Author Archives: jteltser

Westport Big Day 2017

34957592056_ceecfba77d_o“Savannah Sparrow” I said, as we walked the marsh at Sherwood Island State Park. Our first bird of the day; at 1:40 AM. It gave a single flight note as we worked the edge of the marsh in our knee high rubber boots. While many may think we are a bit crazy, we were birding at this God forsaken hour for a reason: to beat our previous record of 110 from last years town big day. Sherwood supplied a nice variety of bird, and was a great place to start the day. We added Osprey, Clapper Rail, and Mockingbird, among other species that were active at night. Later that night, we had Barn Swallows at 4:00 in the morning, feeding along the Saugatuck River, and a surprising number of Black-crowned Night-herons around town. We also nabbed Eastern Screech Owl and Barred Owl (both were misses last year) at Partrick Wetlands. We reached out dawn chorus spot a little bit early, but were disappointed by the lack of birds. In hindsight, I should have insisted more heavily that we change our dawn chorus spot to Earthplace, but next year we won’t make that mistake again. Sherwood was our first stop after dawn chorus, and I felt the slowness was a start to a bad day, but boy was I wrong. Sherwood yielded Canada Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Least Flycatcher, Nashville Warbler, Saltmarsh Sparrow, and a flyby Greater Scaup at the beach! As we were walking towards the West end viewing platform, I heard the distinct song of a White-eyed Vireo, and called it out to Preston. After a little bit of looking, we managed to find it singing from a tall shrub. This was a life bird for Preston.

With the wind starting to pick up, we decided to leave Sherwood a little earlier then we planned to get out on the water. AJ Hand generously offered to take us out for a short time to sweep on the lingering ducks and migrating shorebirds, as well as anything else that may be out there. We added many new birds between visiting Cockeone Island and East White Rock, such as Bonaparte’s Gull, Dunlins, Ruddy Turnstones, Purple Sandpipers, and Red-throated Loon. After hitting a couple mildly unsuccessful birding stops, we stopped at Preston’s house to get a tall glass of ice water, while also picking up two thrush species; the continuing Gray-cheeked in Prestons driveway and a singing Wood Thrush in the backyard. After this refreshing pit stop, we made it to Earthplace. This was a very productive spot, even in the middle the day. We added birds such as Bay-breasted Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Scarlet Tanager, and Indigo Bunting. Unfortunately, we missed a couple other birds like Pileated Woodpecker and Blue-winged Warbler, that were scouted there. After Earthplace, we went to the other side of town to Newman Poses, where we made history by tying, and breaking our previous record of 110. Here, we added Lincoln’s Sparrow, Cooper’s Hawk, and Red-shouldered Hawk. After this, we birded around the Tree Farm, and both Upper and Lower Smith Richardson Preserve. These were very successful birding spots, as we added Eastern Bluebird, Wild Turkey, Wilson’s Warbler, Ovenbird, and Merlin. We also had a flock of three male Bay-breasted Warblers all together in a stand of trees, all calling to each other at Lower Smith Richardson Preserve! With mid afternoon upon us, we pulled a very dangerous and risky move by diverging from our original plan, and hitting a couple other locations on our way to our third trip to Sherwood. It ended up being worth it, as we pulled out a pair of Wood Ducks at Bulkley Pond and our 5th Bay-breasted Warbler of the day at Longshore. The Wood Ducks were a relief after missing the ones at 55-57 Greens Farms Road. Our third trip to Sherwood was magical, as we added Semipalmated Sandpiper, a flock of 47 White-winged Scoters flying West over the 9/11 Memorial, and (possible the best bird of the day) a Piping Plover, spotted by Preston, on the beach at Sherwood. This is an extremely rare bird in Westport, and was a new town bird for both of us. We also re-found the Greater Scaup at the 9/11 Memorial. We stayed at Sherwood until about 8:15 PM, hoping for a flyover Lesser Yellowlegs or Common Nighthawk, but had no luck with either. With the last minutes of daylight, we decided to try for marsh birds, Woodcock, and Wilson’s Snipe at Nyala Farms. We were surprised to hear a singing Marsh Wren and see two Little Brown Bats, but did not add anything new. We ended the day at Bedford Middle School to try for American Woodcock, Virginia Rail, and NFCs, but all we had was a nocturnally migrating Spotted Sandpiper flyover calling and a Striped Skunk run across the road. Overall, it was an extremely fun and successful day, with a total of 11 species of mammal and 125 species of birds. To my knowledge, the all time record for any town big day in CT is 127 in Fairfield (set by fellow young birders James Purcell and Alex Burdo), but next year Preston and I hope to break that and reach 130. I highly recommend other CT birders try to plan their own big day in their home towns.

Here’s the eBird Checklist for the day:


Jory Teltser

President Elect of the CTYBC

Gulls, Gulls, Everywhere!

This is the first blog post in a long time, and with spring time approaching, I decided to revisted the blog and get back into making more regular posts.

A lot has happened since the last blog post, but I will ease back into it over the course of the Spring.

As the Vice President, I’m taking charge of blog posts from now on, and am going to start with a brief overview of our most recent club trip: the March Gull Day lead by Nick Bonomo.

It was a cold and windy, but gull filled day, with 6 species tallied, the highlights being 4 Kumlien’s Iceland Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, and 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls.

Here is Nick Bonomo’s Blog Post from his blog, Shorebirder, about the day.

Peace, and good birding!

Vice President – Jory Teltser

Trip Report: “Big” Shorebird Day

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.


Shorebird flock; photo by Brendan

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.


Short-billed Dowitcher, subspecies undetermined; photo by Jory

Aside from this bird, another bird highlight for the Stratford area was the two juvenile Common Mergansers swimming along the beach at Short Beach.


Common Merganser; photo by Brendan

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!



Black-bellied Plover; photo by Jory


Ruddy Turnstone; photo by Jory


Ruddy Turnstone; photo by Jory

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!

-Jory Teltser

Young Birder Camp: Camp Cascades 2016

Camp Cascades

Above:  Camp Cascades 2016 members and one of the four tour leaders, (and the founder of VENT) Victor Emanuel, standing at Panarama Point on Mt. Rainier.  Photo by Louise Zemaitis.

Today I was finally able to finish going through all my pictures from the 12 day birding camp in Washington (July 30th to August 10th).  Camp Cascades (like other young birder camps, is an experience like no other.  It is not to often that you are able to meet intense young birders and naturalist from across the continent, go birding in some of the most spectacular habitats in the United States, and all while being lead by incredible, knowledgeable trip leaders.  Birding in the Pacific Northwest alone is magical.  A person can experience dense temperate rainforest, alpine tundra, boreal forest, dry arid desert, and everything in between in this part of the country.  Combine that with the 14 young birders whom you will make strong friendships with and you will have memories that last forever.  On top of all that, you get to see some pretty awesome wildlife (particularly the birds)!  Below is a link of some of my photos from the camp.  Enjoy!

Hermit Warbler Hysteria

At 8 AM, a group of seven birders (including myself) gathered in the school parking lot in Barkhamsted, CT and set off on a bird hunt.  We split off into three groups and scoured the area, looking for the previously reported HERMIT WARBLER.  To everyone’s complete and utter surprise, we received a text message in the group chat with one word, “school” no more than an hour later.  Hysteria broke out amongst the groups as we frantically left our posts and raced to the school.  Right before the school parking lot, we saw Phil Rusch frantically waving his arms as he stood along the side of the road that paralleled the Farmington River.  We swerved into the parking lot and dashed over to where he was looking.  He told us that himself and Fran were walking along the side of the road when a small bird flew over and landed eye level in a sycamore tree.  The first thing Fran saw when he picked up on the bird was that classic golden face.  And so a series of frantic phone calls and searching ensued.  Within the hour, people started appearing on the scene.  In the four hours I was there, more than 40 people were looking for this special treat.  Only a second state record, this bird does not make it’s way often from it’s normal range of the Pacific NW.  This bird was at first very active and hard to get long views of.  However, in time the bird didn’t seem to care about the large group of birders as it made it’s way on the river bank not 8 ft away.  At times it landed only 3 ft above my head!  This western warbler appears to be pretty healthy and hopefully will stick around for many more to enjoy.

IMG_6840PS Hermit WarblerIMG_6846PS Hermit WarblerIMG_6843PS Hermit Warbler (1)

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Part of the group of birders looking for the Hermit Warbler