April Trip Report: River Road and White Memorial

On Saturday, April 29th, the CYBC ventured up to Litchfield County in the northwest corner of the state with adult leader Greg Hanisek, a long time Connecticut birder and naturalist. Attendance on this trip was the highest it’s ever been, with 10 young birders attending from all over the state.

At this date in April, certain unusual breeders had already settled in on territory and songbird migration had just begun to pick up. Our first destination was River Road in Kent, a premier location that hosts elsewhere hard-to-find breeders in CT, including Cerulean Warbler, our primary target.

Starting at 6:30 AM, the Club birded the length of the road, listening for songbirds in the woods and scanning the Housatonic River. As the forest woke up, a slew of breeders and migrants greeted us. Highlights included: Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, Veery, Ovenbird, Worm-eating Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Soon, we reached an area along the river with tall oaks and began to hear a male Cerulean Warbler who had just arrived back on territory. It took a little while, but eventually we tracked down the singing bird and everyone got a view. It was a life bird for several club members. As we worked our way back down the road, we noticed large migrating flocks of Double-crested Cormorant going over and had Common Merganser, Wood Duck, and Spotted Sandpiper on the river.

After River Road, we crossed the river and checked out the nearby Housatonic River WMA, home of some healthy meadow and early successional habitat. Highlights here included Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, and Orchard Oriole.

A quick stop for bathrooms and coffee was in order, but afterwards we caravanned through lush, rolling farmland to Litchfield, CT and the diverse habitats of the White Memorial Preserve. Our main destination in the area was the freshwater wetland surrounding Little Pond, accessed by boardwalk. On our walk out to the pond we enjoyed Black-and-white Warblers, Pine Warblers and Brown Creeper in the pine stands. The wetland was very birdy, quickly producing Swamp SparrowSolitary SandpiperGreater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Marsh Wren, Eastern Kingbird, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Common Raven, and finally (after a bit of work), two Virginia Rail which we actually got a view of as they navigated the sedge and cattails off the boardwalk.

Having nailed down our goals, we headed over to the main body of White Memorial for more birding and lunch. A short jaunt along the trails turned up Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Green Warbler, Great Crested Flycatcher and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. 

After our picnic lunch, the group split up and went our separate ways. We had had a very successful day– Litchfield County has treated the Club very well over the years.

A big thanks to Greg Hanisek for lending us his expert knowledge on the birds and field ecology of the area.

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