Hard to watch ducks when Long Island Sound is frozen

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Birdwatching makes New England winters that much more bearable for me. I love the winter ducks that come down from the Arctic, Canada and northern New England and overwinter on Long Island Sound: Long-tailed Ducks, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and the like. Not to mention the other fowl like loons and grebes.

But it’s a little hard to watch ducks like this …

In my 16 years living near the coast of Connecticut I’ve never seen Long Island Sound be frozen. I’ve heard stories from oldtimers about Long Island Sound freezing over, but I’ve never seen it. Until now.

This morning (Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015) I brought my spotting scope down to Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., to check out the ducks. I didn’t even have to get the scope out of the car. Long Island Sound was frozen. Where kids swim in the summer and ducks swim in the winter, it was completely frozen. Ice as far as I could see. A small pool of water connecting Darien and Stamford and feeding Holly Pond was unfrozen and held a few Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, but that was it. The rest was ice.

Saturday was warm (relatively speaking, about 30 degrees) and Sunday is supposed to be even warmer (around 40), but Monday we are right back into single digits. We’ll see how the Sound reacts. I’d sure like to see my ducks again.

 

One more of the hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

I know I wrote in my first post about the Red-tailed Hawk that it would be a two-parter. I couldn’t resist, however, throwing this one up on the site, too. It’s a hawk’s world.

The Red-tailed Hawk under calmer conditions

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk preens at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed hawk preens at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Here’s the second post about the Red-tailed Hawk I found at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn. the other day. The previous post explains the story, so here’s the photos of the impressive bird without the wind blowing its plumage.It is, however, preening and then looking back at me menacingly.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Clearing out my 2014 photos, take 10: Great Blue Heron

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron stands on a piling along the Norwalk River, fall 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron stands on a piling along the Norwalk River, fall 2014.

Here’s my next photo in the series of 2014 photos that I never got around to looking at and posting. (Don’t worry, I’m almost done. Then I can focus on 2015 and finally put 2014 behind me.)

I ran a similar photo to this in the fall, but this one never made it out of the “look at” folder. I was walking into work one fall day when I noticed this Great Blue Heron standing on a piling within the small marina by my work’s building. It looked so stately and the fall colors in the background prompted me to stop and get the camera out of the bag. Usually in moments like this, the bird takes off as soon as I stop, get the camera out, take the lens cap off and start the focusing process. But this guy (or girl) stayed put for me.

The photos published earlier may be found here.

Repurposing Christmas trees

 

Christmas trees for repurposing at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Ct.

Christmas trees for repurposing at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Ct.

Most discarded Christmas trees end up in a landfill somewhere, or if they are lucky, as mulch in a local dump. For the last couple of years, many of the old Christmas trees in Stamford, Connecticut, have been placed by the city in big piles at Cove Island Park. From there, volunteers, led by David Winston (shown below), have moved the trees to places in the park where they can continue to be of value.
Last year they were placed to protect the dunes by the beach. This year, despite the icy rain falling, volunteers placed the trees, hundreds of them, in two spots around the park. One spot was in the wildlife sanctuary to more clearly delineate trails. The other spot was in a wooded area that had become cleared and was likely going to be used for purposes not intended in the park. So the volunteers, including myself, filled in that clearing with old Christmas trees. Now that area can be used for birds and other wildlife as shelter and protection.
Not a bad way to reuse all those Christmas trees that are enjoyed so much around the holidays, and then placed curbside.
Also not a bad way to spend a rainy Sunday morning.

Clearing out my 2014 photos, Take 2: Piping Plover preening

Photo by Chris Bosak A Piping Plover preens on the beach at Milford Point, Conn., in April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Piping Plover preens on the beach at Milford Point, Conn., in April 2014.

Here’s my next photo in the series of 2014 photos that I never got around to looking at and posting. I ran a similar photo in April, but here’s another look at a Piping Plover _ an endangered bird in New England _ preening at Audubon Coastal Connecticut Center at Milford Point. The photo was taken in April 2014.

Click here to read more about Piping Plovers and to see more photos of this spectacular shorebird. 

Audubon Connecticut’s winter bird forecast

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

I wrote previously about my experiences with the Christmas Bird Count in which I saw three warbler species. A good start to winter birding, for sure. What else is in store for us this winter. More Snowy Owls perhaps? The folks at Audubon Connecticut have put together their predications.

They may be found here.

Here’s the starling in winter

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A European Starling in winter plumage perches on an old sunflower stalk, Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A European Starling in winter plumage perches on an old sunflower stalk, Dec. 2014.

This spring I wrote a post about starlings. Starlings are an invasive species to the United States and very numerous. In the spring, however, I saw a starling near my birdfeeder that caught my eye as visually striking. Well, it happened again. This time the starling was in its winter plumage, which is different from its breeding plumage.
The winter plumage is not always shown in field guides, so it causes confusion with some new birders. I have received emails from readers of my bird column asking what type of bird is in the photo they have attached and it is a starling in winter plumage.
So in this post you have a starling in its winter plumage. Still a striking bird. Click on the link below to see the bird in its breeding plumage.

Click here.

Turkey facts for Thanksgiving

The text below has been shamelessly stolen from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Wildlife Refuge System press release — but, hey, that’s why they send press releases, right? The photo, however, is mine.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody.

Photo by Chris Bosak Wild Turkey in New England, Jan. 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Wild Turkey in New England, Jan. 2013.

Eight Wild Facts about Wild Turkeys
#6. That Funny-Looking Bird is Faster Than You

So you thought there was nothing to know about turkeys except whether you liked drumsticks or white meat. Think again.

  1. Enough with gobble, gobble. Turkeys also cluck http://bit.ly/1sfVooH and purr http://bit.ly/1sfVooH.
  2. Turkey droppings tell a bird’s sex and age. Male droppings are j-shaped; female droppings are spiral-shaped. The larger the diameter, the older the bird.
  3. Feather-hanger: An adult turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers – count them! – on its body.
  4. Tom turkeys aren’t the only ones that swagger and fan their tail feathers to woo mates and ward off rivals. Some hens strut, too.
  5. Crunchy treats. Young turkeys – poults – scarf down insects like candy. They develop more of a taste for plants after they’re four weeks old.
  6. They may look off-kilter – tilting their heads and staring at the sky –yet but they’re fast. Turkeys can clock more than 12 miles per hour.
  7. Move over, American bald eagle. Ben Franklin called the wild turkey a “bird of courage” and thought it would make a better national symbol.
  8. Wild turkeys are not hard to find. National wildlife refuges are great places to look —while you enjoy a stroll in nature and emerge looking less like a butterball yourself. Here are some favorite turkey hideouts:

FLORIDA
St Marks National Wildlife Refuge
To boost your chances of seeing turkeys, get out of your car and walk. “Turkeys are sensitive to the movement of vehicles,” says Ranger David Moody. Wearing camo colors might help, too. The refuge permits bow hunting the first two weeks in November. Then it closes to hunting until December 13. Almost 50 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail go through the refuge. Turkeys like the open terrain of the longleaf pine sandhill ecosystem along the trail. $5 entrance fee.

GEORGIA
Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge
Look for turkeys along 50 miles of gravel road, including five-mile-long Wildlife Drive.  You might also see them off Round Oak Juliette Road, a scenic (and paved) byway. Or try one of the refuge’s five hiking trails. No entrance fee. (Note: the refuge is closed for a deer hunt Saturday, Nov. 22.)

ILLINOIS
Wild Turkey Trail — Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge
Easy to moderate 1.7- mile trail leads through woods and offers a fine chance of seeing wild turkeys. For more of a challenge, take the connecting 2.2-mile Rocky Bluff Trail. Entrance fee: $2 per vehicle.

MASSACHUSETTS
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
Several short foot trails give you a chance to glimpse wild turkeys. You might also spy some along Wildlife Drive. Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle.

MINNESOTA
Hillside Trail and Long Meadow Lake Trail— Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
From the Bloomington visitor center, the half-mile Hillside trail connects to the Long Meadow Lake Trail. Follow it around the floodplain wetland, keeping your eyes out for wild turkeys. No entrance fee.

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge
The refuge has a “healthy population” of the skittish wild birds, says deputy manager Greg Dehmer. Look for them along 7.5-mile Wildlife Drive, two refuge hiking trails, and in prairie fields beside county roads that run through the refuge. No entrance fee.

NEW MEXICO
Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge
The North Auto Tour Loop is a good place to spot some of the hundreds of Rio Grande turkeys found here. An even better place is the Intermittent Auto Tour Road, open Thanksgiving weekend from noon Nov. 28, through noon Dec. 1. (The route will also be open Dec. 26-29 and Jan. 16-19, 2015.) Or try your luck on any of nine refuge foot trails. Entrance fee: $5 per vehicle.

NEW YORK
Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge  
Feeder Road takes you on a scenic 3.5-mile drive into the refuge, passing fields and grasslands that are favorite turkey hangouts. Double back to exit. Hikers can walk the road or sample five other hiking trails. No entrance fee.

SOUTH CAROLINA
Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge
The 9-mile Wildlife Drive passes many woods and fields where you might spot turkeys, especially in mornings and late afternoons. Or lose the wheels and walk any of seven hiking trails along the drive. No entrance fee.

TEXAS
Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Look out for wild turkeys crossing Refuge Road as you drive in the main entrance. Pick from five refuge hiking trails: Raasch Trail is a good bet for seeing wild turkeys. There’s also a Wildlife Drive of about three miles. No entrance fee.

Refuge trails are open sunrise to sunset daily, even on Thanksgiving Day when refuge visitor centers will be closed.  Free trail maps are available outside the visitor center or at a refuge entrance kiosk. For details on Refuge System trails, visit http://go.usa.gov/w9O.