Monday, November 22, 2010

Excellent Birds with the Connecticut Young Birders' Club

Where can you see a South American Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a Mexican Cave Swallow, and Canadian  Common Eiders and Lapland Longspurs, all on the same day? Why, Connecticut, of course!

The first field trip of the recently created CT Young Birders' Club was on Sunday, to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, with possibly a few other stops thrown in, time permitting.

Our first stop was the parking lot of Hammonasset, which held a large flock of Horned Larks (including some with very white eyebrows- lark subspecies id, anyone?), a slightly smaller flock of Snow Buntings, and 2 Lapland Longspurs, all birds that are easy to see at Hammo, but, especially in the case of the Longspur, tricky to see at most places. The yellow-and-black faces and odd running gait of the larks, the huge white wing patches of the buntings, and the bold striped pattern of the longspurs make this trifecta fun to watch.

At the water, we scoped out many Common and Red-throated Loons, a Surf Scoter, two White-winged Scoters, 8 Common Eiders. Shorebirds were common on the rocks and jetties, with one Purple Sandpiper along with the more common Dunlin, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plover, and Ruddy Turnstones.

Land birds in the thickets and brush were somewhat scarce, but included Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, and Hermit Thrush.

Leaving Hammonasset, we headed to a Sewage Treatment Plant (sewage = good birds) in New Haven, at East Shore Park. There are more insects there than anywhere else at this time of year (the warmth from the plant, I think), and as a result there are often late warblers and swallows, insectivores that would not usually be around this late in the year.

Our targets were Cave Swallows, a bird that breeds in Texas, Arizona, and Mexico, and winters in  Central America. That is, most winter in Central America. Some end up on the east coast, where they find food at places like East Shore Park. And sure enough, there were two Cave Swallows swirling overhead not long after we arrived- a life bird for me. There were also a lot of warblers around for the time of year. In addition to the expected Yellow-rumped, there were an American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, and 2 Pine Warblers. Others had seen Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a couple more warblers earlier in the day.

Everyone would have been satisfied with the Cave Swallows and the other good birds, but we made one last stop on the way back to Greenwich- Cove Island Park, new home of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a South American bird 3000 miles from where it should be.

I had seen the forktail Saturday, but it was nice to see it again, and I actually got better looks this time. An excellent bird, and a great way to end an extremely successful first field trip.

I didn't really take many photos,(Alex Burdo and Benjamin Van Doren did though- check out their blogs here and here)but here is a very bad photo of both of the Cave Swallows overhead:

I'm weighing whether that can even be considered a record shot - if I hadn't labeled it, would you be able to id the birds? I'm not a photographer, and the good bird, awful photo tradeoff is fine with me.

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