Titmouse grabs a peanut

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Titmouse tries to figure out how to pick up a peanut off a deck railing in Danbury, Conn., in the fall of 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Titmouse tries to figure out how to pick up a peanut off a deck railing in Danbury, Conn., in the fall of 2016.

I am entertained by birds doing just about anything, but one of my favorite sights in the backyard is watching birds grab peanuts and fly off to store or eat them. I put a handful or two of peanuts on a platform feeder or on the deck railing itself and wait for the birds to discover them.

If the Blue Jays arrive first, forget it, the peanuts will be gone in a matter of minutes. Same goes for the Red-bellied Woodpecker. One or two of them empty the feeder in minutes, too.

I like when smaller birds, such as the Tufted Titmouse above, go after the peanuts. Their bills aren’t large enough to simply fly in, grab the nut and take off. They need to pick the right peanut and position it just right to grab it.

If you’ve never tried offering peanuts in the shell to birds, give it a shot. It has great entertainment value.

Bird Book Look: Birding at the Bridge

Here is another bird book that came out this year for your consideration during this holiday season.This one came out in early summer, and is titled “Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront,” by Heather Wolf, published by The Experiment. 

It is largely a picture book, but does include interesting text on each of the species featured in the book. Cities, especially a borough of New York City, may not be regarded as birding hotspots, but the author and photographer prove that that is not necessarily the case.

Below is more information on the book, taken from a press release from the publisher.

Be sure to visit the Bird Book Look page on this site for other book gift ideas.


Bright lights, big city, and . . . birds? The Brooklyn Bridge once overshadowed a decaying industrial waterfront, but today it points the way to a new green oasis: Brooklyn Bridge Park. When avid birder Heather Wolf moved from tropical Florida to a nearby apartment, she wondered how many species she might see there, and soon came to a surprising realization: Not only is the park filled with an astonishing variety of birds, but the challenges that come with urban birding make them even more fun—and rewarding—to find.

 Camera in hand, Heather has captured scores of memorable scenes—a European starling pokes its head out of a hole in a snack shop, a marsh wren straddles two branches, common grackle nestlings clamor for food above the basketball courts—in more than 150 stunning photographs that will entrance birders and bird lovers, wherever their local patch may be. From the familiar-but-striking bufflehead duck to the elusive mourning warbler, every species comes to life on the page, foraging, nesting, and soaring in the slice of the city where they’ve made themselves at home. Discover the thrilling adventure of birding in the great outdoors—in the heart of Brooklyn. 

Latest For the Birds column: Is another extinction coming?

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.

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.

….

The 2016 version of the Connecticut State of the Birds report is perhaps the most disconcerting yet, especially with the mention of the “E” word

That word, of course, is extinction and it’s not a word bandied about lightly in the bird world. But there it is in black and white in “State of the Birds 2016: Gains, Losses and The Prospect of Extinction.” See? There it is right in the title of the report.

The word is used to describe the Saltmarsh Sparrow, which unless serious conservation efforts are taken (and are successful), “faces likely extinction within 50 years,” according to the report. Saving the Saltmarsh Sparrow is tricky because, as its name suggests, it is a bird of the salt marshes, one of the habitats most in peril.

The reports takes a look at bird population trends over the last 10 years. The Saltmarsh Sparrow may be the species most in danger, but unfortunately, the news is grim for other birds as well. Another denizen of salt marshes, the Clapper Rail, as well as shrubland birds Blue-winged Warbler and Brown Thrashers are also seeing steep declines in number. The Piping Plover, a coastal favorite among birders, is also continuing to lose ground, even though great efforts have been made to protect them.

The greatest threat to all these birds is the destruction of their habitat. They require a very specific habitat on which to nest and those habitats are becoming scarce throughout Connecticut and New England. It’s not like a Saltmarsh Sparrow can suddenly pack its bags and move to the woods to raise a family.

Milan G. Bull, Connecticut Audubon’s senior director of science and conservation, has been involved with all 11 State of the Birds reports. He said the dire warnings about the Saltmarsh Sparrow should be heeded.

“(The) most disturbing (trend), though, is the likely extinction of the Saltmarsh Sparrow because of sea level rise,” Bull said. “It would be the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since the Heath Hen in 1931. There’s no way to characterize that as anything but a disaster.”

Chris Elphick of the University of Connecticut researched and wrote about tidal marsh birds. He made the eye-opening prediction about the Saltmarsh Sparrow.

“We now know these birds are in more trouble than was suspected, and that we need to act soon if we wish to protect them,” he wrote in the report.

So what can be done? The authors of the report don’t merely throw bad news out there. They offered several recommendations on what can be done to help these birds at risk.

Among the recommendations are: institute national policies to slow sea level rise and reduce global warming; land owners should look for ways to create, maintain or expand shrub-scrub habitat; meet state’s goal of protecting 21 percent of the state’s land by 2023; start planning and funding for a breeding bird atlas; and find “new and novel funding mechanisms for non-game conservation efforts.”

The news wasn’t all bad, however. Some bird species are faring better than expected. The Indigo Bunting and Prairie Warbler have seen gains in recent years.

It’s always nice to look at the bright side, but we shouldn’t be blinded by it. The dark side of bird population trends is much more illuminating and in need of consideration.

 

The PDF of the full version of the report may be found here.

Bird Book Look: “Wildlife Spectacles”


With the holiday season uponus, I figured I would rekindle the Bird Book Look feature of this blog. Remember, the posts are not necessarily reviews and recommendations, but merely me letting you all know about some of the new bird and wildlife books that are out there. Visit the Bird Book Look page, which you can see in the menu above, to see the previous posts. Most are available in bookstores, and I’m sure all of them can be found on Amazon.

This post’s featured book is: “Wildlife Spectacles: Mass Migrations, Mating Rituals, and Other Fascinating Animal Behaviors” by Vladimir Dinets. It is published Continue reading

What do Pied-billed Grebes eat?

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

Pied-billed Grebes eat a variety of aquatic foods, such as crustaceans, insects and amphibians. Oh, they also eat fish, as you can see from this photo I got last week at a small pond in Danbury, Conn.

Now the next question … why is it called a Pied-billed Grebe?

The word “pied” means having two more colors. This grebe’s bill is silver/gray and black in the summer.

 

More photos from Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Titmouse visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016, during the Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Titmouse visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016, during the Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

Here are a few more photos from my Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge.

Here’s the original post, which explains the challenge.

Photo by Chris Bosak A White-breasted Nuthatch visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016, during the Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A White-breasted Nuthatch visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016, during the Audubon Park My Bird Week media challenge. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

Audubon Park’s media challenge accepted

Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Tufted Titmice visit a feeder during the Audobon Park My Bird Week media challenge in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pair of Tufted Titmice visit a feeder during the Audobon Park My Bird Week media challenge in Danbury, Conn., in Nov. 2016. Both the feeder and seeds are from Audubon Park.

I recently accepted a challenge from Audubon Park to participate in a media challenge whereby members of the media, using an Audubon Park feeder and bird seed blend, feed birds for a week and tracke the birds they see.

I already had a feeding station set up, so I knew the birds would quickly discover the new feeder in the area. I planted a new pole set up to hang the feeder on. Well, it took a matter of minutes for the Audubon Park feeder and seeds to get broken in by “my” birds.

At first it was my favorite regulars — Black-caped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, and White-breasted Nuthatch — that visited the feeder. Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: The flurry will come

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Belted Kingfisher leaves its perch near a small pond along the Golden Road in Maine.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Belted Kingfisher leaves its perch near a small pond along the Golden Road in Maine.

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.

…..

A lot of birdwatching is standing around looking at nothing. It’s also a lot of walking around looking at nothing.

Let me rephrase that. A lot of birdwatching is standing or walking around looking at things other than birds. No matter where you are, there is always something to look at — even if it is the trees, shrubs and flowers in the habitat in which you are seeking birds. I think it is an essential part of being a birdwatcher to appreciate the “less exciting” things in nature.

To be a birdwatcher you also need very heavy doses of patience and faith.

You could walk around your favorite woods Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Return of the juncos

Photo by Chris Bosak A junco looks for seeds on a dried up plant at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A junco looks for seeds on a dried up plant at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

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.

I was wondering when the first one would show up. Mid to late October is typically when the Dark-eyed Juncos start showing up throughout the southern half of New England, but I hadn’t seen one yet and October was quickly fading away.

Eventually I noticed something that looked out of place on a low branch of a hemlock that juts into my backyard. Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and White-breasted Nuthatches had launched an all-out assault on my feeders in the morning and never stopped as the sun continued to get higher in the sky.

Clearly this bird on the hemlock was not one of those three species. I had seen enough of those birds to be able to identify them in my sleep.

Obviously, the bird was a Dark-eyed Junco. It was an adult male Continue reading