Spring is a wonderful time to observe wildlife from Stamford Harbor on Long Island Sound. Thousands of birds, migrate to the Long Island Sound for the winter. Many other birds traveled further south and are dropping in now for a bit of a layover; after refueling, these birds will continue north or west to their fresh water breeding grounds. Simultaneously our summer residents, like the Osprey pictured above (Pandion haliaetus), are returning from points as far as South America.
Many of our northeastern birds become members of tropical communities fishing on rivers running through rain forests. They trade their diet - which consists largely of bunker (menhaden), a brackish water fish - for food such as piranha. Ospreys are a true harbinger of spring on the Sound.
Above: Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
These beautiful coastal ducks live in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska in the summer, where their ponds are likely still frozen solid. Wintering along the sunny shores of Connecticut, this diving duck fishes the shallows and mud flats for small fish, crustaceans, mollusks and herring eggs.
Females exhibit a strong degree of site fidelity, (returning to their place of birth to nest and raise a family). They depend largely on the northern flicker and to a lesser degree on the larger pileated woodpecker to excavate their nesting cavities, typically in aspen and poplar trees. Other than leading their chicks to water, these ducks rarely, if ever, walk on land. Their diet also shifts to a largely insect-based diet.
Above: American Coot (Fulica Americana)
This beautiful yet unusual-looking bird may act like a duck but is more closely related to a crane or rail. They too migrate to the shallow waters of the Sound for the winter. Above, the bird is feeding heavily on "sea lettuce" and invertebrates clinging to the docks and in the shallows.
The American Coot also lead a double life and will migrate back to their freshwater prairie pot holes and other marshy habitats, in the Midwest, and much of Canada. They build nests on floating mats of vegetation.