It is not uncommon for birders at designated hawk watch sites to see more than 1,000 hawks in a single day. The fall hawk migration is most certainly a sight to see, particularly if the conditions are right.
With the sheer number of hawks and other birds of prey that migrate south through New England in the fall, it is tough to imagine that any of them remain in our region once the migration is over. But, of course, we do see a fair amount of hawks throughout the winter months in New England.
Red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks and our accipiters, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, are the most common hawks we see in New England during the winter. Other birds of prey that we continue to see in our coldest months are the peregrine falcon, vultures and, of course, bald eagles, which congregate in large numbers where water remains unfrozen.
I posted one American wigeon photograph last month to accompany my Christmas Bird Count article. Here are a few more shots of this interesting duck.
Here is the description of the American wigeon by AllAboutBirds.com, a website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Quiet lakes and wetlands come alive with the breezy whistle of the American Wigeon, a dabbling duck with pizzazz. Breeding males have a green eye patch and a conspicuous white crown, earning them the nickname “baldpate.” Females are brushed in warm browns with a gray-brown head and a smudge around the eye. Noisy groups congregate during fall and winter, plucking plants with their short gooselike bill from wetlands and fields or nibbling plants from the water’s surface. Despite being common their populations are declining.” Click here for further information.
There may be a hot-looking red head at the lake or perhaps a bleach-blonde beauty.
Oh, and don’t forget about that Icelandic number that’s been hanging out at New England beaches.
Don’t worry, you have the right column. I’m still talking about birds.
The aforementioned attractions are just a few of the unusual birds that may be seen in the area during winter.
News of such sightings travel quickly along the grapevine, but Rare Bird Alerts are also available to everyone with access to the internet. Simply do an internet search for “rare birds” for the state or specific location you are interested in. Dedicated birders keep the alert lists updated and it is extremely helpful when you’re trying to track down something rare or unusual, or just interested in knowing what’s out there.
For those who feed birds, it seems that there are slow times, busy times, and routine times.
It can be disconcerting and frustrating during the slow times. You glance out of the window hoping to see a few birds to lift your spirits or to just appreciate a bit of nature during the day, and nothing is there. It can be worrisome because the thought often arises as to whether or not the lack of birds indicates that something is wrong with bird populations.
Populations of many bird species, of course, are indeed in decline. But a slow period at the feeder is typically not an indication of a broader concern. There are certain times of the year when birdfeeders go through a slow period. Seasonal fluctuations are normal. We are perhaps going through one of those fluctuations now as I’ve received a few emails recently wondering why the birds have suddenly stopped visiting.
It was an abbreviated Christmas Bird Count for me this year due to nagging foot problems and family obligations. I’ll take it, though, as I missed last year completely due to the foot problems. Progress is good.
Frank, Tom and I packed a lot into the time we did have together. Tom and I ducked out early, and Frank birded until dark. I was there for a good cross-section of water and land hot spots. Some highlights included 3 warbler species (pine, yellow-rumped and Nashville), red-breasted nuthatch, American wigeon (close views), common goldeneye, common and red-throated loon, and American pipit.
Click here for more information about the Christmas Bird Count, one of the longest-running wildlife censuses in the world.
Here are a few more photos from the day. It was good to be back out there. Hopefully next year I’ll be back at full strength.
Bears are among us. We all know that, of course, but it seems that the bear population throughout New England is thriving, and the large animals are showing up more than ever and in places not seen before.
My closest call with a bear came about three years when I was jogging through the woods. It was a hilly trail with many twists, turns and curves. Heavy metal music blared through my in-ear headphones. My eyes were trained on the ground to watch for roots, rocks, downed branches and anything else that might trip me up.
I turned a blind corner and noticed a blur cross before me. I stopped in my tracks, killed the music and looked to my left to see a large black bear sitting next to a tree about 15 feet off the trail. The bear had crossed the trail in front of me and settled at that spot. It was as curious of me as I was of it. Thankfully, it was showing no signs of stress or feeling threatened. It was just kind of there looking at me.
I looked at the beautiful animal for a minute or two and headed back the way I had come.
For one of the few times in this column’s history, the accompanying photo will not match the content.
The reason for that is quite simple. I am yet to get a decent photo of the main subject. Even as I receive emails from readers across New England about evening grosbeaks showing up at feeders, I have yet to host them at my feeding station. I am also yet to see them in the “wild” closely enough to get a good photo.
Tricia from Alstread wrote in the day after Thanksgiving to say she had evening grosbeaks at her feeder. She was hopeful there may be an irruption of the birds this winter. I, too, am hopeful.