Thursday, April 17, 2014

Field Trips

Central Park Migrants and Audubon’s Aviary at the New York Historical Society
New York City
Saturday May 3, 6:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Join Menunkatuck, and Audubon Greenwich at Central Park for a morning walk with “Birding Bob” DeCandido looking for spring migrants. The Park is a major attraction for neotropical migrants, and our walk through the Rambles is sure to feature great views of many warblers as well as tanagers, orioles, and thrushes.

Following lunch, we will go to the New York Historical Society for a guided tour of Audubon watercolors. The trilogy Audubon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock is a once-in-a-lifetime series that will explore the evolution of Audubon’s dazzling watercolors in the order in which they were engraved. Over three years (2013–2015) Audubon’s Aviary will feature all 474 stunning avian watercolors by Audubon in the collection. Engaging state-of-the-art media installations will provide a deeper understanding of the connection between art and nature.

We will be taking the Metro North 6:46 a.m. train from New Haven, arrive at Grand Central at 8:41, and take a bus or the subway to Central Park, arriving around 9:30. We will bird for about three hours, have lunch at the Boathouse, and then go to the NYHS. The return time to New Haven is open. Cost for the bird walk is $10. Train fare, lunch, admission to the NYHS, and any other personal expenses are additional.
Pre-registration is required. To register for this trip, please email, visit the Field Trips registration form on the calendar page of our website at

Various Locations
Saturday, May 10,
6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Join us at Sandy Point in West Haven for beach nesting birds and gulls and terns, East Rock Park in New Haven and the Supply Ponds in Branford for migrating warblers and other neotropical birds, at Hammonasset Beach State Park for more migrants and water birds, and at other local birding spots for our annual all-day birding extravaganza.
The last few years we’ve averaged between 100 and 120 species during Birdathon. Join us for the entire day or at as many hot spots as suits your schedule.

Approximate Schedule
Sandy Point, 6:00 a.m.
East Rock Park, 8:00 a.m.
Supply Ponds, 11:00 a.m.
Shoreline drive, 2:00 p.m.
Hammonasset, 5:00 p.m.
Follow our progress and keep up with our sightings throughout the day by checking our Facebook page,

In the Works for July

There are several possible trips in the planning stages for July. One is a boat trip to Outer Island in the Thimble Islands off Stony Creek. Outer Island is a unit of the Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge. There are fabulous photographic opportunities on the island with wave-smoothed pink granite outcroppings and erratic boulders, numerous tidal pools, and common and roseate terns, nesting green herons, and other shorebirds. A picnic lunch is likely on the schedule.
Also being considered is a multi-Chapter kayak/canoe paddle at a lake or pond that is most convenient to the Chapters participating.
Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield is another possible destination. The trails at Topsmead pass through large meadows with nesting bobolinks and through small wooded areas with forest birds more common to northern Connecticut. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy on the patio of the Chase summer house before we tour the home.
Another trip being planned for September is a sunset cruise on the Connecticut River to view the tree swallows returning to Goose Island for their overnight roost. Each evening from late August through early October hundreds of thousands of tree swallows gather in a swirling cloud and in an instant they drop into the marsh for the night.

Details on summer trips will be in the July newsletter.

EPOC Awards Menunkatuck $450 Grant

EPOC awarded $450 to Menunkatuck to improve the rooftop butterfly garden at the Barnard Nature Center in New Haven.
(From the May, 2014 newsletter.)

Bio Bits:

Just Another Piece Of Bark?

The eastern screech-owl (Otus asio) is a tiny nighttime predator that resides throughout much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Standing less than 9 inches tall and weighing only about 6 ounces, this small owl can quickly become prey itself if it is not careful.
Eastern screech-owls come in three color variations, or morphs (rufous, gray, and brown), and all three color morphs occur in Connecticut. A large head (relative to body size), a short tail, and broad wings give this bird a stocky appearance. Facial disks surround its intense yellow eyes and help the owl to direct sound to its ears hidden at the sides of its head. Those “ear tufts” on top of the owl’s head are merely tufts of feathers and do not play a part in hearing. The screech-owl is easily identified, as it is the only small owl in our area with ear tufts. 
Like most owls, the screech-owl is nocturnal. It spends the day sleeping in a tree cavity or on a branch in dense foliage close to a tree’s trunk. The dark streaking and barring on its body provide the necessary camouflage to hide the owl from daytime predators, such as hawks. With its eyes closed the screech-owl becomes just another piece of bark on the tree and magically disappears from view. But as it becomes active at night the screech-owl must be wary of larger owls that would not miss an opportunity to make a meal of it.
The screech-owl lives and hunts along forest edges and in open woodlands, deciduous swamps, orchards, and even in urban parks and cemeteries. It catches a wide variety of food, including mice, shrews, voles, moles, flying squirrels, small birds, snakes, frogs, crayfish, earthworms, and insects. Insect favorites include moths, beetles, and ants.
 Screech-owl courtship begins in February. A male will display to the female by bowing and snapping his bill while perched on a branch. He will bring offerings of food and the couple may preen one another and sing a duet. Their repertoire includes a single-pitched trill, but the eastern screech-owl’s main song is a descending whinny, amazingly similar to the whinny of a horse – an eerie sound on a dark evening.
An average of four or five eggs is laid in late March or early April in a tree cavity, such as a naturally rotted opening or an old woodpecker hole. Nest boxes and openings in outbuildings will also be used as nest sites. No material is added to the cavity; the eggs are laid on whatever surface is there. The female incubates the eggs for about 26 days while her mate brings her food. She is not easily flushed from the nest at this time and there are many reports of incubating females being lifted by hand from nests in order to count the eggs. 
The young will leave the nest cavity in about a month, though they will not yet be able to fly. They can climb about the nest tree’s branches using their talons, bills and wings, and if a fledgling has fallen to the ground it is often able to get itself up to a safe perch by climbing the tree’s trunk. Keep your distance. The protective female is known to swoop down on unsuspecting intruders who get too close to her offspring.

Submitted by Cindi Kobak
(From the May, 2014 newsletter.)

The Atlantic Flyway

Putting Working Lands to Work for Birds & People
Audubon Connecticut’s Forest Bird Initiative is integrating science, education, public policy, and land management expertise to ensure the continual existence of high-quality breeding habitat for forest songbirds along the Atlantic Flyway. One of the primary ways to achieve this goal is to collaborate with and provide technical assistance for landowners, land managers, and communities who wish to protect and enhance habitat for breeding forest birds on the properties they own and/or manage.
One way to do this is with a Habitat Assessment, an ecological census of current songbird and forest habitat conditions on the property conducted by an Audubon conservation biologist and a Certified Forester from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.
Following the field inventory, the information from the inventory is put into a written report along with management options and considerations aimed at enhancing, maintaining, and/or creating quality habitat on the property.
A more thorough bird survey on the property which supplements the written report and increases our collective knowledge of forest bird species distribution in Connecticut may be done on the property.

For additional information about Habitat Assessment, visit or email Corrie Folsom-O’Keefe ( or Patrick Comins (

Citizen Science: What’s Invasive! and IPANE

Native plants and animals have evolved to coexist in a balance where the animals use the plants as a food source and the plants use the animals to reproduce. Non-native invasive species disrupt
this balance that has taken eons to reach.
Invasive plants crowd out native ones, often by starting their growing season before native plants or growing faster. Most invasive plants are eaten by a very small number of native insects. With fewer insects there is less food for breeding birds to feed their nestlings. The fruit of invasive plants will be eaten by birds and other animals, but it is less nutritious.
Invasive insects can kill native plants. Connecticut has been hit by the gypsy moth, the Japanese beetle, and the hemlock woolly adelgid, and we have seen the damage that has been done. New on the scene is the emerald ash borer which can kill an ash tree in two to three years.
To combat invasive plants, experts need to know where to find them. That’s the main idea behind the What’s Invasive app, a joint effort by UCLA’s Center for Embedded Networked Sensing (CENS), the National Park Service and the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
The app displays local lists of invasive plants or animals (with images) that have been identified by the National Park Service and other management authorities. Users can help experts pinpoint invasive species by locating them and providing experts with GPS coordinates, accompanied by a photo and notes about the observation. The geotagged observations and photos are used to alert experts about the spread of habitat-destroying species. Users can also go online to and set up their own site for invasive species data collection.
Visit for more information or to set up your own site for invasive species data collection.
Another app for helping scientists map invasive species is from the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England. IPANE’s mission is to create a comprehensive web-accessible database of invasive and potentially invasive plants in New England that will be continually The database will facilitate education and research that will lead to a greater understanding of invasive plant ecology and support informed conservation management. An important focus of the project is the early detection of, and rapid response to, new invasions.
updated by a network of professionals and trained volunteers.
This app allows IPANE to become mobile and allow IPANE users to report sightings of invasive plants directly in the field.
For more information about IPANE and how to volunteer, visit

Both apps are available for iOS and Android smart devices. Links to the App Store and Google play for the apps can be found at

(From the May, 2014 newsletter.)

Menunkatuck’s Been Getting Ready for Spring with Cleanups and New Nest Boxes

Ospreys like to decorate their nests with colorful trash, including balloons, plastic bags, rope, fishing line, and the like. To lessen the possibility or them getting entangled, the nests at Hammonasset Beach State Park were cleaned out while the birds were wintering in South America.

A new purple martin house was installed at Hammonasset to accommodate the increasing numbers of matins in the colonies. The houses at the Nature Center were moved closer to the marsh in preparation for the new Nature Center building.

With all 31 tree swallow nest boxes at Hammonasset used last year and tree swallows trying to nest in the purple martin house at the Guilford Salt Meadow Sanctuary, we installed 14 new boxes at Hammonasset and nine at the Sanctuary. The boxes use John Picard’s starling-proof design with a top slit instead of a traditional hole.

(From the May, 2014 newsletter.)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Field Trips

Woodcocks And Cider
Jared Eliot Preserve, Guilford
Saturday, March 15, 6:30-8:00 p.m.

The American Woodcock, also known as the “Timberdoodle”, is a common yet elusive member of the shorebird family, unique because its primary habitat is wooded uplands.  In early spring, male woodcocks can be seen and heard at dusk along the edges of woodland meadows performing their rather peculiar courtship display.  Join us on a prowl through the Guilford Land Trust’s Jared Eliot Preserve in search of woodcocks.  Then enjoy a cup of hot cider after the walk.
Be prepared for wet/muddy footing, please wear waterproof boots!  Please bring binoculars, a flashlight or headlamp, and a mug for a hot beverage after the walk. Rain or bad weather the day of the trip cancels, and we will postpone until Sunday March 16 at the same time.  
Directions:  From the Guilford Green, follow Water Street (Route 146 Westbound) for 1 mile.  Make a left onto Mulberry Point Road.  Make the first left onto Mulberry Farms Road and park along the road next to the field. (Map)

Birdwatching and Geology Walks at East Rock Park
Sunday, April 6, 8:00 a.m. (Bird walk), and 10:30 a.m. (Geology walk) 
(Rain date Sunday April 13, at the same times)

Birder and geologist Nina Levenduski will lead two walks exploring the natural world of New Haven’s East Rock Park.  The first walk will focus on birds, looking for early spring migrants and lingering winter birds in the park.  The second walk will uncover the geology of East Rock and the surrounding landscape.  Both walks will begin at the Eli Whitney Museum parking lot, and will cover 1-2 miles of varied terrain; the geology walk will include steeper trails and hill climbing.  Beginners welcome!  Please wear sturdy shoes or boots, and bring water and a snack.  Binoculars, hand lens, camera, and field guides are recommended but not required.
In case of bad weather, the walks will be rescheduled to the following Sunday (April 13)
Directions:  Meet in the parking lot of the Eli Whitney Museum at 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden for both walks. (Map)

To register for either trip, please contact Nina Levenduski at