Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Bird Count by Boat

A boat trip in the winter on Long Island Sound often starts with breaking some ice to get out of the marina.
This mornings Christmas Bird Count  for the Westport Circle was no exception.
With temps in the 20's and little wind in the marina, it almost felt balmy as we were slicing our way thru the ice before finding open water in the harbor.
My friend Chris Bosak was on board to help with the count, we both anticipated a good day and couldn't wait to get out and see what we would find.
Outside the islands, a brisk nor-east breeze is chilling our faces as we make our way to Buoy 24 off  Westport, the seas are getting choppy, and this makes it hard to find birds sitting on the water, especially from a rocking boat.
We soon picked up White-winged Scoter, in small flocks scattered about, I was hoping to find a few thousand, by I knew that would be difficult in these conditions.
A lone gull lifts of the water to our north, white head and tail, very light gray back and a white leading edge on its wings, a Boneparte's Gull, a nice find, a large white object is sitting on the water off to the east, an adult Gannet, we make made our way over to it, it stayed on the water as we closed to 10-15 yards.
Wow I've never been so close to one of these. The bird finally stopped trusting us and flew off to the east.
We counted a hundred Scoter and decided to move in closer to the shoreline, more for safety then anything else. There is no one out here but us, I would feel happier a bit closer to the mainland.
We laugh along the way as spray hits the side of my face and ear, I joke...
 "Chris, you know it's nasty out here when the cold spray warms your face"
There is no warm car to hop into out here.

I could see a bird perched on some driftwood  as we approached Cockenoe Island Bay.
This lone Peregrine Falcone was surveying the beach, well so much for finding shorebirds in this area.
It's mate soon join in and the two flew off towards the Norwalk shoreline.
East White Rock rarely disappoints when it come to Purple Sandpipers, and it came thru again today, in total there were nine of these guys here. This rock wall they are sitting on is near vertical, they hop around it as though they were mountain goats.
Earlier we had a mixed bag of over a hundred assorted Ruddy Turnstones and Dunlin at Copps Island, these in total were all the Shorbs we would see today.
Purple Sandpiper, always one of my favorites.
As we neared Goose Island, Chris spots a seaduck in the choppy waters ahead of the boat, a Common Eider, this species is rarely seen this far west in the sound, my first ever seen from my boat around the islands.
Thanks to a phone call from Nick Bonomo, we  found out we were a bit incorrect at naming this bird,
 this is a King Eider (The Queen as Nick calls it) and not a Common Eider
A still better find.

Another blurry shot of the Female (Queen) King Eider
A Great Cormorant passes us at Goose Island.
This was one of the Osprey nesting sites from this year, its now used as a Cormorant perch 
Of couse we can't forget our Long-tailed Ducks, we easily had over five hundred of these today.
A few of the other species we found today were, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Common Loon,
Great Blue Herons to name a few, of course there were the normal, Brant, Canada Geese, Herring and Great Blacked-back Gulls, Black and Mallard Ducks, Gadwall and more.

You may note that I did not post any photos of the up close Gannet and others.
This is because of Photographer Malfunction.
Some day I may learn to manage my camera's settings.
I did the same thing last week and lost all my shots, therefore no blog.
At least I salvaged a few from today.


  1. Glad that you made it out Larry. Our team at Fairfield Shore Area couldn't make it to the end of Penfield Reef, because the wind had pushed in enough water to prevent the reef from totally emerging. So, we missed Purple Sandpiper and Ruddy Turnstone. Maybe the single Gannet which we had around 7:30 AM was the one which you pushed eastward.

  2. Hi Larry,

    Nice to read about your adventures by boat. The King Eider a superb find and the kind of bird that must make those freezing temperatures worth enduring! Hopefully I'll around in CT next year for the count. Missed being out there this year!