Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Connecticut Baltimore Orioles

What would be the next best thing to having a Baltimore Oriole in your backyard
 during one of Connecticut's harshest winters in recent history?
How about having Two!

         Last Thursday 1/20/11 a second young female Baltimore Oriole showed up in our backyard.
           This bird was not at all welcome by the original bird that had been here for over a week.
                                 I will refer to the 1st bird to arrive as "A" and the 2nd as "B"
                          Every attempt by B to land on the feeder was quickly challenged by A.  
In fact A had become the ruler of the yard, the mockingbirds and cardinals that were coming in for jelly,were quickly chased off the feeder, this young oriole is this yards dominant bird, and is protecting it's domain.

                   A number of emails from Jayne Amico (a songbird rehabilitator in CT) helped me
                                   understand what was needed, and what was happening.
First there was a limited food source, bird A claimed stake to it, her life was depending on this source, there wasn't enough to share with others. Next was that oranges and grape jelly may be fine for entertaining backyard orioles in the warmer months, but these birds were not going to survive for long in this
                                                 extreme cold and snow on just a few sweets.

                                           Meal worms were suggested, 100 each day per bird.
                                         In the above photo A is swallowing a mouthful of these.
             I distinguish between the two birds by the median coverts on the right wing of each bird.
 In the above photo, these are the strong white tipped feathers that are forming a horizontal white bar
                                                         (wing bar) on it's wing.
           On this bird (A) this line is solid, (click on the picture and you can count these feathers)

This is B, she has dropped a few of these feathers and has a clear gap in the lineup of median coverts.
Q....Any idea where they get the Baltimore Oriole name?
a city in Maryland?... a baseball team?....

I started putting out meal worms for these two, but things were just not working out, as soon as I put out a bunch A would either eat them or perch nearby and protect them, things were looking bleak for B as this bird could only grab a few worms before being chased off.
I had another feeder in my garage and set it up about 20' from the first on Saturday, A thought this was great, twice the food!
As time went on, A's belly became fuller and more content, she slowed down on her patrols of the feeders, and slowly allowed B to feed longer and longer.
They now perch in the morning and afternoon sun, sitting sometimes within a few feet of each other, until A realizes B is there, she then move of, just not as far each time.
I fill both feeders about 6 times a day with at least 15 worms in each, and make sure that they and not others are eating the worms. This is working, as of today they are now sharing the goods equally. 
These neo-tropical migrants (could or should be in South and Latin Americas this time of year, at least FL.)
 survived 3 degrees last night, and only slightly warmer the previous night.
My guess is they will be here for a while

A with a meal worm.

Answer from above:
George Calvert, a 17c nobleman.
this birds colors resembled the coat of arms of good ole George,
who was also best known as Lord Baltimore!
"Baltimore's Oriole"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Iced Oriole

This mornings winter storm only dumped an inch or two of snow in our yard, by 6AM it had turned to rain.
The problem with the rain is that it was only 24 degrees outside, ice was forming as fast as the precipitation hits the ground.
I was concerned for the Baltimore Oriole, today will be the seventh day that she has been here.
I went out in the early morning dark and found the feeder frozen.
I brought it inside, cleaned it up with hot water, put a new orange half on it and fresh jelly in the trays, then brought it back outside to it's place.

Soon after dawn, she was at the feeder, I guess I forgot to take care of the other feeder.
No hummingbirds here, but I keep trying.

Poor bird is soaked.

The half frozen Koi pond is popular with robins and other, with plenty of unfrozen water.

Squirrels are always taking advantage of the open water.

Norther Flicker raiding the suet this morning.
There were hundreds of birds this morning as I spread large amounts of seed and nuts over the frozen snow and ice covered ground.
Outside of the oriole, no others birds were out of the normal species that could be here.  

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I peeked out the window Wednesday morning, yellow tail feathers were the first thing I saw, white belly, grey wings and white wing bars.
I thinking that this isn't your normal yellow shafted flicker, or  yellow bellied sapsucker, birds one might expect to see in Connecticut with a few feet of snow on the ground.
In fact, I'm still digging out of Tuesdays 18" snowfall, so what is a Baltimore Oriole doing at my suet feeder?
I grab a cup of coffee, shook off the fuzzies and take another look, OMG it is a Baltimore Oriole,
I grab the camera.
This young lady was sampling all the goodies, she enjoyed the several suet feeders, moved on to the split peanuts, and then grabbed a few sunflower seeds

She fed like there was no tomorrow, lucky for her my feeders are filled with high fat content goodies to replenish her needs.
After her feeding binge, I lost sight of her.
 Later a friend of mine, stopped by and re-sighted the bird perched in one of the cedar trees in the backyard.
The bird was seen again later in the afternoon, perched in a neighbors yard.

Friday morning came, and after some quick feeding the oriole flew to our always open water bird bath, had a few drinks and then hopped in for this invigorating bath, singing that constant oriole rattle chatter, the whole time. 

The temperature was 11 degrees Fahrenheit, yet she enjoyed her bath.
I put out my oriole feeder with oranges and Poloner All Fruit Grape Jelly.
She ate from them both on Friday.
I did not see her this morning, and had to leave for much of the day,
When I returned home, I never did see the bird, but most of the jelly was gone.

Friday, January 7, 2011


The wind gauge read zero, the thermometer said 29 degrees, chilly for a boat trip, but with the lack of wind
I made up my mind to go get a quick look outside the islands, as weather is expected this weekend.
As usual, flocks of sea ducks were everywhere, brant, scoter, long-tail, scaup and others.
With no razorbills in sight, I headed towards Cockenoe Island. I spotted a bird, sitting on the water in the distance and all by its self, an eider?
I slowly turned towards it, taking pictures all the way.

I can see this bird swimming in the current, turning side to side, I continue taking pictures, but something is just not right, I spy it with my bins, I'm still not getting it.
As I get closer, I wonder, is this the Real McCoy?

Holy Duck Decoy, I've been Duped!
I would never expect to see one of these a few miles off shore. The jokes on me!
The current makes it appear to be swimming along, and this thing actually turns side to side.
Very realistic, maybe I'll troll her behind the boat one of these days when mating season nears and the boys start getting frisky!
By the looks of it, this Hoodie was also target practice at some point.

For whatever reason the birds were very accomodating today, as this Common Loon was, and the
White-winged Scoter in the first photo.

I found a few Long-tail to pose for the camera.
This beautiful Male...

... and this handsome pair.

Back in the harbor, I see this Great Blue Heron, perched on a mooring buoy.
The bird lost its balance with my wake and flew off to the next ball.

It soon learned to balance perfectly on the rocking ball.
I'm thinking Miyagi and Daniel in the Karate Kid ...
...the piling scene, near the shoreline.
Focus Daniel-san Focus!

This American Coot is a year round resident in Norwalk Harbor, I have followed him for four years now, he paddles along the marinas in the harbor, feeding along the docks and boat fingers.
My guess is he can't fly, but otherwise appears healthy.

Up river, north of the two bridges is the Water Treatment Plant, a good spot to find dabbling ducks.
This American Wigeon was slurping in the shallows, when he finally raised his head, I caught him
drooling some rather viscous water.

Another look at this beauty.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Three Razorbills off Norwalk Islands

We started the New Year with a Bang!
Dennis Varza joined me this morning for a boat trip outside the Norwalk Islands. Our target was to chart out the feeding grounds that White-winged Scoter have been using for the past three winters.
We were slowly heading east, at  five knots, our position was roughly two miles south of Cockenoe Island.
 Three somewhat different birds appeared off the bow, immediately I shouted Razorbills, Dennis paid little attention to me since moments before I somehow made a small  black and white floating object into a Dovekie
The three birds submerged, but as soon as they surfaced, it was confirmed, three Razorbills!
Happy New Year! 
This is one of the few shots I got of the three birds together, soon one split off and we lost the other two.
We continued to follow the single bird.
These birds were feeding from 47-52 ft of water about 1 mile South of Buoy 24,
which is off Cockenoe Island, Westport. There were also many White-winged Scoter in this area.
Poor Photo's but they get the job done

Near Cockenoe Island we picked up this lady King Eider, it flushed off the water, flew away from the boat, it then turned and flew back towards us. Finally passing off our starboard.
 I saw three eider in this area yesterday,
I assumed they were Common, but who knows?

Harbor Seals would often pop up around the boat, almost always when we were near shallow water.

These Brant spooked for no apparent reason, often I see flocks of these and other birds do this, I mentioned to Dennis, that maybe this is what happens when a seal pops up in the middle of a raft.
Long-tails were everywhere, thousands?

A deer on Grassy Island, checking us out.

Another close fly by

Dennis found this Purple Sandpiper and several of his friends, sitting on the channel marker at the entrance to Norwalk Harbor
It was a great day, who knows when it will be this calm and warm again?
Boating days are precious and few during this month.
It's January and this is New England, yet I can't wait for the next trip!