Slight adjustment brings on the blue jays

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue jay grabs a peanut from a homemade feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

Blue jays didn’t like the homemade peanut birdfeeder when it was hung from a chain, but they came quickly after I set the feeder on its side. It’s so interesting to watch each species’ preferences.

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Chickadee on peanut feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee lands on a birdfeeder offering peanuts, Danbury, CT, March 2019.

One last shot of that homemade peanut feeder I wrote about last week. Here are the other two links, in case you missed it. White-breasted nuthatch. Downy woodpecker.

Common merganser at mall

Photo by Chris Bosak
A common merganser swims in a pond in Danbury, Conn., March 2019.

Yes, you read that right. I saw a common merganser at Danbury Fair mall the other day. It wasn’t walking the hallways looking for the latest fashions, but it was swimming in a very small pond near the entrance to the mall. Common mergansers are usually seen on large lakes or rivers, but this guy was in a tiny pond in a highly developed area — not common for common mergansers. The next day there were two males and one female common merganser in the pond. These large, handsome ducks are among my favorites and have been for a long time. More on that coming up in the next few days.

Anything can happen during migration periods. Keep your eyes open and let me know what you see out there.

For the Birds: Marching through winter

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Phoebe perches on a branch in Selleck's Woods in Darien, Conn., in late March 2015.
Photo by Chris Bosak
Eastern Phoebes are one of the first songbirds to arrive in New England during the spring migration.

March can be a tough month for birders.

Winter is getting long and the season seems to be extending each year. It’s already been a snowy month this year, counting Sunday, and remember last March was ridiculously cold and snowy, even pushing into April.

March is also a time of anticipation for birders as the spring migration starts to pick up by the end of the month. Early red-winged blackbirds, for instance, began arriving in February, but March is really when the migration begins in New England.

April, of course, is when it heats up significantly before peaking in May. By the end of March, however, we can expect to see birds such as tree swallows, purple martins and hermit thrushes returning to our region.

To me, the surest sign of spring is the return of eastern phoebes in late March. The robin is still considered the traditional harbinger of spring even though many of them spent their winters in New England. I rejoice when I see the first phoebe perched on a branch in my backyard bobbing its tail endlessly.

March birding is not limited to the late-month migrants. American woodcock, with their amazing evening aerial displays, are a highlight species of the month. I’ve never had great luck finding woodcock. Maybe this will be my year. (I say that every year.) Also, ducks start moving north to open water in big numbers in March.

One of the best things about March birdwatching, however, is that it’s still winter and our winter birds are still around. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, blue jays, mourning doves and woodpeckers still have the feeders to themselves, for the most part. Any winter finches that have come south to New England may still be around. I’m still getting dozens of pine siskins daily.

I noticed another sign of spring in the bird world the other day as a male American goldfinch with bright yellow splotches visited the tube feeder. The brightness stood out as a shade of yellow not seen in many months.

The barred owl barrage continues throughout New England, too, as reports pile up. A friend of mine had one visit a pine tree behind her unit in a condominium complex last week. The owl remained most of the day before disappearing in late afternoon.

March may be tough in terms of waiting out the winter and anticipating what is to come, but it offers much to the patient birder.

Working for peanuts

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker eats peanuts from a feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

Here’s a downy woodpecker getting peanuts from the homemade feeder I mentioned in yesterday’s post.

It’s funny how birds prefer their food offered in different ways. White-breasted nuthatches and downy woodpeckers are all over this feeder. They typically perch on the feeder and peck away at the shell to expose the nut inside. My other peanut eaters — blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers and tufted titmice — barely touch this feeder and prefer to grab their peanuts from a platform feeder and fly off with it.

Homemade peanut birdfeeder does the trick

Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch lands on a birdfeeder offering peanuts, Danbury, CT, March 2019.

I originally used this homemade birdfeeder (made from simply from drilling holes into a section of a fallen branch I found in the yard) to serve suet to the birds. It proved to be quite labor intensive to get the suet into the holes and it has the potential to harm birds if they get the suet on their feathers, so I put the feeder on the backburner for a while. I never like to discard things like this because you never how it may be repurposed.

The other day I got the idea to stick peanuts in the holes instead. It worked out great. The larger birds such as blue jays and red-bellied woodpeckers are strong enough to pull the peanuts out and fly off. The smaller birds such as nuthatches, downy woodpeckers and titmice simply perch on the branch, or even another peanut, to pick apart the shell and get at the nuts inside.

Wintery scene with siskin

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine siskin finds food on the top of a mini toboggan in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

These pine siskins sure are photogenic. I’ve taken tons of photos of the small, irruptive finches and have shared many of them here. Well, here’s another one — this one trying to hitch a ride on a small toboggan.