Busy summer for hummingbirds

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a branch near a feeder at Merganser Lake, Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a branch near a feeder at Merganser Lake, Danbury, Conn.

I’ve complained often over the years about the lack of hummingbirds I attract to my yard. Well, this is year is finally different. I’ve got males, females and first-year birds (both male and female presumably) and they visit frequently. I have a feeder in the backyard with the rest of the feeding station, and a suction cup feeder stuck to my office window. Both are busy all day, every day. It’s been a lot of fun watching them. Here are some shots of my visitors. (Females and first-year ruby-throated hummingbirds look very similar. I’m guessing this is an adult female because it is very territorial.)

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a branch near a feeder at Merganser Lake, Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a branch near a feeder at Merganser Lake, Danbury, Conn.

For the Birds: Growing up quickly in the bird world

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

Photo by Chris Bosak Young Blue Jay at birdbath

Photo by Chris Bosak
Young Blue Jay at birdbath

They grow up fast, don’t they?

I’m not even talking about my own boys, who are eating me out of house and home with their darn growth spurts. I’m talking about the other youngsters growing up on my property — the birds, or course.

Watching the activity at the birdbath recently has been an education in just how quickly birds grow. I was watching a blue jay the other day and it took me a while to realize the bird looked a little different from the blue jays I was used to seeing. Mostly around the face, the bird just didn’t look right.

It was a youngster, or a fledgling to be more scientific. It doesn’t take long before young blue jays look just like their parents. It takes even less time before they are the size of their parents. This bird was in that short in-between phase when it was the size of an adult, but didn’t quite obtain the adult plumage.

The juvenile plumage disappears quickly in most songbirds, unlike some other types of birds when it can take years. A bald eagle, for instance, doesn’t obtain its white head for four or five years. But in songbirds, it’s a matter of a few short weeks.

The juvenile blue jay I watched tried a defense mechanism Continue reading

Yellow-crowned Night Heron chilling out

Photo by Chris Bosak A Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2017.

Here’s a shot I got of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron just chilling out on a branch in a marsh last week. Yellow-crowned Night Herons are good at chilling out as that’s usually what I see them doing. Good for them.

Yellow-crowned Night Herons are birds of the marshes and other tidal areas. They look similar to their cousin, the Black-crowned Night Heron, which is found around brackish and fresh water. Black-crowned Night Herons are a bit more stocky, however.

And just a few more photos from Pittsburg, N.H.

Photo by Chris Bosak Black-throated green warbler in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Black-throated green warbler in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

This post will put a lid on my recent trip to Pittsburg, N.H.

Photo by Chris Bosak White-tailed deer in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-tailed deer in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Family of Canada Geese in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Family of Canada Geese in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

More photos from Pittsburg, N.H., trip

Photo by Chris Bosak Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Here are some more photos from my recent trip up north to Pittsburg, N.H. Admitted some shots aren’t great, but I didn’t have as much time to photograph wildlife as I would have liked — remember from the last bird column, I had two 14-year-old boys to keep an eye on, too.

The moose shot is particularly bad, but the moose population is having a tough time of it in New England, so I didn’t want to do anything to chase it off and potentially put it in danger.

Here are the shots. Always fun to visit the Great North Woods.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Lady's slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Lady’s slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

For the Birds column: A return to Pittsburg

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

Photo by Chris Bosak Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

 

My trips, or as I like to call them pilgrimages, to the Great North Woods have changed over the years.

Back when I was making the trips alone, I would have a hard time sleeping the night before so I would eventually just get out of bed and hit the road around 2 or 3 in the morning. That would get me to my destination, usually Pittsburg, N.H., shortly after sunrise.

On one of those overnight drives I saw the most spectacular sunrise while driving through the White Mountains.

Lately, however, I have been making the trip with one or both of my sons. They are excited to get up there, but do not share my neuroses about it and can sleep through the night. Even so, I usually toss and turn most of the night wishing we could just get on the road already. I typically allow them to sleep until 5:30 or 6 before I start rallying the troops.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when I made my first trip of the year up north. My older son, Andrew, now 14, Continue reading

Gardening with Melinda: Work with Nature to Manage Garden Pests and Mosquitoes

By Melinda Myers, LLC A bee pollinating a coneflower.

By Melinda Myers, LLC
A bee pollinating a coneflower.

By Melinda Myers

A garden filled with flowers, birds, bees and butterflies is a sight to behold. These winged beauties add color, sound and motion to our gardens. Plus, they help maximize a garden’s productivity by pollinating plants and managing plant-damaging pests.

But what about those unwanted visitors to the garden? The aphids, mites and cabbage worms that feed upon our plants or the mosquitoes that feed upon us.  There are ways to have a beautiful garden and at the same time enjoy the outdoors when we work with nature to manage our landscape.

Add a birdbath, a few birdhouses and plants for the birds. They’ll repay Continue reading

For the Birds: Answering the call of the woods

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hermit Thrush rests on a log at Selleck's/Dunlap Woods this fall.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hermit Thrush rests on a log at Selleck’s/Dunlap Woods this fall.

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

With so many other temptations, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the most fundamental outdoor escape — a simple walk in the woods.

The Atlantic coast beckons with promises of egrets, shorebirds, terns and perhaps — if you’re lucky — an oystercatcher or black skimmer.

Local freshwater bodies of water woo nature watchers with wood ducks, red-winged blackbirds, herons and maybe a bittern. Fields attract butterflies by the score, as well as bobolinks, meadowlarks, and a rainbow of wildflowers. It’s hard for nature-watchers to resist sometimes.

Of course there’s always the backyard, too. There’s no need to get in the car or invest any amount of time. Look out the kitchen window or sit on the patio and enjoy cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, chickadees and other backyard favorites.

And there is the woods — waiting patiently for us to return.

I returned a few days ago and was reminded over and over why outdoors enthusiasts have a natural instinct that draws them back.

I left the parking lot and began walking. I had no route planned, no idea where I would end up. When I came to a fork in the trail, I took the one that seemed to lead deeper into the woods.

The first bird I saw once I lost myself among the trees was an ovenbird, a small, ground-dwelling warbler noted for its “teacher-teacher” song. As far as warblers go, ovenbirds are rather nondescript. Named for the shape of their nests, they look like a small thrush with orange on its crown. Ovenbirds are fairly common and easy to find during spring migration, but occasionally you’ll run into one in the summer.

Then the common birds of the woods began coming. I heard the “yank yank” of a nuthatch in the distance and soon spotted a different nuthatch near the trail. Chickadees were in abundance, keeping me company as I meandered about the woods.

I stopped to watch a robin that was puffing out its orange breast from an obvious perch, but my attention was soon diverted by a flurry of woodpecker activity.

First, I heard and soon found a red-bellied woodpecker. As I followed its flight from one tree to the next, my eyes crossed paths with a downy woodpecker. As I studied the downy, a hairy woodpecker flew in and landed on an adjacent tree. I was looking at three species of woodpeckers in one field of view. All I needed was a pileated woodpecker to join the party. That didn’t happen on this day.

I kept an eye out for the larger creatures of the woods such as deer, wild turkey and hawks, but did not have any luck.

I did hear a scratching noise toward the end of my walk that I recognized immediately. I looked down and, with very little effort, found an eastern towhee shuffling around the ground litter looking for insects.

As my haphazard route finally led me back toward the parking lot, I thought about what a great walk it had been. I had seen a lot of different types of birds and felt as if I had nearly satiated my natural instinct, once again, to enjoy the woods.

Something was missing, though. I didn’t know what it was until I heard it: The song of the wood thrush. To me, nothing says the woods quite like the wood thrush, especially its flute-like song.

It completed my outing. I had satisfied that recurring urge to lose myself in nature’s most basic habitat.

The woods will draw me back — they always do.

Continue reading