Saturday, May 29, 2010

Chicks and Terns!

I decided to take the boat for cruise around the islands
to see if there were any newly hatched babies.
I called my friend Alvin and we were off.
Our first stop was Goose Island, we know the
Cormorants were hatching, but how about the Gulls?

Surely enough, along the sandy coastline we saw the
first little puffballs of the season, Great Black-back Gull
chicks love to hang out along the shoreline, and there were a few,
just yards from the bow of the boat.
I never get tired of these little guys, they are beautiful.

We head off to Cockenoe Island in Westport, I know we will find a few American Oystercatcher chicks along this islands coastline, not to be disappointed, as soon as we saw the first pair of adults, we saw one, two, then three little fuzzy chicks following their parents around.

From the south side of the island we saw that the heron colony was doing well, then a Least Tern flies overhead with a small fish in it's bill, I follow the tern with my binoculars but soon lose it in the distance.
What I do know is that this bird is bringing food back to a nest, what I what to know is where is that nest?

Least Terns are on the Threatened Species List in Connecticut, mostly due to the losses of their preferred nesting areas, they nest just above the high tide lines along sandy beach areas.
They need little to no human disturbance and absolutly no disturbance from dogs, feral cats, raccoons and others, a hard spot to find in Connecticut these days.

Anyway, we made our way out to the small sand bar (or whats left to it, from severe erosion)
and darn if there aren't a few terns flying around, as we get closer to the tiny sand spit, we see more and more terns. Mostly Common Terns but there are a few Least in the flocks.
As we scan through the birds on shore we see many birds sitting on nest, 50, 60 70 nesting birds.

Then it hits me, it's Memorial Day weekend, hundreds of boaters will becoming here in the next few days, and if these birds don't get some sort of protection immediately, none of their eggs will make it through the weekend.

It's 1pm, I make a phone call to Nick Bonomo, hopefully he can help organize something very quickly.
We talk briefly and Nick is on the case, the word gets out on CT Birds and the ball is rolling.
Charlie Barnard calls me and said he has some left over signs and stakes from when DEP roped off Long Beach in Stratford a few week ago, he will walk the one mile to get them, he knows there are not enough for what we need, and stops at a hardware store to pick up more stakes, twine and ribbon.
He also makes a stop at the Town of Westport they have a few more signs available.

We meet back at the boat at 4:30, Charlie, Alvin and I have the nesting area completely roped of by six o'clock.
I can't believe the response from the many people that stepped up to make this happen so fast.
Not in any particular order, The Town of Westport, CT DEP, US Fish and Wildlife, National Audubon, CT Audubon, and the many individuals that made this happen.
Thanks to All!

One of the newly hatched GBB Gulls.
Tell me this isn't adorable!

Most gulls are still siting on nest

This little gem is an American Oystercatcher chick

Be very careful if walking the islands, these guys are
to small to get away, little stones are like mountains
to them, they hide in between the rocks and
can easily be stepped on as they are almost invisible.

This adult oystercatcher was trying to protect it's
young from the dive bombing terns.
When the terns got to close to the Oystercatchers
chicks, in return the adult Oystercatcher would chase off the terns,
it seemed to be never ending, the oystercatchers
had this place all to themselves until a day or two ago.

Least Tern sitting on eggs.

A small smattering of the hundred or so
Common terns here.

This are part of the signs that were put up.

Three Common Tern eggs, again almost invisible
they can easily be stepped on, dogs and other
animals can sniff them out.
Loose animals running through a nest site,
can easily destroy many, many eggs!

I hope people respect this area and give it a
wide berth

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Some may come and some may go...

Last Wednesday I received a call from my friend
David Park who noticed on a recent kayak trip that a
local osprey nest was missing from it's usual stand.
Being a bit upset, I ventured out on the boat, and sadly confirmed David's findings, not a twig was left standing.

I've been very bummed out about this, since I have been following this pair up close, for the last five years.
They returned this past April 1st and had their nest well underway. On our April 15th survey, she was sitting, most likely on eggs, the nest was large, and all was well.

This nest was on one of the privately owned Norwalk Island docks, I know there was incredible wind the past few weeks, I really hope this was the cause of the nest destruction, God only knows!

Besides this doom and gloom the islands are buzzing with new life, as life again is renewing itself, those early arriving Double-crested Cormorants are parenting the first newborns in the Norwalk Islands as we speak, the birds that first arrived and took up the area closest to the Goose Island shack are the first to produce young.

I was also witness to a spectacular standoff between a Great-Black Backed Gull and a Double-crested cormorant, devouring the cormorants egg clutch, incredible!

Black-bellied Plover in full gear

Altercation on Cormorant nesting site

The Great Black-backed Gull raiding the Double-crested
Cormorants nest, with huge disapproval

It is not seen here, but the gull came up with some yolk,
despite it's size the gull is very cautious of this snapping cormorant

When they are not bothering others, they
are very beautiful while sitting on nest.

Another, hidding in the grass.

Adult Cormorant feeding it's clutch,
most pairs have 3-4 youngsters to feed.
The mate will find food and return to the nest
to help feed the young.
The average adult Double-crested Cormorant consumes about one pound of fish per day.
I saw a very nice early season Summer Flounder weighed in by Marcy Lozniak at the South Norwalk Boat Club yesterday, it pushed the scales at nearly 8 lbs!
Nice fish Girl!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


The Norwalk Seaport Assoc's new boat arrived this morning at Norwalk Cove Marina.
The C.J.Toth Quest named in honor of the late Charlie Toth, was shipped via truck from Tarpon Springs Florida where it was built by Corinthian Catamarans.

The Toth is a 45 ft catamaran with a 14 ft beam, it is powered by twin 225 hp Honda Outboard engines and will accommodate up to 49 passengers.
The hull has a draft of ten inches, but with the engines down its closer to two feet, it is also certified for a distance of twenty miles offshore, if the petrels show up off the islands we will now be able to get out to them, and fast with all that horsepower!
Hope to see you on the NSA bird cruises that will be coming up soon starting in June, dates will be announced shortly.

Captains and crew assembling the top.

A view of the bow

Starboard side.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Time for some fishing!

With the arrival of some decent spring weather, boats are being launched and fishermen ( I'm still part of this clan) dust off their rods and reels and make way to the Norwalk Islands.

In Connecticut, Tautog (blackfish) season ends April 30th, it is difficult to catch a taug before this date as the sound waters are still to cold for these fish to move into the shallows.

Since a child I have learned that the Lilac bloom and spring blackfishing are closely associated, as the Lilac turn into full bloom, the blackfish are returning to the shallows.

This year was an exception, with botany species at least two weeks ahead of schedule in Connecticut, Lilacs were blooming in mid April instead of their normal very end of April, early May.

Regardless, my nephew Ken and I headed out on April 30th to see if there were a few blackfish around, we fished for about five hours and for the most part the fishing was very quiet, but we did have a little blitz in the shallows off of Cockenoe Is. for a half hour or so.

Ken was hot and hooked a few in the six seven pound range, we released another half dozen fish keeper sized fish, we took great care of the two fish, keeping them alive in the boats fish well.

Upon return to the South Norwalk Boat Club, the fish were weighed on the certified scales and promptly released to live another day.

This past Sunday the SNBC held its annual Winter Flounder Tournament, I don't have all the particulars but that the numbers of teams seemed to be lower this year.

It wasn't long ago that hundreds of fishermen (and ladies) would participate in the Interclub Flounder Derby in Norwalk, with the demise of winter flounder, sadly this is a thing of the past.

A few private clubs may still hold there own derbies, but even those are slowly also becoming a thing of the past.

I fished with my wife Glennis and our dear friend Aldonna Sanborn, and if there are two more intent fishermen (ladies) then these two , I have yet to meet them. These girls are the best, and believe me they catch fish! and BIG ONES!

Just not this year. We did very well in comparison to most teams, Aldonna had a 2lb 2oz for our big one, we had ten fish, releasing all but our allotted six, many teams with some great fishermen had a much slower time. Two fish for a four fishermen team in a six hour contest seem to be common, lets figure that out, that's two fish in twenty four total hours of fishing, one fish for every twelve hours of fishing, YIKES!
Maybe it's just time for a moratorium, though I'm sure that isn't the answer either.
A few nice fish were caught, Reeve Moore (pictured at the top) had a 3lb 6oz fish for 1st place and Tom Renzuella was a close 2nd with a 3lb 3oz. fish

Capt. Al's flounder crew. I've spent many nights
on this boat in the offshore canyons tuna fishing.

A team deciding which one's to weigh in, only four fish per boat
could be weighed, if the team could catch that many.
Most teams didn't

Ken with a nice 7lb Blackfish

Passing Peck's Ledge Lighthouse on the way out,
I spotted two Peregrine Falcons perched on the
upper railing.
That's some look he's giving me!