A few more kinglet photos

As a follow-up to my last post, which featured the “small, but mighty kinglet,” here are a few more photos of these little dynamos. New England has two types of kinglets: ruby-crowned and golden-crowned. Here are examples of each. Despite their names, the “crown” is not the best way to determine an ID as the crown is not often displayed. Instead, look at their eyes. Ruby-crowned kinglets have a broken eyering (think of a ruby ring) and golden-crowned kinglets have a black streak through their eye.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Golden-crowned Kinglet rests on a branch in Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods in Darien in Nov. 2013.
Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-crowned kinglet inspects sedum for food in New England, fall 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Ruby-crowned Kinglet perches in a tree at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods on May 5, 2014.

For the Birds: The small, but mighty kinglet

People like large birds. Eagles, hawks, owls, even herons and waterfowl, get birders and non-birders alike excited.

Smaller birds? Sure, birders get excited about smaller birds too, but for non-birders, these birds have to bring something appealing to the table.

Everyone likes cardinals. They’re bright red. Everyone likes chickadees. They’re cute, tame and active. Non-birders are split on blue jays. Some like them because they are blue (and fairly large), and some dislike them because they heard jays are bully birds and they can’t let it go.

In fact, many smaller birds go completely unnoticed by non-birders, even when the birds make their presence rather obvious. A flock of white-throated sparrows or dark-eyed juncos can dart in every direction right in front of a non-birder and it will be as if nothing ever happened. A birder, however, will stop dead in his or her tracks, reach for the binoculars and try to find the little birds in the brush just to confirm an ID.

Not that I’m being critical of non-birders. It’s just not their thing. My son Andrew loves cars. When we drive together he points out all the cars that catch his eye. Look, Dad, there’s a BMW X2TR5 or an Audi 627X, he’ll say. Those aren’t the real models, of course. I forget the real model names the second he tells me. I’m glad he has a passion and great knowledge of it, but cars aren’t my thing.

Just like birds aren’t everybody’s thing.

I thought about that during a recent walk. To me, it was a great bird walk. I saw a lot of birds that got my blood pumping and managed to get a few decent photos of some elusive species. The bird list included species such as palm warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, Carolina wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, and the aforementioned white-throated sparrow and dark-eyed junco. Not bad for November.

All of those birds are small and rather nondescript, at least without the aid of binoculars. A non-birder would have been bored silly. I was loving it.

The kinglet got me thinking most of all. They are tiny birds, never sit still and hardly utter a peep when they pass through New England in the fall. I can almost guarantee that a non-birder has never taken even the slightest interest in a kinglet. Yet birders love them.

Kinglets are almost as small as hummingbirds, in size anyway, not necessarily in weight. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are about 7 to 9 centimeters long and ruby-crowned kinglets are about 9 to 11 centimeters long. Hummingbirds are a mere 2 to 6 grams, depending on activity and the last time they ate. Kinglets weigh in at a comparatively hefty 5 to 10 grams. By comparison, black-capped chickadees are 10 to 15 centimeters and 11 to 12 grams.

Kinglets are also rather bland from a distance or by a quick glance. Closer inspection yields an interesting mix of olive green, yellow, black and white plumage. As their name suggests, males have a red crown that is exposed when the bird is excited. In my experience, it is not exposed too often.

Kinglets are a far cry from an eagle or heron, but they are big in character, hardiness and energy. As a birder, I can appreciate that.

For the Birds: Readers take over

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-bellied woodpecker perches on a log.

You’ve heard from me; now find out what others are seeing out there.

Red-bellied woodpeckers continue to proliferate in southern New Hampshire. It wasn’t too many years ago that these large, handsome and sometimes aggressive birds were extremely rare sightings in the Granite State. Their northern expansion has been impressive and now they are seen with much greater frequency throughout the southern part of the state.

I wouldn’t say they are common sightings here yet, but they are getting there. They are now very common in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, so it stands to reason New Hampshire and Vermont are next.

In the last few weeks, I have heard from Monadnock Region residents Cindy and Richard who have each hosted red-bellied woodpeckers at their feeders recently. Cindy from Keene wrote that her bird visits every day. She wrote that the bird’s red head is “almost neon” when the sun hits it just right.

Richard had stopped feeding the birds in the summer due to the mysterious illness that had killed so many birds in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. He started again in the fall and a red-bellied woodpecker was one of his first customers when the feeders went back up.

Richard had also asked whether last year’s birdseed was still good to offer. As long as the seed was stored properly and looks and feels OK, it should be fine to feed the birds. Like anything, birdseed has a shelf life, though. Try offering a small amount and if the birds eat it and come back, it’s fine. If it’s not good, the birds won’t come back to that feeder. Just make sure you replace it with fresh seed before the next time they visit.

Sticking with the woodpecker theme, Dan and Nancy from Keene had an unusual sighting of about 15 northern flickers foraging in their yard recently. When the birds got startled, they retreated to nearby trees, flashing their white rump patches.

Not everyone has been so lucky as of late. Two separate readers from Connecticut wrote to ask why no birds have been visiting their feeders. I get that question fairly often and I always say to just be patient. The birds are likely finding food from natural sources and will return soon. In fact, one of the readers responded a week or so later to say that the birds were slowly returning with sightings of a hairy woodpecker, two blue jays and two mourning doves. My guess is that action will continue to accelerate as we head into winter.

Lenny from Greenfield sent in a photo of a red-tailed hawk he saw from his tractor while raking hay to bale. Later, he saw two more red-taileds. Lenny said he has seen more red-tailed hawks this year in the hayfields than in years past.

Paul from Swanzey was enjoying his morning coffee when he heard a knocking at his downstairs slider door. He investigated and found two turkeys making the racket.

I also got an email from Roxanne, also of Swanzey, who recommended an article from the Wall Street Journal on the abundance of birds near urban centers during the pandemic. She added that she has a family of turkeys that routinely come to her feeders to eat the seed that has fallen to the ground. They also like the cracked corn she throws out for them. She also cautioned that drivers should be careful as wild turkeys, despite their large size, can be difficult to spot along the sides of the road. She even put up some “Wild Turkey Crossing” signs to warn drivers.

Finally, Patti wrote in with a good question about efts. I had written about the young newts a few weeks ago and mentioned they are toxic to predators. She was concerned because she often picks them up to move out of harm’s way. Efts are only toxic if ingested and many predators know that from the amphibian’s bright colors. Touching an eft is not harmful to humans so, by all means, keep helping the little critters.

The temperatures are getting cooler, but there is still plenty of bird activity in New England. Drop me a line and let me know what you’re seeing out there.

And the answer is …

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-crowned heron walks through a marsh in New England, summer 2021.

Thanks to those who participated in the latest bird quiz. No one got it right, but everyone who guessed was on the right track in saying it was a young or juvenile bird. The bird in question is a young yellow-crowned night heron. I saw it stalking in a marsh in Milford, Connecticut, earlier this fall. Thanks again for playing along.

For the Birds: A tree full of birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A palm warbler perches in New England, October 2021.

A pair of ruby-crowned kinglets flitted among the brush, and a crow or two flew overhead. That was all the bird action on the early part of the walk.

Then I heard a commotion coming from a nearby tree. It was a huge, dead maple tree with no leaves on its branches, but various types of vines climbed up its trunk and spread out among the limbs. The vines still had their leaves, making the tree look like nature had splattered various shades of red, yellow, orange and green on the venerable old guard.

Something must have been lurking among the brush because the birds were on high alert. I’ve never seen a more varied collection of bird species in one tree before. I could hardly believe it as I counted out the species in my head.

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A few more yellow-rumped warbler photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-rumped warbler eats poison ivy berries in New England, fall 2021.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding a flock of yellow-rumped warblers eating poison ivy berries. Here are a few more shots. Click here for the original story.

Photo by Chris Bosak A yellow-rumped warbler eats poison ivy berries in New England, fall 2021.

For the Birds: Halloween in nature

Photo by Chris Bosak Praying mantis at Highstead in Redding, CT, summer 2019.

A little late for Halloween, but whatever …

I’ve always liked Halloween. It’s kind of a silly holiday if you think about it, but maybe that’s why I like it so much.

As a kid, trick-or-treating was the highlight of Halloween, of course. It was fun to find a costume and dress up, but it was mostly about the candy back then. As I got in my late teens and 20s, Halloween parties become the highlight of the season. I’ll don’t think I’ll expand on that one. We’ve all been there.

Even as an adult I still like Halloween. I don’t trick-or-treat, and I don’t party as much, but I still like the imagery and aura associated with the holiday. “It feels like Halloween tonight,” I find myself saying on many walks in the fall. Something about those chilly nights with clouds and a bright moon remind me of being a kid trick-or-treating or taking my boys around the neighborhood when they were younger.

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