[CT Birds] Half a million swallows (Old Lyme)

Brenda Inskeep binskeep at optonline.net
Thu Sep 1 23:50:49 EDT 2011

Greetings to all,

9/1/11 - Nothing like what occurred at Milford Point today and this past week since Hurricane Irene...but today I kayaked around Lord Cove and the CT River in Old Lyme, not looking for Frigatebirds, but hoping to see the "Tree Swallow Spectacular" that occurs over Goose Island this time of year.  Upon arriving at 4 pm, there were already swarms of swallows present; by 6:30 thousands and they just kept coming from every direction.  Then, at 7:15, they began frantically arriving in droves as if the school-bell rang and they were late, each joining an increasingly organized vortex, circling around until the last were in.  This phenomena always amazes me.  There's something special about seeing this many birds in one view and although I'm not sure how to even accurately estimate the number of birds seen, but I believe it is around 500,000 from what I've heard.  As the vortex grew tighter with birds circling in seemingly perfect formation, they began to funnel into Goose Island, each bird diving straight down until there were none left.  By 7:30, only a few birds remained - defiant teenagers, no doubt.  An annual trip to see this phenomena is highly recommended.  To my knowledge, there are no public access points by ground to see the show.  Anyone with a canoe or kayak can paddle from Pilgrim Landing & 156 - Pilgrim Landing is a public launch with 4 parking spots (there was no one there today nor on a visit last month) or there is a river boat from Essex, I believe, that runs each evening for a nominal fee.

Also seen flying southeast across the river, disappearing over the tree line was an adult Bald Eagle.  And on I-95 at Exit 70 there were 2 Black Vultures circling fairly low at 3:30 pm.  Sadly, I found a deceased Great Blue Heron on the highly eroded beach of Calves Island, one of many apparent wildlife casualties of Irene.  Incidentally, I also found a deceased Yellow-breasted Chat in front of my house in Shippan on Saturday while coming back from a walk, pre-storm, although it had already began to rain.  I'm not sure what the circumstance of this bird's demise could have been; the bird looked like it had been hit by a car, but it didn't seem likely as it was on a dead-end street with no high-volume or high-speed traffic.  This bird was collected for submission but I had no way to collect the Great Blue Heron today which was in good shape.

Btw, migration looks good on radar again tonight as it has these past few nights.  And although it was "quiet," I had 11 warbler species in Central Park on Tuesday.  The little birds are moving, too!

Brenda Inskeep in Stamford

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