Latest For the Birds column: Birding and Pokemon

Photo by Chris Bosak cGreat Egret in Central Park, NYC.

Photo by Chris Bosak
cGreat Egret in Central Park, NYC.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

There’s nothing like attracting birds to a birdbath in the backyard. It’s also great to watch birds at feeders, but there’s something particularly exciting about watching birds splashing away or sipping water from a bath.

I highly recommend placing a birdbath out in the yard. However, that recommendation comes with a few caveats.

First of all, from my experience anyway, birdbaths are not as active as feeders. Don’t expect there to be non-stop action at the bath like there often is at the feeding station. That, to me, is what makes the visits to the bath so exciting.

Also, birdbaths can attract birds that typically do not visit feeders. I’ve had several species of warblers visit my birdbath over the years. Scarlet Tanagers will also visit baths. A Gray Catbird is much more likely to visit a bath than a feeder.

The second warning, and this one is far more important, is that birdbaths must be kept clean. In the winter, it’s not difficult to keep the bath and the water clean. The water can remain in the bath for several days and be fine. Keeping it from freezing is another matter, however.

In the summer, however, water should be changed every day. Maybe even a few times a day, especially during the inevitable heat waves that hit New England from time to time. Not only will the birdbath itself get dirty quicker, but the water becomes a breeding ground for all sorts of stuff you don’t growing in your yard.

The greatest concern is mosquitoes breeding in the birdbath. It doesn’t take long for mosquitoes to find stagnant water and start creating the next generation. This, of course, is particularly important with the threat of West Nile Virus, Zika and whatever strange disease the mosquitoes will be responsible for next.

Simply dump the water on the ground, spilling any larvae into the grass, and refill with fresh water. It only takes a minute or two and it’s the responsible thing to do, both for the birds and your neighbors. Again, that should be done daily during the summer.

If you’re going on vacation or even getting away for the weekend, simply dump the water from the bath before leaving. It’s also a good idea to remove the bowl and bring it inside or leave it upside-down outside while you are away to avoid having it fill with rain.

On top of the daily water change, birdbaths should be thoroughly cleaned periodically. In the summer the bottom of a birdbath will turn slimy and disgusting quickly. It takes more time than simply dumping and refilling, but a good, thorough cleaning is important.

In the dead of summer, birdbaths should be cleaned every other day or so. Certainly if you see algae building up on the bath, give it a good cleaning.

To clean a birdbath, empty the water, scrub the bowl with a brush and rinse well. Refill with fresh water. It’s as easy as that – if the bowl is relatively clean to begin with. If a more thorough cleaning is necessary, use a mixture of 10 parts water and one part bleach. If you do that, however, be sure to rinse the bath very well before refilling.

Birdbaths can bring great joy. There’s nothing like looking out and seeing a Scarlet Tanager or Magnolia Warbler splashing around in the water. Even seeing American Robins or Blue Jays is a thrill. Maintaining a bath, however, takes a little work. The rewards are worth the effort, though, no question about that.

A few more Scarlet Tanager photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Scarlet Tanager perches in a tree in Danbury, Conn., July 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Scarlet Tanager perches in a tree in Danbury, Conn., July 2016.

You had to see this coming. More Scarlet Tanager photos! When you get a cooperative Scarlet Tanager (this was the first one I’ve ever come across) you have to do more than one post about it … Continue reading

Nothing like a Scarlet Tanager sighting when you least expect it

Photo by Chris Bosak A Scarlet Tanager sings in a tree in Danbury, Conn., July 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Scarlet Tanager sings in a tree in Danbury, Conn., July 2016.

Well, I didn’t expect this guy to show up in the yard in mid-July. Typically I see the spectacular Scarlet Tanager in mid to late May and not again until the fall migration, if I’m lucky, or even next spring. Perhaps this means that it nested nearby. I sure hope so. Or, it could be an early southward migrant, but not likely. At any rate, I was happy to entertain it over the last few days. Hopefully it sticks around.

This is the male Scarlet Tanager. Females are dull yellow. During the fall migration, the males will lose this spectacular plumage and look somewhat similar to females. This guy is just starting to turn … note the yellow spot on its head.

More photos Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Gray Catbirds’ time to shine

Photo by Chris Bosak A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck's/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Gray Catbird perches on a thorny branch in Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in summer 2014.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column. Thanks for supporting http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

It’s a rare summer that goes by without me writing a column about catbirds.

Aside from robins, they are perhaps the dominant songbird of a New England summer. At my new home, chipping sparrows may give them a run for their money, but gray catbirds are certainly a reliable daily sighting.

Throughout much of the year, I feel, the catbird is overlooked. Of course, they are migratory so we don’t even see them during the colder months. Therefore, it’s understandable that we don’t think too much about them in the winter. I have seen a few over the years on Christmas Bird Counts, but that’s pretty rare.

That leaves spring, summer and fall for us to enjoy the gray catbird. In the spring we are overwhelmed with the number of songbirds passing through. Also, the birds that nest in our area start that process in spring, so that’s another demand on our attention. The catbirds arrive in spring to little fanfare.

Continue reading

New hummingbird video, better close-ups

Here’s another iPhone video of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I posted one last fall, too, but this one is much closer. Wait until the end to see the close-up, slo-mo.

Birds at the Birdbath finale: Tufted Titmouse with bonus old photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufutaced Titmouse perches on the edge of a birdbath in New England, fall 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufutaced Titmouse perches on the edge of a birdbath in New England, fall 2015.

Here are the final photos in the series Birds at the Birdbath. It’s not the most exciting photo so I’ve included in this post a few older birdbath photos I’ve taken over the years.

Thanks checking out http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com

Photo by Chris Bosak Gray Catbird at birdbath.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Gray Catbird at birdbath.

Photo by Chris Bosak Young Blue Jay at birdbath

Photo by Chris Bosak
Young Blue Jay at birdbath

Photo by Chris Bosak Robins invade a birdbath.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Robins invade a birdbath.

Birdbath photo III: Northern Cardinal with bald head

Photo by Chris Bosak A Northern Cardinal drinks from a bird bath in New England, fall 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Northern Cardinal drinks from a bird bath in New England, fall 2015.

This guy hung around the feeders and birdbath for much of the fall of 2015. To answer the burning question, I’m not sure what happened to the feathers on his head. Mites? Molt? Either way, the feathers likely grew back by the winter and the bird was fine.

Start of a new photo series: Birds at the Bath

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue Jay drinks from a birdbath in New England, spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue Jay drinks from a birdbath in New England, spring 2016.

Here’s the first of a few photos showing birds at the bath this spring. I took these photos and never really looked at them until now. Some are pretty cool.

Remember, if you have birdbaths in your yard, keep them clean and filled with fresh water every day in the summer. Otherwise it’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes, bacteria and other yucky stuff. Or just bring the bath in until fall.