Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Piping Plover chick foraging

Check out some more awesome photos from Timothy L. Thompson of this Piping Plover chick at Bluff Point! In the third and seventh shots see if you can spot a sand fly, a tasty treat for the species. If we had more Piping Plovers we would have less flies annoying us while we were trying to enjoy a day at the beach. Thanks again to Timothy, and look for more of his photos coming up soon.










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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #11

This is the eleventh update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2012 season. It includes reports of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, and Common Tern received from 12:00 p.m. on May 21 through 12:00 p.m. on May 29 with sightings of birds spanning May 21 through May 28 by our staff and volunteers.

Informational updates:

Thank you all for your extra efforts over this holiday weekend! While all of us were in the field for extensive hours totaling into the hundreds by AAfCW staff alone, we are still calculating some of the data, writing up disturbances, examining our efforts, talking to state and federal agencies, looking at some photos and video, and so on. With that said, losses seem to have been minimal despite wonderful beach weather and heavy traffic in many places. We cannot do this without you, and we need you on the beach as much as possible still going forward, so thank you all once again.

Please bear in mind that the data below does not represent our full coverage in the last several days. We are often monitoring sites but not surveying them fully, or have not yet entered it all into our database. Watching over the birds and talking with beachgoers sometimes took precedence over recording data at all. Essentially, if you do not see a site listed below on a given day it definitely does not mean that we were not present, and many times our staff took repeated trips to a given place, made a series of quick visits to multiple locations, or spent several hours in one spot even if they did not collect data. There are also some repetitions resulting from double or triple coverage (which is a good thing for monitoring the birds and collecting accurate data).

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/21
10 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/21
10 adults, 4 nests, 1 chick at Bluff Point on 5/21
2 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/23
5 pairs, 2 adults, 3 chicks, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/23
5 pairs, 1 adult, 2 chicks, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
2 pairs, 6 adults, 5 chicks, 2 nests at Bluff Point on 5/23
2 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/23
2 pairs, 6 adults, 5 chicks, 2 nests at Bluff Point on 5/23
3 pairs, 3 adults, 1 chick, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/24
5 pairs, 4 chicks, 3 nests at Milford Point on 5/24
2 pairs, 6 adults, 1 chick, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/24
4 pairs, 3 adults, 8 chicks, 3 nests at Bluff Point on 5/24
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/24
1 pair, 1 adult, 3 chicks at Milford Point on 5/25
4 pairs, 1 adult, 4 chicks, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/25
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/25
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/25
1 pair, 4 adults, 3 chicks, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/25
3 pair, 2 adults, 3 chicks, 5 nests at Long Beach on 5/25
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/25
1 pair, 3 adults, 3 chicks, 3 nests at Milford Point on 5/25
2 pair, 2 adults, 3 chicks, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/25
5 adults, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/25
12 adults, 8 chicks, 2 nests at Bluff Point on 5/25
1 pair, 1 adult, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/26
1 pair, 7 adults, 3 nests, 4 chicks at Milford Point on 5/26
1 pair, 3 chicks at Long Beach entrance only on 5/26
1 adult at Stratford Point on 5/26
5 pairs, 8 chicks, 3 nests at Milford Point on 5/26
1 pair, 3 adults, 2 chicks, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/26
3 adults, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/26
5 pairs, 11 chicks, 3 nests at Milford Point on 5/27
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/27
1 pair, 3 adults, 3 chicks, 3 nests at Milford Point on 5/27
1 adult, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/27
2 pairs, 1 adult, 4 chicks, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/27
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/27
2 pairs, 2 adults, 4 chicks at Long Beach on 5/27
3 pairs, 3 adults, 2 chicks, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/27
17 adults, 1 chick at Griswold Point on 5/27
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/28
2 pairs, 2 adults, 5 chicks, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/28
1 pair, 3 adults, 2 chicks, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/28
4 pairs, 8 chicks, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/28
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/28
2 pairs, 3 adults, 6 chicks, 1 nest at Long Beach on 5/28
1 pair, 3 chicks at East Broadway Milford on 5/28
2 pairs, 2 adults, 4 chicks, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/28
6 pairs, 12 chicks, 2 nests at Bluff Point on 5/28

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/21
1 pair, 1 nest at Bluff Point on 5/21
2 pair, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/22
1 pair, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/22
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/22
1 pair, 1 nest at Bluff Point on 5/23
1 pair at Ram Island Mystic on 5/23
1 pair at Griswold Point on 5/23
3 pairs, 2 nests at Menunketesuck Island on 5/23
2 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Cockenoe Island on 5/23
1 pair, 1 chick, 1 egg at Bluff Point on 5/23
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/23
3 pairs at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
1 pair, 2 chicks at Bluff Point on 5/23
3 pairs at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
1 pair at Bruce Johnson Marina Branford on 5/24
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/24
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/24
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/24
3 pairs, 1 possible chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/24
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/24
1 pair, 2 chicks at Bluff Point on 5/25
1 adult at Milford Point on 5/25
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/26
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/26
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/26
1 adult at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/26
1 pair at Stratford Point on 5/27
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/27
1 pair on Long Beach on 5/27
1 adult on Long Beach on 5/27
4 adults at Griswold Point on 5/27
2 adults at Milford Point on 5/28
2 adults on Long Beach on 5/28
2 pairs, 2 nests on Cockenoe Island on 5/28
1 pair, 1 nest on Long Beach Island on 5/28
1 pair, 2 chicks at Bluff Point on 5/28
2 pairs, 2 nests at Mumford Cove Bluff Point on 5/28

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
20 adults at Milford Point on 5/21
16 adults at Bluff Point on 5/21
48 adults at Long Beach on 5/23
41-50 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
17 adults at Bluff Point on 5/23
6 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/23
30 adults at Bluff Point on 5/23
25 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
6 adults at Stratford Point on 5/24
24 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/24
19-29 adults at Bluff Point on 5/24
4 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/24
1 pair at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/25
1st egg noted by staff at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/25
4 pairs, 10 adults, 1 nest with 2 eggs and likely 2 more nests at Long Beach section 1 only on 5/26
18 adults at Pleasure Beach on 5/26
5 adults at Stratford Point on 5/26
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/26
38 adults, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/26
4 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/26
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/27
3 adults at Stratford Point on 5/27
76 adults at Long Beach on 5/27
52-62 adults at Long Beach on 5/28
1 pair at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/28
40 adults at Bluff Point on 5/28

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Bluff Point on 5/21
500+ adults at Cockenoe Island on 5/23
15-20 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/23
2 adults at Bluff Point on 5/23
9 adults at Stratford Point on 5/24
20 adults at Pleasure Beach on 5/24
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/24
4 adults at Bluff Point on 5/24
6 adults at Long Beach on 5/26
17 adults at Stratford Point on 5/26
8 adults at Milford Point on 5/26
6 adults at Milford Point on 5/27
69 adults at Stratford Point on 5/27
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/27
6 adults at Long Beach on 5/27
5 adults at Milford Point on 5/28
8 adults at Long Beach on 5/28
3 adults at Long Beach on 5/28
100+ pairs, 200+ nests, 600+ adults at Cockenoe Island on 5/28


This concludes update #11 through 5/29/12 as of 4:00 p.m.


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

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Piping Plover hatchlings at Bluff Point

A big thank you to Timothy L. Thompson for sending us these awesome Piping Plover hatchling shots from Bluff Point. That one photo in particular showing the four newly-hatched little ones piled together is really incredible.





Those are some very young birds! Timothy has a wonderful talent and a very long lens, so please enjoy these images and binocular and scope views when you're on the beach, but maintain a safe distance from the chicks as much as you can. We will post more images from our staff soon.


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

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CT DEEP Memorial Day weekend message

Here is a message from Laura Saucier of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection concerning Piping Plovers and Memorial Day weekend, an instance when we really need your help more than ever! Please consider spending even a small amount of time monitoring this weekend outside of your usual schedule. We thank you all for your constant efforts. There will be Piping Plover chicks lost to heavy beach traffic this weekend - this is a sad reality - but the more people we have on the beach the lower these losses will be.


Priority sites to monitor should be Bluff Point State Park, Sandy and Morse Points in West Haven, Long Beach in Stratford and Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport, and the Milford Point cluster (sandbar, Cedar, Silver Sands State Park, Myrtle, Walnut, Laurel, East Broadway). I would encourage including Friday into coverage plans given it is supposed to be nice and warm.

Volunteers should be warned that eggs are hatching and there are chicks a-foot. There are already 4 chicks at Sandy Point. By the end of the week there will be chicks at Bluff Point (5 nests), Milford Point (2 nests), and Cedar (2 nests).

Secondary sites that could be checked if there is enough manpower would be Sherwood Island State Park, Hammonasset State Park's main beach, Harkness State Park, and Sasco Hill/Town Beach in Fairfield. Again, I’d like to see the priority sites covered well given the number of chicks slated to be running around them.

Please let volunteers know, if the worst case happens and they find a dead chick (not dead from a gull or cat) that they think someone stepped on…

Step 1.  DON'T DISTURB THE SITE - only if the person who stepped on the chick is present and belligerent so that you feel unsafe - CALL 911 - otherwise

Step 2. Call law enforcement - either DEEP 24 hour Emergency Dispatcher 1-800-842-HELP (4357), USFWS Agent Tom Ricardi cell 860-280-4894 or USFWS Refuge officer Doug Beaudreau cell 401-354-9329 (or all 3 if needed).

See your volunteer ID tags for call information in the event of a take.

Step 3. Take a breath and fill out the Incident Observation Report (the PDF form can be downloaded here). There are a lot of things to look around at to report on for this form, so take your time, it may be needed for the future. Try to keep other beach-goers away from the area if law enforcement is coming so that the scene remains as you found it. If you have a camera - take photos. If law enforcement is NOT coming ask them how you should proceed, especially if there is a dead chick, otherwise DON'T TOUCH or PICK UP the chick - and don't let others touch it.

Thank you all once again, and good luck this weekend.  Our staff will be working tirelessly all weekend long and we will see you out there! Stay tuned in to our blog (http://ctwaterbirds.blogspot.com/) for photos of hatchling Piping Plovers.


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

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Help us on Memorial Day weekend

Warm and sunny weather has arrived in Connecticut! With it comes a greater responsibility and need to be out on the beaches monitoring our coastal waterbirds. On holiday weekends, the increase in beach traffic requires more monitoring by staff and volunteers. This is also true for the offshore islands, and it would be great for any of our volunteers with boats or kayaks to be around their local islands this weekend. If you can please find the time to spend even an hour or two on the beach on Memorial Day weekend we would greatly appreciate it. You can go whenever you please, outside of your scheduled monitoring if applicable, and you do not even have to survey for birds or return data if this makes it easier during this extra holiday time and when you may have other plans as well.

We really need eyes and ears on the beaches who can report disturbances, talk to the many beachgoers about the birds, and make sure everything is going well for them. Remember to use the call information on your volunteer ID tags for disturbances of a take level. For other more minor issues please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. For issues with dogs and possible problems with beachgoers, it is best to contact the police department in the respective town. Even if you are going to report an off-leash dog it is our experience that the best way to do so is to the police department, and not animal control or the dog warden. The police can direct these people to the problems themselves when needed.

Thank you! If you are out on the beach this weekend you may very well see one of our staff members. Please feel free to come up and say hi or ask us any questions.


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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #10

This is the tenth update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2012 season. It includes reports of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, and Common Tern received from 12:00 p.m. on May 14 through 12:00 p.m. on May 21 with sightings of birds spanning May 14 through May 20 by our staff and volunteers.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/14
8 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/14
1 pair, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/15
2 pairs, 2 adults, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/15
1 pair at Silver Sands State Park on 5/15
1 pair, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/16
1 pair at Silver Sands State Park on 5/16
1 pair, 7 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/16
1 pair at Silver Sands State Park on 5/16
1 pair, 8 adults, 6 nests at Sandy/Morse Points 5/16
4 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points 5/17
1 pair, 6 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/17
1 pair at Silver Sands State Park on 5/17
1 pair, 4 adults, 6 nests at Sandy/Morse Points 5/17
6 pairs, 6 nests at Bluff Point on 5/18
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/18
7 adults, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/19
2 pairs, 4 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/19
3 pairs, 2 adults, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/19
6 pairs, 1 adult, 6 nests at Milford Point on 5/20
1 pair, 3 adults, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/20
7 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests, 4 hatchlings at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/20 – first hatchlings of 2012

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs at Menunketesuck Island on 5/14
2 pairs, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/14
3 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests and 1 possible at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/15
1 pair, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/16
1 adult at Fayerweather Island Bridgeport on 5/16
4 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/16
3 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points 5/17
1 pair at Milford Point on 5/17
1 pair at Vincent Island on 5/17
1 pair at Cockenoe Island on 5/17
2 pairs, 1 adult at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/17
1 pair at Penfield Reef on 5/17
2 pairs at Duck Island on 5/17
3 pairs at Menunketesuck Island on 5/17
1 adult at Outer Island (Thimble Isands) on 5/18
1 adult at Grass Island (Guilford) on 5/18
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/18
1 pair, 1 nest at Long Beach on 5/19
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/19
4 adults, 1 nest at Long Beach on 5/19
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/19
1 pair, 1 nest at Long Beach on 5/19
1 pair, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/20
3 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/20

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
4 adults at Menunketesuck Island on 5/14
6 adults at Milford Point on 5/14
27 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/15
22 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 5/15
3 adults at Stratford Point on 5/16
2 pairs, 13 adults at Long Beach on 5/16
25 adults at Silver  Sands State Park on 5/16
28 adults at Milford Point on 5/16
7 adults at Sandy/Morse Points 5/17
2 adults at Cockenoe Island on 5/17
50 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/17
11 adults at Bluff Point on 5/18
66 adults at Long Beach on 5/19
36 adults at Long Beach on 5/19
50-75 adults at Milford Point on 5/20
70-80 adults at Long Beach on 5/20

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
17 adults at Menunketesuck Island on 5/14
2 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 5/15
9 adults at Stratford Point on 5/16
3 adults at Long Beach on 5/16
5 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 5/16
4 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 5/16
65 adults at Fayerweather Island Bridgeport on 5/16
19 adults at Compo Beach Westport on 5/16
4 adults at Milford Point on 5/16
125 adults at Cockenoe Island on 5/17
2 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 5/17
2 adults at Bluff Point on 5/18
6 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/18
2 adults at Milford Point on 5/19

During a survey of Duck Island while USFWS and AAfCW staff set up signage and checked on conditions they were able to spot 7 Roseate Tern, the first of the season. 2 Black Skimmer were noted by volunteer Dave Zawisha on 5/17 at Penfield Reef in Fairfield. We would like information on both species whenever possible please.

We will soon be on the waters of Long Island Sound in greater frequency monitoring some of the offshore islands and other typically inaccessible areas for our four focal species, long-legged waders, other tern and shorebird species, and more. This passive monitoring will be by boat and not on any actual islands, ensuring the birds have sufficient space in order to continue their nesting unaffected. If you are interested in participating in some of these boat surveys please email us and we will be in contact with you.

This concludes update #10 through 5/21/12 as of 4:00 p.m.


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

Friday, May 18, 2012

Video of Least Tern mating ritual

Here is the video of the Least Tern mating ritual mentioned in more detail in this post.



It is very encouraging to see this state-threatened species getting off to an early and decent start this season in terms of numbers of birds on several of Connecticut's beaches.


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

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Least Tern mating ritual

The pair of Least Terns pictured below were on Long Beach in Stratford on May 16 as seen by AAfCW coordinator Scott Kruitbosch. They were in the middle of one of their mating rituals. In this case, the male captures a fish and brings it back to the female on the beach. He holds it while standing behind her, she hunching over flapping her wings quickly but only slightly up and down, veering her head back and forth. He performs the same left to right fast glances.



They also move closer to one another as this progresses...


This would go on for a few minutes in this case and typically end in copulation. However, none was seen at the time, and observation ended before this photography, while from a safe distance with a 24x zoom, became too much of an intrusion. The pictures show a great deal, but you look for HD video of this ritual in our next blog post. We hope you have Least Terns on their way to nesting at your beach, and we need to receive data and information about this threatened species just as much as the Piping Plover.


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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

USFWS hosts Stewart B. McKinney Luncheon

This past Saturday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted a Stewart B. McKinney luncheon and awards ceremony at the Connecticut Audubon Society managed Stratford Point with the consent of the site owner, DuPont. The event was meant as a "thank you!" to all of their volunteers, Friends Groups, and staff of their partner organizations including Audubon Connecticut and Connecticut Audubon Society, the two organizations that make up the two halves of the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds. The weather was very cooperative as it turned out to be an absolutely stunning day.

With 40-something people in attendance the event was a great success as everyone discussed conservation efforts, birds and birding, monitoring, and the progress of coastal waterbirds thus far in 2012.

Here is a photo of an award received by the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge being named U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Endangered Species Recovery Champions for 2011, a testament to the hard work of all its volunteers.


Lining up at the grill on the beautiful day.


Everyone in attendance also kindly brought side dishes and desserts.


Refuge Manager Rick Potvin speaking to the group.


Rick and Ranger Shaun Roche giving out awards to volunteers.


One such recipient was Ewa Holland, a past volunteer who is now an AAfCW waterbirds technician.



We thank USFWS and all of our volunteers for the wonderful afternoon and for all of their constant and vigilant efforts on Connecticut's beaches.


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

Monday, May 14, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #9

This is the ninth update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2012 season. It includes reports of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, and Common Tern received from 12:00 p.m. on May 7 through 4:00 p.m. on May 14 with sightings of birds spanning May 7 through May 14 by our staff and volunteers.


Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/7
3 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/7
4 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/7
5 pairs, 5 nests at Griswold Point on 5/8
1 adult, possible nest at Grass Island on 5/8 (FIRST OF SEASON LOCATION)
7 adults, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/8
3 pairs, 3 adults, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/8
2 pairs, 3 adults, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/8
1 adult, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/8
5 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/8
6 adults, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/8
5 pairs, 3 adults, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/9
1 adult, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/10
3 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/10
5 pairs, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/10
2 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/11
5 pairs, 1 adult, 6 nests at Griswold Point on 5/11
6 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests at Bluff Point on 5/11
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/11
1 pair at Silver Sands State Park on 5/12 (FIRST OF SEASON PAIR)
1 pair, 4 adults, 3 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/12
5 adults, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/12
6 pairs, 4 nests at Bluff Point on 5/12
6 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
5 pairs, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/12
3 pairs, 3 adults, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/13
4 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests at Milford Point on 5/13
5 pairs, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/13

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs, 1 adult, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/7
1 pair at Griswold Point on 5/7
1 pair at Gull Rock on 5/8
1 pair at Grass Island on 5/8
1 pair at Griswold Point on 5/8
1 adult, 1 possible nest at Bluff Point on 5/8
2 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/8
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/8
2 adults at Long Beach on 5/8
1 pair, 1 nest at Griswold Point on 5/8
2 pairs at Long Beach on 5/8
3 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/9
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/10
2 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/10
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/10
1 pair, 1 nest at Griswold Point on 5/11
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/11
2 pairs, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/11
2 pairs, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/11
1 pair, 3 adults, 2 nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/12
4 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
2 adults at Bluff Point on 5/12
4 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
2 pairs at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/13
2 pairs at Milford Point on 5/13
2 pairs, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/13
1 pair, 3 adults at Long Beach on 5/13
1 pair at Barn Island on 5/14
1 pair, 1 adult at Bluff Point on 5/14
2 pairs, 1 nest at Griswold Point on 5/14
2 pairs, 1 adult at Menunketesuck Island on 5/14
1 adult, 1 nest at Branford on 5/14
2 pairs, 2 nest at Milford Point on 5/14
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/14

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
15 adults at Long Beach on 5/8
18 adults at Long Beach on 5/8
4 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/9
12 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/10
31 adults at Long Beach on 5/10
1 adult at Milford Point on 5/10
4 adults at Stratford Point on 5/11
12 adults at Griswold Point on 5/11
8 adults at Bluff Point on 5/11
34 adults at Long Beach on 5/11
20 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/12
30 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
18 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
20 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/13
7 adults at Milford Point on 5/13
42 adults at Long Beach on 5/13
7 adults at Lewis Gut on 5/13

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Long Beach on 5/8
6 adults at Stratford Point on 5/8
2 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/9
8 adults at Stratford Point on 5/11
1 adult at Bluff Point on 5/11
96 adults at Stratford Point on 5/12
2 pairs, 2 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/12
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/12
3 adults at Long Beach on 5/12
13 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/13
11 adults at Long Beach on 5/13
18 adults at Stratford Point on 5/14


There have been no reports of terns other than Common or Least and the early Caspian, but there should be more very soon. Be on the lookout for Roseate Tern!

The first two Black Skimmer were reported by a trusted observer at the mouth of the Farm River on the East Haven/Branford border. Please keep an eye out for the unique species at a beach near you! Long-legged waders can now often be seen feeding in high numbers such as the 37+ Great Egret observed along Long Beach on May 14 along with 3 Snowy Egret, 1 Great Blue Heron, 1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, and 1 Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Shorebirds of all species are now passing through the state in appropriate and expected numbers, and nearly any can be seen at coastal sites and other appropriate stopover habitat. As an example of what can be spotted, feeding and resting at Stratford Point on the morning of May 14 was an impressive group containing: 91 Black-bellied Plover, 17 Semipalmated Plover, 8 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Willet, 38 Ruddy Turnstone, 1 Red Knot, 98 Sanderling, 127 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 29 Least Sandpiper, 249 Dunlin, 2 Short-billed Dowitcher.

This concludes update #9 through 5/14/12 as of 4:45 p.m.


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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Piping Plover distraction displays and disruptions

Some of the most important aspects of Piping Plover behavior that all beachgoers and monitors should be cognizant of are their distraction displays, alarm calls, and other threatened actions. We are now firmly entrenched in breeding season, and with that comes vigilant adults seeking to protect their eggs and young at any cost. The more they have to work at safeguarding them against predators, unknowing people wandering near nests and fledglings, overzealous onlookers, or intentionally malicious troublemakers, the greater the risk to the parents and this next generation.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection website lists out some very important and educational information concerning the Piping Plover here, and here is a good passage concerning behavior:

Interesting Facts: When humans or enemies come too close to a plover nest, the adults will try to distract them by flapping around like a wounded bird. This is sometimes referred to as a "broken wing" display. Plovers have a defined beachfront territory. Beachgoers are met at the beginning of the territory by the plover and escorted along by the walking bird until the territory ends. Unlike their nesting neighbors, the least terns, that fly and dive at enemies, adult plovers walk and stop, walk and stop to avoid detection by visually blending into the background. 

As well as...

What You Can Do: Respect all plover nesting areas that are fenced or posted for the birds' protection. Do not approach or linger near piping plovers or their nests. If pets are permitted on beaches used by plovers, keep pets on a leash. Keep housecats in the house, especially at night, during the nesting season. Don't leave or bury trash or food scraps on beaches. Garbage attracts predators which may prey upon piping plover eggs and chicks.

If anyone ever sees a Piping Plover doing the "broken wing" display they should immediately stop and cautiously yet quickly exit the area. Here is a photo of such a display taken quickly for educational purposes while working on an exclosure - this is not something we want to see.


The same goes for overly excited or agitated birds, those with young in tow or nearby, and any making loud rapid alarm calls. Piping Plover adults can also shake and wiggle, attempting to draw you away in hopes that you will follow them away from the nest or young, or crouch down in the sand. You should not even regularly encounter birds following you in the quoted manner described above if you are maintaining a safe distance.

We want to monitor the birds, not survey them thoroughly at all costs, and even staff is instructed to keep their distance at the expense of data and information in order to better protect the birds and their eggs or young. Here is a fantastic illustration of where you should walk on the beach whenever possible in order to prevent any disruptions or incidents.


For the most part the wet sand is always a safe zone, and even if birds are feeding in it or along it you should be able to pick them out easier and thus be able to give them more room, or allow them space to retreat easily back into the higher sand and dunes. Thanks to Bird Studies Canada/Environment Canada for that, and to all of you for your constant efforts. They are unbelievably and unequivocally appreciated.


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

Monday, May 7, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #8

This is the eighth update by the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds (AAfCW) for the 2012 season. It includes reports of Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, and Common Tern received from 12:00 p.m. on April 30 through 12:00 p.m. on May 7 with sightings of birds spanning April 29 through May 7 by our staff and volunteers.

Informational updates:

The terns have returned to Connecticut, and with them come additional responsibilities in monitoring. We need all of the data and information on Least Tern and Common Tern, and much more rarely Roseate Tern, that you can provide to us, just as you do with Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher. These are priority species that should be tracked in an identical way. We hope we will end up with many tern colonies that require our monitoring and care, especially Least Tern on beaches such as Morse/Sandy Points in West Haven, Long Beach or Pleasure Beach in Stratford or Bridgeport, and so forth. Please provide us with all of the data you can including precise numbers of birds seen, breeding status, location, nests or eggs, age, behavior, threats, bands, etc. Thank you as always!


Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
5 adults at Griswold Point on 4/29
1 adult at Fort Trumbull Beach on 4/30
1 at Silver Sands State Park on 4/30
1 pair, 3 adults, 4 nests at Long Beach on 5/1
5 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/2
3 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
3 pairs, 1 adult, 3 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
5 pairs, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
1 adult (male) at Silver Sands State Park on 5/3
4 adults on 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
4 adults, 1 nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
2 adults on 2 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 5/4
1 adult at Stratford Point on 5/4
6 pairs, 5 nests at Long Beach on 5/4
4 pairs, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
2 pair, 5 adults, 3 nests at Long Beach on 5/5
1 adult on Pleasure Beach on 5/5
3 pairs, 3 adult, 2 nests at Long Beach on 5/5
6 pairs, 1 adult, 5 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/5
1 pair, 1 nest at East Broadway Milford on 5/6
3 pairs, 1 adult, 4 nests at Milford Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 2 adults, 5 nests at Bluff Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 4 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 5/6

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs, one 3-egg nest and one 4-egg nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 4/30
3 pairs, 1 nest at Milford Point on 4/30
1 pair, 1 nest in Branford on 5/2
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 pair, one 3-egg nest and one 4-egg nest at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/2
1 pair, 1 adult at Barn Island on 5/3
4 pairs, at least 2 nests at Menunketesuck Island on 5/3
2 pairs, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/3
3 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/3
1 pair, 1 nest at Milford Point on 5/3
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/3
1 adult at Tuxis Island on 5/4
3 pairs, 1 nest at Menunketesuck Island on 5/4
1 pair at Stratford Point on 5/4
4 pairs, one 3-egg nest and one 1-egg nest at Milford Point on 5/4
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/4
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/4
1 pair at Long Beach on 5/5
1 pair seen copulating at Long Beach on 5/5
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 nests at Milford Point on 5/6
1 pair at Bluff Point on 5/6
2 pairs, 2 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
1 pair, one 1-egg nest at Griswold Point on 5/6
4 pairs, 1 adult, 2 nests at Sandy Point in Stonington 5/7
1 adult at Bluff Point on 5/7

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/1
1 adult at Stratford Point on 5/4
1 adult at Long Beach on 5/5
4 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
8 adults at Long Beach on 5/7

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at Russian Beach Stratford on 5/2
16 adults at Stratford Point on 5/4
2 adults at Milford Point on 5/4
10 adults at Stratford Point on 5/5
8 adults at Long Beach on 5/5
3 adults at Pleasure Beach on 5/5
5 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 5/6
4 adults at Bluff Point on 5/6
70+ adults at Stratford Point on 5/7


There have been no reports of Black Skimmer in 2012, but they should be spotted soon. All long-legged waders are in expected breeding areas at this point and frequently encountered foraging at many of our monitoring locations as well. Semipalmated Sandpiper are slowly growing in number, but Least Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover are now regular sightings with numbers into the dozens at times. A high number of 51 Semipalmated Plover were seen at Stratford Point on 5/4, with many other spots recording groups and singles of these birds. We make a special note of this because observers should be aware not to confuse these birds with Piping Plovers as both share some identification points.

This concludes update #8 through 5/7/12 as of 4:00 p.m.


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

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weather conditions and monitoring

While we want our staff and monitors on the beaches across Connecticut as much as possible, there are a few times when we would rather have no one there at all. This is when the weather conditions are potentially hazardous to the birds we are working to protect, survey, and educate the public on. As you can imagine the threat increases at times when the birds are incubating eggs or tending to young. This goes for Piping Plover, American Oystercatcher, Least Tern, Common Tern, and all of the species we are monitoring this season.

We request that everyone please keep the conditions in mind and only survey when the temperature is not overly hot or cold, there is no rain, and the wind is not strong. If gusts are strong enough that you notice them pushing you around, especially on a cool or cloudy day, it may be better to stay home. When the temperature is below 50 at any time, or perhaps even 60 when the birds are on eggs, or over 90, you may want to exercise caution and skip a monitoring session. Lastly, when there is rain falling it is also best not to go on to the beach.

The key is that we do not want incubating adults coming off eggs for too long of a time so that they are exposed to extreme conditions. With the weather we have had in the past two weeks it seems appropriate to reiterate this philosophy. Also, for your own safety, watch out for any forecast for thunderstorms so that you are not on the beach at such a time as we enter the severe season.

Thank you all for your constant efforts and for being mindful about when to hit the beaches this spring and summer.


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

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Exclosure work at Bluff Point

In the past couple of weeks AAfCW's Sean Graesser has helped the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) set up exclosures for Piping Plovers across the state. These exclosures keep predators of all sorts away from the nest and help protect the eggs from harm. The wonderfully talented crew from CT DEEP works on erecting these structures at dozens of nests across the Connecticut coast following a carefully crafted protocol during what is a stressful but ultimately beneficial time for the adults.

They also ensure that the parents return to each nest within a certain amount of time or they will remove the exclosure so as not to dissuade them from tending to the eggs. However, this is very rare, and the system works wonderfully. The hardest part is often spotting the nest itself, even with an adult on it! If you are an experienced volunteer you know how difficult it can be to find Piping Plovers when they are stationary on the sand, and it is no different for the experts.

Sean took these photos of the exclosures at Bluff Point, a couple of the birds, and a nest and eggs.









Keep in mind that shots like these can only be obtained when setting up an exclosure with those permitted to do so, as Sean was with CT DEEP. We should always stay very far from the exclosure, staff included. Even if someone was lucky enough not to disturb the birds, going near the nest could lead predators to it with their own tracks and scent. The exclosures work very well but are not entirely foolproof, and nothing more than a visit from an unsuccessful predator can spell doom for the eggs.


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