Purple Martins banded at Sherwood Island

Photo by Chris Bosak A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

Photo by Chris Bosak
A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

Sometimes fun news assignments come across our offices at The Hour newspaper. If it has to do with birds it usually ends up being forwarded to my email address by everyone else who receives it. Not that I mind, of course.

Photo by Chris Bosak A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

Photo by Chris Bosak
A volunteer from Department of Energy and Environmental Protection holds a young Purple Martin while she identifies the age during a Purple Martin banding event held Thursday, July 10, 2014, at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, Conn.,

Such was the case this week when the Friends of Sherwood Island (a state park in Westport, Conn.) sent a release announcing a Purple Martin banding project. I attended the event, of course, and marveled as staff and volunteers from state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Friends of Sherwood Island took young martins from their nest, fitted them with bands, weighed and measured them, recorded data and returned them to the nests.  As all this was going on, the adult martins fearlessly and undaunted continued to hunt for insects to bring back to the colony.

I even got to return five baby Purple Martins to their gourd. It was the first time I’ve ever held a Purple Martin. Very cool.

For the complete story and photos from The Hour photographer Erik Trautmann, click here.

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.