After a terrific start to the year, two days of school followed, before birding once again reasserted itself. Much of my birding during this first weekend of the year was spent birding a few favorite spots in Northern Fairfield, although on Saturday I started my weekend off at Ash Creek.
I was at the same spot I had the shoveler on January 1st, viewing from a parking lot off of the Post Road. No shoveler on this day, although my first Common Merganser of the year in the form of a nice female was quite a treat.
I then headed down to the Ash Creek Open Space Area, where I spent a couple of hours poking around. New birds for the year included a Pied-billed Grebe in the marina, a Greater Yellowlegs in one of the marshy areas, and an awesome flyby White-winged Crossbill at the point, calling as it headed towards Saint Mary’s.
Other fun birds included both Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, a close Common Loon, a Horned Lark just across the creek on the Saint Mary’s sand spit (a residual bird from the big flock on the 2nd?), and an American Tree Sparrow. All of the common passerine and waterfowl species were well-represented as well.
The next day, I moved north of the Merritt to some of Fairfield’s interior haunts. My first stop was the Larsen Sanctuary on Burr Street, which I covered more or less in its entirety. Not only was Larsen birdy, but it was also very enjoyable walking on such a mild day with snow blanketing the ground, which made the whole sanctuary look rather picturesque.
In terms of the birds, highlights were many, and included Turkey Vulture, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Pine Siskin.
This spectacular variety (thirty species in all) was due in part to the numerous habitats Larsen contains, from wooded swamps to open fields.
After Larsen, I headed to Hoydens Hill Open Space off of Congress Street. Although I’ve visited this location numerous times during the breeding season to conduct surveys of its large numbers of breeders, I’ve never taken the time to visit in the dead of winter.
Just like at Larsen, the snow made for increased beauty at Hoydens. I found the entire landscape to be rather quiet, seeing few other people. However, that quiet was pierced every now and then by birds including Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Eastern Bluebird, American Tree and Field Sparrows, and Red-winged Blackbird.
Also noted were large numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos and Song Sparrows, which the Field and American Trees were associating with. Perhaps its only a matter of time before something even more special shows up with that flock!
Last but not least, I also made a stop that day at another undisclosed location to view a Yellow-breasted Chat that was frequenting the area. It provided great looks as it emerged from the dense cover, before disappearing again. It also provided a nice touch of color on an otherwise uniform winter day.