Right now, as the winter is on an 8-count and Spring is standing over him as if he already has the belt on his shoulder, waterfowl are moving and staging before making migrations (some as short as just the rivers to North CT). Birds like Common Goldeneye, Greater Scaup, and Horned Grebe in particular are in very large numbers off the CT coast.
Yesterday, in a bit of snow, I tallied roughly 900+ Goldeneye (one female Barrows!!), 600+ Greater Scaup (2 Lesser), and 13 Horned Grebe. Horned grebe, as they transform into breeding plumage, are gorgeous birds... and are normally.
Believe it or not, we also have birds that come south to CT to winter. These birds are shorebirds like Sanderlings, Dunlin, Ruddy Turnstones, and the elusive (this year, at least) Purple Sandpiper. Another semi-common winter visitors are the Great Cormorant (larger than the Double-crested Corms that breed here), Harbor/Gray seals, and the Bald Eagle. We have random sightings of seals in other seasons, but they follow the Atlantic currents down the coast into the fish friendly confines of Long Island Sound. The Gray, in particular, has made an amazing comeback after having the bounty on it's head lifted as recent as 1960!! In the USA! To me, that is dreadful. Some songbirds who only join us for the winter are White-throated and American Tree Sparrows (also Fox on a less-common basis), Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (more so in late migration), Snow Buntings, and the gorgeous Lapland Longspur.
Here in CT, more so up north, we have nesting Bald Eagles... though the pairs can be counted on one hand. However, in Fall migration and Winter, these majestic goliaths will show up more and more frequently.... and as winter progresses, closer to the coast. Our main rivers are the Housatonic, Connecticut, and Thames... all of which drain into LIS. As these rivers freeze from the north down, the eagles are forced to follow in order to have open water to catch or steal fish, or snag a small duck. I am luck enough to live close to th emouth of the Housatonic, so I know a great spot to view Bald eagles whenever I feel like it in winter.
What we also have on the CT/LIS coastline is a semi-warmer area that keeps some migrating passerines (songbirds) up here to overwinter. These birds include Easten Towhees, Gray Catbirds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Brown Thrashers, and Hermit Thrushes. An Orange-crowned warbler will also often show up here in winter (3-4 I think in my hometown alone this season). In addition to those songbirds, other types of birds find CTs coast OK to stay for the winter (often VERY MUCH depending on food sources in teir breeding grounds).... these are known as 'Winter Finches'... because they are finches, and include Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, and White-winged and Red Crossbills.
Other birds, non-passerines that overwinter here on the coast (again, usually depending on food sources up north in Canada), whether if they breed here or not are species such as Black-crowned Night-heron, Merlin, American Kestrel, Rough-legged Hawk, Snowy Owl (irruptive... like the finches), and Long-eared and Saw-whet owls.
Hang on... I must go grocery shopping... (7:22am)...
...Ok I'm back (9:09... fucking hate that shit).
Now, after dealing with the elderly ramming into my ankles, I don't feel like going any deeper into the wildlife and habitats on the coast, so I'll just post some photos from the last week or two. All on the LIS shore in CT, all this winter from December 7th through yesterday:
-Drake Long-tailed Ducks (Norwalk, CT 12/07/09)
-Sunrise over winter marsh (Stratford, CT 12/12/09)
-Dunlin (grey) and a Ruddy Turnstone (Norwalk Islands, 12/7/09)
-A year-round CT resident, a female Belted Kingfisher (Stratford, CT 12/30/09)
-Northern Saw-whet owl day roosting (only about 8" tall, with a max-wingspan of 17".. smaller than a Robin) (Westport, CT 12/29/09)
-Channeld Whelk past it's prime at low-tide (Fairfield, CT 3/5/10)
-A few reefs exist in certin places, and this photo shows two low-tide waves meeting in the middle (Fairfield, CT 3/05/10)
-Stand-alone Birch in a large tidal marsh with the sun on it's face (Stratford, CT 3/02/10)
-Year-round resident in CT, and abundant on the coast in winter, the Savannah Sparrow is at the hieght of it's winter range in CT. (12/23/09)... the yellow 'eyebrows' (supercillium) is a great way to ID these gorgeous sparrows. OR LBJs as they are often refered too... Little Brown Jobbies.
-A pair of non-breeding plumage Sanderlings foraging at low-tide (Fairfield,CT 2/22/10)
-A common sight now, huge flocks of waterfowl. This shot contains over 110 Common Goldeneye, but the what it doesn't show is the rest of the flock... which was near 500. It is soooo neat to see a huge flock of birds ball up, and spread out, and dearch for a landing spot. So cool.
-Great Black-backed Gull downing a Winter Flounder. This is the largest gull species in the world, and can easily swallow this thing whole... and it did.
-Lazy (I think male) Harbor Seal (Fairfield, CT 3/05/10)
I hope the ranting made some sense to someone. If not, hopefully you enjoyed the photos of some winter sights here on the CT shore. Even though I live inland, my town is tall and skinney and I have my own coastline, which is a tremendous birding spot,and very popular with out-of-towners.
Edited by chiefMOJOrisin, 06 March 2010 - 03:59 PM.