A walk for the birds at Oak Hills

Some bird nerd with cool birdwatching peeps.

I’m a little late with this posting but better late than never. A few Saturdays ago I led a bird walk at Oak Hills Park in Norwalk. I was honored to be invited by the park’s Nature Advisory Committee to be the bird guide. Of course, I accepted because I love spreading the good word about birds and I have a soft spot for any volunteer organization that promotes nature appreciation and saves land.

As a bit of background, Oak Hills Park is mainly a golf course and the nature trails are on land that was once targeted to be cleared for a driving range. The Nature Advisory Committee now stewards that part of the property, which is valuable for birds and other animals — and plants for that matter. Case in point, during the walk we came across a box turtle in the woods. The box turtle is one of many animal species in decline because of loss of habitat.

The walk drew a large crowd and we saw many exciting birds. The highlight for many, myself included, was a very cooperative scarlet tanager, one of the most colorful and brightest birds we see in New England during migration. The red-bodied and black-winged bird flitted around and rested at eye level not far from the gathered crowd. I also pointed out over and over the sound of the red-bellied woodpecker and I’d be disappointed if that sound wasn’t permanently ingrained into the brains of each participant. I also hope some of the birders recall the different sounds made by the American crow (harsh caw) and fish crow (nasally caw). We heard them both there.

Savanna posted the complete species list to eBird and it was a good morning of watching birds. From memory, here’s what we saw (and/or heard) on the morning of May 4: yellow warbler, black-and-white warbler, yellow-rumped warbler, ovenbird, scarlet tanager, hermit thrush, American goldfinch, American crow, fish crow, blue jay, cardinal, catbird, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, eastern phoebe, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, common grackle, American robin, white-throated sparrow and an undetermined species of vireo. I may have missed a species or two.

Clearly, the land is valuable for wildlife and thanks to those who protected the property. On Saturday, June 1, from 3 to 5 p.m., there will be another walk there in honor of Trails Day. The walk is free and open to all. For more information about the walk and park, see www.oakhillsgc.com or https://www.facebook.com/Oakhillspark/ .

The birding group — Oak Hills Park, Norwalk, CT, May 4, 2019.
Larry protects the box turtle.
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A few yard visitors, part II

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbird visits fuscia blooms in Danbury, Conn., May 2019.

The ruby-throated hummingbirds came back a bit late this year, to my yard anyway. Last year it was late April. This year it was early May. Regardless, they are back and buzzing around like they own the place.

A few yard visitors, part I

Photo by Chris Bosak
A rose-breasted grosbeak eats safflower seeds from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., May 2019.

Now that Warbler Week has passed and the spring migration is on a downward trend (but far from over), I’ll take the next few weeks to share photos of some yard visitors I’ve had this spring. As always, feel free to contact me with what birds you’ve been seeing. Send to chrisbosak26@gmail.com. Be sure to include the town and state in which the sighting was made. Thanks!

Warbler Week: Black-and-white warbler

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-and-white warbler seen in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

The black-and-white warbler is another common warbler in New England. Black-and-white warblers are one of the few warblers often seen on tree trunks. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, they have an extra hind claw that helps them cling to trunks. They are also often heard and not spotted, especially when the leaves are fully out in our New England woods. Listen for the high-pitched squeaky wheel song. Some song descriptions are of little help, but this warbler sounds exactly like a squeaky wheel. The black-and-white warbler is not a colorful warbler (obviously) but it’s a striking bird regardless with its striped plumage.

Warbler Week: Common yellowthroat

Photo by Chris Bosak
A common yellowthroat perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

Aside from the yellow warbler, the common yellowthroat is perhaps New England’s most common and widespread warbler. The male is a handsome bird with a thin white “forehead,” thick black face mask and bright yellow throat and underparts. The rest of the body is olive and tan. Females are mostly olive and tan with a yellow throat. The loud “witchety-witchety-witchety” song often accompanies birders on spring and early summer walks. Yellowthroats prefer shrubby habitat and are usually found low in this habitat.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Female common yellowthroat

Warbler Week: Ovenbird

Photo by Chris Bosak
An ovenbird sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

The ovenbird’s “teacher, teacher, teacher” song is often the dominant sound in the New England woods during spring and summer. It is a loud and piercing song, but it is often difficult to find the source. The ovenbird is small (it is a warbler after all) and well-camouflaged bird. It resembles a thrush with its overall brownish plumage and spotted chest but it also has an orange crown flanked by two dark streaks. The ovenbird, which is named for the shape of its ground nest, is often found walking along the forest floor. It will sing from the ground or from a perch in the woods making it that much more difficult to find.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An ovenbird sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

Warbler Week: American redstart

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American redstart perches in a tree in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.

The American redstart is a dynamic-looking little bird with black and orange plumage. While the Baltimore oriole is predominately orange with black and white, the redstart is mostly black with orange markings on its sides, wings and outer tail edges. The redstart, of course, is also much smaller than an oriole. Redstarts are common throughout New England in brushy areas near woods. You’ll probably hear its high-pitched, rather non-musical song before seeing the handsome bird. Females and young redstarts are similarly patterned to males, but gray and yellow instead of black and orange.

Here’s the female …

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American redstart perches in a tree in Ridgefield, Conn., May 2019.