Posts Tagged ‘Pomfret’


American Kestrel

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

September 21, 2017

American Kestrel
Falco sparverius

By Genevieve Nuttall
You may spot an American Kestrel in Connecticut this fall either on its southward migration route or in its year-round home. The American Kestrel is a small, colorful falcon that hunts rodents, insects, and songbirds.

What it looks like: Unlike many raptors, the American Kestrel has vivid plumage coloration. The breast is pale, lined with dark spots. The back is brown with more spots, with males having grayish-blue wings and females having reddish wings. The tail for both sexes is a rusty color, and all individuals have thick black lines coming downward from their eyes.

The body shape and size of an American Kestrel is similar to a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) which can make identification challenging. When in flight, look for smooth movement through the air or hovering in the air over a field. These characteristics are distinct from a Mourning Dove, which has a rapid and even flight pattern.

Where to find it: During migration – in other words, now – you may be able to spot more American Kestrels than during other times of the year. Try searching along stopover coastal areas for kestrels on their way south. Stop in at one of the regular hawk watching spots, such as Lighthouse Point Park, in New Haven. Tune your ears to the sounds of klee-klee-klee or chattering noises in an open field to spot your American Kestrel.

Year-round, you can find the American Kestrel in open fields lined by fences or telephone wires. These birds like to hunt in meadows and grasslands, and they can be spotted by their hovering behavior before striking a prey. During the breeding season, you will see them nesting in old tree cavities or nest boxes.

American Kestrels nest at the Bafflin Sanctuary at Connecticut Audubon’s Center at Pomfret and were seen there this week.

Interesting Facts: Kestrels, like all birds, see ultraviolet light. They can visualize the ultraviolet urine trails from moles, which the prey on. This ability to clearly see urine trails helps them track down and capture their prey. Though these raptors are small, their hunting techniques are as fierce as any other falcon!

Conservation Status: The American Kestrel is considered a species of Special Concern in Connecticut but of Least Concern throughout its range. Nevertheless, populations have declined almost 50% between the 1960s and 2015. The decline is largely due to the unavailability of nesting habitats. When trees are cleared to create farmland, kestrels lose their nesting cavities and the prey that lived in that habitat.

Despite this large decrease in the population, American Kestrels are persistent and remain as the most common falcon in North America. You can help this species by constructing wooden nest boxes near open fields that will provide good hunting and nesting habitat.

Photo by Patrick M. Comins

Philadelphia Vireo

Friday, September 15th, 2017

September 15, 2017

Philadelphia Vireo
Vireo philadelphicus
by Paul Cianfaglione
Early to mid September is the best time to find Philadelphia Vireo in Connecticut. It is a widespread northern breeder, occurring in most of Canada, northern New England, and the Adirondacks, but its migration period is brief. The entire population retires to Central America for our northern winter.
Where to find it: The Philadelphia Vireo breeds in young second-growth deciduous woodlands and in fall migration it will also favor younger second-growth trees, especially those bordered by water. Another excellent place to look is along powerline rights of way. Search for Philadelphia Vireo among mixed flocks of other birds, including chickadees and Red-eyed Vireos, foraging within the middle strata of the forest edge.

Andy Rzeznikiewicz of Connecticut Audubon saw three at the organization’s Trail Wood Sanctuary in Hampton on Wednesday and one near the Center at Pomfret on Tuesday. Stragglers may be passing through as late as Columbus Day.
What it looks like: Because of its similarity with the more common Warbling Vireo, the Philadelphia Vireo is sometimes overlooked during its brief fall appearance. Overall, Philadelphia Vireo is slightly smaller, more rotund looking, stubbier-billed, and shorter-tailed than Warbling Vireo.

Its plumage is grayish above with a contrasting darker crown. Philadelphia also shows a dark eye-line which extends to the base of its bill. Warbling lacks this eye-line, creating a blank-faced expression.

It is also important to note the distribution of yellow on the underparts. With Philadelphia Vireos, the yellowish colors are most intense on the center of the lower throat and upper breast area. The Warbling Vireo’s distribution of yellow on the underparts is greatest along the flanks and undertail coverts.

Another species that may cause identification problems with the Philadelphia Vireo is the Tennessee Warbler. Many Tennessee Warblers, especially in fall, share similar plumage patterns. However, Tennessee features a very thin, sharp-tipped bill, slimmer body and bright white undertail coverts.
Conservation status: The IUCN considers the status of Philadelphia Vireo to be of Least Concern. Many kinds of human activities that set back succession may benefit this species on breeding grounds, including clear-cutting, selective logging, and burning (Laughlin and Kibbe 1985). (Source; Birds of North America Online Edition).

Photo by Dominic Sherony/

Bird Finder for July 7: Scarlet Tanager

Thursday, July 7th, 2016
scarletTanager_EricaSeitzScarlet Tanager
Piranga olivacea

This beautifully-plumed bird is common enough in Connecticut that it’s hard not to find one if you’re looking in the right habitat, says this week’s author, Andy Rzeznikiewicz, our sanctuary manager in Pomfret.

What it looks like: About the size of a catbird or cardinal, the males are a brilliant, almost neon red color with black wings. On occasion some males are orange instead of red; they are referred to as the Orange Variant Scarlet Tanager (but are not a different species; we have on nesting at the Bafflin preserve in Pomfret).

From mid to late August through the winter, the males lose their scarlet feathers and molt into a greenish yellow color. The females are yellowish with brownish wings.

Where and how to find it: Scarlet Tanagers are a fairly common forest nesting bird in Connecticut. Most of the larger and many of the smaller forested areas of the state will have nesting pairs. They are mainly associated with oak forests but also look for them found in other deciduous as well as mixed conifer forests. 

At this time of year they can still be found by listening for their call. The easiest to remember is the “chik-burr” call note. They respond to “pishing” and seem to be curious about the sound. This will help you spot the bird in the dense forest canopy.

Tanager,_Scarlet_JamieChavezIf you know of a mulberry tree, sit by it and watch all the activity as birds feed on the berries; Scarlet Tanagers are frequent visitors to those trees. 

The Orange Variant Scarlet Tanager nesting at the Bafflin sanctuary can be found on its territory in the forest just south of the Alfalfa Hill. It can be seen in the tree tops at the edge of the field. Note that there are at least three pairs of tanagers in the area, so you might have to find the right bird. 

The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Chaney preserve, in Montville, and Croft preserve, in Goshen, have many nesting pairs. The Chaney preserve has a large trail system for easy access to the interior forest (Croft does not).

In fall, tanagers join mixed flocks and can be found in shrubland habitat feeding in various berry bushes.

What if the bird isn’t there: From May through August it is pretty hard to not find one in the larger forests of Connecticut. But if you have an unlucky day, you’ll still be able to find Yellow-throated and Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, various woodpeckers, Veerys, and Wood Thrushes, to name a few birds found in similar habitats as Scarlet Tanagers.
Conservation status: They considered of least concern, fortunately. The two main threats they face are forest fragmentation due to development, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. Apparently their nests are frequently parasitized by cowbirds, and the Scarlet Tanager parents can’t tell the difference between their eggs and cowbird eggs.

Top photo courtesy of Erica Seitz; bottom (female/juvenile, Jamie Chavez,

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Fire Throat: Blackburnian Warbler

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016
Warbler,_Blackburnian_MdfBlackburnian Warbler
Setophaga fusca

At our Birdcraft Sanctuary we had seven individual Blackburnian Warblers in one day recently! Andy Griswold, director of our EcoTravel program, writes about the species.

What it looks like: One of the most strikingly colored of our wood-warblers, this species’ flaming orange throat was responsible for its colloquial name of “Fire Throat.” With yellow and black on its neck and face, black wings with a large fused white wing bar, and black streaks on a yellow to white belly, the male is unique among our North American warblers. Females are a muted version of the male, showing two narrower wing bars.

This bird was named after Anna Blackburne, an English botanist in the 1700s.

Where to find it: In recent days this species has made a good showing in Connecticut with as many as seven individuals being recorded for Connecticut Audubon Society’s Birdcraft Sanctuary in Fairfield. Andy Rzeznikiewicz had Blackburnian on Sunday on his annual “20-Warbler Day” excursion in and around our Center at Pomfret (they actually found 22 species this year). Other places like East Rock in New Haven and park land with mature trees would be a good spot to look for this species.

How to find it: Blackburnian Warbler breeds in mature coniferous and mixed coniferous/deciduous forests. In migration look for this bird in almost any taller flowering tree, usually fairly high up but not always. It often sings from the highest tree tops.

What if it isn’t there: Being in at the peak of songbird migration, look for all those other migrant species passing through including Northern Parula, Tennessee Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Mourning Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler. Of course you will likely find many of our nesting warbler species and should always keep in mind that southern vagrants like Kentucky, Prothonotary, and Swainson’s Warbler are possible. The Swainson’s Warbler would be a first state record. Learn its song!

Conservation status: Populations are considered stable with an estimated global breeding population of about 10 million. An individual recorded as the oldest banding recapture was at least eight years and two months old.


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Hooded Warbler: Bird Finder for May 12

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

HoodWarbler2atBirdcraft_TimAndiricHooded Warbler
Setophaga citrina

There are so many birds arriving (17 species of warbler at our Birdcraft Sanctuary alone today, Wednesday, 5/11) that it’s hard to pick just one. But with numerous reports from around the state, Andy Rzeznikiewicz has chosen Hooded Warbler for this week’s bird. At Birdcraft, the banding team banded a second-year male today, shown below.

By Andy Rzeznikiewicz, Land Manager, Connecticut Audubon Society
What it looks like: A very striking bird with a bright yellow face and underparts, black hood and bib, and a greenish back.

Where and how to find it: This bird nests in the understory of mature forests. It is often found in areas of thick mountain laurel or in thickets of invasive barberry. It is often heard before it can be observed. The call is loud and distinctive — so loud, in fact, that they can sound closer than they really are. Hooded Warblers can be observed high in the canopy or low in the underbrush. 

The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Trail Wood sanctuary in Hampton and Morgan R. Chaney Preserve in Montville have nesting populations found in the barberry thickets. 

At Trail Wood, check the areas of the south woods and behind the writing cabin.  Or join one of the guided bird tours to find them.

What if bird isn’t there: At this time of year, almost anything is possible while bird-watching. Trail Wood has many Scarlet Tanagers, Ovenbirds, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Veerys, Wood Thrushes, Pileated Woodpeckers, Blue-winged Warblers, and Red-eyed Vireos to name a few.

HoodWarbleratBirdcraft_TimAndiricConservation Status: The Hooded Warbler is actually on the increase! It is a southern bird that is becoming easier to find. It seems to be taking advantage of all the barberry invading the Connecticut forests. The first Hooded Warblers nested at Trail Wood about seven years ago; now at least three pairs nest there. At least four areas in Pomfret now have nesting populations as well, including a property abutting the Bafflin Sanctuary.

Photos courtesy of Tim Andiric.

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Bird Finder for March 17: American Woodcock

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

Woodcock,_American_PhilBrownAmerican Woodcock
Scolopax minor

by Andy Rzeznikiewicz
A harbinger of spring, American Woodcocks arrived early in Connecticut this year – in February rather than in March. Their flight displays and calls are an amazing spectacle that should be witnessed by all who appreciate nature and yearn for spring to start.

What it looks like: American Woodcock is a plump, softball-sized bird with a very long pointed bill. It has large black eyes and an intricate cryptic coloring. Colors include a mix of black, browns, gray and white. When sitting on a nest in the leaves it is practically invisible.

How and where to find it: Most areas of the state have displaying woodcock if located with appropriate habitat nearby. Ideal locations are an open field or meadow near a young forest, preferably wet.  Every dawn and dusk the males fly out of the forested areas and call from the open area, then fly over 200 feet in the air in a circle with a twittering sound made by their wingbeats. This is done to attract females. In good habitat many woodcock can be seen or heard in one location. The other way to find one is to get lucky and flush one in the woods on a walk.

At the Center at Pomfret and Trail Wood sanctuaries, we offer woodcock watches until the end of March (I’ll be leading one this evening, Thursday, March 17, at 6:45, and another on March 31, at 7 p.m., at the Center at Pomfret; we have another scheduled for Saturday, March 19, at 6:45 p.m. at Trail Wood).

Interesting facts about the bird: They are one of the first signs of spring in Connecticut, usually arriving by the second week of March. This year, they arrived the last week of February! They can eat their weight in earthworms, their main food, in one day. They also feed on other insects and sometimes seed. The tip of their bill is flexible so they can open it while probing the mud for worms. The placement of their eyes allow them to see danger from behind them while they are probing in the soft ground for food.

The woodcock nests only once a season, usually laying four eggs. They will re-nest if the first nest is destroyed. They start incubating eggs as early as March.

Conservation Status: American Woodcock is considered a species of least concern, although they have shown a decline in New England and the Midwest, mostly due to habitat loss caused by development and the maturing of forests. American Woodcock is a game bird although its popularity among hunters has dropped since the 1960s and ‘70’s. The other suspected problem they face is poisoning from heavy metals that accumulate in the earthworms they eat.

Photo by Phil Brown,

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Northern Parula: Bird Finder for September 25

Friday, September 25th, 2015
Northern Parula
Setophaga americana

by Andy Rzeznikiewicz
Manager of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Northeast Sanctuaries

Northern Parula in High IslandWhat It Looks Like: The Northern Parula is a beautiful small wood warbler with a yellow chest and a reddish band across it. Its hood and wings are bluish-gray, its back green. It has white crescents above and below the eyes and two white wingbars. At this time of year, most of the birds we see around here are immature. They lack the reddish band and often have more green on the upperparts.

Where and How to Find It: Northern Parula is primarily a migrant in Connecticut. September is one of the best times to find it, most often in mixed flocks of chickadees, vireos and other warblers. Carefully scan chickadee flocks; Northern Parula Warblers can be spotted gleaning insects off the leaves of maple, apple, and birch trees. Gray birch trees are among the best places in fall to find migrating warblers. The Northern Parula is easier to find in lower branches in the fall compared to canopy in spring. We have found several the past two weeks at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret. Check along the trail across from the nature center or along Needles Eye Road.

parula, northern Orton Plantation, NC 05-08What If the Bird Isn’t There? At this time of year various species of warblers and vireos will be in mixed flocks. Listen for the chirp of chickadees and scan for warblers mixed in. If you visit the Center at Pomfret, walk along Day Road and Needles Eye Road and glass the sparrows in the road feeding on smashed hickory nuts. Often Pine Warblers and bluebirds are joining them. Keep an eye to the sky for a migrating raptor such as a Merlin or Cooper’s Hawk.

Conservation Status: Northern Parula populations appear to be stable. They breed in epiphytic plants in the upper reaches of mature trees. Epiphytic plants are things like Spanish moss and lace lichen which grow on the trees themselves. Poor air quality has killed most of the quality epiphytic plants in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, so breeding there is not common.

Photo of breeding-plumage male Northern Parula, top, by Dan Pamaco; female Northern Parula by Dick Daniels; both from


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Wood Thrush: Bird Finder for July 22

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015


Wood Thrush
Hylocichla mustelina

by Andy Rzeznikiewicz
It’s not too late in the season to hear the beautiful, flute-like call of the Wood Thrush throughout – as its name would indicate – the woods of rural Connecticut. Listen in the early morning and evening along quiet roads or paths.

The Wood Thrush has a reddish-brown head, back, wings, and tail, and a white breast and undersides with large dark spots on the breast and sides. It has a thicker bill than other thrush species.

Where to find it: Wood Thrushes prefer deciduous forests with a shrub understory and a lot of leaf litter to hunt insects in. They are most easily found from early May through the first week of August when they are still singing.  After that, they are very secretive and not easily observed through the end of September.

How to find it: Listen for their flute-like call in the early mornings and early evenings to better zero in on their location. Quiet wooded roads, particularly dirt roads, are good spots to observe them feeding in the roadway. Veerys also behave this way, but they lack the prominent spots on the breast and aren’t as reddish-brown in color.

The dirt roads through Natchaug State Forest in Eastford and Needle’s Eye Road in Pomfret are  good locations. Hiking trails such as the Connecticut DEEP’s Airline Trail through most of its length is another great location to spot one out in the open on the pathway. Similar types of locations throughout the state should produce observations.What if there are no Wood Thrushes? If you happen to miss out on the Wood Thrush, Ovenbirds, Veerys, Black-and-white Warblers and American Redstarts are a few of the many forest birds that can be found in similar habitat. Also check the treetops for Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Red-eyed Vireos.

Conservation status: The Wood Thrush is still a widespread and relatively common bird, but has shown a steady decline in population since the 1960s. Cowbird predation is one of the main reasons for their decline. A study in the Midwest found that in fragmented habitat most nests contained at least one cowbird egg. Fortunately wood thrushes will often have two broods per season.

At the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Bafflin Sanctuary in Pomfret, we have had a 14-year bird-banding study during nesting season and have actually observed a large increase in the numbers of Wood Thrushes. It is one of the most commonly caught birds in our study area with great numbers of young birds banded in July! 

Andy Rzeznikiewicz is sanctuary manager of The Connecticut Audubon Society’s Northeast sanctuaries.

Photo by Charlie Westerinen,

Bobolink: Bird Finder for May 14

Thursday, May 14th, 2015
Horsebarn Hill, Storrs

Horsebarn Hill, Storrs

Dolichonyx oryzivorus

What it looks like: The males are black with white on the back and yellow on the back of the head. The females are buffy-colored with streaks on the back, crown and flanks. The female looks like a large sparrow.

How to find it: Bobolinks are found in large grasslands (hay, pasture, airports), of at least 10 acres in size usually. The birds arrive in Connecticut around the first week of May. Fields with hills tend to have more birds; they usually nest on the top of the hill or the side in the thick grasses.

They are easy to locate, since the males will sit on the top of a clump of grass or nearby tree or shrub and sing defending their territory from other males; the males also sing while flying low over the grassland. The songs are distinctive. The Cornell Ornithology lab’s website says: “Each male has 2 song types, each composed of 25-50 notes in a fixed sequence, lasting about 3.5 seconds.” Listen here.

Early in the nesting season it is common to see several males together chasing each other to establish nesting territory. The males will mate with more than one female in a season. In late summer, bobolinks form flocks of up to 100 birds, usually found in weedy uncut fields.

Where to find it: Many large fields in the state have bobolink using them, but only the few that get cut late, after July 15th, actually have any success in raising young. 

Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield is managed for grassland birds and is an excellent place to find Bobolinks. The Bafflin Sanctuary at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Center at Pomfret is another good spot, particularly the field where Day Road and Wrights Crossing Road intersect, and the field along Bosworth Road. The Durham Fairgrounds in Durham has had several sightings recently

Bobolink_NewJerseyBirdsWhat if the bird isn’t there? Most places that have Bobolinks can also have nesting Savannah Sparrows, Eastern Kingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Orchard Orioles, and Willow Flycatchers to name a few. You really can’t go wrong anywhere in Connecticut in May when it comes to finding birds!

Conservation status: Still considered a common bird, but declining rapidly. Most of the nesting attempts are destroyed by early hay harvesting. July 15th is the magic date to ensure most birds have finished nesting. Farmers are cutting earlier and earlier and the equipment they now use enables them to harvest all their fields quicker, so many Bobolinks and other grassland birds lose their nest year after year.

The Bobolink also migrates up to 12,000 miles to Argentina for the winter. While there they are killed by farmers who don’t want them eating their crops. It is remarkable that we actually still have any left. If you want to manage your lands for Bobolinks and want more information call our Center at Pomfret (860 928 4948) and we can help you out.

This week’s Connecticut Audubon Society Bird Finder was written by Andy Rzeznikiewicz, manager of our northeastern Connecticut sanctuaries, and edited by Tom Andersen.

Photo of male Bobolink by Frank Gallo; photo of female by New Jersey Birds, via 


Going to Our Center at Pomfret? Bring Snowshoes

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
Snow drifts are as high as the window sills at the Center at Pomfret. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

Snow drifts are as high as the window sills at the Center at Pomfret. Connecticut Audubon Society photo.

Sarah Heminway, director of our Center at Pomfret in the snowed-in northeast corner of the state, reported this morning: “30+ inches before drifting winds. Our secondary roads are best suited for cross country skiers, and our trails are open to the intrepid with snowshoes.  The bird feeding station at the Center says it all!”


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