About Chris Bosak

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

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.

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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

Cooper’s Hawk eating squirrel

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Cooper's Hawk eats a squirrel in southern New England in Feb. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Cooper’s Hawk eats a squirrel in southern New England in Feb. 2015.

The other day I pulled into my driveway and noticed a clump of brown in my neighbor’s yard. Birders are trained to notice anything out of the ordinary in a scene because it just might be a bird. Often these days it ends up being a plastic bag stuck in a tree, but sure enough, sometimes it is a bird.

Such was the case the other day. That brown clump was a bird, a young Cooper’s Hawk to be exact. Not only that, but the bird was eating (a Gray Squirrel as it turns out.) Cooper’s Hawks eat mainly birds, but small mammals can also fall prey to these quick and agile birds.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. (Warning: If you don’t like the bloody side of nature, don’t click “continue reading.” Fair warning.)

Continue reading

Bluebirds — the bird of winter 2014-15?

Elena from Winchester, N.H., got this shot of Eastern Bluebirds at her warm-water birdbath during the cold snap of Feb. 2015.

Elena from Winchester, N.H., got this shot of Eastern Bluebirds at her warm-water birdbath during the cold snap of Feb. 2015.

Here’s my For the Birds column from last week. Since I wrote it I have received a few more emails from readers who have seen bluebirds this winter. In fact, one reader wrote to say he saw seven Eastern Bluebirds pile into a single birdhouse to stay warm. (Note, the above photo was taken by a reader from New Hampshire).

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It seems that every winter has its bird. Last year, of course, it was the Snowy Owl. A few years ago it was the Common Redpoll and, before that, the Pine Siskin.

Every year it seems a certain species of bird “irrupts” into New England and sets the birding world abuzz. An irruption is when birds come to a region in large numbers, presumably because their food source is scarce on their typical wintering grounds. The term usually refers to northern birds, especially finches, coming south for the winter.

I can remember a winter when the Dark-eyed Junco was bird of winter. We see them every winter in New England, but during this particula Continue reading

Peregrine Falcon visits in the cold

Photo by Chris Bosak A Peregrine Falcon rests on the top of a sailboat mast during a frigid day in Feb. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Peregrine Falcon rests on the top of a sailboat mast during a frigid day in Feb. 2015.

Wicked cold temperatures returned to New England on Monday. (“Wicked” is for all my Boston friends.)

The Peregrine Falcons that I see from my desk at work returned on Monday, too. They frequently visit the Yankee Doodle Bridge (I-95) and the sailboat masts near the building at which I work. I hadn’t seen them in a while, though. But on Monday, with everything frozen solid except for a few tiny pools of water kept open by bubblers near the boats, they returned.

My vantage point from the fourth floor affords me the opportunity to see when one of the falcons comes in for a landing on the sailboat mast. I noticed it swoop in gracefully Continue reading

Hard to watch ducks when Long Island Sound is frozen

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Long Island Sound is mostly frozen on Feb. 21, 2015, as shown by this scene from Weed Beach in Darien, Conn.

Birdwatching makes New England winters that much more bearable for me. I love the winter ducks that come down from the Arctic, Canada and northern New England and overwinter on Long Island Sound: Long-tailed Ducks, Bufflehead, Hooded Mergansers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and the like. Not to mention the other fowl like loons and grebes.

But it’s a little hard to watch ducks like this …

In my 16 years living near the coast of Connecticut I’ve never seen Long Island Sound be frozen. I’ve heard stories from oldtimers about Long Island Sound freezing over, but I’ve never seen it. Until now.

This morning (Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015) I brought my spotting scope down to Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., to check out the ducks. I didn’t even have to get the scope out of the car. Long Island Sound was frozen. Where kids swim in the summer and ducks swim in the winter, it was completely frozen. Ice as far as I could see. A small pool of water connecting Darien and Stamford and feeding Holly Pond was unfrozen and held a few Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, but that was it. The rest was ice.

Saturday was warm (relatively speaking, about 30 degrees) and Sunday is supposed to be even warmer (around 40), but Monday we are right back into single digits. We’ll see how the Sound reacts. I’d sure like to see my ducks again.

 

A change of heart regarding House Finches

Photo by Chris Bosak A House Finch eats buds from a bush in Norwalk, Conn., Feb. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A House Finch eats buds from a bush in Norwalk, Conn., Feb. 2015.

I almost hate to admit it on this site, but I’ve never been a big fan of House Finches. Sure they are wild birds and look pretty with their reddish-pink feathers. But their eating habits at bird-feeding stations have long been a bone of contention with me. They perch on the feeder and gorge themselves for minutes on end. I prefer the grab-a-seed-and-go method employed by backyard favorites such as chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Come back as often as you need, as far as I’m concerned, but grab and go. Leave space and time for others.

But not House Finches.They fly in, perch, and sit there. Seed after seed goes into their belly and there they sit. Meanwhile, the chickadees and nuthatches sit on nearby branches waiting for a spot to open. House Finches aren’t even Continue reading

More Carolina Wrens (sorry, I can’t help myself)

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Carolina Wren searches on the snow-covered ground for food in New England, Feb. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Carolina Wren searches on the snow-covered ground for food in New England, Feb. 2015.

I know I just featured Carolina Wrens in a recent post, but I couldn’t resist posting a few more photos. I’ve seen these beautiful wrens on suet feeders and platform feeders, but I hadn’t seen them looking for food under feeding stations before. Severe weather can cause Continue reading

My GBBC highlights

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Bufflehead swims in Gorham's Pond, Nov. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Bufflehead swims in Darien.

I hit Weed Beach this morning for the Great Backyard Bird Count. The woods were fairly quiet, but the water offered some good birds. Some of the highlights were about a dozen Black-capped Chickadees, some American Robins, a Northern Mockingbirds, several Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Gadwall, dozens of American Black Ducks, dozens of Bufflehead and a couple Common Goldeneye.

So what was on your list? Feel free to comment below.

More information is available here.

 

The underrated Mourning Dove

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mouning Dove perches in a tree after a New England snowfall in February 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mouning Dove perches in a tree after a New England snowfall in February 2015.

It’s true that many people love Mourning Doves, but in my opinion, the large backyard bird is still way underrated.

I’m just as guilty as anybody by not giving the Mourning Dove its due. Rarely do I write about Mourning Doves (although I have on occasion.) It’s not often I hear about people seeing Mourning Doves, although they are probably being seen by just about everybody on a daily basis.

It’s often overlooked _ again I’m guilty of this too_ when relaying what birds were seen at the feeder that day. Chickadees, juncos, nuthatches, titmice, white-throated sparrows, cardinals. What about Mourning Doves? Surely they were there, too. Mourning Doves are spectacularly beautiful birds when looked at closely. The subtle tones of the plumage change with the light and that blue eye ring never gets old. Also, their song (cooing) _ although it’s a sad song and indeed is the reason for the bird’s name _ always seems to cheer us up when we hear it.

So here’s to the Mourning Dove … with appreciation.