About Chris Bosak

Bird columnist and nature photographer based in New England. Co-managing editor of The Hour newspaper. Bird

Hey, a hawk’s gotta eat, too

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk eats a Gray Squirrel in a cemetery in Darien, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed Hawk eats a Gray Squirrel in a cemetery in Darien, Oct. 2014.

A local cemetery is often fruitful when it comes to finding birds. This day was no exception as literally hundreds of juncos and other small sparrows scattered as I drove slowly along the narrow roads.

I almost missed the highlight of the short birding trip, though. I glanced to my right just in time to see a Red-tailed Hawk on the ground a few dozen yards away. I hit the brakes and backed up just a touch. A Red-tailed Hawk on the ground usually means it is eating. Such was the case as this raptor was picking apart a freshly-killed Gray Squirrel. I watched for a bit, snapped a few photos and left the hawk to its meal. They aren’t called birds of prey for nothing.

More photos below:

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Northern Cardinal looking right at you

Photo by Chris Bosak Northern Cardinal at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Northern Cardinal at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Getting back to my common backyard bird series … the Northern Cardinal is common, but certainly not plain. The cardinal is a favorite bird of many people — and it’s hard to argue.

My favorite thing about the Northern Cardinal is that it is a year-round bird for us here in New England. It doesn’t fly south when the days shorten or temperatures drop, like most colorful birds we see here. It breeds here and remains here, giving us a flashy bird to look for all 12 months.

Purple Finch: A welcomed visitor to the feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A male Purple Finch eats sunflower seeds from a feeder in New England, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male Purple Finch eats sunflower seeds from a feeder in New England, Oct. 2014.

The Purple Finch doesn’t exactly fit in with my series of “Common Backyard Birds,” but this handsome fellow visited my feeder over the weekend so I’m including it anyway.(No, that’s not your cursor on its bill, that’s a sunflower seed shell.)  It doesn’t fit in with the series because, sadly, the Purple Finch is not really a common backyard sighting in New England. The introduced House Finches certainly are, but the native Purple Finches visit less frequently.

Purple Finches and House Finches can be tricky to differentiate, but that’s mostly because we don’t see enough Purple Finches to get used to their looks. Some particularly colorful House Finches can resemble Purple Finches and throw off the ID. But, as someone once told me long ago, “When you see a Purple Finch, you’ll know it.”

I can differentiate the finches because the Purple Finch is larger and bulkier. Its “purple” (really reddish pink) is also more widespread on its plumage. The females are even more tricky, but again, are bulkier than their House Finch counterparts.

So an October sighting of a Purple Finch was most welcomed. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come this fall and winter.

Did you know: The Purple Finch is the state bird of New Hampshire.

Love this White-breasted Nuthatch photo

Photo by Chris Bosak White-breasted Nuthatch at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-breasted Nuthatch at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Sometimes when photographing birds (or anything for that matter) you never really know what you’ll get. You should always be mindful of the background, but sometimes it’s tough to determine exactly how the photo will look until you take it. Honestly I got kind of lucky with this shot with the jet black background, which really makes the White-breasted Nuthatch standout. I’m not even sure what in the background was so black. Oh well, I’ll take it.

This is the third in a series of photographs celebrating our common backyard feeder birds.

Who doesn’t love chickadees?

Photo by Chris Bosak Black-capped Chickadee at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Black-capped Chickadee at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

I highlight the Black-capped Chickadee as the second in a series of photos of our common backyard birds here in New England. This series of photos will focus on the birds we commonly see at our feeders. Can you ever see enough chickadee photos?

Kicking off a celebration of our common backyard birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

This photo of a Tufted Titmouse is pulling double duty. It accompanied my latest column in The Hour (Norwalk, Ct) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH), which may be found here.

It is also being used on this post to kick off a celebration of our common backyard feeder birds. This is a great time of year for feeding birds as the feeders are active with titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and other birds. Under the feeder, birds such as White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have returned. So to celebrate that, I’ll post a series of photos highlighting some of our more common, but beloved, backyard birds.

A few more northern New England photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon at a pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014. This loon is transitioning between summer and winter plumage.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon at a pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014. This loon is transitioning between summer and winter plumage.

Here are a few more shots from my recent trip to northern New England. I’m already looking forward to getting up there again.

I call this one “The one that got away.” I was canoeing on a pond in New Hampshire and focusing so heavily on the loon pictured above that I wasn’t aware of the rest of my surroundings. Suddenly I noticed a Bald Eagle flying away from scene. It had been perched on the top of a pine tree and I completely missed it — well, almost completely. I managed this quick shot of it flying away.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Bald Eagle flies across the autumn scene in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Bald Eagle flies across the autumn scene in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.

Finally, here’s an American River Otter. There were two of them and it was the first time in years I’ve seen otters while I was canoeing. Unfortunately, this particular morning was very dark and gray, hence the not-so-good quality of the photo.

Photo by Chris Bosak A River Otter looks around a small pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A River Otter looks around a small pond in northern New Hampshire, Oct. 2014.