The trouble with safe dates …

The single most common cause of confusion during last year’s summer atlas data collection, was the use of safe dates. The important thing to remember is that these dates are based on the timing of migration and other non-breeding season movements, and do not describe the period during which breeding occurs. The goal is to filter out possible and probable records that could involve birds that are just passing through a block and will nest elsewhere. For example, ducks can be seen doing courtship displays right now.  Many of these birds, however, will breed 100s of miles from where they are being seen right now and do not represent Connecticut nesting birds. Indeed, some species that are commonly seen displaying in spring have never bred in Connecticut. Continue reading “The trouble with safe dates …”

Check your local swamp for herons

Although great blue herons can be found in the state throughout the year, many migrate south during winter, and those that remain tend to retreat to the coast as freshwater wetlands freeze over. Several posts on the ctbirds listserv this week have shown that great blues are starting to return to their nesting colonies, and the next couple of weeks – before the leaves start to emerge – will be an ideal time to check all the swamps in your atlas block for active nests. Continue reading “Check your local swamp for herons”


Over the past couple of weeks, ravens have been a regular sight at UConn. Displaying from the roof of the visitor’s center, wheeling over the parking garage, and yesterday I even heard one while sitting in my office. The species has nested in a farm building near the university’s Depot Campus for a couple of years and is seen throughout the area, but this is the first sign that they might nest right on the main campus. Continue reading “Ravens”

How rare are inland long-tailed ducks?

Earlier this week, Steve Broker posed this question about long-tailed ducks on the CTbirds listserve.  Both he, and Tom Robben, provided partial answers based on data from Christmas Bird Counts and eBird, which is to say, quite rare, but certainly not unheard of. Available data, however, are quite limited. Christmas Bird Counts are restricted to a 3-week window of time, and eBird records are highly dependent on how much birding attention inland sites get. Continue reading “How rare are inland long-tailed ducks?”

Preliminary 2018 breeding results available for review

Although winter field work is the focus for most atlas volunteers right now, considerable work on the breeding portion of the atlas is continuing behind the scenes. This week, we have launched a major update of the web site, with the release of preliminary data from the 2018 breeding season. The update might not be obvious as it appears only on the interactive map, and only then if you focus in and click on an individual block. If you do this, however, you will find that for each of the 601 blocks, there is now a new web page that lists the species reported from that block last summer. Continue reading “Preliminary 2018 breeding results available for review”

The trouble with fledglings

Recent posts on the ctbirds listserv have highlighted the fact that, although it is still mid-summer, migration is well under way for some species. At the same time, data collection for the breeding portion of the atlas will continue for almost another month. This overlap between migration and breeding reintroduces the need for safe dates to ensure that we are correctly attributing observations to the blocks in which breeding happens. Continue reading “The trouble with fledglings”

12 species to confirm in every block

The recent discovery of nesting sedge wrens at the Connecticut Audubon Society’s center in Pomfret, is perhaps the most exciting find of the atlas so far.  But, although we hope to gain a better understanding of where rare species occur in the state, we also want to use the project to better understand the status of common species.  With this in mind, here are a dozen species that it should be possible to confirm in nearly every block. Continue reading “12 species to confirm in every block”