Cove Island: Mergansers and Winter Raptors

On Saturday I was going to go chase some Iceland Gulls in New Haven, but unfortunately I came down with some sort of stomach bug and couldn’t go.  So today, before a jam-packed non-birding afternoon, I went to Cove Island Park in Stamford, the place where the Fork-tailed Flycatcher spent it’s stay in November, with my family and some friends.  As we entered we were greeted by a rattling Belted Kingfisher.  We began scanning the sheets of ice covering the bay for interesting gulls amongst the mixed flocks of Ring-bills and Herrings, but nothing showed.  In the pockets of open water, however, were many waterfowl- Red-breasted Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards, Mute Swans, and Gadwall.  Fish Crows were hanging around too.

A drake Red-breasted Merganser

We then crossed over the sandbar and scoped the sound, where we found Common Goldeneyes, Bufflehead, Great Cormorant and Common Loon.  Suddenly a flock of mergansers flew over- and they were Common Mergansers!  This was our third merganser species of the day, and an unusual one at that.  These birds are usually freshwater species; I had a cool experience with a mother and chicks on a rafting trip on the Delaware River in last year.  The only time I had ever seen them on saltwater was actually during the New Haven CBC back in December.  As we continued on we found a very close Merlin in a tree, which allowed me to take some great photos of it.

A Merlin

We then went into the Wildlife Sanctuary, where the feeders were attracting lots of birds- Chickadees, Cardinals, White-throated Sparrows, and several American Tree Sparrows.

A Tree Sparrow showing classic rufous crown and black breast spot.

We then noticed a Cooper’s Hawk in the tree above the feeders.  It was weird because the birds weren’t paying any attention to the hawk at all.  It just sat there and the birds continued eating.  I got some nice photos as it was sitting really still.

A Cooper's Hawk

And Closer...

... And closer!

And on our way out we scored some Monk Parakeets, a bird that usually hangs around the park.  It was a really nice day of local birding, even though we couldn’t go far- but that’s OK!  Birding close to home can turn up really nice surprises.

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