New Years Day! It started with all the promise of a fresh start, a clean slate and earnest new (and not so new) goals and resolutions. It's been a tradition for me to go out every New Years morning, while the family sleeps in, to see as many birds as I can to and start the year off on the right foot. Well, except for the year I had to work, because the world was supposed to come to a crashing end, ... Y2K.
I've had some memorable New Years Day sightings, like the frigid morning when a Saw Whet Owl sat out on the outer branches of a cedar tree basking in the bright sun, or finding a great new spot, where loons and mergansers dove for crabs right in front of me, at a marina just a few minutes from my home. I hoped this year held the something memorable. I checked my fully stocked feeders in the pale dawn light, just a couple goldfinch, and headed out. As I drove through town, I saw a silhouette atop a phone pole, the first test of my commitment. With no one out and about, I backed up and trained my binoculars on the bird shape, a starling! @#$%*.
As I pulled into Hole in the Wall Beach, the sun broke through the clouds. I scanned the waters of Niantic Bay and my list began in earnest, RB Merg, Horned Grebe, the three common gulls, Common Loon, Common Goldeneye ..... nothing uncommon. Then, a sharp raspy call broke the still morning air, as a Common Raven worked it's way along the closed off boardwalk. Well, that's uncommon.
As I drove on, my sights were set high, maybe I could get 70. But the clouds thickened, the winds increased and with each new stop that number slipped farther away. My three known screech owl holes, nothing, my Barred Owl haunt, nope. I found some Rusty Blackbirds near a roadside in Lyme, but as I was slowly driving past them, debating wether or not to try for pictures, a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk flew from an eye-level perch on the opposite side of the road. Time to move on.
I stopped in Old Lyme, where I had seen a Bald Eagle pair the day before. Nothing doing. A nice gentleman from the house across the street came out and we exchanged New Years greetings and chatted about the birds on the river. I heard a kingfisher but couldn't see it so it didn't count. As we chatted, an adult eagle flew over the distant trees, then a juvenile flew right over our heads.
Moving westward, over the Baldwin Bridge, Peregrine Falcon, check, Okay, on a bit of a roll. I decided to look for a reported Iceland Gull on the Madison Guilford line. Nothing, still not even a Red-throated Loon. As I scanned the water with my binoculars a distant flock of white birds appeared to be flying in off the sound. I took my binoculars away and could not even see them. After relocating them in my bins, I realized they were Snow Geese. I tracked them for several minutes as they flew directly towards me, and finally got my camera out and blasted away for thirty seconds or so as they flew past. Those were the only pictures I took on the day.
Still no Iceland Gull, so I headed back to Hammonasset, my last shot at a respectable showing. Epic Fail. No crossbills, redpolls, nothing on the water, a disaster, only a few Sanderlings, RB Nuthatch and a distant flock of Dunlin that flew up when duck hunters let loose. I headed home by 1 p.m. in disappointment, no red-tails, red-throated loon, red-bellied woodpecker. I kept and eye on my feeders for the rest of the day, but missed the Carolina Wren and WB Nuthatches that visit daily. A dismal start, 50 birds. I did see that someone reported seeing a flock of 11 Snow Geese, with a single neck-banded bird, in Madison and the same group later in East Haven. Somehow I picked up an extra bird in the middle of the trip.