[CT Birds] scarcity of ducks

David.F.Provencher at dom.com David.F.Provencher at dom.com
Tue Jan 6 12:47:23 EST 2009

I second Roy's well worded post. On the issue of the scarcity of birds on
LIS I think is essential to remember that there are a number of factors in
play in the decline of nearly every species that is decreasing. Habitat
loss in breeding areas, climatic shifts affecting breeding success, habitat
loss on migratory routes, pollutant poisoning, environmental degradation,
etc, etc, etc, all play roles to varying degrees for each species.

LIS has always been hit or miss in terms of bird numbers. Distribution of
birds in LIS tends to play a role in what you find while birding the CT
shoreline as well. Western LIS usually is better for White-winged Scoters
while eastern LIS tends to be better for Surf Scoters, etc. Distribution
and numbers of birds are also temporally affected. Horned Grebes can be
rather scarce in December and around in decent numbers a couple of months
later. Generally speaking, the colder the winter the more birds Long Island
Sound will get. I remember finding numbers of things like Green-winged Teal
and Wood Ducks on open salt water during periods of deep cold and heavy
icing of inland waters.

Many waterfowl are opportunistic in the exploitation of habitat. They'll
use the northern most open habitat within their wintering range. As that
open habitat closes up they'll move further south and LIS will get more
birds. Short-term weather events are often very influential as well. Since
the waters around Long Island (particularly the waters on the south shore
of LI) tend to be richer in foraging habitat, many waterfowl are around
Long Island and they sometimes move to the CT side of the Sound during
coastal storms. I have had flocks of Common Eider in excess of 40 birds
around the mouth of the Thames during a nor'easter.

So bottom line is in order to get a clear picture of the relative scarcity
of birds on LIS this winter we need to take into account the whole winter
season. The reports of sightings by birders is an excellent tool for
tracking trends. Everyone who post their sightings is helping. But before
we go too far down the road of proclaiming this winter a bad one for birds
on LIS, we need to let the season fully unfold. It is still early winter
after all.


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