Posts Tagged ‘Coastal Center’

 

Roseate Tern

Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Roseate Tern
Sterna dougallii

by Nick Bonomo
What it looks like: The Roseate Tern is much like our familiar Common Tern in appearance, with a few key differences. Essentially the same size as Common Tern, its upperparts are a paler shade of gray, appearing almost whitish in certain light. Its bill averages less red and more black than Common Tern, and the bill is longer and thinner.

Its white tail streamers are also longer as compared to Common Tern. There is no gray on the breast or belly, though not all Common Terns show gray on the underparts at this time of year, so beware of that pitfall. In flight, the Roseate Tern has a narrower dark wedge on the outer upper wing than on Common Tern.

It gets its name from a faint rosy wash on its undersides that can be very difficult to see.

Though Roseates can look quite similar to Commons, they do not sound much alike. You will often hear a Roseate Tern before you see one, as they belt out their emphatic “kick-it” two-noted call. They tend to call most often while they are flying, so if you do hear one, look in the air instead of on the ground. (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has recordings of Roseate and Common terns, and others, here.)

Photographed on Petit Manan Island

When to look: Roseate Terns are locally rare breeders that arrive in our waters in May and are here til September. The best time to see them from land in Connecticut is during July and August, when adults and young have dispersed from their breeding colonies — including on Faulkner’s Island off Guilford and, most significantly, Great Gull Island, off the tip of Long Island’s North Fork — and associate with flocks of Common Terns in Long Island Sound.

Where to find it: Some of the more reliable locations to view Roseate Terns include Harkness State Park in Waterford, Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, Sandy Point in West Haven, Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point in Milford, and Cockenoe Island in Westport (accessible only via boat).

Begin by searching through Common Tern flocks for paler birds, and then check for additional field marks. Beware of bright sunlight making Common Terns appear paler than they really are. And of course learn the distinctive call of the Roseate.

Conservation status: The Roseate Tern is a federally endangered species.

Historically, the population suffered losses when feathers were collected for the millinery trade. Roseate Tern productivity has also been affected by increased human recreation and disturbance in coastal areas, as well as by predation by Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, owls and nocturnal-feeding mammals.

Increasing numbers of gulls and human activity on or near coastal barrier islands have greatly reduced available nesting habitat for the Roseate Tern population in northeastern North America. Many traditional nesting sites in southern New England were abandoned during the 1940s and 1950s when Great Black-Backed and Herring Gulls rapidly expanded their nesting ranges. These large, aggressive gulls stake out nesting territories in early spring before the terns return from their wintering areas. Gulls have taken over most of the outer islands preferred by nesting terns. (Source: CT DEEP; www.ct.gov/deep)

Photos by Hilary Chambers, top, and Kirk Rogers/USFWS; Carolinabirds.org

Clapper Rail

Friday, July 14th, 2017
Bird Finder for July 14, 2017
 

Bird Finder welcomes a new contributor this week: Genevieve Nuttall, Connecticut Audubon’s Osprey Nation coordinator. Genevieve is working on a masters degree in conservation biology and biodiversity at the University of Connecticut.

Clapper Rail
Rallus crepitans

by Genevieve Nuttall
Where to find it: Despite its large size, Clapper Rail is not an easy bird to locate. These marsh birds are known for their elusive nature and are more often heard than seen. The grasses that make up salt marshes hide these wading birds and provide crucial habitat for feeding and nesting.

To find a Clapper Rail in Connecticut, visit well-preserved salt marsh habitat. Clapper Rails can be found at Hammonassett Beach State Park in Madison, Barn Island in Stonington, Sandy Point in New Haven, the East River marsh in Guilford, and at Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point.

Try listening for their distinct call first, then use the call to locate the bird. It may be very difficult to find, even if it sounds like it is right in front of you! Also take a look in canals or ditches; they may be wading and feeding in the waterways.

What it looks and sounds like: Because Clapper Rails are secretive and because their mundane colors blend into the marsh, you’re likely to hear one before you see it, so listen for their loud, boisterous grunt calls accompanied by “klacking” noises that sound like kek-kek-kek. You can find a recording of the call here.

Clapper Rails have the body of a chicken with a long, pointed bill good for probing for insects or crabs in the water and mud. Although they have the general appearance of a shorebird, they belong to the Rallidae family which consists of various terrestrial or aquatic rails and coots. Clapper Rails have inconsistent pigmentation among individuals, but both females and males can be identified by a grayish-brown body with dark stripes lining the belly.

When to find it: You can generally spot these migratory birds from April to late summer in Connecticut, and most migrate southward after the breeding season is over. The northern range of Clapper Rails does not extend much past Connecticut, so we are lucky to have the opportunity to see these birds in our state! Many individuals stay along the coast of southern United States into Central America year-round.

Breeding facts/special interest: During the breeding season, a male and female will pair up and work together to raise young. Nests are constructed in the marsh, and the adults use the grasses and sedges of the marsh to weave a basket-like nest into the ground. These nests are well-hidden and blend perfectly into the vegetation.

The female will lay up to 16 eggs per clutch, and the eggs hatch after 3-4 weeks of incubation. Clapper Rail nestlings are precocial, meaning they are able to walk and feed shortly after hatching. After just one day of care from the parents, the puffy, black nestlings are ready to leave the nest and learn the ways of their new marsh habitat. If a nest is flooded or preyed upon, many pairs will nest again until they succeed!

Conservation Status: The IUCN status for Clapper Rail is “Least Concern.” In the past, wetland damage, hunting, and egg collecting posed major threats to this species. Current regulations have helped population numbers remain stable, but Clapper Rails are still susceptible to the effects of wetland pollution and degradation, and they will not thrive in damaged marsh areas. Population numbers are not well-understood since the birds are difficult to find.

As with all salt marsh-nesting birds, threats will increase as sea levels rise with global climate change.

Purple Martin

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Laurie Fortin of the state DEEP shows a banded Purple Martin to a news crew.

Purple Martin
Progne subis

by Michael Aurelia, Connecticut Audubon Society Board of Directors
Purple Martins are the largest of the seven swallow family members that one can observe in Connecticut (last week’s Bird Finder featured another, the Cliff Swallow).

They are slightly smaller and thinner than European Starlings and can be seen soaring and gliding over grassy and shrubby open spaces looking for flying insects. Purple Martins are dependent on man-made houses or gourds on the east coast though they will nest in cavities on the west coast. In Connecticut they always nest in small to medium sized colonies near water.

What it looks like: Adult males are a dark iridescent blue-purple but look black. Females and juveniles are duller with shades of gray on the head and chest, and some white on the lower belly. The wings are long and tapered, the tail mildly forked.

The Purple Martin Colony at the Coastal Center.

Where and how to find It: Most of Connecticut’s Purple Martin colonies are along the coast, including at Sherwood Island and Hammonasset State Parks as well as Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point.

To find the most recent reports of this swallow, go to e-Bird.org and click Explore Data. Chose “species maps” and insert “Purple Martin.” For date, choose “year around current year.” For location: Connecticut.

Although you are most likely to find this bird along the coast, smaller inland colonies are also found in Kent, Norwich, Sharon and Washington. Inland locations will usually be near lakes or large ponds.

You can watch the Coastal Center Purple Martins in action via Connecticut Audubon’s live-streaming Purple Martin cam.

Other interesting facts: Purple Martins are aerial insectivores. They feed by flapping and gliding in the air at different heights. They are usually found flying higher than other swallows and frequently are feeding so high that they are difficult to see with the naked eye.

Males usually arrive by mid-April to scout out territories and most birds have left Connecticut by late August. Purple Martins spend the winter in northern to central South America.

Conservation Status: The wildlife staff at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has been working with volunteers to create a group of Purple Martin landlords with the hope of expanding the state’s breeding population – an effort that is working. DEEP staff and volunteers have been monitoring more than 30 Purple Martin colonies, some of which DEEP officials discovered relatively recently after reaching out to private landowners. In the 2015 breeding season, 1,252 juvenile martins were banded. Twenty-three colonies have their own band color combinations.

In 2015, the official status of Purple Martins in Connecticut was improved, to special concern, from threatened. The Purple Martin Conservation Association uses Connecticut a model for other states to follow to turn around declines in their Purple Martin populations.

On the national level, the IUCN indicates the status is of Least Concern. This listing is in spite of the fact that from 1966 to 2015, a 37 percent decline was noted in the data of the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

Purple Martin colonies are under threat from introduced species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows, which take over martin houses and gourds, and damage eggs or kill nestlings. Cold snaps longer than three to four days also kill martins because of their effect on the insects the birds rely on for food.

Lecturer Enlightens Audience of 130 about Hidden Lives of Snowy Owls

Sunday, February 1st, 2015
View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

Before last winter, the common wisdom was that the Snowy Owls that occasionally left their Arctic breeding grounds to winter further south did so because they were desperate for food and arrived in our area exhausted and starving.

But according to Don Crockett, who develops the interactive Snowy Owl maps for Project SNOWStorm, that common wisdom might not be true.

Addressing an audience of more than 130 people during a presentation Sunday organized by Connecticut Audubon Society, Crockett said that data collected last winter from birds fitted with tracking devices show that wintering Snowy Owls are probably neither exhausted nor hungry.

In his talk, titled “The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl,” Crockett said that an unprecedented number of Snowies spent the winter of 2013-14 in New England and across the midwest.

Keep reading our account …

Lecturer Enlightens Audience about the Hidden Lives of Snowy Owls

Monday, January 26th, 2015
View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl.

Before last winter, the common wisdom was that the Snowy Owls that occasionally left their Arctic breeding grounds to winter further south did so because they were desperate for food and arrived in our area exhausted and starving.

But according to Don Crockett, who develops the interactive Snowy Owl maps for Project SNOWStorm, that common wisdom might not be true.

Read more >>

Lecturer Enlightens Audience of 130 about Hidden Lives of Snowy Owls

Monday, January 26th, 2015
View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

View from the Milford City Hall balcony during The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

Before last winter, the common wisdom was that the Snowy Owls that occasionally left their Arctic breeding grounds to winter further south did so because they were desperate for food and arrived in our area exhausted and starving.

But according to Don Crockett, who develops the interactive Snowy Owl maps for Project SNOWStorm, that common wisdom might not be true. Addressing an audience of more than 130 people during a presentation Sunday organized by Connecticut Audubon Society, Crockett said that data collected last winter from birds fitted with tracking devices show that wintering Snowy Owls are probably neither exhausted nor hungry.

In his talk, titled “The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl,” Crockett said that an unprecedented number of Snowies spent the winter of 2013-14 in New England and across the midwest.

Nationwide, Christmas Bird Count observers recorded 602 Snowies; over the previous 100-plus years, the most ever seen was 256, Crockett said. In Connecticut, the CBC found a dozen Snowy Owls; the previous record was four.

As Crockett noted, many of last year’s Snowy Owls attempted to make their winter home at the region’s airports because the flat, open expanses resemble the tundra. But the birds had to be trapped and relocated to keep them from interfering with airplanes – more than 120 were relocated from Logan Airport in Boston alone.

This historic influx caught the attention of Connecticut Audubon Society members and the general public. Several owls wintered at the Milford Point Coastal Center – including one that roosted regularly on the Osprey nesting platform – and dozens of people a day visited the Coastal Center to view the Snowies. When Crockett asked how many people in the audience had seen a Snowy Owl in the wild, almost everyone raised a hand.

This irruption of Snowy Owls created an unprecedented opportunity to study the birds, and so came Project SNOWstorm, a research project started in 2014 with the goal of better understanding the habits of Snowy owls through GPS tracking

As part of the project, 22 owls that were trapped to be relocated, from Minnesota to Massachusetts, were fitted with solar-power cellular transmitters, Crockett said. The transmitters sent and recorded GPS positions every 30 minutes. Previous technology would provide data for two GPS positions per day.

Crockett plotted the data on the maps he created for Project SNOWStorm. They showed that the owls are active at night and that the coastal owls were particularly active over the water – hunting waterfowl, Crockett said.

Photo of Snowy Owl at Milford Point taken in early 2014 by Kin Cheng.

Photo of Snowy Owl at Milford Point taken in early 2014 by Kin Cheng.

“Although the Snowy Owls are active in the day, they are also nocturnal, water-loving waterfowl eaters,” he said. “If they are able to go out and catch sitting ducks at night, are they starving? That should make you think they are not suffering, if they can go out and find food.”

The findings corroborate those of Norman Smith of Mass Audubon, who coordinated the trapping of the 120-plus owls at Logan Airport. According to Crockett, Smith found that the trapped owls were generally healthy and of normal weight.

Connecticut Audubon Society arranged Crockett’s presentation to help keep members and the public up to date on the latest research and information from Project SNOWStorm. Because of the great demand, the presentation was held at Milford City Hall rather than at Connecticut Audubon Society’s Milford Point Coastal Center, where it had been originally scheduled.

You can see an album of photos on our Facebook page.

The 40-minute presentation ended with a lively question and answer session, and was followed by a late-afternoon bird walk at the Milford Point Coastal Center – although unfortunately no Snowy Owls were to be found.

Connecticut Audubon Society is currently working to offer the presentation again, in another part of the state.

From Dragon Doodle to Panorama: How a Trumbull Student Painted the Coastal Center’s New Mural

Saturday, January 24th, 2015
Mural_LauraBollert_byKayleeWeil

Laura Bollert started the Coastal Center’s mural in the summer after her junior year at Trumbull High and finished it in early January 2014, during winter break as a sophomore at the University of Maine. Connecticut Audubon Society photo by Kaylee Weil.

January 9, 2015 – Laura Bollert had never even seen the Milford Point Coastal Center before her first day as a volunteer camp counselor in 2012.

She was a rising high school senior, and it seemed a good way to earn community service credits for graduation.

As that first day ended, other counselors were saying goodbye to campers they had just met or texting late afternoon plans to their parents. Laura was agreeing to paint a panoramic mural of Milford Point’s tidal marsh.

Read the rest of the story…

The Hidden Lives of the Snowy Owl: A Presentation by Don Crockett of Project SNOWstorm

Friday, January 9th, 2015

Snowy Owl-Milford Point 1-1-2014 8x10 EA7G6780Our new location at Milford City Hall has balcony seats that we will make available first come, first served, for $10 per person, payable at the door.

If you’re fascinated by the Snowy Owls that have been so prominent in Connecticut this winter and last, this program will interest you.

Sunday, January 25
2:30-3:30 p.m.
Milford City Hall Auditorium
110 River Street, Milford, CT 06460

Here’s a Google map that you can use for directions: http://goo.gl/qxP1iC

Last winter more Snowy Owls invaded the northeastern U.S. than in any winter in more than 100 years. Inspired by this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Project SNOWstorm fitted 23 Snowy Owls with GPS transmitters to track their movements every 30 minutes 24 hours a day. This data provided unprecedented insight into the lives of Snowy Owls during their winter visits to the U.S. This talk will present some of the surprising discoveries made from this data.

Don Crockett is the developer of the interactive Google Maps app that is used on the Project SNOWstorm website to explore the Snowy Owl GPS data. Don is from Connecticut and has been developing birding websites for 20 years. Project SNOWstorm website: projectsnowstorm.org

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