For the second year in a row, we held our Big Shorebird Day. Last year, and again this year Nick Bonomo graciously lead the young birders on day of birding, focused on shorebirds. This year, we birded on a different route than last year; working our way around Stratford, Milford, and West Haven. We were able to meet a new member of the club, Ryan Gaincola, as well as a returning member Michael Aronson.
We started the day birding around Stratford, hitting a few spots like Short Beach, Sikorsky Airport, Stratford Greenway, and Stratford Point. Shorebird numbers in these areas, as well as others, were surprisingly low. In the early morning, however, we were able to see a small amount of morning flight. American Redstarts and Yellow Warblers were the main species migrating over, but I did have one Blue-gray Gnatcatcher flyover. Before we left for Milford Point, we stopped at the Stratford Marina. Here we saw hordes of Short-billed Dowitchers, Yellowlegs, and herons.
While scanning the flock, I picked out a very bright-colored adult Short-billed Dowitcher. After Nick took a look at it, he thought it looked like the more uncommon subspecies, Hendersoni. This subspecies breeds half-way between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and is distinguished from the regular Atlantic population by the extent and brightness of the orange on the breast, as well as the boldly barred back. After further review, it was decided that this bird was un identifiable to subspecies.
Aside from this bird, another bird highlight for the Stratford area was the two juvenile Common Mergansers swimming along the beach at Short Beach.
After we finished birding around Stratford, we then moved on to Milford. We walked out to the end of the sandbar at Mildford Point, but without seeing much. Shorebird numbers were low, but our spirits were high when I received an email about a Black Tern, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and “Western” Willet at Sandy Point, in West Haven. This happened to be our next and last stop of the day anyway, so we decided to leave Mildford Point and head over to Sandy Point.
Last year on the Big Shorebird day, Sandy Point was also our last spot of the day, and we were treated by a Buff-breasted Sandpiper which I spotted as it flew in at sunset. When we arrived at Sandy Point, we wait for Michael Aronson, another young bird, to join us on our walk out. Before we walked out, we heard a Clapper Rail calling, right from the parking lot! Our walk out to the end of Sandy Point was fairly uneventful, except for Forster’s Terns flying out on the sound. When we reached the tip of Sandy Point, we saw a massive tern flock, with a couple Roseates and a Black Tern. Shorebird numbers were, again, really low. However, I was able to get just feet away from two Ruddy Turnstones, allowing for some amazing pictures!
This photo opportunity was definitely the highlight of the day for me. After one last scan, we headed back for the parking lot. Overall, this trip ended up being more of a “Tern Day” rather than a “Shorebird Day,” but we still had a lot of fun. A big thanks to Nick for leading us again!