Thursday, October 28, 2010

Norwalk Cattle Egret

I stopped by Norwalks Veteran's Park this afternoon to have a look around the shoreline, I notice a few dozen gulls sitting on the grass lawn near the southern edge of the park, plus a number of Canada Geese at bit north of them, I pulled into a parking space to get a look at the geese.
My eyes quickly wandered back to the gulls, huh! that's quite a few egrets hanging out with the gulls, small ones too, Snowy's? nah, can't be, Greats? to small...
Holy Cowchips Batman! They are all Cattle Egret, I lift the bins to my eyes and counted, 1, 2, 5, 9...13
Thirteen birds, a really nice number for Norwalk CT, in fact, I had never seen one in Norwalk before.
I've seen  an occasional single bird in Westport and other areas of the state, I thought this was an impressive sight for Norwalk, I drove back home to grab my camera.
Something was missing.. the Cattle? 

When I returned, they were still there. In fact one more joined the group, to make it fourteen.
This one had it's stern (nautical term for rear end) to the wind, makes for a nice feather ruffle
Since they were somewhat scattered about, I couldn't get them all in the same frame.
Cool lineup though?
I still can't fit them into the frame, but here are eleven.
A flight shot, that is the Vet's Park Transient Dock, with Sono Water St. area in the background.

This shot shows the 14 egret in flight, click on it to enlarge.
They were still there when I left around 4:30, feeding on the grass lawn where I originally found them

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Milford Point & Rumps

Recently, there has been a small invasion of these young juvenile Yellow-rumped Warblers, this one was foraging through my backyard compost pile.
When I was fishing off Norwalk and Westport on October 17th, hundreds of these birds were passing me, as I was positioned two miles south of the Connecticut Coastline. All of these birds were heading north  towards the Connecticut coastline, they were flying in from the Long Island area.
My thoughts were that they were blown out to LI from the nor-west gale winds that I fished and discussed from Oct.15-16
Their natural migration is way inland from the coast, but these are young birds, and this is there first southerly migration, they have to find it out all on their own.
You would have to think that these birds flying north across Long Island Sound and finding the mainland, is a great example of their ability to globaly reposition themselves when off course.
(Don't forget to click on these pix to enlarge, some are worthy of it)
I spent a day this week with the crew from CT DEP DIV OF WILDLIFE attempting to capture and band shorebirds at Milford Point. as we did in earlier this year.
There are still many shorebirds around, Dunlin (landing on the outer bar, in the above photo)
Sanderling, Black-bellied and a few American Golden Plover.
A view towards the Sound showed  White-winged Scoter, several Black Scoter, Common and Red-throated Loons, closer in, several American Oystercatchers were still hanging out as were multitudes of 
Double-crested Cormorants.  
The gear was hauled out to the sandbars, the net was set and the explosives ready to fire the net.
Now it's time to sit  and wait for the tide to come in and hopefully push the birds to the pre-planned area.
One hour before the expected shoot, what happens?
A couple of fishermen (a lovely elderly couple, by the way) walk out to the end of the bar to fish, between us and the birds, of course they are warned about the explosives and eagerly stay away from that area.
We sit, we wait...  I have my camera and spend the quiet time photographing anything that moves.
The white chested, light gray backed shorebird in the above photo is a Sanderling.
( click on him, he's really cool)
These birds are common along the CT. coastline in the Autumn, Winter and Spring Months, they are always in flocks, anywhere for a few individuals to thousands.
They do prefer the sandier areas of the coastline.
Nothing like a early afternoon siesta, both these birds are keeping an eye opened for me.
Sanderling in the foreground, Dunlin in the back.
Note the comparison between these two, the Dunlin has a brown mottled chest and brownish head and back.
Both these species are in basic plumage, in alternate (breeding plumage) they have a totally different look.
Much more red/rufous coloring on the head and back, plus the Dunlin grows a very black belly patch.

The Mute Swan, an elegant bird, a favorite of many people.
It is an introduced species from Europe, but often upsets the balance of nature in North America.
In local ponds it will push out all native species of nesting waterfowl, including Mallards, Wood Duck, Teal,
Black Duck and others, it is very territorial and protects its adopted nesting area from many native species.
But they are pretty?
A nice mixed bag of mostly Sanderling and Dunlin.
Perhaps one of my last Osprey photo of the year, as these birds have been migrating south for a few months now, many to as far away as Latin and, South America .
This bird could be spending this winter in Suriname, Guatemala or Brazil to name a few.
Oh by the way, we never did get a chance to shoot off the net, to band the birds, sometimes it's just
 Natures Way.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Birding and Fishing the Nor'easter

What else is there to do on a Friday afternoon in mid October, as a Nor'easter is rambling up the Coast?
Jump on the boat and do some extreme Birding and Fishing!
As you can see in the above photo, the water seems tolarable, but also note that there are no other boats on the horizon today, later we did see one Oyster Boat working off Peck's Ledge Lighthouse.
My nephew Ken joined me to try some Blackfishing before the weather really started getting rough.
With a WNW (280 True) wind in the twenties , we thought we could hide behind on of the islands, we tried Sheffield, and decided it wasn't to bad yet, so we decided to make our way to a favorite spot to the east off Cockenoe Island.
Along the way, I spotted a shorebird on one of the boulders east of Copps Is. Dang if it wasn't one more of those late "carrot billed sparkplugs" the American Oystercatcher!
I can just never get enough of these birds, and I know everyone I see may be my last, until late March.
We anchored up on Dunder Rock, just south of Cockenoe Island in about eight feet of water, I tossed a baited crab in and immediatly hooked up to a four pound blackfish, I think to myself." it's going to be hot"
This was the last picture I took from my 400mm as a wave broke off the bow and sprayed my lens big time.
Different Camera.
As we were catching a few small togs, the wind was increasing.
Increasing to the point that we knew it was about time to call it a day, and get in before we had wind against tide conditions, where even in this shallow water the waves can get nasty.
In the above photo, these waves are 1-3 ft with occasional 4 footers, they are coming from on shore and we are fairly close to that shore, must have been a beauty mid-sound.
Had a few nice fly by birds in this wind, a White-winged Scoter, four Black Scoter and two Long-tails!
According to the Beauford Wind Scale, when white foam forms off the tops of waves,
the wind is "near gale" 32 to 38 MPH
This is that "near gale" condition.
The birds and the fish didn't seem to mind, and neither did we, but it was time for safe harbor, some dry clothes and a hot bowl of soup!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Changing of the Guard

Columbus Day is here, and after a well deserved break from boating and following the wildlife around the Norwalk Islands, I am back.
 Life is changing out here, it still has a long way to go, as some species seem to be hanging on a bit longer than usual, yet Autumn arrivals are about right on schedule.
To me the changing of the guard is the first mass arrival of Brant, the close cousin of the Canada Geese.
These birds nest way north of us in the arctic, and are usually only seen in these parts from Autumn until
late Spring, although a few may always be around.
Today I found many hundred Brant, including this migrating flock in the above photo, a sure sign that the seasons are changing
I was trying to get out for some fishing this afternoon, but I had to stop for this group of Ruddy Turnstones before leaving the harbor, the rock jetties off  Norwalk's Shore and Country Club are a popular hangout for shorebirds as the waters chill.
Check out how they squint their eyes to avoid the splashing water.
So while having some R& R ,what is better than good old yawn!
See the bird in the middle!
Black-bellied Plover now are in basic (non-breeding) plumage, here they are hanging out with some of the newly arrived Brant
Double-crested Cormorants are still here with numbers pushing a thousand, perhaps the birds in this shot, migrated from up north of us and are are just stopping over while moving on south.
There were still a dozen American Oystercatchers at the Cockenoe Sandspit, this may be the latest that I have seen this number of Oystercatchers hanging out. 
My intent was to do some fishing, and that I did.
The Blackfish (tautog) bite was pretty good today, these two fish in my cooler measured 22 and 21 inches each, both were over six pounds but less than seven. 
How to help get rid of invasive species?
Go down to the shoreline, turn over rocks and grab all the Asian Shore Crabs you can.
Put them on a Virginia Style Hook (blackfish hook) and hang on to your rod.
Some one recently told be that these crabs are "blackfish crack" perhaps a bad analogy, but it is very true.
Our waters are loaded with these crabs, and the taugs do eat them like candy, their bellies are stuffed with this species of crab.
I doubt I fished for an hour the afternoon, probably had twenty five of so fish, including a number of smaller fish in the mix, the action was fun.
When I was a youngster, all we fished were Fiddle Crabs for Tautog Bait, and hammered big blacks, these Asians Crabs are yesterdays Fiddlers.