[CT Birds] Friday morning fallout

Nick Bonomo nbonomo at gmail.com
Fri Oct 5 19:36:52 EDT 2012


I had originally planned on fishing on this early morning, arriving at
the dock in Norwalk around 545am. As I stepped out of the car I was
greeted by the sounds of nocturnal flight calls low overhead.
Conditions were calm wind, light fog. Within the first minute I had
heard multiple Swainson's, Veery, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and several
warblers and sparrows. I stood on the dock until things slowed down
about an hour later. The sheer volume of calls was amazing, even
overwhelming at times. For a few periods there I just zoned out and
enjoyed the "show." Getting a count on these birds was impossible,
especially considering that I didn't have any means of recording
numbers on me. I generally tried to focus on the thrushes because 1)
their calls were most abundant, and 2) I have some practice with
identifying their relatively distinct flight calls. I can't say the
same for warblers and sparrows, other than a few distinctive
species...otherwise I can just get them down to species groups/pairs.

Long story short, I do not currently own any actual decent recording
equipment (though I am currently researching ways to record to an
iPhone with an external mic). What I decided to use this morning was
an app called Spectrogram, which shows you a real-time spectrogram of
sounds that the phone's internal mic can detect (within a certain
frequency range). This app does not record actual sound, nor does it
save the spectrogram feed that you're seeing, but it is very cool to
simply watch the feed in real-time. If you want to capture a
spectrogram, all you can do it take a screenshot of the live feed. If
any of you are still reading this, apologies if that's at all

Anyway, many of the birds were low and loud enough to be detected by
the phone's mic, allowing me to watch the show on the phone's screen
as the birds were calling. I was able to grab screenshots of the
occasional call of interest, such as a low Gray-cheek. One particular
call really got my attention as being Gray-cheek-like but distinctly
higher in frequency. Having already heard several typical GCTH call
that morning, and being familiar with Bicknell's via audio recording,
I felt pretty strongly that this was a great candidate for BICKNELL'S
THRUSH. But I've not knowingly heard Bicknell's call in real life and
just don't have a ton of faith in my ears' training at this point, as
the calls of the two species are quite similar. Not to be done without
care. Luckily the bird was low and loud, so I was able to grab a
snapshot of the sonogram. Given the media (iPhone internal mic plus a
basic spectrogram app), the quality of the image isn't great. I'm
going to attempt to analyze it, so perhaps I'll find out how
well-trained my ear is to GCTH vs BITH. If my results are at all
intriguing or conclusive, I will post something here.

A DICKCISSEL was the non-thrush highlight. The calls winded down
around sunrise, but with such a heavy migration and possible fallout
conditions I ditched the fishing for birding (at least for a while). I
killed some time along the Norwalk coast near Calf Pasture, waiting
until 8am for Sherwood Island SP to open up. Along the coast there I
had birds moving, some settling into the coastal vegetation. Nothing
too impressive, in numbers nor variety. A single flock of 25 Tufted
Titmice was impressive, plus a handful of Golden-crowned Kinglets.

I headed over to Sherwood for opening at 8am and at first found the
place to be just moderately birdy, but numbers seemed to build over
the next couple hours. A strong finch migration picked up, and some
nocturnal migrants began to settle into feeding flocks. The highlight
here was a female YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD foraging on the ground with
a small flock of cowbirds and a few starlings. An alarmed Blue Jay
spooked the flock after about 10 minutes of observation, and I was
never able to refind the bird despite trying for a little while. Given
that the bird wasn't actively migrating, I figured it would still be
in the area somewhere.

Sparrows made a good showing at Sherwood, including ho-hum another
Here's a list of highlights:

Northern Pintail  5     flyby moving west
Wilson's Snipe  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Clay-colored Sparrow  1
Nelson's Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  20
Lincoln's Sparrow  3
Yellow-headed Blackbird  1
Purple Finch  18
House Finch  40
Pine Siskin  160
American Goldfinch  230

I have photos of the blackbird which I'll post at a later time.

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT

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