Friday, September 14, 2012

Final shorebird seminar

Our final shorebird identification seminar, the last of a series of three at the Coastal Center at Milford Point, took place this past Tuesday, highlighted by the Western Sandpiper seen and discussed in this entry. As mentioned, there we were able to see American Oystercatcher and Common Tern, two of our focal species, plus Sanderling, Semipalmated Plover, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Great Blue Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and much more.

While we scanned the Sound and the sand bars, a juvenile Peregrine Falcon decided to make a pass through and actually went after an American Oystercatcher and a small duck, possibly a Green-winged Teal. The latter dove underwater so fast that no one was able to identify it. Peregrines are a fixture at this time of the year as young from nearby nesting areas like the Milford power plant or the I-95 bridge in Bridgeport use the shorebird's coastal staging area as their own personal menu.

The Peregrine was unsuccessful tonight, at least while we viewed the birds, and after a little more than an hour of some fantastic looks and discussion we headed inside for Sean Graesser's advanced shorebird identification seminar. Sean provided the group with a handout discussing some of the identification points of nearly every expected and rare shorebird one could see in Connecticut. He grouped the birds by their size, large to medium to small, and went on to pick them apart from there.

Sean highlighted everything from basic plumage features and coloration, which he reported as being a sometimes subjective mark, to bill size and shape (while comparing it to the head size of some birds) to leg coloration and build to wing length and specific features on the feathering. He went into detail about behavior and movements while mentioning how much molt and seasonal appearance can play a role in identification.

It was an excellent presentation aided by wonderful and intelligent questions from the attendees, and we thank everyone for joining us that evening. Please keep an eye out for a tern identification workshop that we will be putting together along with other walks and talks in the fall and winter months.

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

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