Thursday, September 6, 2012

Exploring Long Beach

After a whole summer of visiting the beach once a week, I've gotten quite attached to the shore environment. So this morning, I decided it was time to go to the beach again, but this time I went someplace completely new: Long Beach in the town of Stratford. This turned out to be quite a cool place, basically a 1.5-mile bit of land jutting out into the Long Island Sound, with beach on one side and marsh on the other. It was an overcast day, and the place was pretty quiet -- there were no people out walking besides me, and only a couple other birders hanging out at the entrance. I saw hardly any shorebirds (I was expecting to see lots), but there were plenty of other fun things to see instead.

I watched a group of American Kestrels hunting over the marsh -- I just love these dinky little raptors:

One of the kestrels caught a dragonfly -- it was a big dragonfly, but the comparison still shows how small these birds are:

Yum, dragonfly! (And could the color on this bird's tail be any prettier?)

Some bigger raptors were around, too. A Northern Harrier cruised by me a couple of times, close enough that I got a good look at its lovely streaming tail:

When I saw the harrier again later (or possibly a different individual), it flew even closer, and I got to see its white-rimmed face, so strange for a hawk:

A few warblers were passing through, resting in the low bushes growing out of the sand, including this bright Common Yellowthroat:

And Double-crested Cormorants dried their wings on nearby rocks:

Some of the plants on this beach were really cool, too. I was totally impressed by the Rugosa Roses with their bright pink flowers and big fat rose hips -- this is a non-native species, but they made a pretty sight nonetheless:

Also amazingly impressive was the large number (and size) of Prickly Pears, a species which is listed as "special concern" in Connecticut, and which I've never actually encountered in the wild before:

As I was leaving the beach, I got completely distracted by fiddler crabs. They were feeding in a stretch of mud near the path, and when I sat down on a rock to watch, they just wandered closer and closer to me, like I wasn't even there. (Until I stood up, that is, at which point they all immediately streamed back into the safety of the marsh grass.) Crabs are just the funniest little creatures, whether they're females with two small front claws:

Or males with their single hulking appendages:

One of the male crabs I saw must have been a different species from most of the others, because his big claw was particularly huge and yellow, and he held it up shield-like the entire time, effectively blocking his body from view:

So it was a great visit overall, and Long Beach was a fun new place to explore. And just so you can benefit from all the time I spent watching the crabs, here are a couple videos I took of these hilarious creatures in action. (I can't help feeling a little sorry for the males, actually -- the females get to transfer food to their mouths with two arms, while the males have to use only one.) Enjoy!

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