peregrine Falcon, and a single American Kestrel. At least I found the Falcons!!

We were out during low tide, and this isn't my specialty at all, but the recent plankton feeding gulls were not plankton feeding as intensely, or really at all, as they do during the high tides at a full moon. There were a big number of gulls, but the vast majority were along the shores of the islands, or (thanks to Dennis for this info) scraping the low-tide submerged rocks for food. Dennis and Larry mentioned something about the large number of gulls could possibly be them waiting out until the next high-tide with a full moon. Gull Numbers, as compiled by Dennis, are as follows:

Ring-billed Gull: 38

Herring Gull: 1600

Greater Black-backed Gull: 22

Iceland Gull: 1 (1st winter)

I was the trips compiler for the trip, and here are my numbers for our whole trip. Dennis' thing is the gulls, and I have really just started my gulls this winter, (I'm a songbird and Raptor guy) so we established in the beginning that he'd keep the gull count.

Brant: 135

Canada Goose: 37

Mute Swan: 4

Gadwall: 1

American Wigeon: 13

American Black Duck: 62

Mallard: 44

Northern Pintail: 6

Greater Scaup: 3

White-winged Scoter: 5 (instead of 5,000...)

Long-tailed Duck: 152 (some really changing into summer plumage)

Bufflehead: 98

Common Goldeneye: 110

Red-breasted Merganser: 237

Red-throated Loon: 5

Common Loon: 5 (one showing a bit or breeding plumage)

Red-Necked Grebe: 1

Great Cormorant: 17

Turkey Vulture: 1

American Kestrel: 1

Peregrine Falcon: 1

American Coot: 1*

Killdeer: 1

Iceland Gull: 1 (1st winter)

American Crow: 2

Fish Crow: 25

* The Coot is a resident at the marina there, and Larry tells me he is unable to leave for whatever reason.*

In addition to the birds, we had at least (10) Harbor seals, and at least (2) Gray seals. I say at least, because sometimes the scuttle off before you get close enough to count the whole group, or a head will pop up randomly without giving time to give an ID. We did have two or three unidentified seal species as well.

Below are some photos I took on that nice day. Some better than others, like always, but there are a few that give good comparisons at the differences between seal species. Some are cropped, and I had the ISO on my camera on auto (AAARRRGGG!!), but I hope you enjoy:

-BIG male Gray seal (left) barking at two Harbors (right, and head poking out of water on the far right) who got juust a bit too close.-

-Two Great Cormorants taking off of one of the many boulders in the Norwalk Islands area. Long Island is visible in the background-

-The mid-day sun shining on the wake of Larry's boat-

-The same big poppa Gray seal. Notice the longer face, big eyes, and somewhat ugly face of the Gray-

-Two Harbor seals enjoying the sun. Notice the shorter face, with smaller eyes and a puppy dog/'cute' face.-

-A club/pod (is that what a group of seals are called?) of eight Harbor seals.-

I'd like the thank Larry, again, for inviting me out on his boat on such a nice WINTER day. Spring hasn't started yet! =)



  1. Very nice, Brien.
    I'm glad you had a fun day, I did too.
    I'm still feeling the suns effects on my winter face. Can't wait for the next trip.

  2. Yea... everyday it gets warmer, and every time I hear another spring bird song, I get even more sitr-crazy for my trip!!

    What can we go for before I leave for my trip?? Bunker? Striper (I know you said the big-uns are around when I'm gonna be gone), Blues? Flounder?? I just enjoy catching fish... even better if I can make dinner with them that night!!

    BTW.... check my previous blog entry (if you already hadn't) to see that GBBG managing that winter flounder down the gullet.