November 20th was the last day of our 5 day birding trip through coastal New England. Our goals for the day were to bird various hotspots in Connecticut and try to find some of the recently-reported rarities as well as build a nice state list. None of the three us (Ian Gardner, Josh Lefever, or myself) had ever eBirded in Connecticut, so everything we saw was essentially our firsts for the state. We started the day off at Hammonasset State Park. A Black-headed Gull and Grasshopper Sparrow had been reported there a few days prior to our visit and there were daily reports of both White-winged and Red Crossbills. The gull was reported to be hanging around the parking lot at the far end of the park, so we went there first. No sign of the bird. We checked the beach nearby and could only turn up the expected gulls plus a few other species, some of which were cooperative for photos. The early-morning sun made for nice lighting to get the following photos of a Great Blue Heron, ‘Western’ Palm Warbler, and a Carolina Wren. For how common Carolina Wrens are, I have had trouble getting close-up photos before so I was happy to get the opportunity.
Scanning from the beach, we saw both Common and Red-throated Loons fly past as well as Red-breasted Mergansers. After spending quite a bit of time looking for the Black-headed Gull and Grasshopper Sparrow, we decided they had probably moved on and weren’t in the area anymore. A distant group of Bonaparte’s Gulls got our hopes up for finding the Black-headed, but no luck. We walked out a boardwalk into the marsh and when we got to the observation area we stopped to scan the marsh. Josh spotted an American Bittern flush up out of the reeds and land again, offering a brief but satisfying look. After getting some tips on where the crossbills were, we went to that portion of the park. We first saw two White-winged Crossbills in a Japanese Black Pine then found a large collection at another parking lot – at least 40 White-wings and 12 Red Crossbills! Below are a few photos of the reds.
After Hammonasset SP, we went over towards New Haven where we birded at East Shore Park and Lighthouse Point. We had some really good luck there, and by the end of the day had racked up a pretty decent state list for the late fall – 62 species!