If you were following the live feed of my birding trip through New England last week, than you probably know that my friends and I spent our last full day of birding (November 20th) in Connecticut. Some of our main targets for the day were near New Haven at East Shore Park. East Shore Park is a fairly large city park bordering a water treatment plant. Due to the treatment plant’s warm air and water, East Shore Park is famous for attracting and holding swallows and warblers in the colder months. This year was no exception – both Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows were being reported regularly as well as a whole slew of warbler species. Both Yellow-rumped Warblers and Palm Warblers are often seen throughout November in CT, but the unique conditions at East Shore Park also attracted Blackpoll Warblers and a Prairie Warbler! Additionally, there was also an “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler being seen, mixed in with the “Myrtle” Warblers. As if all that wasn’t enough, there were also reports of an “Oregon” Dark-eyed Junco and the possibility of Red and/or White-winged Crossbills. Needless to say, my friends and I were pretty excited about birding at East Shore Park.
We arrived at the park at 10:50am, and were happy to find my friend (and former boss) Jay Carlisle already there, birding. Jay is the Research Director at the Idaho Bird Observatory, but was in Connecticut to visit family for Thanksgiving. It is always fun to bird with Jay, plus what better person to have with us while searching for “Audubon’s” Warbler and “Oregon” Junco than one of the top birders in the Rocky Mountain states! The four of us began birding the hedgerow bordering the water treatment plant, where all the interesting birds had been reported. Prior to my friends and I arriving, Jay had already found a Blackpoll Warbler so things were looking promising. We could also see multiple Barn and Northern Rough-winged Swallows flying around over the treatment plant!
It didn’t take us long to re-find the Blackpoll Warbler that Jay had seen a few minutes earlier and there were lots of “Myrtle” Warblers and “Western” Palm Warblers around. A few minutes later, Jay spotted a warbler low in the brush along the path. Finally it came in to view a little better, and Jay yelled out “Prairie Warbler!!”. Nice!! The Prairie Warbler was very cooperative for photos, foraging through the dead weeds and branches right in front of us! It is always nice to get good looks at Prairie Warblers, but it was especially great for Jay since it is a species he rarely gets to see.
While I was busy taking photos of the Blackpoll and Prairie Warblers, Jay spotted the “Oregon” Junco foraging on the ground ahead of us, mixed with typical “Slate-colored” Juncos! It was a beautiful bird and also offered some nice photo opportunities. Song, White-throated, and Swamp Sparrows were also foraging in the hedgerow as well as quite a few Red-breasted Nuthatches.
The four of us continued birding, carefully looking at each Yellow-rumped Warbler, hoping to find the “Audubon’s”. In the meantime, we found two more Blackpoll Warblers (for a total of three!!!) and had a few American Pipits fly overhead, calling. While Josh and Jay stood and watched some Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ian and I went around to another brush pile and searched there. A few minutes late, I looked over to see Josh waving to us to come over to them. Ian and I ran over, and saw that Jay and Josh had found the “Audubon’s” Warbler! Wow – our luck at this site was great, we were finding everything that had been reported! The “Audubon’s” Warbler never came very close for photographs, but I still managed to take a few shots that show the bird’s yellow cap and throat. Although “Audubon’s” Warbler is very rare in the eastern states, this bird was the 3rd reported in Connecticut since November 11th, 2012 – an astonishing number!
We spent about an hour total at East Shore Park before we had to (reluctantly) move on to our next birding location for the day. Just to top things off, when we were about to leave a flock of 26 Red Crossbills flew overhead! We found 36 species at the park, plus two additional subspecies. Here is a link to our eBird checklist. Check back for more posts about my birding trip through New England!