Saturday, March 31, 2012

New signs on Long Beach in Stratford

Below you can see signs on Long Beach for the protection of the Piping Plovers and (hopefully!) Least Terns. They were erected yesterday by Town of Stratford Conservation Administrator Brian Carey and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds' own Scott Kruitbosch, himself a Stratford resident.




Two or three pairs of Piping Plovers have been seen so far on Long Beach, and despite a lot of human traffic, there are usually some successful nests here. We thank Brian and the town of Stratford for their cooperation in helping to protect coastal waterbirds, and we hope all of the residents and visitors will take the same mindful and considerate attitude this season while enjoying the beautiful beach. These beach-nesting species can co-exist very peacefully with all of us if the proper precautions are taken.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Piping Plover tracks

Look at these Piping Plover tracks all over the beach at Harkness Memorial State Park this week, courtesy of Timothy L. Thompson.




Below we see some tracks close up but also what was likely a resting spot. Looks comfortable and serene, especially in the cooler, windier, and "March-ier" week we have had.




Our thanks once again to Timothy for some wonderful photos, and to everyone who has already been out in the field conducting surveys and recording detailed observations about the threatened species as well as others. We have a long season ahead of us and our work is only getting started. Keep an eye out for fencing party dates in early April, and if you can join CT DEEP, USFWS, and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds in erecting exclosures and fencing we would love the help!


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Can you spot the Piping Plover?

See if you can spot the Piping Plover in the picture below, one of a few photos taken by Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds staff member Scott Kruitbosch on Long Beach in Stratford. This is not an easy task, but it is definitely good practice! Click on it to see it in a larger size.


Quite difficult, eh? Try this closer view...


If you have not found it yet this final view should be easy...


And there it is, hunkered down in the sand among the shells and other debris. This is a position you may often see Piping Plovers in when they are attempting to hide from predators and other threats. In this case, the bird was seemingly attempting to stay out of the strong wind and cold air while in the midst of foraging, and the photos were taken from quite a distance with a big zoom.

If you are a true Piping Plover master monitor you may have been so talented to see through this little game even further and determine that the first two photos had two Piping Plovers in them. If you have spotted the first one or went back to see it in the previous photos, see if you can detect the other bird.

Below are the three photos with the Piping Plovers circled in them.




This is only a small taste of how hard it can be to see them, their nest and eggs, and young, and why we must be so careful on the beach and help educate others to be aware of their presence.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #2

Here are the survey and monitoring updates for March 19 through 25.

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair, 1 adult at Sandy/Morse Points on 3/20
3 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 3/22
1 pair at Bluff Point on 3/22
5 adults at Long Beach on 3/23
1 adult at Milford Point on 3/23
1 adult at Long Beach West on 3/24
5 adults at Long Beach on 3/25

Anecdotal reports:
3 adults at Griswold Point on 3/21
7 adults at Milford Point on 3/24
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/25

No PIPL have been seen at Silver Sands State Park despite several surveys. No PIPL have been seen at Pleasure Beach on a few surveys.

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 3/20
2 adults at Stratford Point on 3/21
1 pair at Great Captain Island on 3/22
1 pair at Calf Islands on 3/22
1 pair, 1 adult at Sandy/Morse Points on 3/23
2 pairs at Milford Point plus possibly more individuals on 3/23
9 adults at Sandy Point in Stonington on 3/23
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/25

Anecdotal reports:
2 adults flying by Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk on 3/19
2 adults at Hammonassett State Park on 3/22
1 adult at Hammonassett State Park on 3/23
3 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 3/24
4 adults at Nathan Hale Drive in Norwalk on 3/24
2 adults at Hammonassett State Park on 3/24
1 adult at Sunken Island on 3/25
2 adults at Stratford Point on 3/25

There have been no reports of Least Tern or Common Tern thus far in 2012.

Staff and volunteers have noted a sizable influx of Great Egret in the last week, with multiple birds being seen migrating in Long Island Sound. They have also been seen in areas such as Griswold Point, Stratford Great Meadows, Stratford and Milford Points, Hammonasset State Park, the Norwalk River, Lake Whitney in Hamden, Station 43 in South Windsor, Konold’s Pond in Woodbridge, Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic,  Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien, Peck’s Pond in Stratford, Gallinule Pond in Stratford, Southport Beach, Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, the Mianus River Fishway, the Branford River, the Knox Preserve in Stonington, and even more. Their initial arrival appears complete across the state at a relatively early date.

A few more Snowy Egret have been seen including 2 at Rocky Neck State Park in Niantic, 2 at Milford Point, 1 in Stratford Great Meadows, and 1 more in Stonington. The first Yellow-crowned Night-Heron have returned with 1 adult and 3 immature birds seen at Silver Sands State Park in Milford. Black-crowned Night-Heron continue to be seen occasionally around Stratford and Milford only in minor numbers of up to several birds.

This concludes update #2 through 3/25/12 as of 11:00PM.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Confusing shorebirds - a pair of Sanderling

We recently spotted two white shorebirds running in and out of the dunes of Sandy Point in West Haven in the fog. They were acting like a pair and interacting with another pair of Piping Plover. However, they were not Piping Plovers themselves despite their possibly confusing appearance - they were Sanderling.


Most of the time we see Piping Plovers confused with Killdeer because of their similar enough appearance and behavior. Sanderling are often in large groups on the shore, sometimes mixed with Dunlin, closer to the waves, and feeding at the high tide line at the highest point. It was very strange to see these two acting like they were Piping Plovers and goes to show you that you never know quite what to expect with individual birds. Here is a brief paragraph from the CT DEEP website on Piping Plover appearance:

Identification: Piping plovers are white below and creamy brown above, the color of dry sand. During the breeding season, they have a single black neck band that is sometimes incomplete and a black bar above the white forehead. This black neck band is completely lacking in winter. Their primary feathers are dark brown. The rump is white, contrasting with the brown back and tail, which are very conspicuous in the bird's distraction display. The bill is orange with a black tip; the feet are also orange. The voice is a clear "peep-lo"; often only the "peep" is given. The piping plover is often confused with another member of its family, the killdeer, which has 2 black bands across its chest and is larger than the plover. 

Note that the Sanderling do not have any colored bands, and compare their photos to the rest of the description.

A Piping Plover on that same day:


A closer shot of one of the Sanderling:


What else is different? Note the legs, body and head shape, and bill color and size. Have you seen any other birds behaving like Piping Plovers or providing for confusion moments?


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

American Oystercatchers return as well

Single and paired American Oystercatchers are now being seen even more frequently than Piping Plovers in Connecticut, from one end to the other. They've been spotted on Sandy Point in Stonington all the way to Great Captain Island off Greenwich. Many have been seen at some of the best known Piping Plover nesting spots such as Milford Point.

Below you can see a pair at foggy Sandy Point in West Haven this week as photographed by staff member Scott Kruitbosch.


Remember, we would like you to report American Oystercatcher sightings to us as well during your Piping Plover monitoring time in the same way you report them. This is a tremendous help to us and to their conservation in Connecticut. Every time we log a sighting with the details we request we learn a great deal about the species in our state and can work to ensure them a successful breeding season.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Piping Plovers return!

Piping Plovers have been spotted across the Connecticut coast already, including Long Beach in Stratford, Milford Point in Milford, Griswold Point in Old Lyme, Sandy and Morse Points in West Haven, and Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. Multiple pairs have been seen in Milford and nesting efforts may already be getting underway.

Check out these great photos from Timothy L. Thompson of an adult Piping Plover that was seen on March 17 at Harkness Memorial State Park.









Photos like these are also great in helping people learn the finer points of Piping Plover identification, and we encourage you to pass our blog entries on to others - friends, family, or interested folks you may meet while monitoring. We hope you find a Piping Plover at your local beach soon as more will be on the way each day now.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #1

This is the first update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds for the 2012 season. We will include weekly updates with data from our staff and volunteers on our four focal species - Piping Plover, Least Tern, American Oystercatcher, and Common Tern. There will be additional data listed on these species from trusted anecdotal sources. There may also be updates on long-legged waders and other shorebirds, if applicable.


Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/13
1 adult at Milford Point on 3/15
2 adults at Long Beach West on 3/16
1 adult at Harkness Memorial State Park on 3/17
3 pairs at Milford Point on 3/19
1 adult at Long Beach on 3/19

Anecdotal reports:
2 adults at Griswold Point on 3/11
3 adults at Griswold Point on 3/12
3 pairs, 1 mounting and copulating, at Milford Point on 3/17


American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult at Milford Point on 3/6
2 adults at Milford Point on 3/7
3 adults flying by Long Beach on 3/9
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/9
2 adults not far up Housatonic River on 3/9
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/15
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/18
2 pairs, 1 adult at Milford Point on 3/19
1 pair at Stratford Point on 3/19

Anecdotal reports:
3 adults near Branford Harbor on 3/9
2 adults at Haycock Point, Branford on 3/9
2 adults at Hammonasset State Park on 3/9
1 adult at the Norwalk Islands on 3/11
3 adults at Milford Point on 3/14
2 adults near Branford Harbor on 3/16
3 adults at the Norwalk Islands on 3/17
3 adults at Compo Beach in Westport on 3/17
2 adults at the Oyster River mouth on 3/17
1 adult at West Haven on 3/18


There have been no reports of Least Tern or Common Tern thus far in 2012.


Including anecdotal information, multiple Great Egret and a few Great Blue Heron have been seen migrating into Connecticut in the past week, both in groups on the coast and in locations otherwise not seen in this abnormally warm winter. Two Snowy Egret have been reported, one in East Lyme (Rocky Neck State Park) and one in Stonington (Quanaduck Cove). One Glossy Ibis was reported yesterday at Hammonasset State Park.


This concludes update #1 through 3/19/12 as of 5:00PM.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

USFWS, CT DEEP, & Audubon Alliance training videos

The following videos are only small portions of the three-hour plus Piping Plover monitor training and orientation session conducted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds on March 10, 2012 at the Coastal Center at Milford Point. They are meant to be used as a part of training future volunteers or those who could not attend the session, but if you are a current monitor you may find it helpful to review them.

The videos are primarily of USFWS Ranger Shaun Roche and Refuge Manager Rick Potvin. You will also see and hear from CT DEEP Supervising Wildlife Biologist Jenny Dickson, Audubon Connecticut IBA Coordinator Corrie Folsom-O'Keefe, and hear Connecticut Audubon Society Conservation Technician Scott Kruitbosch, who was behind the camera.

The first video discusses the job of a volunteer monitor, their role, responsibilities, and some of the legalities pertaining to this service.




The second video details the difference between volunteering some of your time for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service as well as more on your role as an educator on the beach, how to go about that duty, situations to avoid, and how to report incidents or disturbances.




The third video goes further into handling situations on the beach, everything from who to approach or not approach, what to do when you see loose dogs, and what the responsibility of USFWS is to you and the municipality is with respect to their beaches and laws.





While we had a record number of volunteers join us this year, these beach-nesting birds still need more monitors! You can still assist in helping monitor threatened species like the Piping Plover and Least Tern by calling USFWS Ranger Shaun Roche at (860)399-2513 or emailing Shaun_Roche@fws.gov, or emailing us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. We will provide further information and, if you are new to volunteering, time with Master Plover Monitors or our staff on the beach. Thank you for your consideration, and thanks again to all of our monitors for the 2012 season.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Survey Datasheets

Here are your survey datasheets for the 2012 coastal waterbird season! If you scan to the bottom of this post you can find them in .PDF form. They are below in .jpg form (images) that you can then print out and take into the field whenever you need. You can download these images to your computer for printing in two ways. First, if you click on the images below a larger version of the image will be displayed on your screen. If you right-click this larger image and select save image as you can store it to your computer for printing and viewing - make sure you will be able to find where you put it, such as in a downloads folder or on your desktop.

The first datasheet is for Piping Plovers and American Oystercatchers:


The second is for Least Terns and Common Terns:


The third is for long-legged waders, shorebirds, and other species we would like documented if they are seen breeding. It also includes a simple disturbance form to fill out for our own information. This is not a replacement for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service disturbance protocols or forms which should be filled out as a priority and returned promptly.



The fourth is more information concerning breeding bird survey codes that we utilize in surveying the birds listed in the previous datasheet:


Alternatively, you can download each image directly by opening and saving the .jpg image files listed in the links below, or directly right-clicking to save them:

Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher datasheet
Least Tern and Common Tern datasheet
Long-legged waders/shorebirds and simple disturbance datasheet
Breeding Bird Survey codes


You can do the same here with these .PDF versions which require Adobe Reader:

Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher datasheet
Least Tern and Common Tern datasheet
Long-legged waders/shorebirds and simple disturbance datasheet
Breeding Bird Survey codes


Thank you so much for your help this season, and if you have any questions, please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com at any time.


Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, Audubon Connecticut and the Connecticut Audubon Society partnering to improve conditions for coastal waterbirds in Connecticut.