Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday, lunch on the half-shell

A friend of mine has a new visitor in his backyard, an Eastern Screech-owl has taken up residence in a Wood duck nest box in the middle of a pond behind his house.
While I was in the neighborhood, I stopped by for one more look at the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, In Stamford.
This bird is dazzling!
The day was warming nicely, I decided to head for the boat, although there was ice along the shoreline, and the boat, it would soon melt.
As I was cruising out the harbor, I saw a Common Loon diving in a deep hole just off the Shore and Country Club, as I drove over the hole I could see on the depth finder, the reason he was there.
The little speck just off bottom is a small school of Atlantic Herring, I marked a good number of them while going out the harbor, good Loon food, for sure.
Long-tail duck numbers are increasing, with an easy three hundred of these around the islands.
The water is extremely clear this autumn, I can clearly see bottom in ten feet of water, even over muddy areas.
I found these holes all over the bottom inside Cockenoe Is. bay. They look like tiny volcanoes.
I do believe these are Razor Clam beds. 
The only shorebirds I saw today were a few dozen Dunlin scattered about, this one is coming in for a landing.
The White-winged Scoter population is now around one thousand, it was choppy out in the deeper water and difficult to get a good count, I'm sure there were many more.
Some of the other birds I counted were one hundred seventy Red-breasted Mergansers, eighty-five Bufflehead, three Great Cormorants, a few Greater Scaup,  five hundred Brant, and one dark morph
Rough-legged hawk. 

It was now past noon, so with a couple of scraps along the bottom with my clamming tongs, presto instant lunch on the half-shell! 
Bufflehead are back in nice numbers inside the harbor.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

White-winged Scoter

The winds finally dropped to less than gale force today, in fact there was almost no wind at all, nearly flat calm seas, and with the air temps in the low 60's, there was no doubt that I was starting up the old outboard and heading out to the islands.
I had to see if the Scoter have returned to their favored winter hangout just a few miles off the Westport mainland.
I wasn't to be disappointed, barely a half mile South East of Pecks Ledge Lighthouse, I found the first five White-winged Scoter in about thirty feet of water, there were also groups of Common Loon in the area,  a dozen for sure.
I continued out to the area south of Buoy 24, which is a mile South East of Cockenoe Island, Westport.
Sure enough there they were, 25, 50...100...150...200...3-400, more 500, still more 600..with birds now flying in every direction it was time to stop counting.

That is Compo Beach in the background, as a small group of Scoter leave the scene.
Another view, the building in the background is the Nature Center at Sherwood Island State Park, seems close but it is about three nautical miles away. These are all White-winged Scoter, for whatever reason I see very few Surf and Black Scoter in this area, when ten or so miles to the east, off Stratford these other scoter species are seen with regularity
This one was a loner, and had a hard time flying.
This group of males was inshore, off Cockenoe Reef in about ten feet of water, there are aways a few of these birds hanging around the rocks on this reef.
I saw my first seals of the year, near Copps Island.
From a distance I could see three Harbor and one Grey Seal, hauled out.
By the time I finally made my way out there, there was just this one young Harbor Seal left.
They will become regular, especially after the boaters call it a season, in the next week or two.
By the way, I checked my WW Scoter reports from this time period last year, but about a week later then now. My count was 800 in this same area, close to the same numbers, are they the same birds?