Connecticut duck stamp winners announces

On occasion I’ll run a bird-related press release on this site. It’s been a while since I ran one, but I love ducks and the Connecticut duck stamp winners were announced. As usual, the artwork is terrific, so I figured why not post them here.

Enjoy … and buy duck stamps — either from your state or the federal stamp. All proceeds go to conservation efforts.

Here it is from Connecticut DEEP:

In a contest filled with great artwork, a panel of judges recently selected world renowned and Connecticut artist Chet Reneson’s depiction of a pair of surf scoters flying at the mouth of the Connecticut River with the Saybrook Jetty and Lighthouse in the background as the winner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s (DEEP) 2017-2018 Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation (Duck) Stamp Art Contest.  Chet has been painting and carving for over half a century and resides in Lyme. His painting was chosen out of a total of 22 entries submitted by artists from across the country, including a record 12 from Connecticut artists.

Paintings were judged in six categories: suitability for reproduction, composition, habitat suitability for that species, anatomical correctness, eye appeal, originality, and whether a recognizable Connecticut landmark or habitat was used. Chet’s painting will be the image for the 2018 Connecticut Duck Stamp. A pair of American black ducks flying in front of Gillette Castle and the Chester Ferry painted by Broderick Crawford of Georgia placed second. Broderick’s artwork has placed third twice and this was the second time his work has been runner-up. Third place went to the Clayton Family of Ohio for a painting of a pair of Canada geese painted by Matt Clayton. The Clayton Family has submitted artwork every year, and Christine placed second in 2015 and third in 2016.

The Winning Artist: Chet Reneson was born and raised in Connecticut. He developed an interest in drawing and painting at a very early age and, by the age of 12, was producing exceptionally detailed drawings and paintings. Over the past 50 years, his work, particularly his watercolor paintings, have attracted and been highly sought after by collectors and sportsmen alike. Chet has won a number of prestigious awards, such as being named Artist of the Year by Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, and the Atlantic Salmon Federation. The Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp Contest is Chet’s first win in such a contest. Never shying away from hard work, much of Chet’s artistic work has reflected the passions of his life and experiences. He has always enjoyed hunting and fishing and, as the years have passed, he now concentrates on hunting upland game birds and fishing for landlocked salmon and brook trout. He taught his son and grandchildren the crafts of the sporting trade and continues to run his hunting dogs on a daily basis.

First Local Artist to Win Contest: The DEEP Wildlife Division continues to encourage local artists to submit paintings for this contest. Chet’s win marks the first time a Connecticut artist has taken first place. It is hoped that this win will inspire more Connecticut artists to showcase their talent and highlight the beautiful natural resources in our state. The top three paintings will be on display through the end of September 2017 at the DEEP Wildlife Division’s Sessions Woods Conservation Education Center in Burlington. Sessions Woods is located at 341 Milford Street in Burlington, and is open to the public on Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Background on the Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation (Duck) Stamp Program: The program was initiated in the early 1990s when concerned sportsmen worked with DEEP to develop legislation that would generate revenue for wetland conservation. Modeled after the federal Duck Stamp Program, Connecticut’s program requires the purchase of a state Migratory Bird Conservation Stamp, along with a hunting license, to legally hunt waterfowl and other migratory game birds. By state law, funds generated from the sale of Duck Stamps can only be used for the development, management, preservation, conservation, acquisition, purchase, and maintenance of waterfowl habitat and wetlands, as well as the purchase and acquisition of recreational rights or interests relating to migratory birds.

“The Duck Stamp Program is a great example of how the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation works – users of the resource pay into funds whose monies are solely dedicated to conservation,” said Rick Jacobson, DEEP Wildlife Division Director. “The Connecticut Duck Stamp fund is a vital source of money for many of the wetland projects that are conducted in our state. Federal aid dollars from the hunter-funded Pittman-Robertson Program can also be used for wetland conservation.”

The Duck Stamp Program has generated over $1,500,000 for the enhancement of wetland and associated upland habitats, as well as garnered additional monies for Connecticut through matching grants from federal conservation initiatives. By combining Duck Stamp funds with these additional monies, over $4 million dollars have been available to complete wildlife conservation projects. Thus, Connecticut has received a 4:1 return on Duck Stamp monies. Over 3,445 acres of wetlands in the state have been restored or enhanced using Duck Stamp funds, mostly on state-owned wildlife management areas. The funds also have been used to purchase 75 acres of critical wildlife habitat and conduct habitat projects at over 50 sites statewide. These efforts have benefitted many of the approximately 274 birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles of our state that rely on clean, healthy wetlands.

Hunters are not the only ones who can purchase Connecticut Migratory Bird Conservation Stamps. Anyone who wishes to support wetland conservation and restoration in our state may buy a Duck Stamp. Stamps can be purchased for $17 each wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold: participating town clerks, participating retail agents, DEEP License and Revenue (79 Elm Street in Hartford), and through the online Sportsmen’s Licensing System (www.ct.gov/deep/sportsmenlicensing). Upon request, stamps can be sent through the mail. To learn more about the Connecticut Duck Stamp and the Art Contest, visit the DEEP website at www.ct.gov/deep/ctduckstamp.

Reproduction prints of the winning Duck Stamps, signed by the artists and suitable for framing and display, are also available. Please contact the DEEP Wildlife Division’s Migratory Bird Program at 860-418-5959 for more information on purchasing reproductions.

Do your part for conservation. Buy a duck stamp and contribute to habitat protection and restoration.

 

Good spring for rose-breasted grosbeaks

Photo by Chris Bosak A female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

I didn’t see my first one until May 17, but since then I’ve seen a good number of rose-breasted grosbeaks — always a welcomed sighting in the spring. The male is the flashy bird with black-and-white plumage and signature upside-down bright red triangle on his chest. The female is more muted in color, but still a handsome bird to see at the feeder. They both have large bills (they aren’t called grosbeaks for nothing) and easily crack the sunflower seeds offered at feeders.

I’ve also seen them at suet feeders, so those of us who feed birds into the summer (or year-round) can attract them with a variety of foods. Many people stop feeding birds in the spring. I don’t blame those who have bears to worry about, but those who stop feeding birds once the winter ends miss out on birds such as rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Above is a shot of the female at the feeder. Check out the sizable bill on her. Below is the male and female. Not a great shot, I know, but interesting to see them together. Another female was at the feeder seconds before this shot, but the female shown chased her away.

Photo by Chris Bosak A male and female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male and female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Chickadee checks out birdhouse

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a birdhouse in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a birdhouse in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

One of the biggest thrills in spring is seeing what birds are choosing your yard to raise a family. I have mourning dove and robin nests this spring, and this chickadee is checking out one of my four birdhouses. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it since, so it likely found another home.

I did notice great-crested flycatchers flying into a large oak tree with nesting material in its bill. Hopefully that’s a good sign. I’ll certainly keep an eye out to see how that develops. I also have male and female hummingbirds coming to the feeders, so if hummingbirds nested in the yard somewhere, that would be cool.

As spring progresses, I’ll keep an eye out for what else might be nesting nearby. Drop me a line and let me know what’s nesting in your yard.

Nice to see this guy back

Photo by Chris Bosak A male ruby-throated humminacgbird visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A male ruby-throated hummingbird visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Not sure if it’s the same male ruby-throated hummingbird I had last fall, but at any rate, it was good to see him return to the feeder a few days ago. He’s been their daily, several times a day. The female is still hanging around, too. Hopefully there’s a love connection there and they’ll build a nest somewhere on my property. I’ll keep my eyes open.

 

For the Birds: A migratory turn of events

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.

Photo by Chris Bosak A chestnut-sided warbler sings from a lower perch in Ridgefield, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A chestnut-sided warbler sings from a lower perch in Ridgefield, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

My birdwatching fortunes this spring migration made an abrupt turn for the better last week.

The cool, wet weather – in addition to working and coaching youth baseball – had limited my time looking for birds. When I did get out there, the birdwatching was relatively slow: a towhee here, a thrush there.

I love my towhees and thrushes, of course, but the day of seeing a flurry of spring migrants had escaped me. The dry spell ended during a walk in the woods last week.

The woods themselves were alive with the sounds of ovenbirds, thrushes and even barred owls, which often sing during the day.

The ubiquitous “teacher-teacher-teacher” call of the ovenbird reminded me of a spring camping trip I did with the boys about five years ago. We canoed to a site on Grout Pond in Green Mountain National Park in southern Vermont. Once settled we walked through the woods and ovenbirds seemingly surrounded us the entire way.

It was a highlight of an otherwise, let me say difficult, camping experience. The wood was wet and wouldn’t burn, and rain fell throughout most of the cool day and cooler night. A steady wind made fishing impossible. The boys – then nine and five – fought and bickered the entire time.

I’ve had plenty of great camping experiences with the boys, but this was not one of them. I did have those ovenbirds, though.

Back to my walk last week … The birding action picked up greatly when I came to a clearing in the woods. It was more than a clearing, I guess, and more of a field surrounded by woods. Great habitat for birds.

The buzzy song of a blue-winged warbler greeted me as I stepped out of the dark woods and into the bright field. The bird’s appearance with a bright yellow plumage and black eye stripe is even more dramatic than its unique song.

A chestnut-sided warbler was next to show itself. It doesn’t have a particularly catchy song, but I’ve always liked chestnut-sided warblers. It’s a handsome warbler with overall black-and-white plumage, highlighted by a yellow cap and chestnut lines running down the sides.

Until that day, a decent photograph of a chestnut-sided warbler had eluded me. I don’t see them often enough and when I do, they are usually too high in leafed-out trees to capture on film. (Older photographers explain to younger photographers what “capture on film” means.) On this day, however, a particularly curious individual came to a low perch to check me out. It hopped around a bit and eventually settled and sang a few bars for me.

As I made my way across the field, the colorful birds kept on coming. An indigo bunting perched near the top of a medium-sized tree in the middle of the field. A small group of goldfinches took lower perches on the same tree, but didn’t stick around for long before flying off in their undulating fashion.

A scarlet tanager sang near the top of a tall oak at the field’s edge. I heard, but couldn’t spot, a Baltimore oriole in a nearby tree. For as bright and large as orioles are, they can be awfully difficult to find in trees.

A rose-breasted grosbeak sighting would have rounded out the sightings nicely, but if they were there, I missed them. I did see one the next day in a tall oak at my house, so that was nice.

Time eventually ran out on my walk, but the ovenbirds and thrushes escorted me through the woods and back to the starting point.

No wonder birders like the spring migration so much.

Scarlet tanager makes spring appearance

A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

It’s always nice when one of these guys lands in your yard. This is two years in a row I’ve played host to one of these flashy migrants. Now that’s a streak I hope continues.

The male scarlet tanager is arguably New England’s most brilliantly colored bird — in spring and summer, anyway. By the fall, he will molt into a much more dull plumage.

 

How’s your warbler season going?

Photo by Chris Bosak A chestnut-sided warbler sings from a lower perch in Ridgefield, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A chestnut-sided warbler sings from a lower perch in Ridgefield, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

We are heading to a point on the calendar where the spring warbler migration should be hitting its peak before trickling off as we head into the later weeks of May. The weather has been so cool and wet that many birders are wondering where the early part of the spring migration went.

I am included in that group as, between coaching youth baseball teams and having rain put a damper on birdwalks, my spring migration season has barely started .. and it’s already mid-May.

I did have a good walk recently with sightings of chestnut-sided warblers, blue-winged warblers, ovenbirds, wood thrushes, eastern towhees, and — to top it off — a male scarlet tanager. I also hear barred owls calling in the distance.

How is your spring migration season going? Let me know what you’re seeing out there.

A few singing warblers

Photo by Chris Bosak  An American redstart sings from a perch in New England in spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American redstart sings from a perch in New England in spring 2017.

It’s warbler season (despite the below-normal New England temperatures) so I may as well post a few photos of these little birds …

Hopefully there will be more to come.

Photo by Chris BosakA chestnut-sided warbler sings from a perch in New England in the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris BosakA chestnut-sided warbler sings from a perch in New England in the spring of 2017.

For the Birds: Towhees aplenty on walk

 

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs in several New England newspapers.

….

I was on a tight schedule so I planned a quick out-and-back bird walk, instead of trying to tackle the entire several-mile loop.

The entire walk on the “out” portion was quiet with not a single bird seen or heard. I found that very peculiar considering it was the middle of April when the spring migration should be heating up. No warblers, no vireos, no regular birds. It was a drizzly day, so perhaps that had something to do with keeping the birds hunkered down.

The “back” portion of the trip started in similar fashion. No birds to be seen, no birds to be heard.

Then, deep in the woods, I heard a familiar call. It was a sharp and fairly loud two-syllable call. It was an eastern towhee. Based on where the sound was coming from, there was no way I was going to find it. I could have tromped through the brush and woods, but I didn’t want to risk being covered in ticks. It’s early spring, and I’ve already found several ticks on my clothes and a few attached to my body. In fact, that started back in February.

I’ve heard from several sources that the conditions are right for a bad tick season, so be careful out there. Check your clothes and self frequently.

It turned out it was no big deal that the towhee alluded me as several other towhees made their presence known as I made my way back. These towhees were much closer and some were even cooperative for the camera. From my experiences, that is pretty rare for a towhee — although the breeding season makes birds, and other creatures, do strange things sometimes.

By the end of the walk, I had seen about eight towhees. Only one of the birds was a female, and she stayed out of range of the camera. I did bring her in with my binoculars and got good looks at her. A male was close by, singing and calling. It was likely her mate.

Like many species, eastern towhees are sexually dimorphic, meaning males and females differ in appearance. But unlike many bird species, female towhees, in my opinion, are just as handsome as the males.

While the males are decorated with black, reddish-brown and white plumage, the females are light brown and white. Both have a similar pattern with white bellies and rufous-colored flanks. The males also have red eyes, which I always find cool.

As I mentioned before, time was short on my walk but the towhee sightings extended the walk — I’ve never been one to leave cooperative birds because of being in a rush. Two towhees in particular were cooperative and allowed me to grab some shots of them. Neither was overly cooperative, but each offered a few seconds worth of perching on an obvious, unobstructed branch. Towhees are infamous for hiding among the thick brush.

The walk ended void of any other bird sightings. No warblers, no vireos, no tanagers or grosbeaks. Just towhees. I’ll try again on a sunnier day.