New sightings slowed, predictably, over the past week. Unusually warm weather may be partly responsible. Birds don't seem to be as active feeding and tied to food sources as when it's cold, and I haven't had to fill my bird feeders at all the past few days. Despite the lull, I did see a few new birds, including my first Hermit Thrush of the winter, in Lyme and a Lesser Black-backed Gull and Pied-billed Grebes in Waterford. Stonington continues to be a hot spot, and this week I saw a Red-necked Grebe off Stonington Point. At Barn Island I saw four White-winged Crossbills flying SE over the boat launch towards Watch Hill, RI and was able to see and photograph the adult Black-headed Gull that has been frequently spotted there.
At first flying past ...
then feeding on the exposed mud flats at low tide ...
then swimming in a shallow pool just a few yards away.
I waited a long while as the gull moved closer and closer and eventually the usually skittish Red-breasted Mergansers grew less wary, even as I stood in plain sight at the edge of the boat launch. Several small flocks fed close by in the shallow channels as the tide receded, and despite the poor light, I was able to get some fairly nice, close shots including some showing a snorkeling feeding method I often see.
I also took a quick run to Rhode Island, for the first time this winter, and was saddened to see the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Coastal Rhode Island has some of my favorite spots for winter bird photography. The beaches of Westerly and Charlestown were a mess, with many of the dunes washed away. Even more depressing was Trustom Pond, a coastal fresh water pond that attracted large flocks of wintering geese and ducks, including Ruddy Ducks, Scaup and Canvasbacks. The dunes at Moonstone Beach were breached and washed away by the storm and the pond is now a tidal, salt water pond. It was nearly devoid of ducks the day I visited. I did see a Fox Sparrow and female Purple Finch at the feeders near the entrance there. I also had a couple dozen Harlequin Ducks at Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, but not much else.
I finally had an "excuse" to chase the Pine Grosbeaks at the ice rink in Simsbury, more than a week after they were first reported. On Sunday, after taking my daughter to indoor lacrosse in East Windsor, we stopped there on the way home, but were not rewarded. Conditions were tough as thick fog made it hard to see anything more than a few yards away and the screaming hockey parents cheering their kids and berating the refs made it impossible to hear. I managed to weasel a promised quick stop into nearly 45 minutes, but finally had to give up. On the way home, a lunch stop at Scott's Jamaican Bakery in Hartford for coco bites (one of the few things I miss about working in Hartford) eased the disappointment a bit.
Here are a few other pictures from the last week.
Current total - 88 species (including 4 from RI)