Killdeer doing what Killdeer do to keep the species going

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer pair copulates in Darien in early April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer pair copulates in Darien in early April 2015.

The day after photographing a Killdeer walking along the snow-covered ground of Spring Grove Cemetery in Darien, Conn., I returned to the same spot to see what other birds might be around.

I watched a few Wood Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks in the small pond, but they stayed out of photographic range. It was good to see them anyway, of course.

Then I spotted a Killdeer somewhat near the pond’s edge. What the heck, I thought, may as well take some photographs. I grabbed a few shots and almost started to drive away until I noticed another Killdeer not far away. I almost drove away again as the new Killdeer was not adding any new photographic opportunities. I was happy to see it, don’t get me wrong, but I was ready to move on with me day.

I put the camera back on front seat and reached for the gear shift when I heard a long and consistent “piping.” What are they up to, I thought. Instinctually I got the camera ready again and, sure enough, the male climbed on top of the female and did what comes naturally in the natural world. The continuation of the species … it’s a beautiful thing.

Killdeer handles the cold and snow

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer stands in the snow at a cemetery in southern New England in late March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer stands in the snow at a cemetery in southern New England in late March 2015.

One of the drawbacks to being an early northward migrant is that they are subject to the whims of the early spring New England weather. Will it be hot, cold, just right? Raining, snowing?  The birds that show up in March are subjected to it all. But they’ve been doing it for generations, so for the most part, they can handle whatever is thrown at them.

Killdeer are one of these early migrants. They mate and nest earlier than most birds, too. So a little snow is no big deal for these “shorebirds.” The snow does make for nice photos, though.

Clearing out my 2014 photos, take 8: Least Tern

Photo by Chris Bosak A Least Tern sits among the rocks at the beach at Connecticut Audubon's Coastal Center at Milford Point in spring 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Least Tern sits among the rocks at the beach at Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point in spring 2014.

Here’s my next photo in the series of 2014 photos that I never got around to looking at and posting.

As we are now stuck in this deep freeze here in New England, here’s a warm-weather shot for you. It’s a Least Tern on the beach at Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center at Milford Point. Last week I posted a Piping Plover that I saw during my volunteering to monitor plovers and terns on the Connecticut shoreline. Well, here’s the other half: the terns. The plovers come in much earlier in the spring than the terns. Least Terns are handsome birds with yellow bills, compared the red or orange bills of most terns. Least Terns, as their name suggests, are also smaller than most terns. They can also be quite aggressive on their nesting areas (who can blame them?) and they will continually dive-bomb intruders. Yes, that includes innocent shorebird monitors just trying to help them out.

Piping Plovers and Least Terns are threatened species in Connecticut.

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. 

Clearing out my 2014 photos, Take 1: American Oystercatcher

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Milford Point in Connecticut, April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Milford Point in Connecticut, April 2014.

I was trying to find something on my computer’s desktop recently and just couldn’t find it for the life of me. I knew it was there and I knew I kept somehow looking right past it. Yet, it escaped my view.

My eyes eventually fixed upon it, but the whole experience got me thinking. Why did I have such a hard time trying to find that damn file? The answer was blatantly obvious. I have way too much sh … stuff on my desktop. I looked at the contents of my desktop and many are folders of photos I took during 2014. Some contained photos I used for one reason or another, and some contained photos that never saw the light of day: not in a column, website posting, nothing.

So with this posting, I’ll start showing some of the photos that I “never got around to” in 2014. It will force me to go through the folders, clean up my desktop and, hopefully, give visitors to this site some nice, until now never-before-seen New England wildlife photos. I’ll post several photos over the next few days. I hope you like these almost-forgotten photos.

Red Knot Shorebird Listed as Threatened by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Red Knot, from American Bird Conservancy.

Red Knot, from American Bird Conservancy.

Here’s an interesting press release from the American Bird Conservancy. It will be interesting to follow the fate of this beautiful shorebird.

(Washington, D.C., December 9, 2014) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council welcomed today’s decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formally list as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the highly imperiled rufa Red Knot, a shorebird that flies more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeats the trip in reverse every autumn—one of the longest migrations in the animal kingdom. Though the decision to list the Red Knot was hailed as an important victory by the three groups, they urge FWS to quickly designate critical habitat to better protect the bird.

Surveys of wintering knots along the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina and in Delaware Bay on the East Coast of the United States during spring migration indicate that the species experienced a serious population decline in the 2000s. Specifically, a 2011 count of the main wintering population of the bird in South America found a decline from the previous winter of at least 5,000 birds—approximately one-third of the remaining population.

“The compelling scientific case for ESA listing fueled our 10-year effort to encourage this decision,” says Darin Schroeder, Vice President of Conservation Advocacy for ABC. “While the decision to list the rufa Red Knot was certainly a protracted process, we do now have hope that future generations of Americans will be able to witness this migratory marvel.”

Red Knot survival is tied to management practices associated with a key food source for the bird: horseshoe crab populations along the shores of New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. An abundant horseshoe crab population provides critical fuel for migration when the birds stop at Delaware Bay to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Birds with higher weights have a better chance of reaching the Arctic to breed and survive into the next year.

The decline of Red Knots and other shorebird species has been largely caused by a diminishing supply of horseshoe crab eggs due to overharvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait and other purposes. When Red Knots leave Delaware Bay in poor condition due to the lack of horseshoe crab eggs, they either die before ever arriving in the Arctic or arrive in too poor a condition to successfully reproduce. As a result, adult birds are dying off without being replaced by juveniles, leading to a decline in population.

“It’s clear that Red Knots are dying because we’re decimating a food source they desperately need to survive,” says Jason Rylander, senior attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “Now that they’ve been listed as threatened, it’s time to make serious changes to horseshoe crab management and put a halt to their decline. We’ve waited far too long for this decision, and Red Knots are paying the price.”

Despite the growing evidence of over-exploitation of the horseshoe crab population, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has not reduced the harvest significantly in the last six years. The State of New Jersey eventually implemented a moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting in 2008, but Delaware and Maryland, which border Delaware Bay, have failed to do so.

“I’ve personally seen the Red Knot’s numbers dwindling in migratory stopover points like Canada’s Mingan Archipelago,” says Elly Pepper of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “These birds are strong enough to make migratory trips of nearly 20,000 miles annually, but not strong enough to weather the overharvesting of East Coast horseshoe crab populations. If we don’t change management policies for one of the key foods this bird relies on quickly, one of nature’s most epic journeys, and the birds that make it, will be wiped off the map.”

Red Knots are not the only species affected by the horseshoe crab fishery. Other species including Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, and Semipalmated Sandpipers also depend on an abundant supply of horseshoe crab eggs at the Delaware Bay stopover and have experienced significant declines as a result of the shortage.


Since 2005, four formal requests to list the Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act have been submitted to FWS. Citing a lack of resources and other priorities, FWS chose not to list the bird but placed it on the candidate list in 2006. Since then, Red Knot numbers have continued to fall.

A “threatened species” is one that is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. Such a designation requires that the species be protected from adverse effects of federal activities; provides restrictions on taking, transporting or selling a species; provides authority for recovery plans as well as the purchase of important habitat; and provides for federal aid to state and commonwealth wildlife agencies that have cooperative federal agreements.

Continue reading

5 New England ‘poster birds’ for climate change

Photo by Chris Bosak Bobolink

Photo by Chris Bosak

In response to the recently released State of the Birds 2014 report, Patrick Comins, the director of bird conservation with Audubon Connecticut, spoke about the 5 “poster birds” that will be most affected by climate change and the accompanying shifts in bird population. He was speaking specifically about Connecticut, but certainly all of New England will see this impact.

Comins spoke during a telephone conference to journalists on Wednesday.

Here are the birds he picked:

Saltmarsh Sparrow: Currently breeds in Connecticut, but has difficulty with rising sea levels and high tides. Rising tides will only become worse over the next several decades.

Bobolink: This meadow nester will likely not nest or be seen often in Connecticut over the next several decades.

Dunlin: This handsome shorebird currently nests and may be seen throughout winter along the New England coast. It’s nesting ability in Connecticut, as Comins put it, will “become zero.” It will move its range north and perhaps New England will get some winter views of this bird.

Blue-winged Warbler: This handsome bright yellow warbler will “move up and out.”

Veery: Comins almost picked the Wood Thrush for his final bird, but chose the Veery. It will become scarce in New England.

The phrase “over the next several decades” may give some people cause to relax and think “I’ll never notice it” or “maybe things will change.” But the “next several decades” will be here before we know it. There have been staggering declines in bird populations over the last 40 years. We’re talking some species dropping in number by 50, 60 even 80 percent. That’s just the last 40 years. That’s basically yesterday evolutionarily speaking. Jeez, I can remember 40 years ago. It bothers me to think this decline all happened in my lifetime.

Hopefully the State of the Birds report will get the attention it deserves and affect positive change for birds and all wildlife.

The full report may be found here.