****** BREAKING NEWS *******
NIANTIC, CT - USA
MARCH 22, 2013
A local woodchuck caused a scene in a neighborhood eatery last week. Pattagansett Pete, of 1492 Park Place, was spotted dining at/on a posh lawn, but was forced to flee when he was confronted by reporters and news cameras seeking reaction to the fraud charges filed against his distant cousin, Punxsutawney Phil, for false forecasting. Making his first public appearance since the botched prediction, Pete declined to comment on his cousin's legal troubles, but as he beat a hasty retreat he was quoted saying "You people are crazy to trust that dirty rat".
PATTAGANSETT PETE reacts as he is confronted by reporters about the fraud charges filed against his cousin Punxsutawney Phil for inaccurately forecasting the end of winter. (Staff photo / Bob MacDonnell)
Elsewhere, police were called to a Lyme vernal pool when neighbors complained about excessive noise and loud croaking. Officers suspected a Spring Weekend pool party had gotten out of hand, but when they arrived on the scene they discovered a Wood Frog orgy, even as snow flurries flew. We reported on the potential for trouble last week, and a bystander sent us this shocking cell phone video of the melee. **** Warning ***** Viewer discretion is advised.
A police spokesman said more than two dozen frogs were arrested for lewd behavior and public indecency and the pool was left littered with egg clusters.
Tensions were high as stunned residents gathered around the pool to protest the decline of the once quiet, family neighborhood. A distressed looking Winter Wren made a rare appearance and spoke out against the amphibious assault on the community. "This used to be a respectable neighborhood", he lamented, "Then the Wood Frogs moved in, and the Spring Peepers and American Toads, where will it end?"
Okay, back to reality. New spring arrivals are turning up every day, and I had a number of new sighting to add to my list. Last week I checked the Portland Fairgrounds after a report of several species of ducks there, including Blue-winged Teal which I had not seen this year. I arrived to find the gate closed, but the ducks were in the pond adjacent to the entrance, and fairly close. Included were more than a dozen Green-winged Teal, three striking Northern Pintails, two Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Blue-winged Teal, along with the common Mallards and Black Ducks. Ducks are usually very wary, so I drove close to the gate with my window down and waited, never leaving the car. Gradually the Mallards worked their way to the near edge of the pond and as luck would have it, the BW Teal followed. I got a few pictures that basically amounted to record shots (you forget just how small teal are) before the ducks worked their way out to the flooded grass field. After a short while a couple other birders pulled up and watched from their cars as well, as all the ducks were easily spotted. Eventually one of the pintails moved to an open area and I got some distant photos of it as well (these are pretty heavy crops). After the other cars left, I debated if I should risk scaring the birds off by getting out of my car and trying to get a bit closer, but decided not to since many others were likely hoping to see the ducks. Then another car pulled up and a couple got out, set up their scope and started to walk past the gate. I readied my camera, feeling pretty sure the ducks would take flight. They lifted off and I fired a couple quick bursts, not expecting much, while the couple stopped as if startled. The ducks set down in the pond, farther back then when I arrived, so I decided to leave. I checked my shots in the camera monitor and was happy to see a couple shots with Mallards and the Blue-winged Teal pair nicely aligned, showing their namesake wing patches.
On Saturday I went to the COA (Connecticut Ornithological Association) Annual Meeting for the first time. I always had to work on Saturdays in March when I worked at newspapers. The programs were very entertaining and I had a great time. One of the speakers, Marshall Iliff's program was about eBird, an internet bird sighting database. I was impressed with the scope and benefits of the program and decided to join and enter my sightings. Sunday morning at Rocky Neck, I saw two Great Egrets (one below) and one Snowy Egret, the first snowy of the year.
The Osprey are back on their nests, and some have a lot of housekeeping to do after Sandy last October and several winter storms damaged many of the platforms. This one in Old Lyme survived pretty much intact. Sunday afternoon I was on my way to go grocery shopping and decided to check Hole In The Wall Beach to see if the Common Loon that was nearing full breeding plumage was around. There were lots of people, some with dogs, walking on the beach but no loons close to shore. I noticed an odd looking gull on the water and walked towards it. It turned out to be an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, the first one I've ever seen there, that was very cooperative and associated with the common Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. The gull was in the same area the next couple afternoons as well.
Early this week while driving home from my daughter's lacrosse game I saw five Black-crowned Night Herons at Bush Pond in Niantic, and the next evening while firing up the grill I saw another one fly down to the brook in my back yard.
To accommodate my Big Year list, I went back to Portland this week to see if I could add the rare Common Teal spotted at the fairgrounds. There were many more Green-winged Teal than last week and on the far edge of the flooded grass area, the Common Teal stood out from the similar Green-wings. I checked them pretty carefully last week so I'm pretty sure the Common Teal is a new arrival. The distant photograph below shows the distinguishing field marks, the bold white horizontal wing stripe, lack of vertical white bar on the breast and white outline on the green face patch.
Along with the Common and Green-winged Teal, were six Blue-winged Teal, and eight Northern Pintails, as well as many Mallards. In the flooded swamp on the east side of the fair buildings were five American Wigeon, six Wood Ducks, a Beaver and a ratty looking Muskrat.
New sightings for the week: Winter Wren, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-winged Teal, Snowy Egret, Black-crowned Night Heron and Common Teal. Total 127 species - 123 in CT.