Love those bluebirds (plenty of photos)

Photo by Chris Bosak Eastern Bluebird at Mather Meadows, a property of the Darien (Conn.) Land Trust.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Eastern Bluebird at Mather Meadows, a property of the Darien (Conn.) Land Trust.

Eastern Bluebirds are nesting again at Mather Meadows, a property of the Darien (Conn.) Land Trust. Here are some photos I took during a quick visit on Tuesday morning. (More photos below — click on “continue reading.”)

Eastern Bluebirds have made a strong comeback following a decline due to several factors, including competition for nesting sites with introduced species such as House Sparrows and European Starlings. The comeback has been bolstered in large part to humans offering nesting sites to bluebirds, a.k.a bluebird houses. The houses are built to specific dimensions, including the entry/exit hole sized to keep out sparrows and starlings. Bluebirds still face competition for those homes from Tree Sparrows, but the competition is not as fierce.

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Sibley discusses ‘Birdwatching in New England’

Well-known birdwatcher David Allen Sibley visited The Hour newspaper’s office in March 2014 shortly after the launch of the second edition of his Sibley Guide to the Birds. He sat down with Chris Bosak of The Hour and http://www.birdsofnewengland.com to answer a variety of questions of about birds. Here he discusses birdwatching in New England, where he grew up and currently lives.

Today’s warbler photo

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Yellowthroat perches on a branch at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Yellowthroat perches on a branch at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods on Sunday, May 11, 2014.

Here’s another warbler photo taken this weekend at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien.

Last week I had a post with several warbler species included. The Common Yellowthroat was not included in that post, but I found a fairly cooperative one this weekend. Yellowthroats can be tricky to photograph because they are usually hidden among thick brush, often near wetlands.

On Saturday, I led a bird walk with a great group of people and we saw 10 warbler species, in addition to several other types of birds, such as vireos, egrets and thrushes. The warbler season in New England is still in full swing. Let me know what you’re seeing out there, send photos and sightings to bozclark@earthlink.net

The brighter side of starlings

Photo by Chris Bosak European Starling visits feeding station in May, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
European Starling visits feeding station in May, 2014.

Yes, European Starlings are overpopulated, outcompete native species for nesting sites, take over birdfeeding stations, destroy crops and really don’t belong in the United States in the first place, but … they sure can be a handsome bird in the breeding season, especially if the light hits them just right.

Starlings look markedly different from one season to the next. Their breeding plumage, seen above, features an array of dots, lines and colors, such as green, purple, blue and, of course, black.

I don’t often have good things to say about European Starlings, but this visitor to my feeder this morning at least temporarily softened my stance.

The story about how starlings ended up in the United States in the first place is very interesting. Here it is, from Wild Birds Unlimited:

“The European Starling was introduced into North America when the “American Acclimatization Society” for European settlers released some 80-100 birds in Central Park (New York City) in 1890-91. The head of this particular organization, Eugene Scheiffelin, desired to introduce all birds ever mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare.”

Read more by clicking here.

 

 

Yellow-headed Blackbird in Stamford, CT

Photo by Chris Bosak A Yellow-headed Blackbird perches in a tree at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Yellow-headed Blackbird perches in a tree at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2014.

By now you may have heard about a Yellow-headed Blackbird that has been hanging around Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn. If not, don’t worry. I was a little late to the game, too.

But on Sunday morning I took a trip over there to see if the bird was still around. A birder from Rowayton was already there looking at the bird, which was at the main feeding station within the sanctuary. It remained only a few seconds before taking off to the top of a nearby tree. It returned after a few minutes and fed on the ground under the feeders for several minutes.

Yellow-headed Blackbirds are rare sightings in New England. They are western and Midwestern birds. I love my New England Red-winged Blackbirds, but Yellow-headed Blackbirds are even more colorful and much larger. Having never seen on in New England before, I was very impressed with the bird’s color, size, yellow rump patch and white wing patches.

David Winston arrived and said the bird had been there for several days and it frequented the feeding station. Suddenly the birds all darted off into the woods and other safe areas. While the bird was elsewhere temporarily, David Winston took the opportunity to make sure the feeders were filled and the ground underneath had plenty to offer. David is tireless in his efforts to promote and maintain the sanctuary.

Photo by Chris Bosak David Winston fills the feeders at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary this weekend, hoping to keep a rare Yellow-headed Blackbird in the area.

Photo by Chris Bosak
David Winston fills the feeders at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary this weekend, hoping to keep a rare Yellow-headed Blackbird in the area.

See more photos of the bird (taken by David Winston) by clicking here.

David spotted a Cooper’s Hawk in a somewhat distant tree, hence the apprehension for the feeder birds to stay at the feeder. Eventually the hawk flew off and the blackbirds came back. By now a few more birders had arrived and the star of the show returned.

In the field guide “Birds of North America” Kenn Kaufman mentions something about the Yellow-headed Blackbird’s “awful attempts to sing.” I can now vouch for that as the Stamford bird vocalized several times while I was there.

I returned very briefly this afternoon (April 28, 2014), but did not see the bird. Truthfully, I didn’t look that hard today. Time was short. Hopefully it’s still around and many other birders will be able to see it.

Another great rarity spotted at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Yellow-headed Blackbird eats seeds under a feeder station at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Yellow-headed Blackbird eats seeds under a feeder station at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in April 2014.

Piping Plover monitoring update

Photo by Chris Bosak Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, April, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Piping Plover at Coastal Center at Milford Point, April, 2014.

So I woke up the boys for school, got them breakfast and rushed them to the car for drop off. I turned into the school parking lot: empty. No school. Scheduled “staff development” day. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve done that. Damn.

Oh well. I’ve committed to monitoring Piping Plovers and other shorebirds and, later, Least Terns on a volunteer basis on Monday mornings through the spring and summer. “Boys, we’re going shorebird monitoring.”

They didn’t object and Will was actually excited and wanted to carry the camera with him. I filled them in on what we were looking for and, more importantly, why we were looking for them. Piping Plovers are a threatened species and protecting their nesting areas is critically important.

We saw about 10 Piping Plovers today (Monday, April 21, 2014), including a pair copulating. “That’s how they make babies,” I told Andrew and told him how to spell ‘copulation.’ He was the official note taker for the day.  Wonder if he’ll try to use that word in one of his fifth-grade essays. It’s OK as long as he uses it correctly and age appropriately, I guess.

We also saw eight American Oystercatchers, a pair of Osprey and countless shells, which entertained the boys as much as the birds.

All in all, a good, educational day with the boys. Thank goodness school was out.

 

A few late ducks — and other fowl sightings

Photo by Chris Bosak Horned Grebe at Cove Island Park in Stamford, CT, April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Horned Grebe at Cove Island Park in Stamford, CT, April 2014.

While watching a small flock of Ruddy Ducks at Cove Island Park in Stamford, CT, a Horned Grebe made an appearance. The grebe was in a transitional plumage and will look quite different a few weeks from now.

Most of our “winter ducks” have flown north already, but some still linger. The Ruddy Ducks were a good sighting and there are still several Red-breasted Mergansers around. Soon, It will be mallards and black ducks for southern New England.

The Ruddy Duck photos are below:

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Just a few gratuitous Killdeer photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer at a cemetery in Darien, CT, April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer at a cemetery in Darien, CT, April 2014.

 

I’ve always liked Killdeer. They depend on large, flat open spaces to lay their eggs. As that habitat disappears, Killdeer have proven to be very resourceful. I’ve seen Killdeer nests (really just a small depression in the ground) in places such as parking lots, ball fields and cemeteries. These guys I photographed this week at a cemetery in Darien. I have plenty of Killdeer shots already, but I couldn’t resist.

To add in one fact about Killdeer to make this post at least a little informative — they are one of the species that will use the “broken wing” tactic to keep predators away from their eggs and young. As a predator (or unwitting human) approaches the nest, the parent will walk away from the eggs to divert the attention. To keep the interest of the predator the adult Killdeer will pretend it has a broken wing and limp along the ground. When the predator is sufficiently away from the nest, the adult will fly away, leaving the predator dumbfounded and hungry.

One more quick fact: Killdeer are shorebirds, and are indeed found along the shore at times, but are usually found far from the shore.

Thanks for visiting http://www.birdsofnewengland.com

Photo by Chris Bosak A Killdeer at a cemetery in Darien, Conn., April 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Killdeer at a cemetery in Darien, Conn., April 2014.

Mourning Dove sitting on nest

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

I came across the Mourning Dove during a quick walk through Oystershell Park in Norwalk, Conn., this morning. Yes, despite the late start to spring weather, the birds are right on time with their nesting.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

Check out the camouflage nature of this nest. The tangled, twisted sticks and vines are colored similarly to the dove itself. Amazing that birds can do these things. I did not approach too closely and allowed the bird to remain comfortable on its nest.

Have a bird nesting on your property? Grab a photo and send it along. I’ll use it on my “reader submitted photo” page. Remember to give the birds space and not to be intrusive — they have an important job to do. Send photos to bozclark@earthlink.net

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mourning Dove sits on a nest at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, CT., April 1014.

Mockingbirds are liking the suet

Photo by Chris Bosak A Northern Mockingbird visits a suet feeder as snow falls in March 2014 in Stamford, CT.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Northern Mockingbird visits a suet feeder as snow falls in March 2014 in Stamford, CT.

It’s not often that I see Northern Mockingbirds at my feeders. I see them often enough, just not at the feeders. But for the past week or so, a pair of mockers have been regular visitors to the suet cake feeder. They split time with a pair of Downy Woodpeckers that has been visiting all winter.

Mockingbirds will begin their incredible singing performances soon. They will perch somewhere (often a very conspicuous spot) and sing their hearts out, going over their repertoire over and over. As its name suggests, the song is a long string of other birds’ calls. Personally, I always hear mockers include the Carolina Wren’s “tea kettle” song in their mix.

Have a mockingbird story? Feel free to comment. Thanks for visiting http://www.birdsofnewengland.com