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.

White-winged Scoter hanging out with shorebirds

Photo by Chris Bosak A White-winged Scoter rests on the beach as a Ruddy Turnstone shares the area at Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A White-winged Scoter rests on the beach as a Ruddy Turnstone shares the area at Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, May 12, 2014.

While doing my weekly volunteer shorebird monitoring at Coastal Center at Milford Point, I came across a surprise bird on the beach. A White-winged Scoter, usually a bird I see in the distance on the waters of Long Island Sound during the winter, was sitting on the beach with dozens of little (in comparison) shorebirds.

It was an odd scene to see the scoter resting on the beach as Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin and Semipalmated Plovers scampered all around it.

Scoters are large sea ducks. Three types are seen along the New England coast: Surf; Black; and White-winged.

The day also included sightings of Peregrine Falcon (a young one sitting on the beach), Least Terns, Brant, American Oystercatcher, Piping Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, and other shorebirds.

Photo by Chris Bosak White-winged Scoter at Milford Point, Connecticut, May, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-winged Scoter at Milford Point, Connecticut, May, 2014.

Shorebird quiz time: Find the Piping Plover

Photo by Chris Bosak Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, Conn., April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, Conn., April 2014.

My latest For the Birds Column focuses on the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, or in other words, volunteering to monitor Piping Plovers, Least Terns, American Oystercatchers and other shorebirds. The program is important in order to help protect these threatened birds. (See the column here.)

To give you an idea of the challenges faced by volunteers in finding Piping Plovers, here’s a fun little quiz for everybody. When on the beach you really have to look for motion in order to find the birds most of the time as they blend in so terrifically with their beach surroundings. With that in mind … the task of the quiz is simple: find the Piping Plover in the above photo.

Let me know how you did. I’ll post the answer later this week for those who can’t find it.

Purple Martins arrive in New England

Contributed photo Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation at Connecticut Audubon, sets up the Purple Martin gourds at the Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, April 14, 2014.

Contributed photo
Milan Bull, Senior Director of Science and Conservation at Connecticut Audubon, sets up the Purple Martin gourds at the Coastal Center at Milford Point on Monday, April 14, 2014.

It’s Purple Martin season in New England! Last week I ran into David Winston and Patrick Duggan putting up the Purple Martin gourds at Cove Island Park in Stamford. On Monday, after finishing my volunteer Piping Plover monitoring duties at the Coastal Center at Milford Point (CT), I ran into Milan Bull of Connecticut Audubon putting up the gourds there.

Purple Martin at Cove Island in Stamford.

Purple Martin at Cove Island in Stamford.

The Purple Martins had already arrived and many perched on the poles as Milan worked underneath to get the gourds ready. I even got my hands dirty and helped him out a bit (of course, he was nearly done by the time I got there.)

Purple Martins will return to the same site year after year, so if you were successful in getting Purple Martins last year, get your gourds or houses up soon. If you were not successful last year, or are trying for the first time this year, you can get the houses up now, or wait a few weeks. Younger birds seeking to start a new colony will arrive throughout the next several weeks, or even months. Just keep an eye on the gourds or houses for House Sparrows. Remove the nests if House Sparrows take up residence.

I’m far from an expert in attracting Purple Martins, so for more detailed information about Purple Martins, I’ll refer you to this site: http://www.purplemartin.org/

Thanks for visiting http://www.birdsofnewengland.com

Another Snowy Owl sighting in this historic year

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl sits on an old telephone pole at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014. Smoke stacks in Bridgeport loom in the background.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl sits on an old telephone pole at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014. Smoke stacks in Bridgeport loom in the background.

It’s no secret by now that this is a historic winter for Snowy Owl sightings throughout New England and beyond. Snowy Owls are large owls that breed in the Arctic. The irruption of Snowies has gained the attention of nearly all media outlets — small, medium and large; newspapers, magazines, radio and television.

It’s hard to ignore such an avian happening. A couple Snowy Owl sightings in a New England winter is the norm. This year there have been dozens, perhaps hundreds. The most recent Audubon magazine has a great article by Scott Weidensaul. I highly recommend reading it.

I saw my first Snowy Owl of this winter in December in Westport, Conn. I saw a few more in January and February in Milford and Stratford, Conn.

On March 1 I had perhaps my best Snowy Owl sighting of the year. It was at the Coastal Center at Milford Point in Milford, Conn. The owl was on the beach and, while I photographed it from a distance, other beach walkers flushed the impressive bird on occasion. Because of the owl’s impressive size I was able to relocate it each time. Such an impressive bird.

My hope is that as many of these beautiful birds as possible make it back to the Arctic. Perhaps they’ll visit us again another winter.

Enjoy these photos. I hope to have a short video ready soon.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl flies across the beach at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl flies across the beach at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

More photos below (click on “continue reading.”)

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