Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sandwich Tern!

Charlie Barnard Jr., one of our endlessly helpful volunteers, was able to find a Sandwich Tern on the morning of August 26. He has a track record of spotting this very rare tern at the mouth of the Housatonic River at Stratford's Short Beach in previous years, and he did it yet again in the same area. After wading out to the sandbars to scope through hundreds of Common Terns, he thought he had heard one calling but could not locate it. That is the sort of thing that drives birders crazy because, especially with such big rarities, there is usually no way you can "call" a bird and lock down its identity off one brief sound.

Charlie persisted and soon found the Sandwich Tern out in the open on the outermost bar, just past the edge of a large group of Common Terns. He said:

The tern was distinctly bigger than the Commons. It had black legs and a black bill with a pale yellowish tip. However, the shaggy feathering at the back of the crown was not visible. Also, the crown was mostly black, with only the foremost 1/3 of the crown having turned white. At this time of the year, I would have thought that the entire crown should have been white with black, shaggy feathering being present only at the extreme rear of the crown.  When the bird bent forward to preen, some shaggy feathering could be seen at the rear of the crown, but none was visible when the bird held it's head up.

At the distance he was from the bird the only viable photography option was digiscoping (holding a camera up to a spotting scope, finding the image, and snapping a shot). This is an extremely tricky endeavor at best, from actually getting any image to appear to focusing the scope just right, sometimes with strong winds blowing, and not being able to do much at all about the light. Nevertheless, Charlie got a shot that clinches the identification, and that is all one can hope for in such a situation. It is the farthest tern in the photo.




If you right-click on the photo and view the file full-size the tern will show up much larger. However, here are two cropped and edited versions, altering the light and saturation which allows us to better see the bird and the yellow tip of the large bill, a definitive field mark for the species.



A moment after he took this photo the terns were spooked off the bar. Charlie lost it among the hundreds of individuals flying about, and it was not relocated. This is why everyone should try to have a camera with them at all times while out surveying, even if it is only one on a smartphone (and these have improved a great deal). At least this great bird did not elude us entirely - thanks Charlie!


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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Leucistic Piping Plover

The following engrossing and astounding story of a leucistic Piping Plover comes as quite a surprise to all of us. The information and photos below are from Jim Panaccione, a Biological Science Technician at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The Parker River NWR is in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which is where the bird took up residence this season. Jim sent this information to Kristina Vagos, Wildlife Biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, and she sent it on to me, AAfCW Coordinator Scott Kruitbosch, knowing that all of us and all of you would be fascinated by it.

Just look at this bird!


Again...whoa!


And the most shocking, with its mate!


Leucism is essentially a lessened pigmentation of the feathers, as normal colors still occur over a sizable portion of the body. It is not the same condition as albinism, a mutation that prevents melanin from being produced at all, and a case where the bird above would be completely white. Leucism is rare in birds, and we cannot remember ever seeing a Piping Plover with the condition. A little Google work led me to this bird from North Carolina in 2009 that appears different from the Massachusetts individual.

If you have been a birder for decades, it is likely you have seen or will see a leucistic bird at some point, especially if you have feeders in your yard and are able to watch thousands of individuals come and go each year. Something like a leucistic Northern Cardinal or an American Tree Sparrow would be a more expected sight, but we cannot definitively say it would occur more often in these species than in Piping Plovers. We simply have a much greater chance of seeing it because we are exposed to far more individuals of those species on a constant basis as opposed to, at most, tens of Piping Plovers in a given year if we are watching them across the entire state of Connecticut.

Jim provided us with some information on this individual. It is a female, as you may have been able to tell from examining her mate. He says:

She had a four egg clutch that hatched before the June 3rd storm and all the chicks survived the storm. They must have taken the chick WAY behind the dunes, because our beach was swallowed up by the storm surge including some areas where the tide over-topped the dunes and a few blow-outs. In the end they were able to fledge 2 chicks.

We have noted on several occasions how adept Piping Plovers are in particular at moving their young around the beach when it is experiencing dangerous weather conditions. The storm on June 3 that Jim is referring to was a low pressure system that came up the Ohio Valley on June 1. It moved across into the Mid-Atlantic region and spawned a great deal of rain for our area, weakening and transferring its energy to a small coastal low off the Gulf of Maine by June 3 that lingered for a couple of days. In Connecticut, we had widespread rainfall surpassing two inches in some areas on June 2. It also coincided with some of the highest tide cycles of the season, and the extra water did not help matters. You can see this blog post from that week discussing some of the tidal issues we were afraid of experiencing.

Fortunately for us, the tidal damage we sustained this season spared many early-season nesting birds, especially Piping Plover pairs. With that said, we did lose over ten American Oystercatcher nests, several Piping Plover nests and even more chicks, hundreds of Common Tern nests, and dozens of Least Tern nests, at minimum. This is an unpleasant fact of life for these coastal birds, and something only exacerbated by climate change and rising sea levels. Jim's girl was a great example of what can happen to an otherwise successful and fit parent, but it appears she did well managing her young ones during the storm. We would have to guess that she probably lost those two chicks to predation at a later date.

The most intriguing take away from this bird is the fact that her appearance did not seem to hinder her in any way when it came to finding a mate despite the fact that we know (in some species) and surmise (in many others) that plumage features help to drive breeding selection. Would it have been another story had the leucistic bird been a male instead, with females perhaps not wanting to choose to mate with him? We can only guess, for now. It goes without saying we should all keep an eye out for this unique bird. She has probably gone long past Connecticut by now on her journey south, but in a little more than six months she will hopefully be nearing our region once again.

Our thanks to Jim for the photos and story as well as Kris for passing it along!


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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #24

This is the twenty-fourth 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 August 20 through 12:00 p.m. on August 27 with sightings of birds spanning August 20 through August 27 by our staff and volunteers.

Informational updates:

We have one fencing removal date coming up this week (with Harkness Memorial State Park and Bluff Point still to be scheduled):

Thursday, August 30 at 10:00AM - Griswold Point in Old Lyme

For anyone who is interested, to limit traffic down a private road and with relatively little parking area, staff and volunteers will meet up at the park and ride off of Exit 70 in Old Lyme, carpooling to the site from there. This is right where Shore/Neck Roads meet and along I-95.

In addition to the usual cautions everyone should keep in mind about being in the sun on a warm day carrying heavy materials, the tide will be at its highest exactly when our operation is taking place on Thursday. Anyone who helps will not only get wet, they will be in at least thigh/waist deep water crossing over to get out to the spit. Please plan for this if you are coming, and email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com with any other questions or for more information.

Fencing removal was completed at Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven today, August 27. The site is now considered completed for the season. Thank you to everyone who came out to help take down the fencing, and for everyone’s continued efforts as we near the end of the field season for our focal species. Please keep in mind that if you wish to continue working with birds in the fall you can join us and conduct International Shorebird Surveys through the end of October, or simply share eBird checklists with us if you are out birding and record any shorebirds, long-legged waders, or terns, plus Horned Larks. If you need more information about these surveys, please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com at any time.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 juveniles at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/22
1 juvenile at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/22
1 adult at Long Beach on 8/22
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/23
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/24
3 juveniles at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/24

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs, 1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/20
3 pairs, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/20
1 adult at Long Beach on 8/21
2 pairs at Milford Point on 8/21
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/21
2 pairs, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/21
1 pair at Milford Point on 8/21
1 pair at Thimble Islands on 8/22
1 pair at Kelsey Island on 8/22
2 pairs, 1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/22
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 juvenile at Stratford Point on 8/22
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/22
1 pair at Cockenoe Island on 8/23
1 pair at Sheffield Island on 8/23
2 pairs, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/24
3 adults at Pear Tree Point Marina on 8/24
3 adults at Vincent Island on 8/24
4 adults at Greenway Island on 8/24
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Stratford Point on 8/25
2 pairs, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/25
2 pairs, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/27

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
19 adults, 13 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/20
11 adults, 5 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/20
2 adults, 3 chicks, 3 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/22
5 adults, 10 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/23
5 adults, 2 chicks, 4 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/24
1 adult, 3 juveniles at Bluff Point on 8/24

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
50 adults, 19 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/20
45 adults/juveniles at Milford Point on 8/20
100 adults, 22 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/20
780 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/22
16 adults, 6 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/23
38 adults, 16 juveniles, 200 adults/juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/24
1,200 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/25
100 adults/juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/25

This concludes update #24 through 8/27/12 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, August 24, 2012

Whimbrel at Sandy/Morse Points

Earlier this week Lucas Coe-Starr observed a Whimbrel at Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven, and after passing on word of the cool bird, he sent us these photos he took as well.




Whimbrels are rare in Connecticut in spring, though they are seen enough to be labeled as uncommon at selected sites along the coast during fall migration. So far this season, apart from West Haven and New Haven sightings, we have observed them at Bluff Point and at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Milford and Stratford. Seeing more than one or two is also a rare sight, and for the most part this happens only because of a storm (such as after Tropical Storm Irene). Their long, curved bill and large lanky size makes them a distinctive sight even in flight at a considerable distance. They have a lengthy and loud rolling call that can also allow you to identify them from afar.

One exciting way to learn about Whimbrel movements, from staging areas to their incredible sustained flights for thousands of miles, is to follow the satellite-tracked birds from the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William & Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University. You can check it out on their website here: http://www.ccb-wm.org/programs/migration/Whimbrel/whimbrel.htm

If you navigate to the tracking maps section, you can view where past birds have been and where currently transmitting individuals are right now! Be warned, keep track of them is highly addictive and will make you want to go out and see some Whimbrels for yourself.


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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Rocky Hill Meadows highlights

The following information comes from Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Connecticut:

Since shorebirds do use some inland sites, we are doing shorebird counts at Rocky Hill Meadows to determine how important this area is for migratory shorebirds. Our staff and volunteers have documented significant use of the area by migrant shorebirds, waterbirds and other birds. Fourteen species of shorebirds, including Stilt Sandpiper, Upland Sandpiper, American Golden Plover and Pectoral Sandpiper have been recorded there this fall, and Buff-breasted Sandpiper should show up any day now. The area has also been supporting large flocks of up to 250 migrant Bobolinks. Some rare birds have been found in this flock, including a Dickcissel and a Lark Bunting. Just this week a Least Bittern was discovered in a small wetland on the site.

Take a look at this beautiful Stilt Sandpiper photo at Rocky Hill Meadows by Bill Asteriades!


For more photos of the area and some of the birds it supports, please see: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.252301338206511.36805.168520783251234&type=1


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

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fencing removal dates Sandy/Morse Points and Griswold Point

We have two more string fencing removal dates now set by CT DEEP, and the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds would appreciate any volunteers who could help us out at these locations:

Monday, August 27th at 10:00AM - Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven
Thursday, August 30th at 10:00AM - Griswold Point in Old Lyme

Assisting not only helps AAfCW but it also greatly aids those at CT DEEP who have extremely limited time, and it limits the stress on the birds. Please remember that taking down fencing in August can be physically demanding because of the heat and humidity, and those who join us should remember a few things:
-wear sunscreen
-drink plenty of water or sports drink
-do not attempt to carry too many stakes, there are enough volunteers so that no one should overexert themselves
-anyone who needs to limit physical exertion should stick to winding up string rolls
-take as many breaks as needed

Please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com if you can join us on either or both days, thank you!

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #23

This is the twenty-third 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 August 13 through 12:00 p.m. on August 20 with sightings of birds spanning August 13 through August 20 by our staff and volunteers.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult, 6 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/13
1 adult, 2 chicks at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/13
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
1 adult, 1 chick at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/15
1 adult, 1 juvenile at Griswold Point on 8/15
1 adult, 1 chick at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/15
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/17
1 adult, 3 juveniles at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/18
1 adult at Long Beach on 8/19

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair at Griswold Point on 8/13
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/13
2 pairs, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/14
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/14
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/14
3 pairs, 2 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
2 adults, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/15
2 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/15
2 pairs, 1 adult, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
2 adults at Pine Islands on 8/16
1 pair, 1 chick at Bluff Point on 8/16
4 adults at Pear Tree Point Marina on 8/16
3 adults at Vincent Island on 8/16
4 adults at Greenway Island Jetty on 8/16
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/17
1 pair, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/17
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/17
3 adults at Bluff Point on 8/17
2 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/17
1 pair at Sheffield Island on 8/17
1 pair at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/18
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Bluff Point on 8/18
2 pairs at Milford Point on 8/19
1 pair, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/19
1 adult at Menunketesuck Island on 8/19
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 juvenile at Stratford Point on 8/19
24 adults, 4 juveniles at Stonington Point on 8/20
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy Point Stonington on 8/20
2 adults at Menunketesuck Island on 8/20
3 adults at Salt Island on 8/20

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
41 adults, 4 chicks, 30 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/13
2 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/13
17 adults, 9 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/13
30 adults, 7 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/13
11 adults, 12 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/14
3 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 8/15
6 adults, 4 chicks at Griswold Point on 8/16
2 adults at Bluff Point on 8/16
15 adults, 17 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/16
1 adult at Bluff Point on 8/18
1 adult, 1 juvenile at Stratford Point on 8/19

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 adults at East Broadway Milford on 8/13
34 adults, 10 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/13
7 adults, 3 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/13
2 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 8/14
50 adults, 8 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/14
22 adults, 8 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/14
1,000 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/14
41 adults, 18 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/15
223 adults, 71 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
200 adults/juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/15
2 adults at Griswold Point on 8/16
110 adults, 55 juveniles at Pine Islands on 8/16
2 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 8/16
50+ adults, 27 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/16
380 adults, 42+ juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/17
800 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/17
10 adults at Bluff Point on 8/17
600 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/18
4 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/18
3 adults, 52 adults/juveniles at Bluff Point on 8/19
700 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/19

This concludes update #23 through 8/20/12 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, August 18, 2012

Milford Point fencing removal

The Milford Point fencing removal party took place on Wednesday, August 15, with everyone meeting at the Coastal Center at 11AM. This was an effort on a much smaller scale with only the stakes, string fencing, and signage on the spit remaining. Nevertheless, our staff and volunteers along with CT DEEP wanted to get it accomplished as soon as possible. There were some showers and, more importantly, thunderstorms in the area.

We also wanted to minimize the impact on birds resting on the spit, from the American Oystercatcher pair with their chick to hundreds of peeps and even the long-legged waders. Our great crew got things underway quickly and we really made rapid progress. 



We completed the rest of our work while just as the thunderstorms on Long Island began to rumble a little more towards our direction. Thank you to all of the volunteers who came out to assist us, and if you would like to help take down some fencing with AAfCW and CT DEEP, please keep an eye out for dates at Sandy/Morse Points, Bluff Point, and Harkness Memorial State Park.


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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Long Beach fencing removal

This past Monday, August 13, the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds assisted the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protecting in removing the string fencing along Long Beach in Stratford. Several volunteers also kindly contributed their time and energy for this arduous task after an already busy season of monitoring, and if we could thank them one thousand times we would!

Our group met at 11AM in the parking lot, making teams that would cover each section. We reeled up all of the string from the stakes and removed them, carrying them all back to the parking lot and waiting DEEP vehicles. We also had to bring some metal stakes and exclosures back off the beach as well. It was a very warm day, especially in the sun, but considering the heat as of late it was definitely tolerable for such physical labor.

Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Connecticut, and Scott Kruitbosch, Conservation Technician for Connecticut Audubon Society, took some photos during the work when they didn't have their hands full.

Some of the group figuring out who will go where

And here we go

Making the walk out

It was a beautiful mid-August day

We noted many shorebirds while hiking including these Black-bellied Plovers. Others nearby included Semipalmated Plovers and Least Sandpipers.

A much-improved Long Beach West

The section 5 group resting for a minute before hiking back

Many Sanderlings were feeding along the Sound

Some juvenile Least Terns were nearby with a couple dozen adults flying by and feeding

A close-up

A trail of people heading back after their second trip out

More of the crew returning

A job well done!

Once again, thank you to all of the volunteers who helped us on Monday and for the entire season! Long Beach is now considered completed for the season, as are all sites once they have their fencing removed. Tomorrow we will show you a little more about the same operation that took place at Milford Point yesterday.


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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Color-banded Roseate Terns

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking re-sightings of color-banded juvenile Roseate Terns. Please watch for these yellow bands on any birds you see as you should be able to read them well with a scope up to 50 yards away. The bands have a letter and number combination - for example, those from Falkner Island have an H followed by two numbers. You can see an example in this really cool photo below by V. Koos.


If you sight one of these birds please send us a report of the observation at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com. Include as much information as possible with the location, bird's health, behavior, status, the time of day and date, and as much of the band you are able to read, along with any other pertinent information. We will pass this on to USFWS and report back to you with any information on your bird's life history.

Roseate Terns are exciting finds at any time, and discovering one of these banded individuals would be fantastic! Thank you all in advance for any finds.


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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #22

This is the twenty-second 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 August 6 through 12:00 p.m. on August 13 with sightings of birds spanning August 6 through August 12 by our staff and volunteers.

Informational updates:

Fencing removal took place today at Stratford’s Long Beach and will take place on Wednesday at Milford Point. Thank you to everyone helping out! Once a site has had the string fencing removed we consider it completed for the season, and surveys of our target species can end. If you would like to still contribute please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com to help with International Shorebird Surveys.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult, 1 chick at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/6
1 adult, 1 chick, 1 juvenile at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/6
1 juvenile at Bluff Point on 8/7
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
2 juveniles at Bluff Point on 8/8
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
1 juvenile at Long Beach on 8/8
1 chick at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/9
1 adult, 2 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/9
1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/10

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
2 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/6
1 pair, 1 adult, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/7
1 pair, 1 chick at Bluff Point on 8/7
2 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/7
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/7
1 adult at Outer Island, Thimble Islands on 8/8
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/8
1 pair, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Stratford Point on 8/8
1 pair, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
1 adult at Ram Island on 8/9
1 pair at Barn Island on 8/9
1 pair at Griswold Point on 8/9
5 adults at Darien Pear Tree Point Marina on 8/9
3 adults at Vincent Island on 8/9
1 adult at Greenway Island on 8/9
1 pair, 2 adults, 1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/9
2 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/10
2 pairs, 2 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/10
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/11
1 pair, 1 juvenile at  Milford Point on 8/11

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
13 individuals at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/6
17 adults, 1 chick, 1 juvenile at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/6
18 adults, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/7
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 8/7
18 adults, 8 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/7
34 adults, 18 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/7
50 adults, 15 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/7
2 adults at Bluff Point on 8/7
1 pair, 88+ adults, 4 chicks, 77 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
1 adult, 1 chick at Bluff Point on 8/8
6 adults, 2 juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/8
100 individuals at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
25 adults/juveniles at Long Beach on 8/8
8 adults, 3 juveniles at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/9
29 adults, 3 chicks, 11 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/9
12 adults, 4 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/9
11 adults, 9 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/10
64 adults, 52 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/10
3 adults at Stratford Point on 8/11
2 adults at Stratford Point on 8/12

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
75-100 adults, 3 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/6
6 adults at Milford Point on 8/7
100-120 adults, 40 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/7
100 adults, 13 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/7
165 adults, 21 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
950 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/8
50 individuals at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/8
80 adults/juveniles at Long Beach on 8/8
55 adults, 5 juveniles at Vincent Island on 8/9
8 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 8/9
4 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/9
48 adults, 17 juveniles at Griswold Point on 8/9
700 adults/juveniles at Milford Point on 8/9
60 adults at Milford Point on 8/10
150-200 adults, 31-50 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/10
90 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/11
120 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/12

Shorebird diversity and numbers are growing – check our blog for some of the species we saw during our second shorebird identification seminar held at the Coastal Center at Milford Point last Thursday: http://ctwaterbirds.blogspot.com/2012/08/second-shorebird-identification-seminar.html

This concludes update #22 through 8/13/12 as of 6:00 p.m.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Helping with fencing removal - precautions

Here is a message CT DEEP wanted us to pass on to those of you assisting with fencing removal at Stratford's Long Beach on 8/13 at 11AM and Milford Point on 8/15 at 11AM. If you assist with other sites later in the season please also remember this information! 

Taking down fencing in August is physically demanding because of the heat and humidity.  Anyone who cannot tolerate working in 85 to 90 degree temperatures may want to reconsider helping, you've helped all season already!  Volunteers who do come should remember a few things;

-wear sunscreen
-drink plenty of water or sports drink
-do not attempt to carry too many stakes, there are enough volunteers so that no one should over-exert themselves
-anyone who needs to limit physical exertion should stick to winding up string rolls
-take as many breaks as needed

Thank you again for all your help and dedication to the success of the plover and tern season in CT!


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

Friday, August 10, 2012

Second shorebird identification seminar

Everyone who attended our second session of a three-part shorebird identification series last evening at the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point had a great time and the chance to view many species, and several thousand shorebirds, up close. Patrick Comins, Director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Connecticut, led the seminar that focused on shorebird-ing by ear. He discussed various calls, how to differentiate and remember them, and how useful they can be.


Examples of this underrated knowledge can include figuring out what migrant shorebird just went over your house in the middle of the night or discovering the distinct and noticeable call of a White-rumped Sandpiper in the middle of a large group of Semipalmated Sandpipers. During the field portion of the evening we were treated to a wide variety of birds that were congregating along the rocky shoreline, blending in perfectly with their surroundings - these are all birds!


The overwhelming majority were Semipalmated Sandpipers, with Semipalmated Plovers coming in at a distance second place. Many Black-bellied Plovers were on the bars along with hundreds of terns, mostly Common. Sanderlings were spotted here and there, as were Least Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones. American Oystercatchers, including the pair with their now juvenile chick, were resting. We saw a few Spotted Sandpipers flying about with their shallow and jerky wing beats. A distant juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher fooled us all for a while with its head tucked under its wing. There were only a handful of juveniles mixed in here and there, and more will be moving through as we get later into the season.

Close examination of the huge group of mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers led to Patrick picking out a probable Western Sandpiper along with two White-rumped Sandpipers. All of this also permitted prolonged discussion on appearance and behavior identification markers in addition to sound, and scope views were sensational. Thank you to everyone who joined us last night!


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

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stratford/Milford fencing removal

We have received the string fencing removal dates from CT DEEP for Stratford's Long Beach and Milford Point. The other sites, including Sandy/Morse Points, Bluff Point, and Harkness Memorial State Park, still have young birds, and their fencing will have to be removed in late August or early September. To those who responded for assisting at Bluff Point, we will look for help at those locations in weeks to come. For now, we will need volunteers for Long Beach and Milford Point at these dates and times:

Monday, August 13th at 11:00 at Long Beach/Pleasure Beach. Many volunteers appreciated.
Wednesday, August 15th at 11:00 at Milford Point. Only a few volunteers needed.

Please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com if you can assist at either site. Our staff will be at both locations on both days as well as CT DEEP. We hope to see you there, and thank you!


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

Monday, August 6, 2012

Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds update #21

This is the twenty-first 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 July 30 through 12:00 p.m. on August 6 with sightings of birds spanning July 30 through August 5 by our staff and volunteers.

Survey and monitoring updates:

Piping Plover
Volunteer and staff surveys:
4 adults, 3 juveniles at Long Beach on 7/30
1 adult, 3 chicks at Griswold Point on 7/30
2 chicks at Harkness Memorial State Park on 7/30
1 adult/juvenile at Milford Point on 7/30
1 adult, 2 juveniles at Bluff Point on 7/30
1 pair, 1 adult, 2 juveniles at Milford Point on 7/30
1 pair, 2 adults, 2 chicks, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Point on 7/30
1 pair, 2 adults, 1 chick, 1 juvenile at Sandy/Morse Point on 7/31
1 adult, 3 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
1 adult, 1 chick at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/1
1 adult, 4 juveniles at Bluff Point on 8/1
1 adult, 6 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/1
3 pairs, 1 adult, 3 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/1
1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/2
1 pair, 2 adults, 2 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Point on 8/2
6 adults, 3 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/2
4 adults, 5 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/2
1 adult, 1 juvenile at Milford Point on 8/3
1 adult, 4 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/3
6 adults/juveniles at Long Beach on 8/4
2 adults, 1 adult/juvenile at Long Beach on 8/4

American Oystercatcher
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 pair at Kelsey Island on 7/30
1 pair, 3 adults, 1 chick at Milford Point on 7/30
1 adult at Bluff Point on 7/30
2 pairs, 3 chicks at Vincent Island on 7/31
2 pairs, 4 adults, 1 chick at Milford Point on 7/31
3 pairs, 3 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
3 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
1 pair at Bluff Point on 8/1
1 adult at Ram Island on 8/1
1 pair at Griswold Point on 8/1
4 adults, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/1
1 pair at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/2
3 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/2
2 pairs, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/2
2 pairs, 1 chick at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/2
9 adults at Menunketesuck Island on 8/2
1 pair, 1 adult at Griswold Point on 8/3
1 pair at Pine Island on 8/3
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/3
2 pairs, 2 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/3
1 adult at Calf Pasture Beach on 8/4
2 adults, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/4
2 adults at Pleasure Beach on 8/4
1 pair, 1 chick at Milford Point on 8/5

Least Tern 
Volunteer and staff surveys:
39 adults, 7 juveniles at Long Beach on 7/30
52 adults, 4 chicks, 13 juveniles, 4 nests at Griswold Point on 7/30
2 pairs, 8 adults, 3 chicks, 5 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 7/30
1 adult, 1 possible nest at Milford Point on 7/30
2 adults at Bluff Point on 7/30
1 adult at East Broadway Milford on 7/31
32 adults at Milford Point on 7/31
65-100 adults, 26 chicks, 38 juveniles, 6 nests at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
24 adults, 34 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
1 pair, 18 adults, 2 juveniles, 3 nests at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/1
1 pair, 2 chicks at Bluff Point on 8/1
60 individuals at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/1
1 adult at Silver Sands State Park on 8/1
23 adults, 6 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/2
19 adults, 20 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/2
75 adults/juveniles at Milford Point on 8/2
7 adults, 3 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/2
37 adults, 9 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/3
56 adults, 3 chicks, 50 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/3
3 adults at Calf Pasture Beach on 8/4
32 adults, 20 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/4
6 adults at Stratford Point on 8/4
35 adults/juveniles at Long Beach on 8/4
32 individuals at Long Beach on 8/4
10 individuals at Milford Point on 8/5

Common Tern
Volunteer and staff surveys:
1 adult, 2 juveniles at Long Beach on 7/30
47 adults, 27 juveniles at Griswold Point on 7/30
2 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 7/30
25 adults/juveniles at Great Captain's Island on 7/30
1 adult at Bluff Point on 7/30
102 adults/juveniles at Milford Point on 7/31
2 pairs, 47 adults, 2 chicks at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
19 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 7/31
4 adults at Harkness Memorial State Park on 8/1
7 adults at Bluff Point on 8/1
175 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/1
50 individuals at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/1
2 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 8/1
51 adults at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/2
75 adults/juveniles at Milford Point on 8/2
6 adults at Silver Sands State Park on 8/2
29 adults, 4 juveniles at Long Beach on 8/2
160 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/3
6 adults at Milford Point on 8/3
116 adults, 1 chick, 13 juveniles at Sandy/Morse Points on 8/3
47 adults/juveniles at Calf Pasture Beach on 8/4
14 adults, 2 juveniles at Milford Point on 8/4
526 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/4
36 adults at Long Beach on 8/4
105 adults/juveniles at Long Beach on 8/4
450 adults/juveniles at Stratford Point on 8/5

Monday, Monday night, and Tuesday will have winds favorable to migration in the middle of a difficult southerly flow, so watch for a lot of turnover in our other target species.

This concludes update #21 through 8/6/12 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.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Piping Plover chicks swimming!

Joel Stocker took this sensational record video of Piping Plover chicks swimming across the channel at Harkness Memorial State Park a couple weeks ago. Check it out at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcI-fCRQ5x0

They are basically nothing more than little white balls of fluff drifting in the water, but somehow they make it across under the direction of their parents. All of us, volunteers and staff, had been wondering how the hatchlings had been able to move around as much as they were when the channel was so high. While this was probably the only answer, it is nevertheless astonishing to actually see. We will have to watch for this little adventure and other trips by the chicks even more closely next season. They seem to be more adept at moving than we think.


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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sights of the season

AAfCW technician Ewa Holland has taken some great photos over the course of our season. Here are some she wanted to share. The first two pictures are of AAfCW technicians Gabrielle and Sean and USFWS Kristina Vagos Wildlife Biologist heading back after putting up signage on Duck and Menenketesuck Islands.





These are of a Diamondback Terrapin from Long Beach, one of those awesome other sightings you may have had during some of your bird surveys.







The last two are of a Piping Plover hatchling still in its nest (taken through binoculars obviously at a safe distance) and the sunset on the beach from Bluff Point.





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