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Northern Parula      ©

East Rock Park -
“Migration Magnet”

 Each year Jim and I look forward to our annual rite of spring when we get up bright and early to search out new migrants just coming through the state from south of the border!  We treasure each new bird as if it were a gift.  Recently I heard my first Phoebe back from its wintering grounds somewhere in the southern US or Mexico and our first Tree Swallows showed up as well. Yesterday, April 15th our first Palm Warbler of the season showed up! 

One of the very best places in Connecticut to witness this annual wonder is East Rock Park on the border of Hamden and New Haven.  It is called a "migrant trap" because of the large numbers of birds that often end up here during spring migration.  Being a migrant trap doesn't necessarily guarantee you seeing great birds each and every time you go, but if you are there on a "good" day.... well, just be prepared for a sore neck!  Good days are usually preceded by clear nights when the birds are more likely to migrate.  Sometimes as in the fall, if there has been a couple days of rain, then a clear night, the following day is often very good.  The rain holds back some of the birds, then the clear night makes them all move at once, before daybreak they settle into an area to rest, then feed in the morning.  East Rock Park, possibly due to the large rock facade that is easily visible to the birds flying at night and the lack of lights seems to attract these far flying travelers - and they land in the trees, resting until daybreak then as all of the birders begin trickling in at dawn, the birds begin singing and feeding.  On a good day you might be able to tally 20 or more species of warblers plus many other colorful and exciting birds such as Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, you name it, they have most likely been seen at East Rock Park!

           One skill that comes in handy as the spring gets further along is being able to identify the birds by their song.  For many this seems an unattainable task but believe me, if I can learn them, you can learn them!  It has taken me years and I am still not the best at it, but with the Peterson tapes and CD's (Birding By Ear and More Birding By Ear) I have come a long way.  I must listen to them each and every year to re-educate myself, but as the spring wears on I get better and better!  These are still the best out there. The other big aid is the VHS tape "Watching Warblers" where you can put  the face to the song or by using a CD ROM Program.
Bats are good for the planet!   Yes, bats eat tons and tons of insects (mostly the biting kind like mosquitoes!).  Bat houses are growing in popularity as people realize that these small mammals that often get a bad rap are really very important to the local ecosystem.  They have had a very bad time of it lately and experts believe it may have to do with all the spraying going on for mosquitoes due to the West Nile virus.  If we lose the bats (the natural mosquito control) where will we be with mosquito populations in the future?  It's a slippery slope.  No one wants West Nile but it appears to be here to stay and is a relatively small threat to the population at large.  West Nile is mostly a problem late in the summer, and generally not a problem for healthy adults.  So wear long sleeves, put on repellant of some sort and dump your stagnant water.  Bird baths are fine as long as you replace the water at least once per week (birds prefer fresh water anyway, I do mine almost every day in the summer and I get more birds because of it).  We also have a product that can be used in small ponds and baths to prevent mosquito larvae from developing and it won't harm birds, animals or fish.  Bat houses can be put up at any time but spring is the best, ideally they should get 6 hours of morning sun.  Prices start at $29.95, and they make great Father's Day gifts!



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