by Anton, CELC student

Finally, it was time to leave for our bird-watching hike with Celia, an ornithologist leading us in a point-count study for the Branford Land Trust. We are keeping track of migratory and cosmopolitan birds that we see within a marked area of the Weil property.  Branford Land Trust bird studyMigratory birds are those that stop in an area for a period of time, and cosmopolitan birds are birds that stay in an area. I was ready, so I rushed out the door to catch up with the group on the way to Stony Creek’s Weil  property. Stony Creek is part of New England’s seacoast community and the first shoreline community settled in the 18th century.

When we reached the parking lot, I was handed binoculars and tiptoed into the woods that looked like a maze just waiting for us. Branford Land Trust bird studyThere were only a few green leaves surviving the winter on the now almost-bare branches of the very tall,plentiful trees.In Stony Creek there are many kinds of birds that I was hoping to see – northern gannett, snowy egret, and the popular herring gull to name just a few. I was curious if we were going to see any birds in the somewhat quiet woods. Minutes went flying by until we reached our site. I quickly spotted a suitable rock on which to rest and carefully listened. I could only hear my breath moving the air back and forth and my heart pounding, all the while my brain was thinking about when I was going to be given permission to talk.

Continuing on, I felt surprised that we did not hear one single bird, yet. Usually there are many birds heard when we are in our spot. After walking a little more, I could see our next sight. Celia told everyone to be very quiet.  I heard two birds, unsure what kind. Then all of a sudden BAM! BAM! BAM! I thought it was fireworks because the sound repeated three times. Everyone then started talking and stated, “It’s duck season!”  The sound came from the shots of two people’s guns. Some of us were surprised to learn about the hunting season, and I was very startled.

Branford Land Trust bird study

Celia then said that we were going to stop because most likely the birds had flown away. She told us to look at the hunters’ decoys in the water – solid wooden figures of floating ducks, yet moving not at all. As we walked away, one more gun shot was heard. Eventually as we moved deeper in the forest, we sat down for a conversation. Celia pointed out that hunters pay taxes and donate a lot of money to societies that help nature, that it is in their interest to protect habitats. I think Celia figured that we might not know about hunters, that they were just killing ducks without paying any kind of price. I am not sure how I feel about all of this, but I do know that during duck season shots can be heard through the air and I am not used to it, especially because it is very loud.

While heading back to CELC using our new short cut, we stopped at a small park near a view of the Thimble Islands. Now I felt a little different  – I was wondering again if I might see a bird appear after all; the atmosphere felt more alive with nature, the shots far away. This turned out to be an interesting story to remember, and now I wonder what the next bird-watching visit will be about!