I enjoyed another awesome weekend of birding in my awesome hometown, Fairfield, CT. Starting from foggy Saturday morning to windy Sunday evening, I birded more-or-less nonstop, putting together a nice total of species for the weekend, and noting a number of highlights.
In anticipation of getting a lot of birding in over the weekend, I slaved over six hours of homework on Friday night in order to be as free as possible. It wasn’t the most exciting experience at the time, but the birds over the weekend certainly made up for it!
My first stop on Saturday (January 11th) morning was the Metro Conservation Area, in the Ash Creek region of Fairfield. My primary target here was Savannah Sparrow, but after an hour of searching, I unfortunately came up empty. Nevertheless, birds like Gadwall, Red-tailed Hawk, Yellow-rumped Warbler and American Tree Sparrow kept me busy and made the miss (of a bird that seemed like a given) more bearable.
After the Metro, I stopped by the main Ash Creek area, viewed from a parking lot off of the Post Road. I have visited this location this winter for Canvasback and have come up empty ever time. Until yesterday. An awesome flock of twenty-five Canvasback was hanging around the area, and became enshrouded in mist every so often, giving the group of sort of ethereal feel.
The Canvasback flock.
Terrific waterfowl numbers and variety continued at Ash, including: 27 Canada Goose, 3 Mute Swan, 23 Gadwall, 87 American Wigeon, 145 American Black Duck, 9 Mallard, 1 Mallard x American Black Duck, 1 Bufflehead and 1 Hooded Merganser. A Killdeer was also around.
The stars of the show, however, were the two continuing male Eurasian Wigeon. One Euro is nice enough, but we’re simply spoiled with two. I was finally able to get these awesome birds into the same scope view, and was able to capture a digiscoped portrait of the two of them before they drifted apart.
After some fun with the waterfowl at Ash, I headed to the border of Fairfield and Westport and Bulkley Pond. Unfortunately, it was too foggy to see the waterfowl at the back of the pond, and thus we decided to retire home, just in time for the thunder storms and pouring rain to begin.
Sunday morning dawned sunny, with the wind scheduled to pick up a few hours after sunrise. I had the pleasure of leading Bill Asteriades and Rick Macsuga around portions of one of my all-around favorite birding spots in Fairfield: Pine Creek.
Before I split up from Bill and Rick, we covered the main landfill area down to the pond, noting birds like Winter Wren and Common Raven (vocalizing literally just after we finished discussing the status of corvids in Connecticut).
After parting ways, I spent the next three hours birding the remainder of the Pine Creek complex, noting thirty-eight species, including a slew of highlights. These were: Sharp-shinned and Red-shouldered Hawks, Belted Kingfisher, calling flyover Horned Lark and American Pipit, two Gray Catbird, American Tree Sparrow and flyover Red-winged Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird.
Following another awesome morning at Pine Creek, Jim Orrico and I hit the road, visiting a number of spots throughout the southern part of the town.
Our first stop was One Rod Highway, in search of a raptor or two. We came away with nothing in the Accipitridae department, although an American Tree Sparrow among the regulars was nice.
Moving on, we hit Sunken Island, which we viewed from Fairfield Beach Road. A strong wind was coming off the water, and was certainly responsible for the best and most surprising bird of the visit: a nearshore Northern Gannet that actually appeared to be fighting just to maintain its position in offshore waters.
Other highlights at the island included: Brant, Greater Scaup, White-winged and Black Scoter (a single female among the scaup), Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.
After stopping briefly at home in order to grab some lunch, we were on our way, headed to Southport. We noticed that the sizable goose flock that had previously contained the Barnacle I enjoyed on Thursday, was present on the Fairfield Country Club grounds, positioned right up against Sasco Hill Road.
We ended up enjoying forty minutes with this 525 bird flock, taking in point-blank views of Barnacle and Cackling Geese, terrific visitors to my humble little town.
As a dedicated Fairfield birder, I feel an enormous sense of pride, derived from the fact that my town is hosting such awesome birds, and that people are making the trek to Fairfield to see them. It is not every day that you see large numbers of birders (or any at all besides James and myself!) birding the Fairfield coastline, but this is exactly what we’ve experienced with the Barrow’s Goldeneye at the reef and the geese in Southport. To put my own spin on a popular bird feeding mantra: “if you give them good birds, they will come.”
Following a nice visit with the geese, we headed to nearby Bulkley Pond. Our biggest highlight here came not in the form of a bird, but a mammal. Peering through my scope, I was happily surprised to see one then two Muskrat, my first in a while!
It was a terrific experience catching up with these charismatic rodents in my own town, and proved that Fairfield is a great spot to enjoy the mammalian side of things as well!
Our last stop of the day was Fairfield University. It took a while, but eventually we caught up with our top target here: the Wild Turkey flock that is reliably found at this location. We enjoyed a group of eight birds works the grounds one of the university buildings just as the sun was beginning to dip below the horizon. It was the perfect ending to a sensational weekend.
Wild Turkey on the run (notice the blurred legs).
A close Wild Turkey.
Wild Turkey plumage study.