It has been incredibly cold with the polar vortex passing through much of the country. After leaving work with a bright mid-afternoon sun gliding lower in the sky, I made my way to Branford Harbor and Parker Park. I drove eagerly with my camera and tripod on the front seat hoping to at least have a chance to again photo a couple of "Hoodies" and correct my bad of taking images of them the previous week without the benefit and stability of a tripod when using my Sigma 150-500mm lens. I was also anxious to start my New Year's Resolution of spending more time away from the computer and outside communing with Nature.
I had talked via email with a birding friend who lives near Center Cemetery - a favorite summer spot for Ospreys, egrets and other shore birds, and it was reported that there was little to nothing to be seen there. I had tried the Jenny Lynn pull off on South Montowese Street with poor looks at some ducks and a flock of Canada Geese on an otherwise crummy cold overcast day. I looked at the empty Osprey platform on the other side of the road cursing the winter and praying for spring.
Parts of the river flowing inland were still frozen over and the sun caused terrible issue with backlighting the birds in the harbor. Hundreds of Ring-billed Gulls flew about, sat on the ice, or lined the dock. American Crows and even a Great Black-backed Gull were a vocal part of this feathered ensemble. A couple of people stood outside engaged in friendly conversation while others sat quietly in their cars looking out over the water enjoying a bite to eat. A family walked the little beach - children laughing and playing. There were others in Parker Park walking their dogs.
My own home town offered me just what I needed to kick off this year. I had a gem of a spot to begin with right here in town. I had visited a couple of times before but neglected to consider it a great winter birding spot. The area of Parker Park is included in our Audubon Christmas Bird Count team's "territory". Shame on me for not taking greater advantage of this location to search more for winter birds.
While there, I reminisced about one time I visited during a winter bird count. Peter Borgemeister was leading our Christmas Count team and praised the beauty of this spot and proudly talked about the awesome 100+ year old tree that grew along the roadside of Parker Memorial Drive that led to a pull off. The branches of this old gal fan out beautifully and her trunk is so wide - several feet in diameter. One of these days I'll bring a tape measure. I had taken a leaf that had fallen and identified it as a type of poplar or cottonwood with heart shaped toothed leaves. Here's another excuse to go back - to properly photo the old tree in all her glory come summer when she's fully leafed out and get a proper identification. Add that to the list of things to do as well - get better acquainted with the various species of trees.
Below is a shot taken during the summer a few years ago near the rotary of the dock of Branford Point looking out into Branford Harbor.