Hi everyone! This is Eli Holton writing; I’ve been going on club trips for just under a year now, but I am very excited to be writing the Trip Reports for the YBC now! I hope this report is descriptive and fun to read, and that it makes you want to go birding! Our apologies for the lack of recent Trip Reports; 2019 has brought many changes, and the YBC is still working to establish a consistent flow of reports. However, we are slowly making progress on the website and will have everything updated soon!
Since the club hadn’t gone birding together in two months, we were all excited for the November club trip, which was focused on finding winter ducks and coastal birds. At 7:30, the club gathered outside the gates of Sherwood Island State Park, an excellent place to start the day! As soon as the gates were opened, we drove to the Model Airplane Field to look for sparrows and check the feeders for anything unusual. Before long, Nic heard a group of American Pipits flying over us and a few Horned Larks landed in the grass, providing us with great looks. Then, a Sharp-shinned Hawk flew from the bushes and all the sparrows scattered immediately. Next, we drove over to the shoreline and pulled out our scopes. Soon, Nic had spotted a Horned Grebe, and we found multiple Common Loons and several flocks of Long-tailed Ducks. We scanned over all the gulls, hoping for the Iceland Gull that had been hanging around, but unfortunately, we could not find it. We did however find the resident Lesser Black-backed Gull, a lifer for one member! Moving on to the Mill Pond, we saw several Buffleheads, a few Gadwall, and a single Ruddy Duck. Sherwood ended up providing us with some great birds, and just under 40 species!
We then decided to go over to 14 Acre Pond, a great spot for wintering ducks. On our way there, we stopped off at the Fairfield County Hunt Club to look for the Greater White-fronted Goose that had been hanging around, but unfortunately, it wasn’t there. When we got to 14 Acre Pond, we walked down a small trail that led us to a good viewing spot. As soon as I set up my scope, a pair of Northern Pintail swam into view, giving me great looks at a long awaited lifer! Soon after, we saw a large group of Wood Ducks and few American Wigeons. But the real treat came when we spotted the rare Eurasian Wigeon, a bird that had been hanging out for a couple of weeks! This bird, (as the name suggests) lives across the ocean in Europe, and to see one in Connecticut is a nice surprise. A couple of minutes later, a pair of Ring-necked Ducks popped into view, and a large group of American Black Ducks popped out of the reeds. Nic then spotted a late Eastern Phoebe hanging out on the other side of the pond, providing us with great views of this bird’s unique hunting style. After spending some time marveling at the Eurasian Wigeon, we decided that we had gotten some great birds there, and that it was time to move on.
The next place we decided to check was Frash Pond, a small spot known for it’s ducks. Nic quickly found the usual male Canvasbacks, another lifer for me! A couple of small flocks of Hooded Mergansers and Red-breasted Mergansers were also present. We searched the large flock of Canada Geese for a rare Cackling Goose, but none were to be found. We then sat down at a Dunkin’ Donuts to refuel and plan the next location. A Snowy Owl had been seen that morning on someone’s roof in Stratford, but all plans were dropped when we got the news. Jory Teltser, the previous President of the club, had seen a photo of a sparrow identified as Clay-colored sparrow and recognized it for what it really was: a MEGA Rare Brewer’s Sparrow! This was the First State Record for Connecticut, and only the 3rd for New England!
We immediately abandoned Dunkin’ and drove straight to Hammonasset Beach State Park, where it was seen. When we got there, a large group of birders were all surrounding a small area, so we rushed over to them. A pale gray sparrow with fine streaking on the back sat in the grass calmly. The First State Record Brewer’s Sparrow hopped in front of us, eating happily among the Song Sparrows. A lifer for all except Grace, we had trouble suppressing our joy. For fifteen minutes, we stood and stared at this small sparrow. This bird usually lives in sagebrush habitat in the Western United States, so to see one on the coast of Connecticut is astounding! Sadly, it marked the end of our club trip, but we sure ended with a bang! I look forward to the next club trip and hope that everyone is able to take part in one of the Christmas Bird Counts! Until next time!