Birding - Northeast Connecticut - and Points West!

Listing of some of the great CT birding spots. Connecticut has more than its share of great birders , but the one area of the state that receives less attention than it deserves is the northeast quarter. I'll define this area as anywhere east of the Connecticut River and North of Willimantic (Windham), although, of course, I may stretch the boundaries at any time. 2013 - I'm traveling more - to the SW so far, and I'll add some info about my adventures there.

Monday, July 16, 2012

You know a Hermit Thrushes' song, but how well have you really heard it?

All of us have heard the beautiful sound of a Hermit Thrush singing, but how well have you really heard it? As some of you know, I don't have any high frequency hearing and have to use a "birder's hearing aid" to hear most birds, except those with very low voices. But I love the sound of a Hermit Thrush, even with the "Songfinder", and I often stop just to listen to them. On occasion I have sat so long I've dozed off, only to wake with the birds still singing.
My hearing aid works by reducing the frequency of the high frequency sounds by half, 1, 2 or 4 times, but I never have to set it for more  than 1. It doesn't affect the "normal" lower frequencies. But sometimes, like today, I have noticed that some of the choruses of the thrush are so high that I hear them as squeaky and "small", even with the aid. With or without, when I hear that I know the sound is at or above the upper limit or my hearing.
So today I tried an experiment; I set the aid up a notch to 2.  And to my amazement, I discovered that a few times the songs went so high I had trouble hearing them! When I pushed it to 4 I could finally hear the entire song, but that is almost unimaginably high! Only someone with very seriously impaired hearing or almost deaf would need to use that setting.
And that makes me wonder if the vast majority of people can ever really hear that song. I believe it would require very exceptional hearing such as they say young children have. I know a few birders whose hearing is exceptional and perhaps they share that gift, but I'm guessing most of us just don't. I'd love to know what others think and what they can hear.

Boston Hollow, Birds are still singing, Originally posted Sunday, July 8, 2012

I went to Boston Hollow today for the first time in about a week and was surprised and pleased to find that a lot of birds are still singing. Of course some have gone silent and many are singing less, with less enthusiasm or even just call notes now. Perhaps the noisiest ones now are the Red-eyed Vireos.

At my first stop, when I arrived I heard a lot of chattering, which I Id'd as a large flock of BC Chickadees, but it sounded like something was up. Sure enough, after I looked around for a few minutes I spotted a Barred Owl staring back at me from a branch about 50 feet away, in the center of a maelstrom of angry Chickadees, Titmice, WB Nuthatches, etc. I don't know if it was me or the birds, but after about 30 seconds the owl took off and flew a couple of hundred feet to another branch, with all its little friends following close behind. When that didn't work it gave up and flew off down the road.

The odd thing is, that's at least the 7th time this year I've seen that owl, always within a couple of hundred yards of the same spot, but the first time I've seen it being mobbed or even noticed. I suspect the birds are hyper because of all the fledglings currently fluttering around the "Hollow." There is no doubt this has been a great year for the nesters so far, and I see signs that a lot are trying for a 2nd time. In fact I think a few may have already fledged a 2nd batch.

While I'd been watching the "show" I was hearing one bird I shrugged off as a Black-and-white Warbler, but I knew it didn't sound right. Once the action died down I could still hear it and finally found it in the tops of some tulip trees. To my surprise it was a Blackburnian Warbler, singing a song not quite like any I've heard them sing before. As a bonus I got to watch it as it foraged in bright sunlight for a good 5 or 10 minutes. A little bit later I heard a 2nd Blackburnian, this time with a much more normal song. At the beginning of the season I had trouble even finding one, and now I see/hear them quite often.

I heard several Waterthushes today, but they were only "clucking" their loud call notes, not a single song from either species.

I also heard 2 Winter Wrens and saw a third, and one of the singers either has a totally new song or was not there till the middle of June. The song is very different from any I heard earlier in the year. But the other bird I heard also now sometimes sings a longer version of his formerly short song.

Another bird I'm hearing new song versions from is the Black-and-white Warbler. In the spring their song was very standard and somewhat monotonous as they squeaked their 2 notes back and forth. Some only sing quietly now, but I've heard others with extended songs, sometimes with 2 or 3 parts and sometimes so different I had to listen a minute to be sure that's what it was.

There are still a few Canada Warblers singing, sometimes cutting their song short but other times getting excited and repeating it 2 or 3 times. A couple of weeks ago I walked down the road a bit and heard a very loud and angry sounding chip note practically right next to me. It was so loud I thought it was a Waterthrush, and I was amazed when I realized it was a Canada, staying not more than six or 8 feet away from me and flying frantically from one side of the road to the other. I assume he had fledglings somewhere close by, but I was being careful to stay in the middle of the road so as not to go near anything. I never knowingly even heard a call like that out of a Canada, before or since.

I heard 2 birds this morning that I thought were Wood Thrushes, which I've hardly heard in weeks now, but the songs were short and I'm not sure they were not different thrush. Definitely not Hermit or Veery though.

Still quite a few Yellow Warblers singing and flying around, and I wonder if they are trying again. Seems kind of late for them to be so obvious now.

I don't hear any flycatchers calling any more.

There was also a pair of BG Gnatcatchers chasing each other anound and feeding together, just like 2 months ago. Could be juvies but I had a feeling it was an adult pair.

Also, a juvie Towhee, looking like he was just out of the nest. Good thing he had white wing patches or I might have wondered for a minute. It did have a long tail and looked a little like a miniature Roadrunner. Gawky and awkward. Actually I cut my trip a little short this morning, and never went down Barlow Mill Road. Still ended up with a fair species list though, Ebird follows:

Boston Hollow/Barlow Mill, Windham, US-CT
Jul 8, 2012 7:45 AM - 12:15 PM
Protocol: Traveling
4.0 mile(s)
40 species (+3 other taxa)

Turkey Vulture 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 3
Mourning Dove 2
Barred Owl 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 4
Empidonax sp. 1
Eastern Phoebe 8
Blue-headed Vireo 4
Red-eyed Vireo 10
Blue Jay 2
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Winter Wren 3
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Veery 8
American Robin 10
thrush sp. 2
Cedar Waxwing 4
Ovenbird 8
Black-and-white Warbler 6
Common Yellowthroat 1
Blackburnian Warbler 2
Yellow Warbler 2
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 8
Canada Warbler 3
warbler sp. 4 Waterthrushes - Call notes only
Eastern Towhee 8
Chipping Sparrow 4
Song Sparrow 1
Scarlet Tanager 5
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 6
Baltimore Oriole 2
Purple Finch 1
American Goldfinch 3

Friday, June 22, 2012

Where oh where have all the Migrants gone?

At the beginning of May all the state's most ardent birders start heading for known hotspots, looking for the annual spring migrants. Many of them are near the shoreline, like Hammonasset, East Rock park, Greenwich Point, and a bit later, River Road in Kent. But by the end of the month most of the migrants have passed through, and except for residents and a few birds that make those places their summer home, the woods, fields and marshes are relatively quiet. And certainly it's true, many of our spring visitors barely pause before continuing north, sometimes far into Canada.
But there are quite few species whose breeding grounds are in New England, just a bit north of Connecticut. There are a few spots in northern Ct that are cool and forested enough to be very similar to the places  those birds are looking for, and a small number of them stay. Most of those locations are in hilly, remote locations in northwestern Ct. As an example,I know there is a breeding population of Dark-eyed Juncos on the Canaan Mountain plateau in Canaan, North Canaan and Norfolk.
But in eastern Ct, similar conditions exist in the Yale Forest area of Ashford and Union, and I assume, up to the Ct line in  Bigelow Hollow SP and the Nipmuck Forest  to the north. It's not as high, but still relatively cool and damp, with large tracts of deep old woods. As an example, a couple of years ago I visited Boston Hollow in late June when the forecast was for temps in the 90's, but when I left there about 1 PM my car thermometer still only said 76*. I went directly to Willimantic, perhaps 15 miles south, and when I got there the temperature was 93.
In a nutshell, that's why, when the migration hotspots grow quiet, the Yale Forest area is still hopping. In fact, it's just getting started. The breeding season for most species is mid-May through June, and depending on the species and size of the birds it may be the end of July before some are fully fledged (out of the nest on their own). The bottom line is, any migrant bird that's still there after early June is almost certainly going to nest there.
I'm going to try to make a list of the birds I'm almost certain breed in or near the Yale Forest, but I know I'll forget some, and there are other possibles that I'm not sure of:

Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Barred Owl, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Wood-pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Hermit Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Northern Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Canada Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch.

That's a total of 61 species if I counted right. In addition, I know that Coopers Hawk nests in Bigelow Hollow, just a few miles to the north, and I often see Osprey, so I assume there is a nest somewhere in the area. I probably missed a few others.
There may only be a few pairs of some of these species, but for some, Boston Hollow et al is a major and very important breeding area. For a few it may be the only area in Ct with a significant breeding population.
Of course there are pockets of breeding birds elsewhere in the state, but very few can match the number of different species seen in the Ashford/Union area. And there are certainly other species that nest in the state, but not in that area, primarily because of the habitat they require. Some of the most notable spots are along the shoreline, such as Hammonasset and the major salt water marshes, and major fresh-water marshes in the state.
So it's really no mystery why the Union/Ashford area is still alive with birds, long after the spring hotspots have gone quiet. A combination of a cool climate and large tracts of ideal habitat are a magnet that some birds just can't resist. In fact, from early June until the end of July, the population probably actually increases as more and more nestlings fledge. Eventualy the frequency and volume of song will decrease, but the birds will still mostly be there until it's time to head for their wintering grounds.
There is a sharp contrast, however, in winter. My experience with Boston Hollow is that it's like a tomb in cold, snowy weather. It's easy to make a tour through the area and not hear or see a single bird. Of course there will be some hardy souls that stay around, but they are few and quiet. I believe that even birds that largely don't migrate out of the state head out of the Hollow in search of more temperate climate and more productive feeding locations. For example, Red-breasted Nuthatches often winter on the shoreline. I'm not sure I have ever seen a Chickadee or Titmouse near Boston Hollow in winter, even when they are all over my yard, 18 miles away. But after the first of April they slowly begin to come home from their winter vacations.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Back Again!

Yes I am still alive. Been 2 years since I've posted on this blog, but I plan on adding a couple of things in the immediate future. Last year I was a bit burned out from birding Az for a month the previous August, and after I retired, April a year ago, I got into several other things which took up a lot of time. But this spring I've been back to haunting Boston Hollow, typically 5 days a week since
April, and I'm enjoying it now more than ever. I've gotten a lot better at ID by ear with my Songfinder, and better in general at bird ID.

Most of the migrants have moved on from the spring hotspots, but Boston Hollow is still hopping! My ideas on why will be one of the topics I plan to cover soon. And a related subject is "best spots to bird" after migration has ended. Hopefully I'll get started soon.

One thing I need to mention. Apparently the online storage sevice I used to post all the bird song tracks and some videos included in this blog now requires that you join it in order to have access to the files. That, of course, is unacceptable to both you and me, and I'll be looking for a new place to store the files so that you can conveniently just click the links and hear or see them. Once I figure out how I'm planning to shift everything over and replace the links. Please bear with me in the meantime.
Bird on!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A very special Ct sighting

Way out of the northeast corner, but I can't let this one go unmentioned.  On Sunday, August 1st Dennis Varza spotted a White-tailed Kite at the Ct Audubon gun club property at Stratford Point.  As of this morning it was still being seen there.  What a great bird!  Its the first CT sighting, and the 2nd in New England, the only other one being on Martha's Vineyard in 1910.

Here's a link to a slide show of more pics of this beautiful bird:

White-tailed Kite, Stratford, 8-2-10

Julian Hough has described the bird as second-year, due to incomplete molt of the juvenile primary feathers, but I'll leave that to the experts.  In any case its a great bird, and I hope it stays long enough that everyone who wants to can see it.
 I'll be spending some time in Arizona this month, so maybe I'll see another one.  One was reported this week.  At least I should be able to ID it with no problem!  For that reason, I may not be adding much to this blog for a while.  When I'm back I'll re-cap my adventures.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cardinal Flower, Swallows on the move!

This is a native wildflower which is just coming into bloom now, at least in northern Ct.  It grows in wet places, marshes, swamps and the banks of small streams.  This plant and many others near it are just starting to flower.  I'm including it here because it is a wonderful Hummingbird flower!  There are cultivated versions of it which require a little less water and can be grown in a moist yard.  It is a short-lived perennial.

I have noticed that I have seen relatively few swallows this summer, never more than an occasional one or two.  Today, I noticed in late morning that in the vicinity of Bigelow Brook there were lots of swallows in the air, mostly over the stream bottom marshes.  Most of them were quite high, several hundred feet at times, and I almost never saw one lower than a hundred feet or so.  They were not in a close group, but spread out over the entire area of the stream bottom that I could see - at least a couple of miles.  I'm sure there were at least 100, probably many more.  All that I could ID were tree swallows.  I don't think it was just a feeding frenzy, the birds are on the move, probably to their staging areas along the coast.  I'll be interested to see how long this lasts.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Red-breasted Nuthatches - again - and thoughts on Boston Hollow habitat

Today, Tuesday, July 27, I found 2 adult Red-breasted Nuthatches about 200 yards from where I found the juveniles last week.  As I have said, it is a species I expected to find there, and personally satisfying  to finally see them.  The location of these finds is the extreme northwest end of Barlow Mill Rd.  (Don't waste your time, that portion of the road doesn't even show up on a Google map, although it is a paved road at that point).
Specifically, both sets of birds were in an area which has been basically clear cut, either by Yale forestry or Hull Forest Products.  Clear cutting is a dirty word (phrase?) to many people, including me on occasion, but both entities have really done it right!  They cut relatively small sized parcels and left a number of mother trees, mostly white pine, but a few deciduous trees as well.  Both areas appear to have been mined for gravel sometime before the cutting - in the case of the Yale property, probably a long time before.  As a wild guess, the Yale cut was about 15 years ago, Hull more recently.  These sections have become absolute meccas for migrant birds!!  Young pines are growing in impenetrable stands, other young trees and brush of all types abound, and there are still considerable more open, weedy areas.  The mature pines (150 feet or more tall, I'm sure) seem to serve as sky islands for some species such as Pine Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers and Cedar Waxwings.  Of course the brushy areas are havens for many songbird species, including many of our warblers. Birds such as Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Pine, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, Ovenbirds, Chipping Sparrows, Eastern Towhees, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Phoebes, etc., absolutely ABOUND in May and June!  If you think I am exaggerating or kidding, LISTEN TO THE SOUND FILES BELOW.  When I was recording the files my hearing was absolutely on overload, so I could not begin to ID everything I heard.  See what you can come up with.  The only place I have possibly seen/heard the warblers in greater numbers is Magee Marsh in Ohio.  In addition, I heard and finally was able to see a Cerulean Warbler there, although he was on the more wooded side of the road.  (I heard a second bird in the same area, and another 1 not too far away that I'm sure was a Cerulean).  This is my first year of really exploring the area (only from the roads) and I'm sure many more species are to be found there than I have yet discovered. 





Saturday, July 24, 2010

Additions to Boston Hollow 2010 list

I have spotted a few more new birds for the BH area in the last week or 2.  The total is now 88.  Recent additions include Belted Kingfisher, Red-breasted Nuthatch,  Mallard, Brown Creeper, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Black-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatcher.  There were 2 Juvie RB Nuthatches, fluffy and blotchy - obviously recently fledged.  I Still have not found an adult, though I have been looking, but obviously, they are there.
UPDATE:  I first used my sound recorder on June 21st, and made a large number of recordings that day, trying to get the hang of using the thing.  I discarded alot of the bad ones, but conditions were excellent that day, there was almost no wind and the birds were still singing quite lustily in places, so I still had quite a few decent tracks.  I have been trying to catch up with editing my recordings now that the birds are not  giving me as much new material, and when I went back to that day I found one recording with the faint but clear sound in the background of a Red-breasted Nuthatch calling.  At the time, my ears were so overloaded with sound that I hadn't noticed it!  It was in the same area, so it seems likely that it was the dad of the 2 juvies I just spotted! 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boston Hollow "news" and some new recordings

I know I have gotten behind and I have lots I'd like to mention.  I have a great time taking pictures and now, recording sounds, but I am finding that getting them ready to be posted can be very time consuming - when I would like to be out in the woods.  I saw "my" Barred Owls for the sixth time a couple of weeks ago (July 9) and this time I heard them first.  Both were perched quite near the road and "talking to each other", first calling back and forth "who cooks for you",  then the more intimate chatter a pair seems to engage in.  Also,  at least 2 of their fledglings can be heard on some of the recordings, with their high-pitched hoarse screams, but I know there are 3 fledglings.  The higher voice of the adults is the female.  These files are both composites of several I made.  During some portions of them you can also hear  a hoard of chickadees and titmice going nuts.  The background noise is not wind or static - I was near a small stream and could not move far enough away to eliminate the sound.
First the calls: 


Next, Adults calling and fledglings adding their 2 cents, then a little discussion

Barred_Owls_By_Stream_juvie_screams, adult chatter

I have lots more I want to mention, but I want to get this post out.  More files, coming soon.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fledgling Phoebes, angry Ovenbirds

I found 3 fledglings all jammed together on a branch, waiting for mom and dad to fill them up. While they were waiting, a Veery stopped by to welcome new arrivals.  (see videos).

Here are links to a couple of Videos of the Phoebes:


Today (7/9/10) I pulled over and stopped to listen, and heard a loud chip note, which I thought sounded like a La Waterthrush.  I searched for the bird and didn't see anything at first, but then an Ovenbird came out of the grass on the side of the road, chipping loudly and  doing a sort of broken wing act.  At the same time, I realized I was hearing a whole lot of chipping, alot of it from the trees above.  A quick look showed me 5 more Ovenbirds flitting around and making a racket. I didn't even realize that Ovenbirds make that sound.
Here's a link to a sound file:


The odd thing was, the birds didn't look like fledglings, all were flying just fine, high in a tree, and appeared to have adult plumage.  Obviously they were upset with my presence, but I really don't know why.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What's Up with Me and Boston Hollow?

Anyone who has looked at my Ct list posts or followed this blog knows that I have concentrated almost exclusively on the Boston Hollow area, Ashford, for more than a month now.   In fact, I have gone there almost every day that I have not had to work (and once after work).  There are two reasons: I have seen and heard more birds there than any other place I have ever  been in Ct, and it is a wonderful place for me to re-learn (or just plain learn) bird songs, now that I am using the "Songfinder" hearing aid.  Because there is such a high concentration of birds and they are so vocal, I have been fairly successful in actually learning a great many of the birds there, probably a majority of the birds I will ever hear in CT.  I hope you can imagine how exciting this is for me, since I have been barely able to hear a bird at all ever since I started seriously birding.  As I've said before, my biggest regret is that I did not get and use the device much sooner.  I can't imagine how many birds I have passed by, never knowing they were there.  The biggest struggle I sometimes now have is remembering to keep looking for the bird at the same time I am listening to it.  I find myself with head down, concentrating on the song.  Of course, now I often hear a bird but never see it, something new to me but, I'm sure, normal to people who have always been able to hear them.  I have even developed a new hobby as a result of my new-found hearng, trying to record bird songs.  Unfortunately, I have to wear the headphones even to hear my own recordings. Below are links to some files I have recorded in the last couple of days, when there was little wind and it was fairly quiet.  The Ravens gave me a present by returing and calling loudly for most of the day, sometimes right over my head.  A blue-headed Vireo must have decided to clear out the pipes one more time, as he sang lustily for most of the morning.  Links to recordings below.  By the way, if ever you would like to download any of my recordings for any reason, don't hesitate.  I believe there is a link for that on the site where you can listen.
(see if you can hear the Ravens in the background)

I'd love to know what you think of these.
By the way, my cumulative count for birds in Boston Hollow year-to-date is 82.  That is not a very impressive number, but there is little if any opportunity to find shorebirds, waterbirds, or ducks and geese, etc. there.  I have now found a couple of places that might produce a duck or two in season this fall or next year.  Also, I did not know the area well enough or spend enough time there to exhaust all the possibilities for migrants this spring.  I figure a realistic total to shoot for is about 100 birds that could reasonably be expected to be seen there.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Warm-up for Lighthouse Point

Headed out this AM as I have the last few weeks to Boston Hollow.  For a change it was clear and dry and cool with a stiff breeze.  And BH was quiet - too quiet.  I was wondering if the time has arrived when there will be less and less birds making less and less noise.  For the first time this spring I didn't hear a single Canada Warbler anywhere.  I reached Barlow Mill Rd and turned onto it, stopping at the marsh 100 yards down the road.  Its really the first place that the sky opens up.  I scanned the ridge line and snagged a hawk, just clearing the top of the ridge and gliding down over the marsh.  It was a Broad-wing, moving fast and soon gone over the trees behind me.  A good find, and made the day feel a little better.  I moved up the road a few hundred yards to a field that was once someone's yard, only the foundation and chimney now left after the apparent fire.  I don't usually find much there, but pulled into the drive and shut  down to listen.  Immediately I heard the screams of a Red-shouldered Hawk, and checking the sky to the left I spotted 2 of them, circling with each other, making a racket and moving east with the wind. The larger one was tattered and torn, perhaps a female recently finished with nesting duties, but the other looked pristine.  I followed them for a while, but just as I looked away I heard them calling again with renewed vigor.  When I looked back there were five hawks up in front of me!  I sorted them out into three Shoulders and two Red-tails.  They milled around for a minute, and then the original two moved on to the east, the others disappearing beyond the tree line.  Had a grin now, I really don't see many raptors in the area.  But just as I got in the car to move on, I looked up again, to see two hawks circling the field right in front of me.  At first I thought the Shoulders had returned, but a quick look told me they were something different.  Long wings and tails, and as big or bigger than the Shoulders.  I am certain they were two immature Northern Goshawks.  I believe I saw one there once before, but a very bad look.  I have always heard that they nest in the area, and now I don't doubt it.  I had a great look as they circled right over me, staying for a minute or 2 before zooming off.  I continued past the Barlow Mill site without much action, and reached the point where I recently saw 2 Barred Owls.  I had stopped that day because I know there is a Winter Wren in the area, and I was listening for it.  Today the wren was singing his heart out!!  I stopped to listen, but after a couple of minutes he was almost drowned out by a sound like squealing brakes, seemingly right over my head.  For a minute I thought it was two trees rubbing together, but it continued when the wind stopped.  I got out of the car to walk up the road to see where it came from and suddenly a large bird flew across the road and into a tree 70 feet away.  It was a Broad-winged Hawk!  It was screaming, and another was anwering it from close by.  A brand new sound for me and one I won't forget.  I have only heard them before on recordings.  The poor wren got lost in the shuffle, but belatedly I went back to the car to get my recorder.  It was too windy to make a decent recording, and I hadn't planned on it, but I couldn't resist.  Here's the hawks:

And here is a chorus of Winter Wren and Broad-wing:

and finally, the wren, solo:

Of course, I saw a couple of the ubiquitous Turkey Vultures, and on the way back down Rt 89 to US 44 I saw one more Red-shoulder to complete the day!

If you enjoy hawks as much as I do, you know what a nice day it was!

Yellow-rump, Boston hollow

I enticed him out of the hemlocks last week.  I'm sure they are breeding there.

More pics:

Yellowrump, Boston hollow

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Boston Hollow and Barlow Mill Roads, and the surrounding Yale Forest area

This area is in Ashford, Ct, in a section known as Westford.  To get there you can take Ct Rt 89, either east from I-84, exit 72 or west (north) off US Rt 44 at a traffic light in the center of Ashford.  When you reach an old white church at a stop sign with a flashing light, you have reached  Boston Hollow Road, straight ahead if from I-84, a right turn if from US 44.  Here is a link (which hopefully will continue to work) to a Google map of the area:   Boston Hollow, Ashford, Ct  .  In about 1/3 mile you will reach the point where the road turns to dirt (very well maintained), and that's where the birding begins.  In the spring this is a great location for migrants of all kinds, and the birding continues well into the early summer because many migrants nest there.  The road is narrow, but little traveled, and you can pull over pretty much anywhere to look and listen.  Often I shut off the car but don't get out because the car is a great blind, and the valley is very narrow.  Once the leaves are out, more birds are seen than heard, but with patience you can find alot of them.  This year I have found 18 varieties of warblers there, and most of them nest there.   Here  is a Wikipedia article on Boston Hollow, which is fairly accurate.  wikipedia, Boston_Hollow  .
Boston Hollow runs 1.7 miles, until you reach a one lane wooden bridge.  Just before the bridge, Barlow Mill Road, also dirt, goes off to the left and is a little over 2 miles long, paved at the far end.  Another great spot for migrants with a somewhat different variety.
If you go to Boston Hollow, it helps alot to know your bird songs.  Its quite cool there, and a great place to bird on a hot day.

how hot was it? ....

It was SO hot....

Go to  link below for more pics - it should load fast



Monday, June 28, 2010

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Boston Hollow, 6-25-10

Found of whole family of these guys,  busily zooming around the area near a tree full of sap wells.  The juvies spent most of their time there.  One was chasing a RT Hummingbird who was trying to get a drink of the sap.

Monday, July 21, 2008

CT Audubon Soc. Bafflin Sanctuary and Wyndham Land Trust - Pomfret

The Pomfret CAS and associated lands of the Wyndham Land Trust provide a largely contiguous parcel of land of roughly 1400 acres. This sanctuary is devoted primarily to habitat for birds and other wildlife, and is managed as such. Both organization's lands are managed by the CAS property manager. The area offers a wide variety of habitat, from farmed lands (by lease) to old fields to areas of woodlands. There are streams and small ponds associated with the properties. There is a large marsh area that provides a spring stopover for ducks and waterfowl, as well as 2 blinds for birders, although it is presently awaiting a new family of beavers to rebuild the dam. In spring and fall there are bird walks scheduled every Tuesday and several scheduled on the weekends as well. In addition to the sanctuary properties, the entire area is rural, devoted mainly to farming, with large forested areas and considerable state land. The sanctuary has proved to be a birding hotspot for spring migration, with several sightings of rare or unusual birds.
I cannot begin to tick off all the potential birding locations for Pomfret CAS. The Center is open M-F 9 am to 4 pm and Sat and Sun noon to 4, and the best bet is a stop in to pick up a map and perhaps talk to Andy or the director on some good current birding bets.
LINK :  Connecticut Audubon Society
A particularly good bet is at the intersection of Needles Eye and Day roads. Needles Eye Road is a right off US Rt 44 about half a mile past (north of) the CAS Center. Just before Day Road there is an old stone railroad bridge abutment, and good road parking just beyond it. There is a rail trail that runs south from the abutment that often provides good birding, and just past the parking area, on the left, there are open fields and trails that almost always have something interesting lurking in them, from Bobolinks to Warblers to Woodcock.

"Station 43", South Windsor

Station 43 is a Federal Wildlife Management Area and an IBA (Important Bird Area). It's a great spot to look for waterfowl and marsh birds, including some rarities which pass through during migration. The WMA itself is basically a marshy pond. the land around it is private and mostly used as farmland. The entire area is on the floodplain on the eastern side of the Connecticut River in South Windsor, and occasionally floods in the sping. To access Station 43 take any road north of I-291 in South Windsor west from US Rt 5. When you reach the end you should meet Main Street. (A misnomer). If you started from the south end of town go north until you find Newberry Road on the right. If you came from the north, its on the left, of course. If you are going south on Rt 5 you may turn right onto Newberry and take it to Main. The access to Sta. 43 is directly opposite the end of Newberry. You may park on the west side of Main. The access starts as a driveway and continues straight ahead as a rutted muddy dirt road. DO NOT try to drive it. Note: you will be greated with a variety of No Trespassing signs with dire warnings. If you leave the public ways in this area they may be correct. However the access road is a public right of way as are the two other roads I'll mention in a moment. As long as you stay on the roads you should not be bothered (and in practice people seldom are). Simply follow the access road to the pond and you're there. The area can be wet or even flooded so water resistant footware is a must. A scope is a big help at the pond. There are also partially paved roads north and south of the pond that provide good birding at times. If you go south on Main Street take the next right onto Vibert Road, pass the the sewage treatment plant, and you are there. The little bridge is an excellent spot to stop. Usually less is seen at the end of the road at the Ct River. If you take Main north, go to the end and look for Ferry Road on the left. There is a sod farm near the river that sometimes has sparrows and other migrants stopping over.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

NE Ct Birding Hotspots - Mansfield Hollow

Mansfield Hollow (State Park)
Without a doubt this is one of the most under-birded spots I know, even though there is some activity. At times it is probably the best spot in NECT. It's a large area, and of course includes the Mansfield Hollow Lake (flood control impoundment) Which is fed by 3 rivers, the Fenton River, the Mount Hope River, and the Natchaug River. Because of the reason it was created, the water level varies much more widely and quickly than any naturally created lake. After an exceptional rainstorm or period of rainy weather the water level may come up as much as 20 feet, and has come up considerably higher than that. The Lake was created by the Army Corps of Engineers, and they control the dam and all the land around the lake up to the maximum possible level of water. The water has never come anywhere near that level, but it has been pretty high. At times the water backs up for a considerable distance on the Fenton River, flooding the leased crop fields near its banks. The lake is a good spot to view several varieties of water related birds, ducks, shorebirds, raptors, marsh birds, etc.
I divide the the area generally into two sections, the Northwest and Southeast Lakes, since they are connected only by tubes through a causeway across the middle of the impoundment. Basset Bridge Road (off Ct Rt 195) crosses the causeway, and there is boat launch area where the road meets the lake. The boat launch is sometimes a good spot to view ducks (especially in spring) and raptors such as Ospreys and Bald Eagles. There were Three Eagles sitting in a dead tree opposite the launch at 1 time in spring '08. A scope is needed to see most birds well here.
The north end of the Northwest Lake is a hotspot for warblers and other migrants in the spring. There is an old road that runs along the normal waterline here, though it is sometimes partially submerged. To reach the area take Ct Rt 195 north from Willimantic or south from Mansfield and turn onto Rt 89. There is a parking turnout immediately past the high causeway that passes the lake, on the right. From there you can climb directly down to the old road. Another way to get there is from a turn-off on the right about half a mile further, JUST BEFORE Atwoodville Rd. It's unmarked but there is a stop sign where it turns onto Rt 89. Follow this old road to the yellow gate and park. Follow the road on foot til you come to the lake. A good place to see ducks and raptors as well as spring migrants.
The BEST spot for birding, particularly after migration is over, is an area called the Field Trial and Wildlife Management Area. It is on the southeast side of the Southeast Lake. To reach it take US Rt 6 north (east) from Willimantic until you see signs for Ct Rt 203 on the right at a traffic light. At that light take a LEFT and follow that (unnamed) road to the stop sign. Turn left over a bridge and turn left again onto N Windham Road, immediately past the bridge. Drive to the gate and park in the lot on the right. Follow the old road past the gate. Birding can be good anywhere along this road all the way to where it meets the lake. Some of the best habitat is in the fields on the left and the pine stands which end at the bank over the Natchaug river. Most any of the birds that summer in Ct can be found in this area.
One other area related to Mansfield Hollow is the dike between the lake and Windham Airport. Take US Rt 6 north (east) from Willimantic until your see the Airport on the left. At the north end, the high dike is prominently visible and there is a parking lot off Rt 6. Birds such as Meadowlarks can sometimes be seen from the dike in the airport grass. At least four kinds of swallows swoop back and forth over the area and many water and marsh birds can be seen to the north in and around the lake. When the water is low enough many shorebirds can be seen on any exposed mud flats. A scope is needed from the dike.

About Me

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Old enough to know better (but I don't) and finally retired so I have the free time I've always wanted to pursue my interests - like Birding and Hiking!!