Towhees and thrasher in the snow

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee eats a crab apple during a cold winter day at Weed Beach in Darien, CT., Jan. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee eats a crab apple during a cold winter day at Weed Beach in Darien, CT., Jan. 2014.

It was bitterly cold, but bright and sunny. Perfect day for a quick bird walk. Perfect day for a long bird walk, too, but I had limited time before my son Will’s basketball game, so it had to be a quick one.

After seeing a few Fox Sparrows at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., as soon as the walk started, the only species I could find was White-throated Sparrow. And there were lots of them. I love my White-throated Sparrows, of course, so I’m not complaining. My eyes, however, were darting around the brush for other birding goodies.

Trudging through the snow and doing my best to ignore the

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Snowy Owls in New England (I’m in, finally)

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl perches on a roof top at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl perches on a roof top at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

So I finally got into all this Snowy Owl action.

Snowy Owls are being seen in larger-than-usual numbers along the East Coast this fall and winter. Snowy Owls breed in the Arctic and typically spend their winters well north of New England.

On Monday, a Snowy Owl was spotted at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport. The large birds of prey have been seen up and down the Connecticut coast since early November. 

I found the owl quickly and took a few photos out the passenger’s side window, but a passerby flushed the large bird. (Remember to give them a wide berth if you see one.) I found the bird about half an hour later and snapped a few photos from a sidewalk that dog walkers were using. The owl just watched everybody walk by.

Oh, and the weather was foggy with a steady rain falling. (My excuse for the photos not being so great.)

Experts believe this year’s irruption is due to either a lack of lemmings, their main food source in the Arctic, or a particularly good breeding year for Snowy Owls, or a combination of those factors.

Snowy Owls hunt during the day, unlike many owl species. They are large owls, measuring 24 inches tall.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl perches on a fence post at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl perches on a fence post at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl perches on a fence post at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl perches on a fence post at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013.

 

Purple Sandpipers on Long Island Sound off the coast of Darien

Photo by Chris Bosak Purple Sandpiper on rocky island off the coast of Darien, CT. (Dec. 2013)

Photo by Chris Bosak
Purple Sandpiper on rocky island off the coast of Darien, CT. (Dec. 2013)

Snowy Owls and a Fork-tailed Flycatcher are grabbing all the headlines in Connecticut this week _ and deservedly so. Snowy Owls are being found up and down the coast and that flycatcher has been entertaining birders in Hadlyme.

I haven’t seen either species yet this fall/winter, but I thoroughly enjoyed a canoe trip on Long Island Sound this weekend. I launched from Pear Tree Point in Darien and canoed over to Green’s Ledge Lighthouse and back along the Darien coast. Common and Red-throated Loons were abundant. Long-tailed Ducks were constant companions and even uttered their unique song over and over.

But, for me, the highlight was Purple Sandpipers. I came across two flocks _ one a sizable flock of about two dozen; the other just two birds. Purple Sandpipers are hearty birds that live on rocky islands and breed in the Arctic. They winter on isolated rocks off the coast of New England, including Long Island Sound. 

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