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.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Piping Plover preens at Milford Point in spring of 2014.
Here’s some good news from Connecticut Audubon regarding the success of shorebirds nesting on CT beaches. The nesting areas are monitored by volunteers and staff of the Audubon Alliance, a partnership with Connecticut Audubon Society(standalone organization), Audubon Connecticut (state chapter of national Audubon), CT DEEP, and Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History. The main focus of the monitoring and study are piping plovers and least terns, as well as American oystercatchers.
I was a monitor years ago when I worked nights and loved it. There’s nothing being the first one to discover a piping nest. I use the word “nest” lightly as it’s nothing more than a slight indentation in the rocky/sandy beach. The birds and eggs Continue reading →
I’ve taken a keen interest in the burgeoning osprey population ever since I covered the story about the osprey pair that built a nest at a Norwalk (Connecticut) beach park. The nest was being built high atop a light pole overlooking a softball field. It seemed a peculiar place to build a nest with the giant lights right there.
At the time, however, even more out of the ordinary was that an osprey pair was building a nest in Norwalk, which is a city in southwestern Connecticut on the shore of Long Island Sound. Norwalk hadn’t hosted an osprey nest — and certainly not one that public and visible — in many years, perhaps decades.
That was 2004. Fast forward 15 years and Norwalk is now home to a more than a dozen osprey nests. Connecticut, in fact, now has more than 500 osprey nests. All up and down the East Coast — shoreline and inland — ospreys have come back with a fury.
It is truly a conservation success story. Ospreys were nearly wiped out by pesticides in the 1950s. Now they have bounced back mightily throughout the U.S. and Europe, and their accompanying winter grounds in South America and Africa.
So when I saw that Alan F. Poole, a Massachusetts resident and noted expert/author on ospreys, was going to be the keynote speaker at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s annual meeting, I marked the date on my calendar.
Poole’s informative presentation on osprey included photos, graphs and charts on the incredible comeback of the “fish hawk.” Some tidbits from the presentation:
osprey are the only bird species that eats live fish exclusively
baby osprey take about 50 days to reach full size
in 1940 there were one thousand ospreys in New England; by the end of the 1950s only 90 pairs remained
artificial nesting sites such as man-made platforms and light poles have played a major role in the recovery
ospreys mate for life but do not migrate together
about half of the first-year osprey will die within the first year
osprey nests are made of large sticks and may weigh a half ton or more
osprey are gentle birds for the most part but will fiercely defend its nest
John James Audubon was a big fan of osprey and called them “This Famed Bird”
Osprey have self-sharpening talons as the hard upper layer of the talon grows faster than the soft under part
Poole recently wrote Ospreys: The Revival of a Global Raptor.
In other business, Connecticut Audubon Society (@CTAudubon) reinstated its officers, confirmed new board members and doled out awards to volunteers. It’s a great organization worthy of support.
Poole ended his presentation with an interesting comment. Referring to the study released a few weeks ago about the bird population decreasing by 29 percent since 1970, Poole said: “Ospreys are a good example that we can get things right if we pay attention and get organized.”
Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey sits in a nest at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.
You know a bird species is doing well in an area when you take a short break from work to get a nice photo of the bird and return to work a handful of minutes later with good results. The Osprey in coastal Connecticut is one such bird and area. Southern Connecticut, of course, is not the only place where “fish hawks” are thriving. They are doing well up and down the East Coast and many parts inland, too. They nest along salt, br Continue reading →
Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.
Here’s a recent column I wrote for The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Conn. Most of the Osprey have returned to New England by now and Connecticut Audubon is once again holding its Osprey Nation program whereby citizens monitor the nests of “fish hawks.” There are now dozens of Osprey nests along Continue reading →