Date: 10/23/18 1:51 pm From: Stefan Martin via CTBirds <ctbirds...> Subject: [CT Birds] Stratford Point- Inaugural Big Sit! Results 10/14/18
Hey all, I've always thought that Stratford Point would make for a great Big Sit! location and have been looking forward to the opportunity. Finding a location on the property to get the best view of all possible habitats and maximize yield was thought about months in advance and I decided to set up on top of the garage. Here we would get views of Short Beach and the mouth of the river, Milford Point and the attached sandbars, the breakwater, virtually all open water, the upland and meadows, the bird feeders and lawn surrounding the building, and of course, the 'Coast Guard strip' and associated snags. So I enlisted the help of a couple heavy hitting young bucks (Jory Teltser and Preston Lust) and a newly arrived CT birder who's already won over the birding community with his awesome Wilson's Plover find this past spring (Chandler Wiegand.. thanks again for that BTW!) who jumped on the chance to SIT! With our team now formed, 'The Zeep Complex' was born! Chandler and I arrived around 5:30 listening for nocturnal flight calls, hoping to pick out a few species that might be hard to come by during the day. Before long, we started hearing some migrants overhead (primarily the typical sparrows) and started adding to the list. Suddenly, we heard a very strange sparrow call that came from low overhead and continued towards Short Beach. Immediately I suggested GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and attempted recordings of the now distant bird. Careful review of calls later in the day confirmed my suspicion and I ticked this unexpected species confidently. Jory and Preston arrived soon after and I filled them in on our mornings events. Our next tick was one of two Hermit Thrushes, another species we could have easily missed during the day (and we did). As we continued to freeze, and listen for NFC's we were treated to another unexpected bird that landed on the big snag in the field which was beautifully silhouetted against an absolutely breathtaking sunrise of deep red and orange. We got this Owl sp. in the scope and started to ID the bird based on size, shape and structure trying to eliminate all possible options. As the bird moved closer and closer it was clear that this was a BARRED OWL. To be honest, this was the last Owl sp. I would have expected here but a welcomed tick and new addition to the site list. As the sun was clearing the horizon, the activity really started to heat and we started adding species faster than I could write them down. Small flocks of ducks started passing by in every direction, passerines were zipping through the grasses and birds began moving over Long Island Sound including both Loon species and a few handfuls of mixed duck flocks. A solo RED-BREASTED MERGANSER and NORTHERN PINTAIL were among the notables. We picked up on a few groups of migrating Cormorants and were pleased to find 2 GREAT CORMORANTs collectively (another that easily could have been missed). It was clear by this point in the morning that winter finches had also decided to move with dribs and drabs of PINE SISKIN and the seasonally abundant PURPLE FINCH. What I didn't expect was to add EVENING GROSBEAK to this list of winter visitors but we were thrilled to have one calling overhead. The synchronized enthusiasm between Jory and Preston when the bird flew over was almost too perfect. A few AMERICAN PIPITS joined the overhead flight with their distinct 'slip-it' flight call. After some morning madness, we took turns scanning the lawns and driveway edges for any specialty sparrows. Before long, we had great looks at a beautiful CLAY-COLORED SPARROW and everybody's first Northeast adult 'Gambel's' WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. Brant were moving around in good numbers and made us aware of a few other duck species migrating through such as a single male WHITE-WINGED SCOTER and a handful of BLACK SCOTERS. The Milford Point sandbars did not disappoint and allowed us to check off some of the more expected shorebird species which included Dunlin, Sanderling, Black-bellied Plovers and a few late(ish) American Oystercatchers. By this point in the day, Jory and Preston had to say their farewells leaving the pressure on Chandler and myself. With most of the expected birds already ticked, we started scraping by and now, the day was crawling. 2 adult BALD EAGLES were a nice addition however and appeared as hazy specs just West of the I-95 bridge. Chandler packed up his gear and wished me luck. With a little guilt-tripping and a few 'don't leave me!'s he promised he would try and return later in the evening. Keeping eyes on the entire property by myself seemed like an daunting task on just 3 hours of sleep.. While singing to myself for a little while, I became distracted by a beautiful male Brown-headed Cowbird sitting on the garage beside me in perfect light. So obviously I started taking some photos. Once I got my fill, an elongated flash caught my eye zipping out from the thicketed corridor in between the garages. The bird hit the fence directly beneath me and lay stunned for a few moments before flying off towards the 'Coast Guard strip'. My suspicion turned out to be correct and after what seemed like an eternity, I added a new bird to the list in the form of a YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO (and one of my favorites). As I watched the Cuckoo vanish into thin air (as the tend to do), I saw a small bird sitting in the middle of the fence. I got the bird in my binoculars and watched it dart around trying to hawk insects along the shrub line. This bird turned out to be one of the confusing ID's (for me) and added as an 'Empid sp.' until I could get a better look. I called Nick Bonomo trying to persuade him to come to the property with the allure of this newly found 'Empid sp.' He made a brief appearance and was able to document the bird nicely. I was also able to get some better looks from the garage and eliminated some of the rarer possibilities and with this, wrote down LEAST FLYCATCHER. The strip seemed to be producing so I continued scoping the edge only to find another new bird, an AMERICAN REDSTART. While watching the Least Flycatcher and Redstart, Chandler made his return and was able to get nice looks at both. Now we're really scraping by and trying to add some species that on any other day, would have made an appearance by now. We turned our attention to a handful of Terns feeding off the point and scoped them carefully. There had been a few FORSTER'S TERNS over that way in the morning (which I forgot to mention) so I assumed it was this same group making their rounds. It didn't take long to pick out the outlier which turned out to be a young COMMON TERN and a new addition to the daily list. Nick continued on with his daily activities and was soon followed by Chandler, leaving me once again, singing to myself. As the sun continued sinking, the wind picked up hinting at the arrival of colder nights. Herons began their nightly journey to wherever it is they go, and I was finally able to add YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON. With the sun now completely buried behind the horizon, I lay on my back staring up at the stars listening with hopes of picking out one or two new birds. Just before I packed it in, I heard the flight call of the last bird to be entered in my notebook. A SWAINSON'S THRUSH.
All in all, it was an incredible day of birding with good friends. We hoped to at least reach 100 species during our Sit! which seemed like a reasonable goal. Our final total was a very admirable 105 species! Thanks again to Jory, Preston and Chandler for their enthusiasm and sharp eyes. I think I speak for all of us when I say that 'The Zeep Complex' will be back at it next year!