For the Birds: Grosbeaks delay closing

Photo by Chris Bosak A rose-breasted grosbeak perches on a branch in New England, June 2020. Merganser Lake.

So much for taking a break from feeding the birds. 

I mentioned in last week’s column that I had taken down my feeders for the summer as my visits had dwindled to a few species. I also mentioned that I continued to maintain a large platform feeder on my deck to keep those few birds happy. Well, that platform feeder is busier than ever. 

One day last week, while working from home and using the outdoor table on my deck as my office for the day, I watched as chickadees, nuthatches, titmice, catbirds, cardinals, blue jays, house finches, downy woodpeckers and red-bellied woodpeckers helped themselves to the offerings. 

The feeder, which is nothing more than a large, flat board I found in the basement, is big enough to hold a variety of foods: sunflower seeds, mealworms, suet nuggets and thistle seeds. I nailed a few small branches around the edge of the board to keep the seeds in place during windy days.

I was already pleasantly surprised by the variety of birds that were coming when a male rose-breasted grosbeak landed on the board. Thankfully, I had the foresight to bring the camera out to the table with me. I was quite sure the strikingly beautiful bird would take off as soon as I lifted my arms to grab the camera off the table as I was sitting only 9 or 10 feet away from the feeder. 

Slowly I moved my arms and watched as the black-and-white bird with a bright red triangular bib looked back at me. I was relieved when the bird looked away and started grabbing sunflower seeds. Still, I couldn’t risk double-checking my camera settings or autofocus point and I started photographing away. The settings were fine, luckily, and I got some nice, full-frame shots of the handsome songbird.

What also made the day special was that many of the birds that visited, especially the chickadees, titmice and downy woodpeckers, were first-year birds still gaining their adult plumage. The young woodpeckers usually arrived with a parent and watched and learned. It was amazing to think that some of these birds were born only a few weeks prior. I hope they visit for years to come and can avoid the many dangers birds face as they grow.

So I guess my summer feeding break isn’t going to pan out, which is fine with me. I’ll continue to enjoy the show as long as it lasts.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Rose-breasted Grosbeak visits a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., on May 6, 2016.
Photo by Chris Bosak A Rose-breasted Grosbeak visits a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., on May 6, 2016.

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