Monday, March 31, 2014

April fencing dates

Here are additional string fencing party dates from CT DEEP. We would appreciate volunteer assistance for all and if you can join us please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com with the site(s) you will be helping out with, thank you!

Sandy/Morse Points, West Haven - Thursday April 3rd at 10:00AM. Rain date Friday April 4th at 10:00AM. Meet in the parking area.

Long Beach, Stratford - Thursday April 10th at 10:00AM. Rain date Friday April 11th at 10:00AM. Meet in the parking area.

Bluff Point, Groton - Tuesday April 15th at 10:00AM. Rain date Wednesday April 16th at 10:00AM. At this location we will meet in the parking area and CT DEEP will shuttle people out to the beach.

Volunteers should bring: work gloves, water, a snack, appropriate footwear, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats and whatever else you may need avoid too much sun. These locations can either be quite cool or very warm depending on the day so dress for any weather. A pocket knife or multi-tool can be handy and a sledge hammer or mallet can be helpful to bring. Plan for heavy lifting and toting, but be mindful of your safety.

Thank you all very much and enjoy the beginning of field season!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Needing negative data

Please remember that we want to hear from you at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com after every trip you take to your beach during volunteer monitoring. Even when you make a visit to the shore and do not see any Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Least Terns or Common Terns - or any other notable waterbirds - we need this "negative data". Knowing about a lack of birds is just as important as an abundance of birds.

Negative data is important to us in several ways. It lets us know that you were there on the beach at your scheduled time and that birds were simply not there instead us thinking you may have had to miss your monitoring that day and wondering what was or was not present. We can still learn from you about any disturbances and human activities on the beach even if there are no birds to report. We will target our field staff to sites more appropriately with a more complete picture of what is or is not going on. We can also add to historic data from past years - for example, if a given beach now has no Piping Plovers during the entire 2014 season and this is the third year in a row after decades of the species breeding there then we will know with even more certainty that there is a problem that needs to be addressed at that site.

Please remember this throughout the season and send us a report each time after you monitor. While we would much rather read a wonderful account of so many of our species being recorded by all of you we still need to receive monitoring data even when no birds are found whatsoever. That negative data goes a long way in helping us understand, protect and help Connecticut's coastal waterbirds.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

CT DEEP beach training 4/12

On Saturday, April 12th the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will hold a beach/field training session on how to monitor and collect data for Piping Plovers and Least Terns from 10AM until 12PM at Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven. The rain date will be the following day, Sunday, April 13. Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds staff will also be on hand.

The group will meet at Sandy/Morse Points parking lot before venturing out to the beach. Follow this link for driving directions and additional information on the site: http://www.lisrc.uconn.edu/coastalaccess/site.asp?siteid=383 

Everyone should dress for walking the beach and remember appropriate footwear, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, a jacket and whatever else you may need avoid too much sun and stay warm on what can be a windy and chilly beach in April. You should also bring a snack, water, binoculars and a spotting scope if you have one.

Please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com if you have any questions and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Griswold Point fencing party 4/8

Our first 2014 string fencing and signage erection date has been set for Griswold Point in Old Lyme on Tuesday, April 8. All volunteers are welcome including those who are not monitors. The plan is to meet with staff from The Nature Conservancy at 9:30AM as at that time we should have good walking access down the beach. We recommend carpooling if possible which can be done at the park and ride commuter lot off exit 70 of Interstate 95 on Neck Road. The nearby businesses also have the only available restrooms. The group will meet up at the end of the private Griswold Point Lane for a 9:30AM start.

Volunteers should bring: work gloves, water, footwear that can get wet, sunscreen, sunglasses, hats and whatever else you may need avoid too much sun. Depending on the weather, a wind breaker might be necessary – it can be surprisingly cold and windy on the beach in April. A pocket knife or multi-tool can be handy and if anyone has a sledge hammer they can bring those can also be helpful. Plan for heavy lifting and toting, but be mindful of your safety. We do not want any injuries.

Our seasonal field staff is not yet deployed and your help for this and future fencing parties is absolutely needed and much appreciated! Please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com if are going to help out or if you need additional information or directions - thank you!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Want to set your monitoring schedule?

To schedule your coastal waterbird monitoring sessions this spring and summer send an email to: ctwaterbirds@gmail.com

You can pick from the following locations:
  • Sherwood Island State Park in Westport
  • Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport
  • Long Beach in Stratford
  • Russian Beach in Stratford
  • Milford Point in Milford
  • Silver Sands State Park in Milford
  • Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven
  • Griswold Point in Old Lyme
  • Bluff Point State Park in Groton

Then tell us what specific days of the month or week (such as every Friday) you want to monitor along with either AM or PM, no certain hours or times necessary. All scheduling is conducted by emailing the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, ctwaterbirds@gmail.com, and we hope to complete it by April 1. That is the only place to sign up for the schedule. Thank you!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Schedule your monitoring

Today the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection completed successful training sessions for many of our fantastic past and new volunteer monitors. We are now working on scheduling everyone to their desired beaches and dates. Please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com with your requested locations and schedule. We hope to complete scheduling for most by April 1.

 Here is a list of available monitoring locations:
  • Sherwood Island State Park in Westport
  • Pleasure Beach in Bridgeport
  • Long Beach in Stratford
  • Russian Beach in Stratford
  • Milford Point in Milford
  • Silver Sands State Park in Milford
  • Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven
  • Griswold Point in Old Lyme
  • Bluff Point State Park in Groton

Long Beach, Milford Point, Sandy/Morse Points and Bluff Point typically have the greatest need for monitors. Remember that we would like to have all the data we can on Piping Plovers, American Oystercatchers, and beginning when they arrive in May, Least and Common Terns. When we begin walking our beaches we want to monitor only in "good" weather to protect both people and birds - heavy rain or thunderstorms in the area or temperatures below 50 or above 90 mean you should skip that day.

If you could not attend today's training we would of course still love to have you as a volunteer in 2014 and you can sign up throughout the season via email. There will be a field/beach training session open to all volunteers on April 12 at Sandy/Morse Points in West Haven with final details and time to be determined and sent out to you soon. We can also offer you training online and in person when possible with master monitors who have past experience. Please contact us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com to be paired up with someone.

Here are training videos from 2012 - the most critical information is the same with some details having changed:
Part 1: http://vimeo.com/38652684 
Part 2: http://vimeo.com/38662688
Part 3: http://vimeo.com/38691714

Remember to check out the right-hand column of this blog for field datasheets, which will be updated shortly, and other important state and federal forms. If you cannot download any of these forms or have problems attempting to please email us at ctwaterbirds@gmail.com and we can send them as email attachments.

We will start our regular and weekly email updates with general information and bird data soon. Thank you all! We could not accomplish any of this without our tremendous volunteers.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cold and snow keeping birds south

I know I do not have to explain to all of our readers and volunteers that it has been a very cold and snowy winter here in Connecticut. This weather has continued into mid-March and in the next week we are looking at the potential for even more snow! Many species are still migrating into the state, from raptors to land birds, with the Fox Sparrow being a strong example of the latter as they have made a sizable movement in the last few days.

However, many of our waterbirds are being held to the south, staying away from our frigid beaches, marshes and islands for the moment. In the past two years we have had Piping Plovers here already - in 2013 the first bird arrived in Stratford at Long Beach on March 5! Now nine days after that we have had no reports yet in 2014.

Where are they now? Here's the current eBird map for 2014 Piping Plover sightings.

The blue point nearest Connecticut is a January report of a vagrant that was found on Long Island. The orange point next to it is Sandy Hook, New Jersey, the closest sighting otherwise from earlier this week.

A few American Oystercatchers have come into Connecticut which is not a surprise considering mid-February can be a return date for the species. They are still less numerous than usual at this point though. Here's their current eBird map for 2014.

We may not hit 50 degrees in the next week and the southerly migratory flow will not be very cooperative but I would expect the birds to move despite the conditions. It's time to get the breeding season started and spring will eventually come! Let's see how many we can find by this time next week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Tern Banders Needed - Falkner Island Tech Announcement!

We are posting this exciting job opportunity on behalf of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. An experienced tern bander is needed to be the crew leader at Falkner Island this summer. This job would be a part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Westbrook, Connecticut. You can find complete information and apply here: https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/364123000

The job closes on March 25th. Please apply soon if you are interested and pass this along to anyone else who may be interested! Thank you.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sanderlings feeding and banded birds

These Sanderlings were feeding along the gentle waves of Long Island Sound today at Long Beach in Stratford. Note that the bird on the far right has a silver federal band that I unfortunately could not read.

Please keep an eye out for any banded or flagged birds this spring. If you find birds such as this one with only a silver federal band and are able to read it you can report it on reportband.gov. If you can ever spot a color banded Piping Plover that would be phenomenal and you can visit this blog entry for instructions on what to do.

These three birds were part of a group of over 100 combined Sanderling and Dunlin. The two species are typically found together in Connecticut through the winter but after being in Jamestown, New York (Chautauqua County, the furthest Western New York county) for two very frigid months I was excited to see any shorebirds. More of our spring waterbirds will be arriving shortly, despite the conditions! I'll take a look at the upcoming weather and current status of our some of target species in my next blog entry.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Seasonal overview

It is still cold and snowy, continuing a theme for this frigid winter, but we are now at the unofficial beginning of field season for coastal waterbirds. March 1 is the first day of meteorological spring and the birds seem to feel the same way about Connecticut. Everything is going to happen quite quickly from here on out! We at the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds are ready to go for our third season with much of the same staff in place that helped to make the first two so successful. Even more importantly we have so many of our master monitors returning to volunteer their time for our waterbirds.

For those new to the program, don't worry! The fast-paced schedule and busy activities have been successfully planned and managed by our talented friends at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for years. We are all more than ready for 2014 and you will be, too. Here is an overview of the coming months that can serve as a simple timeline of events.

American Oystercatchers returned to Connecticut in February! Despite the conditions the species usually arrives in small numbers before the snow is gone. They are the first of our four focal species (also Piping Plover, Least Tern, and Common Tern) to return each year. Piping Plovers are moving through the Carolinas at the moment. They seem to be a bit slower on the return than the past two years which were considerably warmer and featured better northbound migratory conditions. In 2013 they were already in New Jersey in February! I would guess we will still see a Piping Plover on a Connecticut beach at least by the midpoint of March even though the long-term patterns says below average temperatures will continue.

As we receive passage migrants please remember to watch for any color banded Piping Plovers and record and report as much information on them to us at ctwaterbirds 'AT' gmail.com as you can. This year March 15 is the training sessions for new monitors and refresher for past monitors. This course will be held at the CT DEEP Kellogg Environmental Center at 500 Hawthorne Ave. Derby, CT, a change from previous years. Once that is completed you will sign up with us for a monitoring site and then have some time to get to know your monitoring location before full monitoring commences on April 1. We will begin sending out weekly updates with bird data and general information. We will also begin to see the return of some more long-legged waders with Great and Snowy Egrets becoming common as the month passes by and Yellow-crowned Night-Heron plus Black-crowned Night-Heron beginning to move in as well.

In April we begin monitoring beaches across the state. This is when we will hope to have all of our monitors scheduled and set at a location on regular days and times. We still certainly welcome anyone to sign up throughout the season or to change their schedule when needed. We will also be requesting all of the data and information that you collect during your monitoring as soon as it is possible to report back to us. We really value what our volunteers discover and observe while walking beaches in Connecticut and it means a great deal in protecting our endangered waterbirds and ensuring their breeding success. Nesting is going to begin for both the Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher this month. CT DEEP will also be putting up string fencing around these nesting grounds and they will need all the help they can get from all of us. We will post specific dates for these fencing parties and ask that anyone who can contribute please do so.

More long-legged waders will be entering the state with the previously mentioned species widespread and abundant plus new arrivals like Glossy Ibis and Little Blue Heron showing up. Green Heron should be seen near the end of the month. Shorebirds will be coming through rapidly now. Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, and Sanderling spend the winter in Connecticut though they will become common. Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover will become irregular sightings across the state. Birds like Short-billed Dowitcher, Spotted Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper may be seen uncommonly. Willets establish themselves quickly in April and the common Killdeers do as well.

Common Terns and Least Terns typically arrive in Connecticut around the first of the month in a few locations and quickly pour into Long Island Sound. All of our expected shorebirds are possible in the state during the month. The same can be said for other tern species including the more rare Roseate and migrant Caspian. May is most notable as the month where we can expect to see the first hatchling Piping Plover and American Oystercatcher. The dates can be variable depending on many factors that influence the success of nesting from tidal departures to storm systems to beach traffic to predation and much more. If the extremely cold conditions continue these nesting cycles may be later this year. Nevertheless, whether it is a handful or dozens, you can anticipate seeing the first young of the year in May. This means we will have to be even more attentive in monitoring and stewardship efforts. The weather will also be warming, beach weekends will become much more attractive, and holidays like Memorial Day will mean an influx of visitors to the Connecticut shoreline.

June is one of the busiest periods on the ground as we hit the official start of summer. This month has the most intensive breeding efforts going on by the highest number of species. It also coincides with the time that children and adults will be getting out of school and finding themselves on the beach even more. Our birds will be at a variety of breeding stages - there will be some young nearing the time to fledge, others just hatching and sticking close to their parents, and nests with eggs. Both Least Terns and Common Terns will have formed breeding colonies and be sitting on eggs. Migrant shorebirds will have mostly moved to the north for their brief nesting window. Long-legged waders will be busy with nesting activities on offshore islands and other coastal locations. It may seem quiet from a birding level but it is one of the most critical stretches we have.

The beginning of July is always known for the Fourth celebrations and in birding circles this is no different. We will be monitoring beaches on various nights of fireworks displays across the state and we will need all the volunteers we can find to help us. If you know someone who is not an active monitor or has not volunteered previously but enjoys the beach or nature this is a good time to bring them out on a beautiful afternoon or evening and convince them to help us protect these amazing creatures. Fireworks can be stressful on birds, especially parents with the many young that will be present in July, and stewardship efforts are bolstered to compensate for this. Southbound shorebirds of all sorts hit Connecticut in substantial numbers beginning in the middle of July. These birds are already on their journey to wintering grounds to our south having completed their nesting season! It is also a time to be aware of the extreme heat and thunderstorms that can pose a danger to both humans and birds - please remember safety first and to stay home and do not monitor when the temperature surpasses the upper 80s or when the forecast is for severe weather.

When we reach August it will be hard to believe how much has happened in the past several months. CT DEEP will begin the process of taking down the string fencing on beaches throughout the month, once again with our help. Piping Plover adults will be making a rapid exit, though sometimes a few pairs still are nesting again after unsuccessful attempts. Small numbers of juveniles will likely be all that we see by the end of the month. American Oystercatchers will be making a similar but less significant drop. Shorebirds will be continuing to pour through the state in large numbers as they pass south with other members of locally breeding species included. Long-legged waders and their young will fan out and feed wherever they can.

Common Terns and Least Terns may have some nests and chicks but for the most part they will begin feeding together in large groups. Other more rare species should be watched for as well. At the beginning of the month you may see many juvenile terns being fed but by the end groups of birds over 1,000 individuals can be seen that will be mostly caring for themselves and readying to move to the south. It is a rewarding experience to know that you have helped all of these birds bring the next generation into the world!

We will see you in a couple of weeks and will update this blog regularly with information, photos, events, data, announcements, and more!