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.

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.

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!!