With a little free time on my hands this morning, I joined Jim Orrico for a couple of hours of birding in town. Our plan was to hit a couple of lakes and reservoirs in Northern Fairfield, in hopes that some would be unfrozen, before heading back down to the coast.
Our first stop was Hemlock Reservoir, near the border with Easton. During my initial binocular scan, I saw a large shape out on the ice that I passed over for a buoy. But upon taking out the heavier equipment, and zeroing in to 60x, I noticed that this “buoy” was in fact an ADULT Bald Eagle!
We spent the next twenty minutes or so enjoying the no-doubt “bird of the day” as it sat complacently out on the ice, unmoving, except for a few turns of its head here and there. Bald Eagles are uncommon at best in Fairfield, and this was my first in town in over a year. These birds are regularly found wintering at Hemlock Reservoir, but typically on the Easton side, so we were thrilled that this bird had “made the crossing”.
While watching the eagle, we noted a large flock of chickadees calling from a nearby pine. As the birds moved closer and to eye level, we noticed an imposter in their midst: a juvenile Pine Warbler!
Although these birds are locally common breeders around Hemlock Reservoir, this bird (my first Pine ever in the winter in Fairfield) was completely unexpected. It would be fascinating to know if this bird had been born and raised at this location and decided to stick it out for the winter, or if it had been derived from somewhere else. But we’ll likely never know…
From Hemlock we moved south, finding Lake Mohegan and the northern portion of Samp Mortar Reservoir to be almost completely iced over. However, a calling Winter Wren in the wet, swampy woodlands at the latter stop was a nice surprise.
We finally located a small, ice-free patch on Samp Mortar next to Old Black Rock Turnpike, a patch that just happened to contain ten Ring-necked Ducks, all of which were males.
It was awesome to catch up with these variable winter residents in Fairfield, whose wintering population is ultimately determined by the amount of open fresh water present on the larger bodies of water in town.
After Samp, we moved on to our last stop of the day: Bulkley Pond, on the border of Fairfield and Westport. After a bit of persistent scanning (as well as two previous visits), we were finally able to connect with our target here, Green-winged Teal.
This bird emerged from hiding at the Fairfield side of the pond just long enough to provide us with a good, identifying visual, before slipping back into its brushy and well-vegetated domain.
Up to eight birds were present at this location last January, as opposed to the single Green-winged Teal noted on this effort, as the well as the complete lack of these birds on my previous two visits. Maybe a few teal were staying out of view, in the vicinity of the area the male had come from, or perhaps more are on their way over the next couple of weeks, in to provide this bird with some company.
On the way out of the pond, we noted a nice, adult Red-shouldered Hawk, perched right above Sasco Creek, literally straddling the border between Fairfield and Westport.