Posts Tagged ‘connecticut audubon society’


Bird Finder for January 19: Ross’s Goose, a Connecticut Rarity

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

Goose, Ross 2m Jan2011DickDanielsRoss’s Goose
Chen rossii

by Andy Griswold, Director of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s EcoTravel program

Grab your spotting scope and head to East Windsor to look for this rare visitor to Connecticut (and several other rare visitors as well).

Ross’s Goose is the smallest of our North American goose species, significantly smaller than its very similar looking cousin the Snow Goose. When comparing these two species, look for the tiny bill and distinctively diminutive shape of the Ross’s; petite compared to the more wedge-shaped of the Snow Goose. As with Snow Goose, Ross’s has two color forms, dark and white. Be sure to study the subtle differences of body plumages.

More commonly found on the central flyway during winter months, this is a great bird for Connecticut. The Connecticut location has been on and in the area of Broad Brook Mill Pond in East Windsor. Find the large group of Canada Goose and start looking through the flock for any white goose. A spotting scope is definitely needed as the bird can sometimes be a good distance away at this site.

If you really want to see Ross’s Goose in good numbers, join us for one of our frequent trips to Arkansas during winter months. The area we visit in Arkansas is called “The Rice Capital of North America” and the geese know to take advantage of these dormant fields as a winter feeding ground.

Interestingly there have been a number of other fine goose species discovered among the thousands of Canadas in this East Windsor flock, including Pink-footed Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, and Cackling Goose, the Pink-footed being the rarest of the group (although this is not its first occurrence in our state).

Ross’s Goose has enjoyed a significant increase in its population size because of changed agricultural practices and diminished hunting pressures since hitting a low number of 2,000 to 3,000 individuals in the early 1950s. Now estimated at over two million individuals, there is concern, in conjunction with a similar increase in population for Snow Goose, that the Arctic wetland habitat where they nest may be in peril due to overpopulation.

Photo by Dick Daniels,

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Bird Nerd Trivia at the Carriage Barn Art Center!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015



Test your avian knowledge against bird (and art) enthusiasts from around the state! The Connecticut Audubon Society is partnering with the Carriage Barn Arts Center’s exhibit, For The Birds, to present another great round of trivia. 

Join us at Carriage Barn Art Center in New Canaan on December 9th from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. We’ll have refreshments, great company, and trivia on topics ranging from bird identification to birds in pop culture.

$8 for Connecticut Audubon Society and/or Carriage Barn Art Center members and $10 for non-members.

For Tickets: Click Here 

Questions? or call (203) 259 0416 x106 

Bird Finder for June 10: Glossy Ibis

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Ibis, Glossy Alan_D_Wilson_9177Glossy Ibis
Plegadis falcinellus

Ibises are a group of nearly 30 species of distinctive wading birds that occur worldwide. Their cultural significance can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where the local species was drawn in hieroglyphics to represent a god. Here in Connecticut we commonly see one species of ibis, the Glossy Ibis, which occurs locally along the coast during the summer season.

What it looks like: The Glossy Ibis is a medium-sized long-legged wading bird that is overall brown in color and has a long, downcurved bill. When observing it closely, one will see that there is a lot more to this bird’s appearance than may first meet the eye. Adults have two thin lines of pale blueish facial skin located above and below the eye. In good lighting conditions, iridescent purples, reds, and maroons can be seen on the body of the bird.

Where to find it: This species is a local breeder along our coastline. It nests communally in heron rookeries that are located on small islands such as Tuxis Island in Madison and Charles Island in Milford. However, these birds are much more easily seen feeding in coastal salt marshes such as Barn Island WMA in Stonington or Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison.

When to look: Glossy Ibis arrive in April and can be seen throughout the summer until most depart in August-September.

ibis, glossy 01-09 b FLKeep an eye out for: The closely-related White-faced Ibis, a species of central and western North America, is slowly expanding its range to the north and east. This has led to an increase in sightings in Connecticut, including a couple seen already this year, though they are still quite rare. They look a lot like Glossy Ibis but differ in a few ways. They show a broad white band around the face and eye, red facial skin, and a red iris.

Conservation status: The Glossy Ibis is the most widespread ibis species in the world, occurring across the globe, and is listed as a species “of least concern” by the IUCN.

This week’s Bird Finder was written by Nick Bonomo. As always, it was edited by Tom Andersen.

Photos by Alan D. Wilson, top, and Dick Daniels, 

Eastern Meadowlark — A Sweet Singer: Bird Finder for June 5.

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Meadowlark,_Eastern_RichardCrookEastern Meadowlark
Sturnella magna

One of our most threatened species, the Eastern Meadowlark has slowly disappeared in Connecticut along with the large and rambling agricultural meadows that once dominated our landscape. 

To many an old farmer, the sweet and clear Tee-you, Tee-yair! sounded like “Spring is here!” Careful observers can still see and hear this bright relative of our blackbirds in open, grassy habitats, sometimes perched on fences and bushes in a few Connecticut locations, especially where hay is harvested later in the season, giving the birds ample time to nest in the grasses. It is a birder’s treasure wherever it is found.

Where to find it: The most reliable meadowlark locations during the nesting season are large grassy meadows usually larger than 20 acres in size. Here are two reliable locations: Connecticut Audubon Society’s Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret (ask Land Manager Andy Rzneznikiewicz for exact locations) or Rentschler Field in East Hartford (sometimes visible from Cabela’s parking area). The big meadows of the Thompson Dam in Thompson is another reliable location.

How to find it: The clear, distinctive whistled notes of the Meadowlark are really the best clue to its proximity. Scan the meadow for possible perches, such as shrubs or posts that the bird is likely singing from. It is a hard bird to miss if you are in the right location and within hearing range in the springtime.

Meadowlark,_Eastern_MathewPaulsonWhat it looks like: Meadowlarks are about the size of a Robin with an unmistakable bright yellow breast and a dark chevron on its chest. Its back is cleverly mottled with tan and brown stripes, blending in with the grasses and effectively hiding the bird from avian predators. Also distinctive is the flight pattern of the Meadowlark — a series of stiff wing beats followed by a glide. In flight, Meadowlarks display conspicuous white outer tail feathers.

What if the bird isn’t there? Despair not! These large grasslands are home to many unique and fascinating species! Don’t overlook such surprises as Bobolinks, American Kestrels, Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Bluebirds, even the rare Grasshopper Sparrow. A trip to the grasslands in the spring is always a great adventure.

This week’s Bird Finder was written by Milan Bull, Connecticut Audubon Society’s senior director of science and conservation. As always, it was edited by Tom Andersen.

Photos by Richard Crook, top, and Mathew Paulson, 

Canvasback — King of the Waterfowl: Bird Finder for March 28

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

Aythya valisineria

Of all the waterfowl found in North America, perhaps none are more deserving of the title King than the dramatic Canvasback. The Canvasback’s main wintering area formerly was Chesapeake Bay, where the shallow, brackish waters produced wild celery, a highly nutritious aquatic plant and the mainstay of the Canvasback’s winter diet. At one time hundreds of thousands could be found there. The wild celery diet produced a duck that was an epicurean’s delight, therefore a much desired table food during the 19th century.

Canvasback was featured on the menus of all the high-end restaurants in Washington at the time, and the King of Prussia made annual winter trips to the Chesapeake just to partake of this, the finest of all game birds.

As a result of its popularity and value, Canvasbacks were the prime focus of market hunters, who overshot this species before modern game laws. Unfortunately, the wild celery is now largely gone due to pollution and siltation of the Chesapeake, and with it went the massive flocks of Canvasbacks, which, having changed their diet to mollusks and other aquatics, still exist, but in much lower numbers.

Canvasback female1 Jan2011What it looks like: The Canvasback is a large diving duck. The males display a rufous-brown head and neck, a black breast and a tannish/white back (canvas) with white sides and a black tail. The female is a pale greyish brown with just a hint of pale rust on the head and neck. Canvasbacks display a rather long, sloping forehead, another good identifying characteristic. On still days, the shining white backs of the males stand out from other waterfowl which may be in the same area.

Although a rather uncommon winter species here in Connecticut, Canvasbacks can sometimes be found in small flocks, usually along the shoreline estuaries.

Sounds: Normally silent, the female can quack almost as well as a Black Duck. The males, when together frequently utter a peeping or growling note, sometimes audible on still days.

Where and how to find it: Look for Canvasbacks in brackish estuaries along the shore, during the late fall through the early spring. Usually found in shallower water, they sometimes feed in the open waters of Long Island Sound as well. Canvasbacks are often associated with American Wigeon with which they share a common diet of aquatic plants and invertebrates.

Canvasbacks are now being seen in Frash Pond at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Stratford, and in Ash Creek, south of Route 1 at the Fairfield-Bridgeport town line. The Thames River, north of New London near Smith Cove is another good location. When scanning the small groups of diving ducks, look for those large shining white backs of the Canvasbacks and you may agree with the term: King of the waterfowl.

Interesting Fact: Although in Connecticut they are found mainly along the shoreline, Canvasbacks breed throughout the freshwater prairie pothole region of North America.

Conservation Status: The IUCN lists the Canvasback as Least Concern.

This week’s Connecticut Audubon Society Bird Finder was written by Milan Bull, senior director of science and conservation, and edited by Tom Andersen, director of communications.

Photos by Dick Daniels,

Roland Clement, former chairman of the board of Connecticut Audubon Society, passes away at age 102

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Connecticut Audubon Society mourns the passing of Roland Clement, the former chairman of its Board of Directors, on Saturday, March 21, at age 102. Mr. Clement died at his home in Hamden.

Mr. Clement spent his life immersed in ornithology in New England and throughout North America, and his love of birds carried over to a deep commitment to the cause of conservation.

A true ornithologist at a very early age, after time in the army, Brown and Cornell Universities, he led Rhode Island Audubon, before moving on to the National Audubon Society. At National Audubon Society he had a distinguished career focusing on their sanctuaries and endangered species, and raising public awareness to the danger of pesticides. 

After his retirement in 1977, as he came to appreciate the value of focus on local conservation efforts, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Connecticut Audubon Society, from 1980-1985. In his tenure he oversaw the establishment of the Milford Point Coastal Center, one of organization’s premiere facilities. Located on a barrier beach separating Long Island Sound from the 840-acre Wheeler salt marsh, the Coastal Center is now a wonderful environmental education center, and also a focal point for the study and observation of more than 300 species of birds.

Under his direction, Connecticut Audubon Society came to the rescue when an older building on the state-owned property at Milford Point fell into disrepair. Connecticut Audubon stepped forward and proposed creating an education center there and then, under Mr. Clement’s leadership, raised $2 million to construct the present building.

“Without Roland Clement, it is quite possible the Whooping Crane, California Condor and many other bird populations might no longer grace our skies,” said Alexander Brash, president of the Connecticut Audubon Society. “Roland was instrumental in pulling together the biological needs of a species with sound habitat management and a strong conservation ethic, and then conveying this understanding to the American public. He was also a very principled person, and later in life rose to the occasion on many challenges. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and loved ones.”

First One Back: Pine Warbler — Bird Finder for March 19, 2015

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

PineWarbler_CarolinaBirds.orgPine Warbler
Setophaga pinus

Of all the warblers that breed in Connecticut, the first to return in spring is the Pine Warbler, arriving just about now, in mid- to late March.

What it looks like: Pine Warblers range from bright yellow and green birds to non-descript brownish-gray creatures depending on age, sex and time of year. In early spring they’re at their best. The males are bright yellow from throat to belly with variable streaking on the breast sides. The lower belly and long undertail coverts are white, and they have large white tail spots. Upper parts and ear coverts are olive green. Two white wing bars are prominent.

When puzzling over a bird with wing bars and yellow underparts, look for two key Pine Warbler features: a) an unstreaked back; b) a yellow or pale extension of the throat curling up behind the ear coverts. At their dullest, probably as immature females in late summer/early fall, neither yellow nor green may be apparent, but the wing bars and unstreaked back remain.

It’s also worth noting that Pine Warblers are large and heavy-billed by warbler standards. They’re typically methodical rather than flitty in their movements, sometimes creeping along limbs and probing clumps of pine needles.

What it sounds like (and which other birds sound like it): The song is a trill, but during the time Pine Warblers are singing two other common species, Chipping Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco, also sing trilled songs. Juncos have begun to sing by the time Pine Warblers arrive on territory, and Chipping Sparrows are present during the Pine Warbler’s breeding season.

When listening to a known Pine Warbler sing, keep this phrase in mind – “short and sweet.” Compared to the song of the Chipping Sparrow, the Pine Warbler’s is more musical and cuts off more abruptly. Juncos, which are gone from most of Connecticut during the warbler’s breeding season, have a looser, more erratic trill. In May another trill singer, the Worm-eating Warbler, comes into play. Its song is the highest and most insect-like of this group. All are subject to variation, and learning them take plenty of practice.

Where and how to find it: Habitat is key to finding Pine Warblers. A number of birds (think Ring-necked Duck and Palm Warbler) have names that seem quit inappropriate. Pine Warblers live up to their common and scientific names – they’re very closely associated with pine trees. In Connecticut they breed primarily in Eastern White Pines, and that’s where you’ll hear their songs during the breeding season and often into fall. Other species of pines are favored elsewhere in their range through eastern North America.

The best way to find them is to do a little homework on evergreens. Pine Warblers have little interest in planted groves of Norway Spruce or beautiful glens shaded by Eastern Hemlocks. Visit parks, land trust tracts, watershed properties or anywhere else with plenty of pines. Wintering birds will visit suet feeders.

This is a hardy warbler that winters in North America, primarily in the Southeast, but a few winter in southern New England. They’re the first breeding warbler to return to Connecticut, with the earliest arrivals in mid- to late March, just ahead of Louisiana Waterthrush. Because a few attempt to winter, they can be found throughout autumn, but their numbers dwindle after mid-October. They’re more likely to be seen away from pine trees during fall migratory flights than at any other time of year.

Interesting fact: Pine Warblers are unusual among Wood-warblers in that both their breeding and wintering ranges lie almost entirely within the United States and Canada, although resident races are present in the Bahamas and on Hispaniola. 

Conservation status: Listed as least concern by the IUCN.

This week’s Connecticut Audubon Society Bird Finder was written by Greg Hanisek, editor of the Connecticut Warbler, the quarterly journal of the Connecticut Ornithological Association, and edited by Tom Andersen.

Photo of male Pine Warbler by Ken Thomas,


Osprey Nation: 2014 Final Report

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman.

Ospreys in Fairfield. Photo courtesy of Anastasia Zinkerman.

March 10, 2015
In 2014 Connecticut Audubon Society launched Osprey Nation[i], a statewide program aimed to monitor and help enhance the osprey population in the state. In a two pronged approach, the Connecticut Audubon Society has sought to support and facilitate scientific research on the ospreys, particularly the large colony at the mouth of the Connecticut River, and to build a broad citizen science program to monitor their health across the state.

Read more of the report …

Tufted Duck: Bird Finder for March 12

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Duck,_Tufted_NamisaoTufted Duck
Aythya fuligula

Connecticut birders have been flocking to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport to see a rare Tufted Duck, a species not recorded in Connecticut for approximately 15 years. The find was first reported by Connecticut Ornithological Association President Tina Green and the excitement spread quickly. The bird made an appearance several weeks ago, disappeared, and then returned late last week. There are no guarantees but it is worth the trip.

What it looks like: The Tufted Duck at this location is a female and looks a lot like the Scaups she hangs out with. She is dark brown and has white undertail coverts. The distinguishing characteristic is the tuft at the back of her head. When I went to see her, I searched and searched the many Scaup and finally located a likely suspect but I didn’t see her tuft. She turned and suddenly a puff of wind lifted the tuft free. Eureka!

Where to find it: To see this duck for yourself, go to 1 Bostwick Avenue, Bridgeport. As you drive in you will see a building with “ICE” painted on the side. Park here and be mindful of the people who work there as to how you use the lot as we don’t want to inconvenience them. The open area of water can be seen from the viewing platform to the left. Stay on the platform and don’t venture down to the private marina docks.

The Tufted Duck breeds across Eurasia where it is common. It is not known to breed in North America, although it is a rare winter visitor. This year reports of their presence in New England have been more frequent than in other years. Another has been seen at St. Mary’s by the Sea in Bridgeport but this duck will be further out and much more difficult to see than the one in the confined open area off the viewing platform at Captain’s Cove. Go soon. It was still being seen as of this writing but as soon as the weather turns, our winter ducks will leave for their breeding grounds, many in the Arctic tundra.

What if it isn’t there: Should you not be able to find her, don’t despair as there are lots of other interesting ducks to be seen here. The day I was there I also saw a Eurasian Wigeon, Redheads, Canvasbacks and a number of the more common ducks such as Buffleheads, Goldeneye, Mergansers, Black Ducks and Mallards. Captain’s Cove is a real hotspot for winter duck viewing, even without the rarity of a Tufted Duck. You may encounter a birder with a scope there. Don’t be shy. Birders are usually generous with their knowledge and almost always allow others a look through their scope.

Conservation Status: Tufted Duck is listed as least concern by the IUCN.

This week’s Bird Finder was written by Kathy Van Der Aue, and edited by Tom Andersen, Connecticut Audubon Society’s communications director.

Photo by Namisao,



American Black Duck: Bird Finder for March 5

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Duck,_America_Black_byDickDanielsAmerican Black Duck
Anas rubripes
What it looks like: Black Ducks are a large-bodied dabbling duck about the size of a mallard. They have a yellowish bill with a gray head and dark body. When in flight they appear to be black in color, which helps distinguish them when mixed with Mallards. When flying, the undersides of the wings are bright white. The speculum or secondaries are iridescent purple without white borders. Often people are confused by hybrid Mallard x Black Duck crosses.

Where to find it: Black Ducks are found in Connecticut year-round. In winter, they congregate mainly in saltwater ponds and marshes, or in small rivers with pockets of open water. During migration they can be found in flooded agricultural fields and smaller wetland areas. They breed mainly in freshwater wetlands such as shallow ponds, marshes, and beaver ponds. Some nesting occurs in saltwater marshes as well.

How to find it: Right now the main place to find Black Ducks is in brackish waters along the coast. The marshes around Milford Point are usually a good location but this year are frozen solid. The Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge’s Great Meadows Marsh in Stratford has open water where some Black Ducks are wintering.

Most inland areas where Black Ducks might be found are still frozen tight. Some have been observed recently at the Quinebaug Hatchery Ponds in Plainfield. A few pockets of open water on the Quinebaug River in Putnam have a Black Ducks mixed in with the large flock of Mallards. Check any stream or river in the state that has small pockets of open water.

What if the bird isn’t there: At the fish hatchery, Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Bald Eagle, and Great Blue Heron have been observed recently. American Wigeon, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Red-Breasted Merganser are regularly observed at the McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.

Conservation Status: Although they are relatively common still, Black Ducks have declined in number dramatically since the mid 1900’s, largely because of habitat loss and hybridization.

Black Ducks are more sensitive to human disturbance than Mallards. Large areas of potential nesting habitat have been encroached on by human activity and the birds shy away from using them.

Black Ducks, which are native to eastern North America, also hybridize commonly with Mallards, which are native to the prairies but which became established in the east after they were introduced for hunting.

According to Min Huang, Ph.D, the migratory game program leader for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Black Duck banding efforts over the past five winters have shown that 45 percent of the Black Ducks caught in Connecticut were hybrids. Throughout all of New York and New England, the number was 19 percent; in the mid-Atlantic states eight percent; in Virginia four percent; and in the Canadian Maritimes, 14 percent. Huang published those findings in an article titled “American Black Ducks, Mallards and Hybrids,” in the January 2015 issue of the Connecticut Warbler, the journal of the Connecticut Ornithological Association (which is edited by one of our Bird Finder contributors, Greg Hanisek). 

This week’s Bird Finder was written by Andy Rzeznikiewicz, sanctuary manager for our preserves in Pomfret and Hampton, and edited by Tom Andersen, Connecticut Audubon Society’s communications director.

Black Duck photo by Dick Daniels.

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