Beachgoers asked to: ‘Fish, swim and play from 50 yards away’

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

An important press release from American Bird Conservancy

Washington, D.C. — As millions of vacationing Americans head to their nearest beach destination for surf and sun this summer, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is urging beachgoers to be mindful of the many beach-nesting birds that will be tending to their nests and newly hatched young.

 

“Young birds have a tough go of things during their early days, so they really need our help. They face being trampled by unaware beachgoers, run over by motorized vehicles, or killed by predators. Even people simply getting too close can cause nest abandonment,” said Kacy Ray, Gulf Conservation Program Manager for ABC’s Gulf Beach-Nesting Bird Conservation Program.

 

“The best thing for beachgoers to do is to avoid getting close to areas where larger congregations of birds are gathered, and to always respect areas that are roped off or marked with signs designating an area that is used by nesting birds,” said Ray. “The habitat for these birds is diminishing every year Continue reading

For the Birds Column: Difference between Snowy and Great Egrets

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Egret looks for food in Norwalk Harbor.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Egret looks for food in Norwalk Harbor.

Here’s my latest For the Birds column, which describes the differences between Snowy Egrets and Great Egrets. For the Birds runs each week in the daily newspapers of Norwalk, Conn., and Keene, N.H. If you are out of those areas, tell your local newspaper about For the Birds and perhaps the column can get up and running there, too.

Here’s the column:

There are not many birds out there that have feet a different color than their legs.

From the top of their legs to the bottom of their “toes,” most birds are uniform in color. With many birds, such as songbirds and small shorebirds, the topic is fairly insignificant because their legs and feet are so small and rarely seen Continue reading

And the answer is …

legs1

Thanks to everyone who took a guess at the latest bird quiz: “Whose legs are these?”

The most popular response was the correct one so you’ve all been doing your homework (even in the summer).

Below is the answer. A longer post will follow soon regarding the differences between the legs of great and snowy egrets.

For now, here’s the answer …

Continue reading

Whose legs are these???

snowy egret1

I don’t know about you, but I love looking at nice long legs on the beach in the summer. Birds’ legs, of course, birds’ legs.

So here’s another bird quiz for you. Whose legs are these?

If you missed them, here are my other quizzes from the past.

Who’s got the seed?

What is this bird?

Where’s the sandpiper?

Can you spot the difference?

Warbler ID Challenge

So, here goes, whose legs??

How do birds know when a new feeder is out?

Here’s my latest For the Birds Column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.) and The Keene (N.H.) Sentinel:

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.

 

An interesting question came my way via email the other day. It came from a long-time Norwalk resident who wondered how the goldfinches in her yard knew that she suddenly switched to Nyjer seed. She had never seen goldfinches before at her feeders, but when she put up a sock feeder filled with the small, black seeds, the goldfinches came within one day.

“How did they know? Are they sock experts? Do they have X-Ray eyes that could penetrate the sock and see the thistle? Does thistle smell so they could sniff a trail? Do they have scouts always watching every yard?”

Great question. As a quick aside, what is commonly referred to as thistle seed is really either niger or the trademarked name Nyjer seed.

Whatever you call it, how do the birds know it’s there? Common sense may dictate that they smell it. How else could they know? But most birds, including our favorite backyard birds, have a poor sense of smell. Also, the seeds are largely odorless so even if the birds did have a strong sense of smell, it’s unlikely they’d be able to pick up the scent anyway. It’s not like a neighbor barbecuing chicken on a breezy day. The most likely scenario is that the birds saw the new feeder and recognized it — probably from past experience — as a food source. American Goldfinches are very nomadic  …

Read the rest of the column here.

Looking back at a Barn Swallow nest

Photo by CHRIS BOSAK Young Barn Swallows look for food from their mother, which is returning to the nest with food.

Photo by CHRIS BOSAK
Young Barn Swallows look for food from their mother, which is returning to the nest with food.

Here’s a group of photos I took at a Barn Swallow nest, which was built on a light fixture in the covered portion of the parking lot where I work. The parents dive-bombed and swooped at all the people who parked nearby. They had only one brood before moving on. It’s a credit to the building owner that they let the nest remain throughout the entire process. This was a few summers ago, but I’ve never published all of these photos.

More photos below. Continue reading

This Android app will identify any bird you see

Merlin bird photo ID

Merlin bird photo ID

If you’ve always had trouble differentiating Caspian Terns from Royal Terns, there’s now an app that can help you. The Merlin Bird Photo ID was created with bird watchers in mind, carrying with it over 400 species of birds found in North America, and over 70 million photos in its bird identification database.

The app is easy to use. All users have to do is take a photo of a bird and answer a few questions about what it looked like when they took the picture. Users must also point out on the photo where the bird’s bill, eye and tail are. After that, the app will search from its database and present the user with the most accurate search result.

“It gets the bird right in the top three results about 90% of the time, and it’s Continue reading

Bird Book Look II: Into the Nest

Into the Nest cover

Into the Nest cover

Here is my second Bird Book Look post.

It is “Into the Nest” by Laura Erickson and Marie Read, published by Storey. As the subtitle states, the book shows and describes: “Intimate Views of the Courtship, Parenting, and Family Lives of Familiar Birds.”

I really like this book for its terrific photography and descriptive writing about birds in regards to their raising young. The photography offers incredible shots of nest building, parents feeding young, birds courting, and birds fledging. The accompanying text describes in great detail, but in easy to read fashion, all the behaviors regarding birds raising their young. The birds featured range from familiar backyard birds, not-as-often seen songbirds, birds of prey and shorebirds.

Bird Book Look is not intended to be reviews of books about birds, but rather just letting readers know what new bird books are out there. I can say, however, that I really enjoy this book, both Continue reading

Eastern Kingbird expels a pellet (coughs up an exoskeleton ball)

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Kingbird regurgitates a pellet in Stamford, Conn., May 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Kingbird regurgitates a pellet in Stamford, Conn., May 2015.

Ever eat an insect and notice how hard the outer shell, or exoskeleton, is?

I hope you answered no to that question. I certainly haven’t. But you can imagine that if you ever did bite into an insect it would be crunchy, kind of like eating a lobster without removing the meat from the shell first. You can also imagine that the exoskeleton would be difficult, if not impossible, to digest.

So how does that undigested shell come out? Everyone knows that owls regurgitate pellets of undigestible material, such as beaks, bones, feathers, claws and fur. Not as commonly known, however, is that many insectivores (things that eat insects) regurgitate pellets as well.

I was aware of this, but never witnessed it until the other day when I was watching an Eastern Kingbird. It was perched in a small tree at Continue reading

Eagles unsuccessful in nesting attempt in Norwalk

The eagles that were sitting on the nest on Chimon Island off the coast of Norwalk, Conn., earlier this spring have abandoned the nest. It’s sad news, but it’s not uncommon for birds of prey to fail in their first attempt at a nesting sight. Hopefully they will try again nest year with better results.

Here’s my story in The Hour.