Latest For the Birds column: Be prepared for snowstorms by filling birdfeeders

Photo by Chris Bosak A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Brown Creeper finds food at the base of a tree during a cold snap in February 2016, Danbury, Connecticut.

Here is the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers. (Note the date of the Great Backyard Bird Count has passed for this year.)

When I know a major snowstorm is coming, I want to be well prepared.

That does not include a trip to the grocery store to buy milk, bread, bottled water or any other essentials like that. That stuff I can get after everything is plowed or dug out — usually the next day.

For me, being prepared means making sure my camera batteries are charged, lenses cleaned and storage card emptied. It also means making sure the feeders are full before the storm hits. Perhaps I’ll add a few special treats for the birds in preparation for the snow.

The latest predicted snowstorm did not disappoint. It was supposed to start overnight, and it did. Thankfully I had filled the feeders before going to bed. I woke up to several inches of fresh snow and nonstop action at the feeders.

Juncos were the most prolific bird of the day. They typically hang around the ground seeking seeds, but with snow covering the ground, they perched on feeders alongside the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches.

It was a great storm, and the snow fell all day. Other than a snowshoe hike with the boys, I kept an eye on the feeders most of the day. Nothing too unusual showed up, but the falling snow made for a spectacular scene.

Several New Hampshire readers sent me photos of the birds they saw that day. A collection is available on my website, www.birdsofnewengland.com. If you took any bird photos that day and haven’t shared them with anyone yet, feel free to send them to me at bozclark@earthlink.net. I’ll add them to collection for the world to see.

Speaking of sharing bird sightings, the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count is coming up this weekend, taking place Friday, Feb. 17 to Monday, Feb. 20. It is your chance to contribute to a data base of winter bird sightings. The data is used to track bird populations and identify potential problems before they become irreversible.

All it takes is 15 minutes (or longer, of course) of counting birds and entering your checklist online at www.birdcount.org. You can count the birds alone or with a group, in your backyard or in the woods, for 15 minutes or all four days. It’s that easy. Checklists must be submitted online, however.

“The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way to introduce people to participation in citizen science,” Gary Langham, the Audubon Society’s vice president and chief scientist, said in a news release. “No other program allows volunteers to take an instantaneous snapshot of global bird populations that can contribute to our understanding of how a changing climate is affecting birds.”

The project is growing quickly. In the first year, 13,500 checklists were submitted from the U.S. and Canada. Last year, nearly 164,000 checklists were submitted from more than 100 countries.

It’s a fun project, too, and a good way to introduce children to the joys of birdwatching and citizen science.

Get out there and count.

Gardening with Melinda: Grow a High Yield Vegetable Garden This Season

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

Image by Gardener’s Supply Company
he High Yield Vegetable Garden Plan enables gardeners to grow more than 50 pounds of produce in only 18 square feet of space.

By Melinda Myers

Spend less time and money while growing a bounty of flavorful vegetables this growing season. Increase your harvest, even in small garden spaces, with proper planning and easy care, high yielding vegetables.

A productive garden starts with a plan, but choosing the best vegetables to grow and where to plant them can be overwhelming.

You can break out the graph paper and pencils to design your garden or turn to technology for help. Many websites and apps provide ready-to-use garden plans or planning guidelines. Gardener’s Supply (gardeners.com) offers free pre-planned gardens that do the planning for you.  Reduce maintenance by Continue reading

Leftover snow photo 4: just another junco

Photo by Chris Bosak  A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Tomorrow we’ll think warmer thoughts on this site (stay tuned) but for now here’s another photo from that snowstorm last week. Remember, juncos were the most prolific bird in my yard that day, so naturally I have plenty of junco photos.

Leftover snow photo 2: Titmouse eyes a peanut

Photo by Chris Bosak  A tufted titmouse contemplates grabbing a peanut from a deck railing following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A tufted titmouse contemplates grabbing a peanut from a deck railing following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2017.

Here’s another leftover snow shot from last week’s storm. Titmice were the second-most reliable sighting in the backyard during and after the storm(s). Junco was the best most reliable with dozens in the backyard at any given time.

A few leftover snow photo: Black-capped Chickadee

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a feeder during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-capped chickadee checks out a feeder during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017.

Snowstorms are great for backyard birdwatchers. The snow adds an interesting element to an already fascinating subject. Here, and a few more in the days to come, are some more shots I got over the snowy weekend.

Another New England woodpecker in the snow; keep sending me your photos!

https://birdsofnewengland.files.wordpress.com/2017/02/rdwood1c.jpg

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-bellied Woodpecker eyes a peanut a few days following a snowstorm in Danbury, Conn., February, 2017.

Yesterday I posted photos hairy and downy woodpeckers. Today it’s the red-bellied woodpecker’s turn. They love peanuts at my house (as you can tell from the amount of photos I post of them grabbing peanuts off my deck railing.)

Not too long ago, the red-bellied woodpecker wasn’t a New England woodpecker. The species is gradually expanding its range northward and is now very common in southern New England and becoming more and more common in the middle of New England.

Now that’s it’s snowing again (it’s the morning of Sunday, Feb. 12 as I write) feel free to keep sending me your snow bird photos. I got some great shots on Thursday from readers, how about some more? To see the Thursday entries, click here.

The difference between Hairy Woodpecker and Downy Woodpecker, snow style

I’ve done similar posts before comparing the larger Hairy Woodpecker with the smaller Downy Woodpecker. But I’ll repeat the lesson as I captured them both on a homemade birdfeeder during Thursday’s snowstorm.

The hairy is larger overall, but with a reference it’s tough to tell strictly by size. To really determine the species, check out the bill. The hairy has a much more substantial bill. Females of each species are shown.

Photo by Chris Bosak A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A hairy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A downy woodpecker eats bark butter out of a homemade feeder in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 9, 2017.

Birds in the snow photos; send me yours

Photo by Chris Bosak A junco seeks shelter in an old Christmas tree during the winter storm of Feb. 9, 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A junco seeks shelter in an old Christmas tree during the winter storm of Feb. 9, 2017.

As kids we had snowball fights and played football in the snow. As adults we take photos of birds as our way of playing in the snow. Well, some of us anyway. Some of us still play the old-fashioned way, too.

So here are a few of my shots from today’s storm and a few photos from readers. Send in your shots for inclusion on this post, too! Send them to bozclark@earthlink.net

I’ll update this post throughout the day.

Thanks and have fun out there.

Welcomed visitor

Anna Fay of Marlow, N.H., captured this photo of a barred owl during the storm.

Anna Fay of Marlow, N.H., captured this photo of a barred owl during the storm.

Goldfinches and a nuthatch

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this beautiful shot of a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this beautiful shot of a White-breasted Nuthatch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this great shot of American goldfinches and a house finch.

Jason Farrow of Norwalk, Conn., captured this great shot of American goldfinches and a house finch.

Cardinal in snow, can’t go wrong

Ernest Franklin got this wonderful photo of a male cardinal during the snowstorm of Feb 9, 2017, in New Englnad.

Ernest Franklin of Winchester, N.H., got this wonderful photo of a male cardinal during the snowstorm of Feb 9, 2017, in New England.

Goldfinches galore

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this great shot of American Goldfinches during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this great shot of American Goldfinches during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Another nice cardinal

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this shot of a northern cardinal during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Jo Belasco of Colrain, Mass., got this shot of a northern cardinal during the Feb. 9, 2017, snowstorm.

Talk about variety!

Alicia Primer of Weston, Mass., got a nice variety of birds in this photo. How many can you pick out?

Alicia Primer of Weston, Mass., got a nice variety of birds in this photo. How many can you pick out?

Bluebirds in the snow, so cool!

Jeanne Ludlow sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow of Warrington, Penn., sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

Jeanne Ludlow of Warrington, Penn., sent in these great photos, taken with her iPhone, of Eastern Bluebirds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get ready for the storm! Send me your photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A Dark-eyed Junco eats a sunflower seedsthe day following a snow storm in New England, Jan. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco eats a sunflower seedsthe day following a snow storm in New England, Jan. 2016.

A snow storm is coming to New England. It makes for one of my favorite times to photograph birds in the backyard and beyond.

If you haven’t already, fill your feeders. You don’t want to wake up to several inches of snow and realize your feeders aren’t filled. Do it now, even in the dark. I just got done with mine. Sunflower seeds, suet cakes, bark butter and peanut nuggets. I also filled a sizable Tupperware container with seeds and brought it inside. That way I can toss some seeds out the window tomorrow at various times as the snow comes down. Many birds will eat seeds off the ground during these storms.

Please send me any photos you get tomorrow (Thursday) during the storm. I’ll post them on this site. It’s not a photo competition; just for fun. Send them to bozclark@earthlink.net.

Thanks and enjoy the storm.