Friday, January 22, 2010

Birding Stratford, Connecticut

A couple weekends ago I went on a Greenwich Audubon field trip to Stratford, Connecticut with Benjamin (Blog) and Ryan, lead by Brian O'Toole. Our first stop was the Great Meadows area of the Important Bird Area there.

We found a couple harriers, including a "gray ghost" male, and a buteo that we thought at first was a rough-legged hawk but turned out to be a wintering Red-shouldered Hawk. A little ways down the trail, we came across a large group of American Tree Sparrows, and I spotted a bald eagle flying over.

A shot of one of the harriers:
Of course its an eagle, can't you tell?:
We went out onto an overlook over the marsh to look for snowy owls, but all we found were black ducks.

Moving onward to Long Beach, we made a quick stop that netted a Gadwall but was otherwise unproductive. Benjamin was hoping for some Lapland Longspurs that had been reported. I was hoping for an Orange-crowned Warbler.

We scanned the sound for a little. A small group of Common Goldeneye were spotted, but that was it. My horned grebe curse continues. The wind picked up, and on a narrow strip of land with water on both sides, we were fairly exposed to it. Then we heard some call notes or something, and quickly spotted the Lapland Longspurs, 3 of them. An Ipswich (Savannah) Sparrow joined them. I had left my camera in the van, so no photos, but Benjamin got some:

The orange-crowned warbler was not in its usual spot, and some people coming back told us it had been reported a ways out but they hadn't seen it. We figured that either it would take more time than we had to find it or it was dead, so that search was called off. On the way back to the car, I spotted a fly-by Killdeer.

The last stop in Stratford was a boat ramp where a Black-crowned Night-Heron had been seen. On the way there, we stopped at a pond where there were quite a few ducks, including Hooded Mergansers and Canvasback:

At the boat ramp, we first saw American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes, then walked over to the ditch where the night heron was sleeping. At least, we think it was sleeping. I never actually saw it move.
It just stayed in the same position for the whole time we were there. Still, I think it would have toppled over if it were dead.
We departed, but made a stop on the way back at Sherwood Island State Park to try to see a staked-out Saw-whet Owl. As soon as we entered the pine grove, a Great Horned Owl was on a branch right in front of us. It stared down for a second, then flew off. We searched unsuccessfully for the owl, but did see a couple Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Below: The tail-end of a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Brian and Ryan went to check out a nearby pine grove, and they called us within 5 minutes- they had the bird. It happened to be in the exact same tree that Ryan had seen his life saw-whet a few years ago. It was a little hard to see, but we all ended up getting great views (And for me, some subpar photos).

See it?
Here's a very cropped photo:
It was a great trip, like any trip with an owl (let alone two) is. Also, given how early in the year it was, I saw 25 year birds. My year list is now up to 68.

Good Birding!

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