Now that’s a lot of robins!

Photo by Chris Bosak A flock of American Robins searches through the light snow near a cemetery in southern Connecticut, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A flock of American Robins searches through the light snow near a cemetery in southern Connecticut, March 2015.

Early every spring, the robins return in force. Yes, of course many robins remain in New England all winter, but early spring marks the return of many robins that bolted for warmer temps down south.

Nowhere is that more apparent to me than a cemetery and adjacent field at town hall in Darien, CT. I drive past here nearly every day and suddenly one day in late March the fields are filled with American Robins. That day was a few days ago and the robins remain. Soon they will disperse and get down to the serious business of nesting and raising families.

That first robin of the year may not be an accurate harbinger of spring because many are with us all winter, but when the fields are full of robins … now that’s a sign of spring.

(The above photo is admittedly not the greatest, but it gives an idea of how many there are. About 50 are shown in this photo, but the field extends widely to the left and right. In all, there were about 400.)

Yes, there are eagles out there

Photo by Chris Bosak A Bald Eagle preches in a tree on Chimon Island off the coast of Norwalk, Conn., March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Bald Eagle preches in a tree on Chimon Island off the coast of Norwalk, Conn., March 2015.

I tagged along with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials and staff this week to confirm an active Bald Eagles’ nest on Chimon Island off the coast of Norwalk, Conn. The nest is visible from the coast with binoculars or a spotting scope, so we were all fairly certain of

Hour photo/Chris Bosak Rick Potvin, manager of the Stewart B. McKinney NWR, holds a sign before it was posted on Chimon Island on Wednesday. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials were on the island to mark off areas to protect a bald eagle nest.

Hour photo/Chris Bosak
Rick Potvin, manager of the Stewart B. McKinney NWR, holds a sign before it was posted on Chimon Island on Wednesday. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife officials were on the island to mark off areas to protect a bald eagle nest.

what we’d see anyway, but the confirmation has officially been made. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife staff posted more signage on the island and placed additional barriers to protect the eagles, which are safeguarded by state and federal laws.

Chimon Island is part of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.

The laws, of course, do not protect the eagles against annoyed

Ospreys, so a battle may be pending. The eagles have taken over a nest that has been used by an Osprey pair for the last four years. The osprey haven’t returned from South America yet, so it could get interested when they do.

The photos aren’t great, I know, but they are indeed the eagles off the coast of Norwalk.

Here are links to some stories I wrote for The Hour newspaper regarding the eagles.

Bald Eagles may be nesting on Norwalk Island

For the Birds: Have the eagles landed?

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirms eagle nest on Chimon Island

Greater White-fronted Goose chilling with Canada Geese

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Greater White-fronted Goose is seen with a flock of Canada Geese at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Greater White-fronted Goose is seen with a flock of Canada Geese at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

Here’s a shot of a Greater White-fronted Goose within a flock of Canada Geese. The photo was taken Sunday, March 22, 2015, at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Conn.

It’s a reminder to look closely at flocks of Canada Geese for the stray bird. Individual Snow Geese are often found among flock of Canada Geese, too. So, when is a flock of Canada Geese not a flock of Canada Geese? When there’s something else in there, too. Look carefully.

The Greater White-fronted Goose is common in the West and Midwest, but seen only occasionally in the East.

I was alerted to this bird by the Connecticut birding list, so thanks to those who listed this bird.

Here’s a close up:

Photo by Chris Bosak A Greater White-fronted Goose is seen with a flock of Canada Geese at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Greater White-fronted Goose is seen with a flock of Canada Geese at Cove Island Park in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

House Finches and eye disease

Photo by Chris Bosak A House Finch with an eye disease visits a feeder station in Stamford, Conn., March 2015

Photo by Chris Bosak
A House Finch with an eye disease visits a feeder station in Stamford, Conn., March 2015

It had been a while since I saw a House Finch with Mycoplasma gallisepticum, an eye disease that inflicts many House Finches in the eastern U.S.

The other day, however, I was watching a feeder station in Stamford, Conn., when a lone male House Finches showed up. With my new-found appreciation for House Finches (click here for more on that) I was happy to see the bird. Then the bird adjusted itself on a branch near the feeder and I noticed it had the disease. Poor thing.

Based on Project FeederWatch observations that alerted ornithologists to the problem, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology started the House Finch Disease Survey in 1994. Much was discovered about the disease, but obviously it has not gone away. The project has since been defunded, but Project FeederWatch participants can still report House Finches with this disease. It’s may seem like a small way to help, but it’s something. Every little bit helps when it comes to bird study.

For a lot more information on House Finches and the eye disease, click here.

Photo by Chris Bosak A House Finch with an eye disease visits a feeder station in Stamford, Conn., March 2015

Photo by Chris Bosak
A House Finch with an eye disease visits a feeder station in Stamford, Conn., March 2015

Junco season winding down

Photo by Chris Bosak A Dark-eyed Junco perches in a tree in New England in March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco perches in a tree in New England in March 2015.

We love to see our first Dark-eyed Juncos of the late fall. They remind us that our winter birds have arrived and will be with us for the next several months.

Well, those months are passing by quickly and soon the junco sightings will become scarce again. So here’s a shot I took of a junco the other day. Will it be one of the last— at least until next fall?

Did you know …

• Juncos are members of the sparrow family

• There are several types of juncos in the U.S., including Slate-colored; Oregon; Pink-sided; White-winged; Gray-headed; and Red-backed. Only the Slate-colored is found in New England.

 

A new eagles’ nest in town?

Photo by Larry Flynn A pair of Bald Eagles flies over Veterans Park in Norwalk in March 2015.

Photo by Larry Flynn
A pair of Bald Eagles flies over Veterans Park in Norwalk in March 2015.

Here’s a story I did for today’s (Tuesday, March 17) The Hour newspaper in Norwalk, Conn. Norwalk is along the southwestern coast of Connecticut and, while on the surface does not seem an ideal place for eagles to nest, the coast and islands off the mainland offer perfect habitat. It is already home to more than a dozen Osprey nests. Now, hopefully the eagles will be successful there, too. Thanks to Larry Flynn for the above photo and keeping me abreast of this news.

Here’s the story:

NORWALK – The Norwalk Islands may play a part in the remarkable comeback of the Bald Eagle.

Over the last several weeks, a Bald Eagle pair has been exhibiting nesting behavior high atop a dead tree on Chimon Island, which is one of the Norwalk Islands and part of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge. The Bald Eagle has been making a strong comeback after being nearly eliminated from the contiguous United States.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Milan Bull, director of Connecticut Audubon, said. “Who would have thought this would happen several years ago? I think we’ll start seeing eagle nests in a lot of areas.”

Officials from Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge will visit the

To read the rest, click here.

The splendid White-throated Sparrow

Photo by Chris Bosak A White-throated Sparrow perches on a branch in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A White-throated Sparrow perches on a branch in Stamford, Conn., March 2015.

There are few annual birding moments as striking as seeing your spring’s first male White-throated Sparrow in all his breeding-plumage glory. The white shines, the yellow pops, the browns mix together in perfect harmony. You even notice a few colors you never knew this sparrow had before.

Well, I had that moment last week while watching some feeders in Stamford, Conn.. The House Sparrows, American Tree Sparrows (another looker) and even some White-throated Sparrows (mostly female) jockeyed around the feeders. Then this handsome fellow flew into the scene. He was a show-stopper as far as I was concerned. “If only he’d jump off the ground and take a perch more conducive to getting a good photo,” I thought to myself.

Then, of course, he did. He jumped up to a large stick jutting straight up into the air. Many times birds take those perfect perches and take off two seconds later before you can get the camera ready for the shot(s). Boy that’s frustrating when that happens. But his guy kept that perch in front of me for a good 12-15 seconds — an eternity in bird photography terms. Soon, most of the males will look this resplendent. I love his head and face with the white, black, gray and yellow. Who would have thought all that beauty in a sparrow?

Two backyard favorites in one shot

Photo by Chris Bosak A Northern Cardinal, left, and an American Goldfinch perch in a tree near a feeding station at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn., in March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Northern Cardinal, left, and an American Goldfinch perch in a tree near a feeding station at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn., in March 2015.

You don’t always see cardinals and goldfinches perched near each other, but when you are watching a feeding station at which the birds are somewhat skittish, anything can happen. The usual assortment of birds were enjoying the feast at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn., the other day, but other than occasionally being perched on the same feeder, the species generally kept away from each other.

However, the birds scattered every five minutes or so because of some unseen (by me anyway) force and sometimes the birds would find themselves perched next to an individual of another species.

I was focused on getting a photo of this cardinal, but noticed the goldfinch off to the right, so I decided to get them in the same frame. Why not?

Can you spot the difference?

Photo by Chris Bosak American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

What’s the difference between these two photos?

It’s not one of those find 10 subtle differences puzzles, but rather a pretty simple quiz and lesson in paying attention closely to your feeders. These photos were taken about 10 minutes apart the other day at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn.

The top photo, taken first, shows all American Goldfinches on a feeder offering Nyjer seeds. At first glance the next photo appears to show a bunch of American Goldfinches, too. But there’s more to that seco Continue reading

Release: Great Backyard Bird Count sets new species record

GBBC2014

Here’s a press release from the Great Backyard Bird Count folks: All text and photos below the dotted line are directly from the release.

I love the charts they compile following this count. Great photos included, too.

Here’s my post directly following the GBBC.

………………………

New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON–Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world. The four-day count was held February 13-16, the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale made possible by using the eBird online checklist program. A sampling of species found by intrepid counters include Ibisbill in India, Bornean Bistlehead in Malaysia, and  Continue reading