Look who’s back

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbirds hovers near a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbirds hovers near a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

This female ruby-throated hummingbird arrived today (Sunday, April 30, 2017) at the feeder. I put the feeder out about two weeks ago in anticipation of the hummingbirds’ return. Is it the same female hummingbird that has visited my feeder over the last few seasons? I’m not sure, but I’m glad to welcome them back, either way. Hopefully she will find a suitable nesting site on my property. If she heads farther north, well, that’s fine, too.

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbirds perches on a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbirds perches on a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Pileated Woodpecker — finally

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

It took going on two years, but I finally got a shot of one of the pileated woodpeckers that I hear frequently in the woods behind my house. I’ve seen them before, but only at a distance and only fleeting looks.

I wondered when I’d see one working away at the multitude of dead pines in the woods. There are dozens upon dozens of these snags and they all have big holes chiseled out of them — a telltale sign of pileated woodpeckers. Yesterday was my day. The impressive bird was noisy in its calling and noisy in its banging away at the tree. It’s amazing the force at which they hammer at trees.

This guy (it is a male as females lack the red “mustache”) remained only about five minutes before heading deeper into the woods, calling as it flew.

Latest For the Birds column: Watching warblers, of course

Photo by Chris Bosak A Palm Warbler perches among pussy willows at Selleck's Woods in Darien, Conn., April 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Palm Warbler perches among pussy willows at Selleck’s Woods in Darien, Conn., April 2016.

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

Warblers steal the show in spring migration, and rightfully so. They are colorful, cute, sing interesting songs and are plentiful in our woods in April and May.

Other songbirds are a blast to watch in the spring, too, of course. Birds such as orioles, tanagers, grosbeaks and towhees capture our attention and make us nudge anyone standing close by to make sure they see it too. Less colorful birds such as chipping sparrows, kingbirds, phoebes and vireos enhance our spring as well.

But it’s the little warblers that get most of the attention during the spring migration.

I love warblers for all the same reasons that everybody else does, but I think there’s another reason we appreciate these neotropical migrants so much. Warbler watching, like birdwatching in general, can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.

Someone can choose to see and appreciate the small birds flitting around the trees, but not care to identify them — easy and totally acceptable.

Others may choose to identify only a few, perhaps the ones they see often in their yard — relatively easy and also perfectly acceptable.

Still others will want to know all of the 30 or so warbler species that pass through New England and be able to identify them by sight and sound — very difficult, and, of course, acceptable.

I fall in the latter camp, but have had limited success over the years. I do very well when I actually see the bird in the spring — at least if it is a male. Females often look different than males in the warbler world. I can usually ID the females, but not to the degree of the more colorful and patterned males.

Seeing warblers in the fall migration is often not as easy. They don’t sing so finding them is more difficult right off the bat. If you do find one, it could be an adult or juvenile. The adults don’t always look like they did in the spring, especially the males, and the juveniles don’t always look like the adults.

Where my success has been limited over the years is learning their songs. I know many of them “by ear” but have many to learn. A few songs are permanently burned into my brain, and I know them immediately. Other songs sound completely foreign to me, even though I’ve probably heard them dozens of times before.

Species such as yellow warblers, black-and-white warblers, blue-winged warblers and black-throated green warblers I’ve learned over the years and know their songs when I hear them for the first time each spring. Some songs, such as those of the northern parula and chestnut-sided warbler, I need to hear a few times before they sink in for the season. Many other songs I just haven’t memorized and don’t know what they are when I hear them.

I like it that way, though. I don’t want to know everything because there would be nothing left to learn. What fun would that be?

Watching warblers is a prime example of why birdwatching is such a great hobby and so popular among millions of people. It’s easy enough that we can all enjoy it, but difficult enough to keep us challenged.

Lots of towhees on a rainy day

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee perches on a branch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

I spent some of the rainy Saturday at Bennett’s Pond in Ridgefield, Conn. I didn’t see or hear a single warbler, but I did see and hear several eastern towhees. It is a great bird with interesting plumage and a unique song.

Formerly called the rufous-sided towhee, this bird has light brown/reddish flanks. Its call is a loud and quickly uttered “tow-hee” and its song is the famous “drink-your-teaaa!” They are more often seen on the ground, scratching in the leaves to uncover food. The male is pictured in this post. The female, which I couldn’t photograph yesterday but did see, is also a handsome bird with white and reddish light brown plumage.

They were passing through in large numbers Saturday. I hope at least a few of them stick around locally to nest. It’s a great bird to see in summer when the birding can get a little slow.

You can even see the little rain drops on this guy.

Here’s one of him singing: Drink-your-teaaa!

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee sings from a perch in Ridgefield, Conn., April 2017.

 

Gardening with Melinda: Grow Your Own Tropical Paradise in a Container or Garden

Longfield-Gardens.com Elephant ears, like this Black Stem variety, can be grown in the garden or in containers.

Longfield-Gardens.com
Elephant ears, like this Black Stem variety, can be grown in the garden or in containers.

By Melinda Myers

Add an exciting new look to your garden, poolside, patio or deck with elephant ears.  These easy tropical plants have tall stems and giant leaves that measure up to two feet across. You can use them to create an instant focal point in the garden, screen an unwanted view, or extend a bold welcome at the front door.

Elephant ears can be grown in containers as well as the garden, so if space is an issue, try some of the more compact varieties like Hawaiian Punch. You’ll appreciate the impact this three-foot tall plant makes with its red stems and bright green leaves with dark red veining.

Or go big with six-foot tall Black Stem. Its smooth blue-green leaves are displayed atop striking purple-black stems. Variegated varieties are another option. The unusual foliage of Mojito, is decorated with blue-black dashes and splashes. No two leaves are alike on this beauty. For even more color and drama, don’t miss Black Magic. Its dark, blue-black leaves measure 2 feet across and can grow up to 5 feet tall. Continue reading

New way to make your own bird art: Paint by Sticker


You’ve heard of color by number and paint by number, now the latest thing is Paint by Sticker. There is a birding option for Paint by Sticker from Workman Publishing and I received the book a few weeks ago. I admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but I really am enjoying the book. It is fun to see the work come together into a neat finished project.

As the name suggests, you have a white outline of a picture with numbers and shapes on it. in the back of the book are correlating stickers to be placed in the shapes.

Here are a couple photos to illustrate the new trend. (Don’t laugh, it was my first attempt.) There are 12 photos to do, including blue jay, spoonbill, waxwing and oriole. Below the photos are some thoughts from the publicity department at Workman.



From Workman:

“Nearly a year old, with over 450,000 copies in print, the Paint by Sticker series has surpassed coloring books with its simplistic approach to mindfulness in which “paintings” are pieced together one sticker at a time. These activity books have allowed adults to re-create the Mona Lisa and kids to re-create some of their favorite zoo animals.

 

“Paint by Sticker: Birds is a true celebration of the birds that provide beauty, soundtrack, and vibrancy to our lives. The piecing together of these posters ultimately reveals some of the most stunning birds, from the mandarin duck to the roseate spoonbill. This book fuels creation, while transporting participants into a meditative state.”

For more information, see http://www.workman.com

Latest For the Birds column: Looking at birds’ bills

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Blue Heron stands in a pond in Danbury, Conn., March 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Blue Heron stands in a pond in Danbury, Conn., March 2017.

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

Although I’ve made this claim with many birds over the years, the great blue heron stands as one of my favorite birds.

My “favorite” bird may vary depending on the season and what I’ve recently photographed, but a few species have long been “one of my favorites.” Hooded and common mergansers, common loons, wood ducks and American oystercatchers stand alongside the great blue heron in that category. Of course I love all birds – well, most of them anyway — but these stand out for me, regardless of how many I’ve seen over the years.

It’s probably just a coincidence but with the exception of the wood duck, Continue reading

Happy Easter from Birds of New England

Photo by Chris Bosak A Wood Duck mother swims with one of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Wood Duck mother swims with one of her babies at Woods Ponds in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Happy Easter everyone and thanks for supporting http://www.BirdsOfNewEngland.com.

Photo by Chris Bosak A baby mallard stays dry during a rainfall by huddling under its mother's wing.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A baby mallard stays dry during a rainfall by huddling under its mother’s wing.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Wood Duck swims with one of her chicks at Wood's Pond in Norwalk, spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Wood Duck swims with one of her chicks at Wood’s Pond in Norwalk, spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Wood Duck swims at Wood's Pond in Norwalk, spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Wood Duck swims at Wood’s Pond in Norwalk, spring 2016.

For the Birds column: What is that bird trillling?

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Pine Warbler sits on a deck railing in New England this fall.

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

The birds are moving through, that’s for sure.

Mornings in New England are now filled with the songs of so many birds it’s hard to separate the voices. Throw in a mockingbird imitating the songs of several birds, and the confusion ratchets up a level.

A tufted titmouse (peter, peter, peter) broke the morning silence one morning this week for me; a robin (cheery up, cheery oh, cheery up) the next morning. I love mornings filled with birdsong.

Have you heard a bird trilling recently? A long series of quick, high-pitched notes often rings out throughout New England during the spring. But what is that triller?

Continue reading