Tom and Marc met me at the boat at 8:30 this morning, I was excited to get out to the islands as today is March 21st.
As we motored closer to the Norwalk Power plant, I mention to my friends that like the Swallows of Capistrano we can almost count on Norwalk's first pair of Ospreys to show up today, with in seconds Tom shouts; There! In front of the tanks!
Sure enough, here is our first osprey of the year right in front of us, he is flying to the southern most nest pole on the point where his mate is awaiting him, we watched him for a while gathering and delivered nesting material. It is always exciting to see the first ospreys of the season.
Every year I find my first Oystercatchers on this same date, and I think I know just where they are, I head on over to Long Beach, a small sand bar island near the power plant, the storm from last weekend has taken most of the top off this island, the grasses at the peak of the island are gone, this was the nesting area for thirty pair of Great Black-backed Gulls for many years, there are only a few birds on the island now with there nesting area destroyed by last weeks wind and waves, I'll hope the island comes back to the way I remember it.
Keep, keep, keep, keep, keep! With that most unmistakeably voice, the oystercatchers are back.
Like clock work, at Long Beach, these carrot billed spark plugs have returned, this is four years in a row, March 21st. My morning is made!
I still have a few more places to check out, I have to get to Goose Island to see if the Double Crested Cormorants are back on their nesting ground, we have seen a number of them already this morning along with a half dozen Great Cormorants, as we make our way to the east side of he the island, I can see black specks dotting the area near the shack, a easy thirty Double Crested Corms claiming this years nesting area, these are the early arrivals as this colony will swell to over eight hundreds birds in the months to come.
We check out Cockenoe Island, the bar that once hosted nesting Piping Plover and Least Terns
is now just a memory after this storm, the sand bar has been cut and reshaped by Mother Nature, there are only a few blades of grass remaining, with little land left above the high tide line. I had to leave and get out of there.
Lets check out the seals, so it's of to Sheffield Island, way before our approach to the haul out areas I see thousands of white dots on the water, Gulls, by the thousands feeding on the microscopic soup of plankton that has risen to the surface, Brant by the hundreds are also enjoying this feast.
In the corner of my eye I notice the dozen or so seals resting on Hidding Rocks, but I'll get to those later, now it time to play with the plankton, I push a five gallon pain below the 44 degree water and sure enough there are tiny little creatures swimming about, I reach for my 20 power microscope, its not here, I left it home, Marc has an magnifying glass, but with the rocking boat we give up trying to figure these guys out. We did note both swimming and plant type plankton.
Over to the seals, looks like twelve or so Harbor and one Gray.
Marc notices something on the shoreline, is that an egret, he asked? Yes! it's our first Great Egret of the year, and then a second egret appears around the corner. Life is changing rapidly out here, we totally forget about the seals and move on
Red-breasted Mergansers are still very numerous as are Long-tail, although the Long-tail numbers are now dropping. Most of the LT are still in basic plumage, but many have, or are in the process of molting into there alternate wear.
We find gulls and brant surface feeding in many different areas around the islands and as we head up the harbor towards the dock there is one last flock feeding in the middle of the harbor west of Calf Pasture Beach. On our way back to the dock we stop and photograph the last few visible Long-tail and one Red-throated Loon.
Before pulling into the dock one more bird passes by, very close to the bow of the boat,
Peregrine Falcon, a great way to end the morning!
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