No dancing bear, a real one at a Dead tribute show 


My friend Steve and I were headed to the Forever Grateful show in Danbury, Connecticut, on Saturday. 

We hadn’t seen each other in a while so we caught up at my place and hung out for a while. Then we stopped at a bar for a quick drink before heading to the festival at the west campus of Western Connecticut State University. Parking, of course, was a minor issue at the venue as we drove around the lot looking for a space. Eventually we turned around and headed back out of the venue to grab the nearest on-road parking spot, leaving a sizable walk for us to get to the show.

The reason I got into so much detail is because the timing of this had to be just perfect. If we hadn’t stopped at the bar, or if we had found parking immediately, we would have missed it. 

As we headed to the security area, and there were, I’m guessing, about a dozen people there, a black bear crossed the road and went into the woods — heading toward the festival. It veered course and headed in the direction of the foot path that led to the entrance. The foot path allowed for a little clearance of the woods and I got my iPhone ready to get a photo of this awesome creature as it got into the clearance and crossed the path. It took a matter of seconds for the bear to emerge from the woods, cross the path and disappear into the woods on the other side — away from the music venue. I did get my iPhone photos, though.

It’s funny, I think anyway, that the real bear crossed in front of a banner showing the iconic Dancing Bear logo of the Grateful Dead. 

Reactions were mixed among the dozen people who were there. Some got very nervous, some got very excited, and some seemed fairly unmoved by the whole experience. I, of course, was excited. The bear itself just kept moving and never batted an eye when it entered the area where the people and cars were. 

Bear sightings are becoming more and more common throughout Connecticut, even heavily populated southwestern Connecticut. I hope the reaction to this is one of co-existence and understanding, not fear and eradicating the “problem.”

One Simple Step Can Improve the Health and Vigor of Your Lawn

Fall lawn fertilization is the first step in growing a healthy lawn next year.

Fall lawn fertilization is the first step in growing a healthy lawn next year.

By Melinda Myers

Do just one thing this fall and you can improve the health and vigor of your lawn.  Fall fertilization helps lawns recover from the stresses of summer and provides needed nutrients to grow deeper roots and a denser stand of grass. And that means fewer weeds and a healthier lawn that’s more resistant to drought, insects and diseases.

Fertilize around Labor Day as the temperatures begin to cool and lawns start spreading outward instead of growing upward. Continue to leave clippings on the lawn. They return nutrients, moisture and organic matter to the soil.  Consider it free fertilizer applied every time you mow the lawn.

One fall application will give low maintenance lawns the nutrient boost they need. You’ll have a healthier lawn with minimal care.

Increase the quality and improve the lawn’s ability to withstand and recover from wear and tear with a second application. Apply fertilizer in late fall between Halloween and Thanksgiving, but before the ground freezes. Those growing warm season grasses should make the last application in early October at least one month prior to the first killing frost.

No need to purchase a winterizing fertilizer. Most soils have high to excessive levels of phosphorous and potassium. Have a soil test first if you suspect your lawn is deficient in these nutrients. You’ll save money and harm to the environment by using the right product.

Consider using a slow release, organic nitrogen fertilizer like Milorganite (milorganite.com) that helps improve the soil, while providing needed nutrients.  Research discovered that as the microorganisms work on releasing the nutrients from its pellets they also make some of the phosphorous, which promotes root development, as well as potassium, which promotes hardiness and disease resistance, that is bound to the soil available to the grass plants.

Continue to mow high as long as the grass continues to grow. You can gradually reduce the mowing height for winter if desired.

Once you see the improvement in your lawn, you may be inspired to adopt the holiday fertilization schedule. Adding one or two additional fertilizer applications can greatly increase your lawn’s health, vigor, wear resistance and ability to tolerate drought and pests.

Those growing warm season grasses can begin fertilizing around Easter once the grass begins growing. Make additional applications around Memorial Day and the recommended fall date. Those growing cool season grasses should wait until Memorial Day to start fertilizing in addition to the two fall applications. Add a mid-summer application of slow release fertilizer for irrigated lawns.

Fall fertilization is the first step in growing a healthy lawn next year. Do this one thing this fall and you will decrease your lawn care challenges and workload next year.
Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is www.melindamyers.com.

Another (and closer) shot of the heron

Photo by Chris Bosak Great blue heron at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, CT.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Great blue heron at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, CT.

The consensus seems to be the bigger (or closer) the better. So here’s another shot of the heron that I didn’t include in the previous post. You ask for it, you get it at http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com. Thanks for your feedback!

Great blue heron at Merganser Lake (lots of shots)

Photo by Chris Bosak A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

It’s always nice when a bird is patient enough to let you experiment with different angles and magnifications. That was the case with this great blue heron I saw on Merganser Lake (really Lake Waubeeka) in Danbury, Conn., on Tuesday evening.

I know the photos are all very similar, but what magnification do you like?

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great blue heron stands on a dock at Lake Waubeeka in Danbury, Conn., during the summer of 2017.

Cicada emerges from exoskeleton

Photo by Chris Bosak A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

This one was all Will.

I was throwing the football around with Will, my 10-year-old, when he suddenly stopped by a tree and said: “Dad, come check this out.” He had found a cicada emerging from its nymph exoskeleton. In all my years, I’ve never seen this before. I’ve seen dozens of exoskeletons lying round but long after the cicada had emerged and started making its trademark noises from the trees.

This was also like no other cicada I had ever seen before. To be clear, I’m no expert on cicadas. Far from it. But I’ve seen plenty of them over the years. This one had green wings, really cool aqua-green wings. And green legs to boot. Perhaps they will change to clear wings after it is in the world a little longer, but at that moment anyway, it had green wings.

Will took a bunch of photos with my phone while I rushed for my camera and macro lens. His photos came out pretty well, too. I’ll include one at the bottom.

Nature has surprises around every corner. Sometimes it takes a 10-year-old to find them.

Photo by Chris Bosak A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Here’s Will’s iPhone shot. Not bad.

Photo by Will Bosak A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Will Bosak
A cicada emerges from its nymph exoskeleton on a tree in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Gardening with Melinda: Enjoy an Attractive and Convenient Composting Station

By Melinda Myers, LLC Decorative fences are an effective way to hide composting stations conveniently tucked behind gardens in the landscape.

By Melinda Myers, LLC
Decorative fences are an effective way to hide composting stations conveniently tucked behind gardens in the landscape.

By Melinda Myers

Make recycling green debris into compost convenient and attractive. Create a space you and your neighbors will appreciate. And locate composting in a convenient area that is easy to access and manage, so you are more likely to do it.

You’ll quickly recoup your initial investment of time and money.  Spend less time hauling the materials to the recycling center and money spent on soil amendments.

Most importantly, you’ll boost the health and beauty of your landscape while helping the environment.

Start by looking for spaces in the landscape or garden where compostable materials can easily be moved into the bin, pile turned, and the finished compost Continue reading

What’s an eastern wood-pewee look like anyway?

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern wood-pewee perches on a branch in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An eastern wood-pewee perches on a branch in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

I stepped out onto the back deck this morning, coffee in one hand and a freshly cleaned and filled hummingbird feeder in the other. The din of a distant interstate highway and the song of an eastern wood-pewee were the only sounds I heard. The high-pitched “pe-weee” is ubiquitous in the summer in my woods. On mid-summer afternoon walks, sometimes that song is the only sign of birdlife to be experienced.

But while the eastern wood-pewee is often heard in New England woods, it isn’t seen as often. The woods are thick with vegetation and leaves in the summer, providing cover for the birds. Lighting is poor in the woods as those same leaves block the sun from illuminating the scene. Finally, eastern wood-pewees are small, nondescript birds. They don’t exactly stand out in a crowd.

So for the casual birder, and even some more experienced ones, eastern wood-pewees are often heard and rarely seen. Earlier this year, I found a stunned pewee on my front porch. It had hit my storm door and fell to the ground. Luckily it was only stunned and I picked it up, held it in my hand for a few minutes and watched it fly off to a nearby perch. As it collected its wits on the branch for a few moments, I had the opportunity to grab a few photos of it before it flew off to parts unknown.

I posted a few months ago a few photos of the bird while it was in my hand. Click here for that posting. Here are a few photos of an eastern wood-pewee in a more natural setting. Now you can see why they are so tough to find in the shaded woods.

Photo by Chris Bosak An eastern wood-pewee perches on a branch in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An eastern wood-pewee perches on a branch in Danbury, Conn., summer 2017.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron preening

Photo by Chris Bosak  A yellow-crowned night heron preens in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow-crowned night heron preens in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2017.

Birds preen to keep their feathers clean, strong and in order. The barbs sometimes come unattached and, amazingly enough, they can reattach the barbs with their bills.

Here’s a shot of a yellow-crowned night heron caught in the act.

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