Friday, June 25, 2010

Here Come The Babies

I only had a few moments to check on the tern colony at Cockenoe Island, as I was motoring out Norwalk Harbor, I couldn't help but notice an osprey hovering and then stooping, it was a quickly repeated movement, I put the boat in neutral and stood fast.

What this female osprey (the one in the above photo) was doing, was following a Double-crested Cormorant that was searching sub surface for a fish or two for lunch, the osprey would hover, following very slowly, just before the cormorant would surface the osprey started it's stoop from fifty or so feet, and meet the cormorant with talons extended as soon as the cormorant surfaced.

I watched six stoops, the corm never came up with any food and finally the osprey retired to her nest. My photos were way too out of focus to show.

The Cockenoe Island sand spit is a very busy place right now,

The Least Terns are renesting after their loss of nest and eggs from last weeks moon tides.

The Common Terns are doing very well, since they nest just a bit higher in the sand than the Least, in the bottom middle of this photo is a few day old Common Tern chick, with parents on either side scolding another tern, telling it not to land here.

Bottom bird is an adult Oystercatcher with it's three healthy chicks above, the youngsters are quickly molting into adult plumage, but still have dark colored bills.
Their bills will slowly change to the bright orange of the adult in the nest several months.
You saw these same chicks a few weeks ago on past blogs.
A few pair of Oystercatchers that lost their clutches are now renesting.

There were about three hundred Common Terns around the sand spit today, this seems to be an ordinary photo of a C Tern posing on a rock.

Click on the photo to enlarge and note the banding ring on its leg, my closeup shows a possible letter H on it.

I have yet to research it but I will. If anyone has the data on hand, please chime in.

I'm cruising along and note this Great Egret flying side by side with the boat, I snap a few shots, then realize it's flying the same course that I am navigating, we stay together for over a mile.

I look at the boats GPS and see that the bird and I are cruising at 19.2 knots, with a 4-5 kt head wind off the birds and my port bow! In mph this puts us at about 22mph.
These birds fly very leisurely, I've had races with Bald Eagles and many other birds that blow by me when I'm over 30 mph, and those birds were not cranking it up.

Osprey chicks are starting to show, this undisclosed local nest is not far above the high tide line.

Note how the chicks lay down to become one with the nest.

Please don't get upset that I was to close to the nest, again I am shooting at 400mm and these pics are cropped most likely past 2-3,000mm, Photoshop helps big time with the clarity.

If it weren't for the orange eyes they would be invisible.

This Great Blacked-backed Gull chick is now learning to hang out in the one to two inch surf.

By the wetness of it's feathers, I'm guessing a boat may have come by, leaving a wake large enough to give this bird a bath? Or maybe it just took one?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Black-back Predation

I was just reading "Steve's Bird's"

In his blog he talks about a missing Piping Plover chick and the possibility that it was taken by a Great Black-backed Gull, as there were several present in the area.

This reminded me of something we saw this past Monday 6/14/10 at Goose Island, Westport,CT.

(The photo to the top right is of a week or two old Black-backed hatchling, they are very cute at this stage, as they become older, they are still beautiful, but.)

Beware, it gets ugly and graphic from here on in.

You may recall this GBBG feeding on a Black Duck from April.

And this spat with the Corms from May. Now it gets bad,

My guess is that this is an Oystercatcher Chick, that the gull is having a problem devouring.
I have been watching the Oystercatcher families, most had three chicks to start, some still do,
other families are down to zero, one or two chicks.
The Black-backs are never far away when easy pickings are around.

This is all part of nature, sad yes, but no different than a Red Tail Hawk grabbing a squirrel, a Sharp-shinned eating that lovely Junco in your back yard, or a Chimney Swift polishing off a few insects above the treetops.
It happens everyday, and in many cases for millions of years.
The Balance of Nature?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Barn Swallows and Boat Anchors

I have been watching them for many years, Barn Swallows arrive sometime in early May, feeding on maritime insects of all sorts, those good old no-seeums, mosquitoes and whatever else that is available.

They enjoy the habitat surrounding the many marinas in Norwalk Harbor, close to the shoreline, lots of bugs to eat, and some cool man made places to make a nest.

They like a place with a bit of cover to build their nest, and many boats in the area seem to be the perfect place for there nest building.

Most boats these days have a built in bow pulpit, this is an extension of a boats bow that usually accommodates the boats anchor, Barn Swallows have found the underneath of these pulpits to their liking as a nesting sites.

It is not hard to follow adult Barn Swallows right to their nest in any marina, as they are busy providing food to their very hungry and demanding youngsters.

The bottom is the boats anchor, the nest is built on top of it,
above is the bow pulpit with the roping.

Note the mud based nest, built on the top of a boat anchor,
beneath the boats bow pulpit, they fill it with many feathers.

Not a good shot, but you can see the open mouths of the hatchlings,
asking me for a bit of food!
Mama was right there to feed them as soon as I passed bye.
The poop is not from the adults, but rather the youngsters, they quickly learn to turn around and deficate outside of the nest!

The only issue here is when a Captain chooses to go boating, and does not realize he/she has a few extra passengers on board!
The swallows seem to use the less frequently used boats, but that is not always the case.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Red Knot Banding Data + Oldsquaw!

Thanks to Jeannine from Bandedbirds.Org and Particia M. Gonzalez from Global Flyway Network Sudamerica y Coord. Programa Humedales, in Argentina I was able to get the banding information on the three Red Knot that showed up in the Norwalk Islands last week.
There were two birds on Cockenoe Island this afternoon, neither were banded.

This orange flagged, red banded and metal tagged bird #A9S was originally banded on 11/08/07
as a second year bird in Rio Grande, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.
Argentina is not yet sharing info into the Banded Birds database, is was nice that they personally contacted me about this bird. (Thanks Jeannine!) The only other info I have on this bird is that they did not see it in Argentina last year, they didn't say if they saw it in prior years, but it sounded like they did.
This bird was resighted 06/02/10 Cockenoe Island, Westport, CT.

This light/green flagged bird N0K was captured and banded 5/31/08 08:53 Mispillion Harbor, DE.
It was resighted 5/22/09 thru 5/27/09 in Mispillion Harbor, (see how they return to the same stop over areas each year to feed.) and then resighted by me on 6/05/10 at Cockenoe Is.
The white flagged bird (YA) was banded in Canada in '07 or earlier, it was resighted in Mispillion Harbor 5/22/08 thru 6/1/08, then 5/23/09 at West Creek NJ. then 6/5/10 at Cockenoe Island.
Cool Stuff, Huh!

Speaking about arctic nesting birds, why were these four Oldsquaw vacationing in the Norwalk Islands today, they appear to be two males to the left and two females to the right, click on the photo to enlarge.
Note the green grass in the backround, you don't see this when these birds are normally here.
Many duck/goose species lose their flight feathers this time of year, these birds could not fly enough to gain any altitude, guess they are stuck here for the summer?
The photo on the top was a fly by Osprey I saw while coming up the harbor this afternoon.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Red Knot Feeding Frenzy

I made it out to the tern bar at Cockenoe Island,
at 6:30 this morning.
The first thing I noticed was a brouhaha with a American Oystercatcher doing battle with a Glossy Ibis, seems as though the ibis had way to much interest in one of the oystercatchers chicks. Eventually the ibis gave up and flew off.

Scanning the shoreline from the boat, I quickly found a number of Red Knot hanging along the shore, I found two flagged/banded birds out of the twenty two birds here.

As the tide dropped, the Red Knot and other shorebirds, started feeding very rapidly along the slowly exposing shoreline, horseshoe crabs have been laying eggs in this area lately, and the Red Knot have found them.

A bill full of horseshoe crab eggs. Click on photo for closeup.
Click twice for a closer look.

Searching the shallow shoreline for more Horseshoe Crab eggs.

They seem to peer into the water, sight feeding?

Most of the many hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers are doing

this display, rump is raised, tail lowered and primaries tilted upward.

They are very vocal and are chasing each other around the shoreline.
Raging Hormones?

I sort of forgot the hundreds of Ruddy Turnstones.

They are very beautiful in their breeding plumage.

One of the two banded Red Knot. This one was wearing green.

(no he's not Irish) This color indicates it was banded in the USA.

The number is NOK.

The other banded bird was a white flag YA, banded in Canada.

Must have been banded last year or earlier, since these birds

are still moving north and have not yet made it to Canada.
This Canada bird was reported at Mispillion Harbor, Osprey Point, Delaware
where it was documented from May 22 until May 30th this year.

Double Header Striped Bass on fly rods, nice!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Red Knots and Horseshoe Crabs...

Something was making me very itchy to get out on the boat this
afternoon and have a look around, perhaps it was my nephew's
report of a raccoon sleeping under a Osprey nest in Norwalk?
Neither birds were sitting on the nest when I arrived, they were perched on a nearby house, this was not a good sign, as one bird almost always stays with the nest and eggs or young chicks.
A few days ago Ken found a raccoon sleeping just below the nest, which is on a group of pilings around Rowayton, CT. I'll look into it further.

Off to Cockenoe Island four miles to the east to check on the tern colony, first I stop in the bay and check out the shoreline for shore birds, it's high tide and every twenty or so feet, I see horseshoe crabs, paired up and digging into the sand to lay their eggs.

I think to myself, that's pretty cool, sort of like the Nature show I've seen on PBS, The Tale of Two Species, or something like that, it is a fantastic one hour documentary about the interconnecting lives of the horseshoe crab and the Red Knot, oh well, we have the crabs, but the knot could be tough.

I venture over to the tern sandbar, put the bow on the shore and start counting terns, the numbers are growing since this past weekend, I've got at least eighty three Least Terns, with about forty sitting on nest, over a hundred Common Terns, I didn't get a nest count since I could not see the other end of the bar.

There are also a number of shorebirds hanging around the high tide line, a few hundred Semipalmated sandpipers, sixty Ruddy Turnstone, thirty Dunlin, fifteen Black-bellied Plover, eight Semipalmated Plover, eight oystercatchers and a pair of Spotted Sandpipers,
Nice numbers for this tiny bar, barely two hundred feet long and maybe fifty feet wide at it's widest.

A flock of shorbs fly by the other side of the sandbar, alright! These guys are different, they land about sixty feet away, it's a good mix but the first oddities I pick out are a bunch of Red Knot,
Twenty three in total, also with them are fourteen Short-Billed Dowitchers, some Ruddy's and Semi/sands.
I'm excited to see these Knots, and the camera is firing fast.
It wasn't until I came home and down loaded the pics, that I noticed the flagged and banded
Red Knot.
I have sent this birds information out, but if anyone wants to further use it, that's OK with me.
The flag number is A9S in red, also with a red band on opposite leg.

Horseshoe crabs, she's almost completely buried

To the right of this crusty old guy is the female.
She is completely buried below the sand

They are piled up, a great sight to see!
It's not Delaware Bay, but The Norwalk Island do lend a helping hand.

Part of the flock of Red Knot flying bye, what else is in there?
Dunlin and Semipalmated Sandpipers?
Click on any of these photos to get a closer look.

Knots and Stones!
The white headed, black chested, brown backed birds are Ruddy Turnstones,
the other drabber birds are Red Knot.

A few Short-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers to the right

Another look at the Knot, with a red flag and red band.
From the information that I have picked up, and I hope I'm right
This bird should have been banded in Chile.
These birds all appear to be nice and plump, a good thing,
they still have a long way to go on their migration,
north about as far as you can go, just before you run into ice and snow.
NEW NOTE! Data base tells me this is orange, not red
The numbers only match up to orange,

It was interesting to watch the Least Terns with their catch,
in this case a sand lance, (sand eel)
The catch would be offered to a number of birds, then when
he could find a bird to finally except it, he would pull back,
fly away and start all over again.

The numbers of nesting and pre-nesting terns are increasing.
This is a pair of Common Terns mating.
More nest will be coming.

I almost forgot this guy, Mr. Osprey perched above the nest
with an Menhaden (bunker) that eventually he will share with
the female and the kids.