News Release – 2018 Bird of the Year
Connecticut’s Birds of the Year for 2018!
An outlandishly pink bird that made its first recorded visit ever to the state and spent three weeks wowing observers has been named the Connecticut Audubon Society’s 2018 Bird of the Year.
The Roseate Spoonbill, a native of the sub-tropics, first appeared in Stratford on September 15. Word spread and soon people from around the region were gathering to see and photograph it. For three weeks the spoonbill shuttled between several locations in Stratford and Connecticut Audubon’s Coastal Center at Milford Point, where it fed on the lip of the beach with other wading birds.
Because of its amazing color, its habit of roosting and feeding in the open for all to see, and its undeniable appeal – in addition to drawing big crowds, it caught the attention of NatGeo and Audubon Magazine – the Roseate Spoonbill is Connecticut’s 2018 Bird of the Year.
Its appearance was a happening in and of itself but also something of a fluke – the spoonbill was what ornithologists call a vagrant, a bird that turns up far from its range.
More significant ornithologically were the birds that are Number 2 on our list of Birds of the Year: the Sedge Wrens that nested in a field at Connecticut Audubon’s Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret.
For years sanctuary manager Andy Rzeznikiewicz had seeded and groomed the field, recognizing it as possible Sedge Wren habitat. Sedge Wrens had been considered extirpated from the state. In July, he confirmed they had successfully nested and were raising young, in a field near a marsh along Day Road.
And as with the Spoonbill, the crowds soon arrived.
Nick Bonomo, a contributor to Connecticut Audubon’s weekly Bird Finder feature and a trip leader for Connecticut Audubon’s EcoTravel program, said at the time: “It really is a great situation for observing a rare nesting species. We didn’t have to move from the platform to get nice views. Just stood there and waited.”
Number 3 on the Bird of the Year list was the Wilson’s Plover that Chandler Wiegand, Connecticut Audubon’s IBA coastal ranger at Milford Point, spotted foraging with a group of other shorebirds in April. The Wilson’s Plover is typically found from Cape May, N.J., south.
“Basically nobody birding in Connecticut today had ever seen the bird in the state,” said Greg Hanisek, editor of the COA’s journal, The Connecticut Warbler, and like Bonomo a Bird Finder contributor. “It was one of the best finds in the 25 years I’ve lived in Connecticut.”
Number 4 are the Purple Martins that enjoyed another good breeding year in the thriving colony at the Milford Point Coastal Center. At least 128 baby martins hatched there in 2018, compared to 107 last year, 93 in 2016, and 79 in 2015. Purple Martins were removed from the state’s list of threatened species several years ago.
Number 5 are the sparrows of “Sparrow-dise” – the hundreds of migratory songbirds of more than a dozen species that found the newly-restored H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport to be of their liking in 2018.
As part of a major habitat restoration project at the preserve, Executive Director Patrick Comins planted foxtail millet and other seed-bearers to stabilize the soil. Then he visited in October.
“There were hundreds of Song Sparrows, a lot of White-throated Sparrows,” he said, “many Swamp, a few Chipping, at least six White-crowned Sparrows, several Field Sparrows, three or four Vesper Sparrows, at least one Savannah, several Eastern Towhees, dozens of juncos plus at least three Indigo Buntings.”
A paradise for sparrows and their ilk. He dubbed it “Sparrow-dise.”
Number 6 is the Rusty Blackbird that flew over Deer Pond Farm in Sherman at 2:15 a.m. on November 8. It was the first bird detected by the Connecticut Audubon Society’s new Motus Wildlife Tracking System receiver.
The receiver at Deer Pond Farm and another that will be erected at Shepaug Dam in Southbury early next year mean that Connecticut Audubon is now participating in a growing, worldwide network of tracking sites that might well revolutionize bird research.
Number 7 are the Tree Swallows that gather in Old Lyme. As natural spectacles go, there might be nothing in Connecticut to match the roosting at dusk in late summer.
Each evening on Goose Island, tens of thousands of birds convene. Or is it hundreds of thousands? A million? Nobody knows for sure.
But now a team of scientists, with the help of Connecticut Audubon’s Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, is trying to find out. If they succeed they will have pioneered a method that will revolutionize the study and knowledge of Tree Swallows.
The goal is to establish the first complete quantification of a Tree Swallow roost based on an actual count of individual birds. The scientists are hoping their work establishes a method for other ornithologists to follow elsewhere.
Number 8 – and last on our list of 2018 Birds of the Year – is the lone Western Kingbird that Pomfret resident Nancy Barrett photographed in September. A native of the Great Plains and further west, and a vagrant like the spoonbill and Wilson’s Plover, a Western Kingbird shows up in Connecticut every other year on average.
Barrett send her photograph to us but no one could relocate the bird. She might have been the only person to see it.