Long Island Sound loses champion in Terry Backer

Terry Backer

Terry Backer

I’ve done a fair amount of birding on Long Island Sound over the years. The waters off the shores of New England are rich in ducks in the winter and shorebirds in the summer. For more than 10 years now, I’ve scoured Long Island Sound (either on a boat or from the shore) for birds during the Christmas Bird Count. In short, Long Island Sound is a vital habitat for for birds and other wildlife.

Long Island Sound lost one of its most passionate championship this week with the passing of Terry Backer, the Soundkeeper. I had the privilege of speaking with Terry several times, including interviews for newspaper stories, as a guest on my former Bird Calls Radio talk show and just shooting the breeze. Terry will be missed by Continue reading

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Osprey with fish. Can you name the fish?

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

I’m pretty good with my birds, but only very average with my fish. I got this photo of an Osprey carrying a fish along the Norwalk River on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. I was photographing a young Osprey on a sailboat mast when this older Osprey flew by with its prey. The younger Osprey looked up and gave a look as if to say: “I wish I could do that.” The youngster will learn soon enough.

It looks like a fairly good-sized fish, but honestly my fish ID skills are not up to par. Who knows what it is? Thanks for your input.

Photos from Long Island Sound research cruise

Hour photo/Chris Bosak Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk educators and visitors look at the haul from a net brought in from Long Island Sound during a cruise aboard the Aquarium's new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound on Saturday afternoon.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak
Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk educators and visitors look at the haul from a net brought in from Long Island Sound during a cruise aboard the Aquarium’s new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound on Saturday afternoon.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be able to join a research cruise of Long Island Sound aboard the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk’s new vessel Spirit of the Sound. It was the first day the nearly $3 million vessel took members of the public onto the water. (Yes, I was one of the first guests aboard, in case that ever comes up in a trivia questions.)

Anyway, I photographed the cruise for The Hour newspaper and I’ll add a link to the photo collection below.

Norwalk is lucky to have two nonprofits that offer cruises out among the Norwalk Islands. The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and the Norwalk Seaport Association. To know something is to love something and these terrific organizations are dedicated to educating people about Long Island Sound, a vitally important ecosystem.

Here’s the link to more photos.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk educator Nicole Rosenfeld shows off a spider crab caught in Long Island Sound aboard the Aquarium's new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound on Saturday afternoon.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak
Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk educator Nicole Rosenfeld shows off a spider crab caught in Long Island Sound aboard the Aquarium’s new research vessel RV Spirit of the Sound on Saturday afternoon.

Long-tailed Ducks in transition

Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Long-tailed Ducks in transition plumage swims in Long Island Sound, April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pair of Long-tailed Ducks in transition plumage swims in Long Island Sound, April 2015.

Here’s a shot of a pair of Long-tailed Ducks transitioning from their mostly white winter plumage to their mostly dark summer plumage. Some birds looks the same year-round and some birds look different in the summer and winter. Most ducks (but not all) go through a few different plumages as the year goes on.

These Long-tailed Ducks (formerly Oldsquaw) will be heading to their Arctic breeding grounds soon. When they are along coastal New England in the winter, we see their white plumage. It’s one of the few birds, in my opinion anyway, that look more decorated in the winter than in the summer. Take the Common Loon for instance. It sports its famous black-and-white spotted plumage in the summer, but changes to a much more drab grayish plumage in the winter.

We are lucky to have many Arctic nesters spend their winters in New England. It’s interesting to see their plumage transitions, giving us a glimpse of what they look like when they are “up north.”

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

Connecticut Osprey and how you can help

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

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

Hard to watch ducks when Long Island Sound is frozen

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Birdwatching makes New England winters that much more bearable for me. I love the winter ducks that come down from the Arctic, Canada and northern New England and overwinter on Long Island Sound: Long-tailed Ducks, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and the like. Not to mention the other fowl like loons and grebes.

But it’s a little hard to watch ducks like this …

In my 16 years living near the coast of Connecticut I’ve never seen Long Island Sound be frozen. I’ve heard stories from oldtimers about Long Island Sound freezing over, but I’ve never seen it. Until now.

This morning (Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015) I brought my spotting scope down to Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., to check out the ducks. I didn’t even have to get the scope out of the car. Long Island Sound was frozen. Where kids swim in the summer and ducks swim in the winter, it was completely frozen. Ice as far as I could see. A small pool of water connecting Darien and Stamford and feeding Holly Pond was unfrozen and held a few Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, but that was it. The rest was ice.

Saturday was warm (relatively speaking, about 30 degrees) and Sunday is supposed to be even warmer (around 40), but Monday we are right back into single digits. We’ll see how the Sound reacts. I’d sure like to see my ducks again.