STRATFORD, Conn. — With its persistent wind and chilly drizzle, Thursday was a lovely day — for ducks.
And that’s just why Frank Mantlik of Stratford and Nick Bonomo of Wallingford were huddled on the deck at Audubon Connecticut’s Stratford Point facility, peering into telescopes pointed Soundward.
“The wind is coming out of the east, so you can see a lot of sea ducks, loons,” said Mantlik, bringing a set of powerful binoculars up to his face. “There’s a Northern Harrier over there.”
He pointed to a hawk hovering low over the marshes, buoyed by the wind. “They hunt for rodents. Voles, shrews, moles,” he said.
Mantlik, a retired letter carrier, said Bonomo texted to invite him out on a breezy bird watch because the timing and wind were perfect for watching birds migrating south for the winter. The friends met as birders often do — while birding.
“When the weather’s right, on the right day, I’ll come down here,” said Bonomo, a physician’s assistant in orthopedic surgery. “It’s a nice vantage point.”
Stratford Point juts far into Long Island Sound, which attracts a lot of interesting birds, Mantlik said.
“And there’s a roof over your head rather than standing out in the rain,” he said.
While Bonomo has been birding for 15 years, Mantlik has been at it since 1972.
“It’s a great hobby. It’s in my blood,” he said. “I’m interested in flight and the colors and the variety.”
Bonomo said he was “a curious kid,” always looking up information on the animals he saw, so birding is a perfect hobby.
“For me, other than just getting outside, there’s a lot to see,” he said, noting there are about 400 species in Connecticut alone. “No two days are the same.”
Mantlik checked his phone for ebird, a Cornell University-created app that allows birders to list species they’ve spotted in real time or check what others are watching.
“There’s an adult gannet over there,” Bonomo said, as Mantlik followed his gaze over the choppy waters.
Bundled against the cold, Bonomo had already been out on the deck about 90 minutes.
“I’ll be here for a while,” he said. “Until the birds stop flying.”
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