Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A quick round-about this morning....

I was without a car all day Sunday, and Monday, due to a blowout that happened on Saturday night. This was after my windshield began growing a root from the lower-left corner after being hit by a rock kicker up by an SUV. Soooo... today, I put some time aside this morning to check a few spots and watch some really neat birds. It was a great day outside, but I only had time for stop and jump out, and 'car-birding'.
It also wasn't overwhelmingly birdy out there, so I added a couple random nature shots I took this morning. The one below, being one of them. It is the stand alone Birch on the north side of the marsh behind the warehouses in the Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford.

('Stand-Alone'-Birch Tree)

My first stop was to look for the 'western' subspecies of the Willet that has been hanging out on the Stratford/Bridgeport, border at a body of water called Johnson's Creek. Johnson's Creek is a river/brook/creek that eventually runs into Lewis's Gut, then eventually into Long Island Sound (right??). The tide was rising, which eliminated most of my chances at seeing him closer up on the mudflats, but I did manage to find him tuckered down at the very end of a pier down the creek at a marina. The bird is often on top of the piers and ramps.
Unfortunately, my camera lens is only so big... and my photography skills are only so good... that I missed out on a photo. I did manage to snag a few shots of a pair of adult Red-tailed Hawks interacting and.. maybe courting?? It was clear that it was a pair because one was certainly larger, and they were both adults. I was under the impression that adult Red-tail (and other raptors or birds.. and whatever, really) females were bigger than the males. I know this to be true in accipiters.
Other birds seen at Johnson's Creek was the same chatty female Belted Kingfisher that was present during my last visit, 11 Hooded Mergansers, and a single male Boat-tailed Grackle calling in a tree on the est side of the creek. Moved from tree to tree a bit, probably because of the crows and gulls everywhere.

(Pair of adult Red-tailed Hawks)

My next stop, which is on the loop (hence the 'round-about'), was the marshes and trees behind the warehouses at the end of Long Beach Blvd in Stratford, which is a part of the Great Meadow Marsh. It was very dead there... including whatever a female Harrier was eating on the ground when I arrived. She flew away, prey in talons, and flew in a bit of a circle... towards Long Beach in Stratford, then back around across the water (the end of where Johnson's Creek is) towards Bridgeport and out of sight. VERY shortly after she vanished into industry, a pumpkin-orange breasted juvenile Harrier appeared out of the sunbeams in the trees across the marsh, and flew towards Long Beach and the extensive marshes across from Sikorsky Airport in Stratford.

I got awful photos of both, and on the juvenile I was able to see the pale bar across the 'back shoulders' of the bird. They were almost as orange as the front of the bird. Perhaps the 9:00m sunlight enhanced the colors, but it looked so cool either way.

Other than nothing, the pool there behind the warehouses had 3 male Boat-tailed Grackles int the reeds in the back of it.

Next on the route is sometimes the pools on either side of the intersection of Access Rd. and Lordship Blvd in Stratford. One of which is usually referred to as the Access Pool. In the pool on the south side there were 4 Hooded Mergansers and a small flock of Black Ducks. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but as I drove along the Blvd, EVERY little pool had Hoodies and Blacks in it. I found myself creating a long line of cars behind me as I was hoping for something else too!!

On deck was Long Beach in Stratford, where a 2nd cycle Glaucous Gull has been found (for the 2nd winter in a row). As soon as I pulled in I noticed the amount of gulls, and amount of heavy machinery. The job has begun to demo the cottages at the end of Long Beach West in Stratford. Nonetheless, I had a nice conversation with one of the workers, and they allowed me to scoot on past a bit to scope out the gulls on the other side of the jetty where the Glaucous usually is seen. Sure enough, about 1/4 of the way down, there he was!! A big boy too! A Bobcat-type machine spooked him and he flew to 'his' Jetty, and was near a Brant. I never new Brant were that small!!

Again, my photos of this big flash of white were quite sub par (I don't get that term... in golf, sub par is good. Over par is bad. Hmmm....) so not much to go by. I will add a couple photos of last years 1st cycle... taken in the same spot where I stood and watched him today. Maybe some of those who got usable photos of the current bird could compare these, and the giant amount of others from last year's. I also got a photo of a Ring-billed Gull in breeding plumage, mouth open, showing a stunning red gape.*

(1st cycle Glaucous, Long Beach in Stratford '09)

(1st cycle Glaucous Gull, Long Beach-Stratford, 2009)

(breeding-plumage Ring-billed Gull)

*Not trying to top yours, Larry!!*

After scanning and (finally, thanks Jim and Carol!!) scoping the Sound very briefly, I came up with these birds:
  • (+/-50) Common Goldeneye
  • (2) Horned Grebe
  • (2) Great Cormorants
  • (2) Red-throated Loons
  • (1) 2nd cycle GLAUCOUS GULL

**I couldn't tell age other than not adult with the sun and the streaking and my lack of larid skills... so I wasn't comfortable with calling it. Thankfully Frank Mantlik showed up as I was on my way out and found it later. He knows the age/cycle).

And while we were talking, the Glauco flew right over us, giving great looks at everything. Very cool bird, indeed.

Other than that listed above were the usual Brant and Black Ducks. I wasn't able to get a chance to see the jetty or further down, so no shorebirds... =)

Kinda back-tracking, but next up usually is Frash Pond if I skip Stratford Point, which I did, because this day's birding was 98% in-car. This pond has what Canvasback want. I do not know what it is, but my small depth of knowledge doesn't know of too many other places as reliable for the big duck. Due to recent warm weather, and a lot of snow melt, the whole pond was open, and the birds were in their normal spot in the back by the cement spout (forgot the word). There were also Lesser Scaup reported there recently so I was hoping for them... which I did see.

I also had a female Scaup species that seemed kinda Greater than Lesser. But again, my skills aren't up there yet to be totally sure. It's white spot behind it's bill and on the front of it's cheeks was much larger and more prominent than the female Lessers that were there. Also, when the small group of Lessers moved along and started diving elsewhere, the unidentified stayed in with the Canvasbacks. Who knows... not me, obviously.

Below are some numbers from Frash Pond in Stratford:

  • (26) Canvasbacks
  • (5) Lesser Scaup (3 male, 2 female)
  • (1) Scaup sp. (grrrr...)
  • (1) Pied-billed Grebe
  • (8) Bufflehead
  • (1) awesome fly-over of sub-adult Bald Eagle heading S/SE

By now, The Fat Robin Wild Bird Shop run by Jim and Carol Zipp was open, and I drove up there to Hamden to get my new tripod head, and return Jim's. (A long story in itself!!) On My ride home (going Southbound), I had a Black Vulture flying along the rock ledges just before the tunnel on RT-15 at 12:15pm. Then just down the road at 12:19pm, I had a Raven flying low over RT-15.... I forget the exit, but it was directly over the Mile 46 marker.
I then came home and looked for Tucker the male Towhee who has spent the winter (sometimes with friends) at my house/feeders, with no luck. And that was the day.... birding, that is. Stuff around the house is still being pursued.....

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