Report: Long Island Sound faces uncertain future

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon seen during a recent winter in Long Island Sound off the coast of Norwalk, Conn. Loons feature a more drab plumage in the winter.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon seen during a recent winter in Long Island Sound off the coast of Norwalk, Conn. Loons feature a more drab plumage in the winter.

Long Island Sound is a special body of water. The estuary that forms the southern border of Connecticut, the northern border of Long Island (N.Y.), ends up at the East River in NYC to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, is a vital habitat for birds and other wildlife.

I have lived in three cities that border Long Island Sound and have spent countless hours birding the coast and open waters. Each December, I participate in a Christmas Bird Count whose territory includes Long Island Sound. The birdlife is varied and thrilling at all times of the year. The fascinating summer birds are replaced by amazing winter birds.

According to the 2019 State of the Birds report released last week, the Sound is as clean and vibrant as it has been in years. However, it also faces an uncertain future as climate change and rising sea levels threaten to drastically alter its landscape. According to the report, the Sound and its wildlife have already been impacted by changes in climate.

The thoroughly researched and well-written State of the Birds report is issued each year by the Connecticut Audubon Society (@CTAudubon). It includes articles by experts from many other state conservation organizations. When I was a newspaperman, I made it a point to attend the annual release event, at which many of the Report’s authors were present. I still look forward to its release each year.

The press release that summarizes the findings may be found here. The full report will be available via PDF on January 1.

To honor the Sound and, hopefully, draw a little more awareness to the Report and its findings, I will post each day this week a photo I have taken at the Sound over the years.

#CTStateoftheBirds

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon seen during a recent winter in Long Island Sound off the coast of Norwalk, Conn. Loons feature a more drab plumage in the winter.

Sticking to the water theme: Black-crowned Night Heron

Photo by Chris Bosak A Black-crowned Night Heron perches on a railing at a marina along the Norwalk River, Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Black-crowned Night Heron perches on a railing at a marina along the Norwalk River, Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

My last few posts have been about Wood Ducks. It’s not everyday you come across “brave” female Wood Ducks with babies, so why not get some mileage out of it?

We’ll switch gears a bit for this posting with some photos of a Black-crowned Night Heron I saw while walking into work on day last week along the Norwalk River. Black-crowned Night Herons may be seen throughout New England, both Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Wood Ducks show a tame side

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.) and The Keene (NH) Sentinel.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Wood Duck mother swims with one of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Wood Duck mother swims with one of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

The Mallards were scattered along the grass and I didn’t think twice about it. I’m used to Mallards being tame and not walking away, or even flinching, when someone draws near.

With many Mallards, even with babies in tow, they show little or no fear of humans. In fact, many even welcome the approach of humans as the ducks hope to get some food.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Wood Duck mother swims with two of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Wood Duck mother swims with two of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

But in this particular flock of ducks, two females and their babies quickly retreated to the nearby pond. These ducks weren’t Mallards at all, but rather they were Wood Ducks. Two female Wood Ducks and their babies were “hanging out” with the Mallards in the grass near the pond before I pulled into the parking lot.

While the Mallards in the group, which consisted of most of the birds, did not even bother to wake up from their midday nap, the Wood Ducks’ instincts told them to retreat.

But the scene was still extremely surprising to me. First of all, you don’t always see Wood Ducks hanging out with Mallards. And, second of all, Continue reading

Brant, Brant and more Brant

Photo by Chris Bosak A large flock of Brant at Calf Pasture Beach, April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A large flock of Brant at Calf Pasture Beach, April 2015.

I love seeing Brant along Long Island Sound. It’s fascinating knowing a bird that is so close in the winter will be spending its summer in the Arctic. Of course, lots of birds we see in New England during the winter _ especially waterfowl _ nest far north of here, but few are as easily seen as Brant.

Brant, which look similar to Canada Geese but are smaller and have different markings, gather in massive flocks along parts of Long Island Sound from late fall to early spring. Many Brant are Continue reading

Here’s the grebe

Photo by Chris Bosak A Horned Grebe swims in Long Island Sound off the coast of Darien, Conn., Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Horned Grebe swims in Long Island Sound off the coast of Darien, Conn., Jan. 2015.

I mentioned in my last post about seeing a Horned Grebe on my quick trip to the beach the other day. Here’s a photo of the grebe I saw the other day in Long Island Sound from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn. Zoom in and check out its really cool red eye.

There are seven types of grebes in the U.S. and four are regularly seen in New England, although mostly only in the winter in their nonbreeding plumage _ so don’t expect to see a red neck on the Red-necked Grebe. The Pied-billed Grebe is the one most commonly seen in New England, while the Red-necked, Horned and Eared Grebes make occasional visits. The others _ Least, Western and Clark’s _ are not likely to be found in New England, but that doesn’t mean they never show up here.

The grebes we see here in the winter are in their much duller nonbreeding plumage, which can make identification tricky. Loons are another water bird that look much more dull in the winter. Loons are larger and stockier than grebes _ at least the grebes we see in New England.

I like talking about grebes because I get to say the word “grebe” over and over.┬áIt’s just one of those words that’s fun say out loud. Anyway, happy birding out there.