Coming soon to Birds of New England: photos from a recent visit to Florida and updates and photos of the ongoing spring migration in New England. Warblers and other songbirds are here. Feel free to let me know what you’re seeing out there.
Brant are geese that breed in the Arctic. Many of them spend the winter in New England and massive flocks may be found at various coastal sites in the region. One of those sites is Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Connecticut, where flocks numbering in the thousands hug the coast.
A quick visit to the park yesterday yielded a staggering number of brant. The birds were eating grass in the lawn areas of the park and were surprisingly tolerant of humans walking and jogging close by. Typically, the brant are seen on the beach near the water or on the water of Long Island Sound. Perhaps the birds were more tolerant because they are filling up for the pending migration. Just a thought.
Not all brant will depart at the same time. I’ve seen brant along the Connecticut coast as late as June. Those stragglers are likely young brant that aren’t ready to mate. At any rate, it’s nice to see the brant every year and they add a reliable bit of wildness to our coasts in the winter and spring.
Brant are often confused with Canada geese, but there are obvious differences. Brant are smaller and darker overall and do not have trademark white “chin strap” of the Canada goose. They do have a white marking under their chins, but it is not as large and pronounced as that of the Canada goose. The brants’ call is also croakier and quieter than the loud honk of the Canada goose.
For now, brant are still around in large numbers, which is good for New England birdwatchers. Many of them will depart shortly for points well north. Then we’ll be left to keep an eye out for the stragglers — or wait until late fall.
Here is a photograph showing a small portion of the flock.
Here is a shot of Canada geese, for the sake of comparison.
Crows are surprisingly difficult to photograph, especially considering how common they are. During the winter in many New England cities, we see massive flocks of crows headed to their nighttime roosts. Obviously their numbers are not hurting so why are they so tough to capture on film? (I know that nobody uses film anymore; it’s just an expression.)
First of all, they are fairly wary. Smart, in other words. They typically do not allow for a very close approach. Even crows in a very public place will take off as soon as you point a camera at it. I’ve heard that crows are difficult to hunt as well. They may be all over a certain area, but as soon as a gun comes out, the birds are gone. They must sense that something is amiss.
If you do get a cooperative crow, it is still difficult to get a nice photograph because of the bird’s plumage. Very black and very white birds are tough because of the lighting and contrast challenges. If you do get it right, however, the results can be very satisfying. Crows, similar to other dark birds, display a captivating iridescence in their plumage when the light catches the feathers just right.
For whatever reason, crows are a much-maligned bird. I think it’s time to change that perception and appreciate them for what they are: smart, personable and stylish.