About Chris Bosak

Bird columnist and nature photographer based in New England. Co-managing editor of The Hour newspaper. Bird

Latest For the Birds column: Keep an eye out for rarities

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

Photo by David Hoitt This Varied Thrush has been seen in Swanzey since Dec. 12.

Photo by David Hoitt
This Varied Thrush has been seen in Swanzey since Dec. 12.

Different seasons bring their own rarities.

Rarities, for the purpose of this column, are birds that are typically not seen in our region. It is not necessarily a bird that is rarely seen – it may be quite common in other parts of the country or world – but rather a bird that only every once in a while ventures into New England for one reason or another. In fact, it can also be a typical New England bird, but just seen in a season in which it is usually far away from here.

Winter is a good time for rarities because they stick out so much better. There are only so many birds that haven’t migrated for us to look at in winter, so when something different appears, it really sticks out.

Participants in the annual Christmas Bird Counts crave rarities. The point of the volunteer bird census is to count all the birds they see to contribute to a long-running data base so ornithologists can track bird population trends. There is no competition involved; no awards given. But the unwritten and unspoken truth is: CBC participants want to tally more species than the other counts held throughout the state.

So when a rarity shows up a week or two before the count is scheduled, participants toss and turn at night hoping the bird will stick around long enough to be seen on count day. Such was the case this year for the Keene Christmas Bird Count, which was held Sunday, Dec. 18.

On or around Dec. 12, a Varied Thrush showed up under a bird feeder in Swanzey. Would it stick around until the 18th. Birders hoped.

Count day arrived and, sure enough, the bird was still there. Varied Thrushes somewhat resemble American Robins, but are more decorated with orange coloration scattered throughout the body. The head, with black stripes on the top and through the eyes, is particularly appealing. They are birds of the western U.S., but stray into New England some winters.

So the bird was counted on the 18th, marking the first-ever recorded sighting on the Keene Christmas Bird Count. That says a lot since the Keene count was one of the original counts in 1900. It took some years off, but has been going on for 34 straight years.

I tend not to announce rare bird sightings in my columns because by the time the story is published the bird may be gone. Also, I don’t want to add more stress to the bird or neighborhood. But this bird has been around for almost a month now and the neighbors seem receptive to visitors, so I’ll add some details.

According to Dave Hoitt of Swanzey, the bird has been seen daily at Westport Village in Swanzey, usually between Depot Road and Sandy Road. According to a post on the NHBirds online forum by Becky Suomala of New Hampshire Bird Records, the feeder is located at 117 Westport Village Rd. She said parking is limited on the road, so the “best option may be to park on the southeast side of the road between Depot Road and Sandy Road just south of the feeder location and walk to the feeders. Be sure to leave adequate room for large trucks to get by and do not block any driveways. Please be respectful of the neighbors.”

She added that the bird is usually seen around 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 in the afternoon.

The bird was initially spotted and identified by Butch and Ginny Thompson, who shared the sighting with the birding community. Hoitt described the sighting as a “rare opportunity for area birders to view this colorful visitor to our region.” He said the birds is seen on the ground near feeders or in thickets.

I hope it sticks around for many other birders to seen.

Speaking of rarities on Christmas Bird Counts, I have been participating in a count in southern Connecticut for the last 15 years or so. Rarities, by very definition, do not show up very often, but I have been lucky enough to see some over the years. Those include: Northern Gannet (flying over Long Island Sound); Nashville Warbler; Orange-crowned Warbler; Palm Warbler; and Yellow-breasted Chat.

I haven’t seen a hummingbird during a Christmas Bird Count, but they do occasionally show up in New England in the winter. Often it is not a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, but rather one of the many western species that strays into our neck of the woods.

Seen a rarity lately, or even some common birds that brought a smile to your face? Drop me a line and let me know.

More Blue Jays at the feeder taking peanuts

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Here are a few more shots of the Blue Jays eating peanuts from the feeder that my friend Lorna gave me. Click here for more of that story.

I don’t know why, but I get a kick out of watching birds carrying away whole peanuts.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Blue Jay grabs a peanut from a feeder in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Chipping Sparrow with crest raised

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Here are a few more leftover photos from 2016. I like these photos because they show an interesting bird behavior.

My new home in the woods is popular among Chipping Sparrows. They are very common in the immediate area, much to my delight. They visit my feeders and hang out among my trees.

Sometimes, however, one gets agitated about something or another. Maybe my cat got out and was around; maybe Blue Jays or crows were around; maybe it knew I was close by with a camera. Whatever the reason, this guy or girl wasn’t happy at the moment.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Chipping Sparrow raises its crest while standing on a log in Danbury, Conn., summer2016.

More photos leftover from 2016: Male and female downies

Photo by Chris Bosak A male Downy Woodpecker eats from a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., fall 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male Downy Woodpecker eats from a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., fall 2016.

Here are a few more photos that I took in 2016 that never saw the light of day. These photos are good for showing the difference between male and female Downy Woodpeckers. With many woodpeckers, the male shows more red than the female. In the case of the downy (and hairy), the female lack red altogether.

Photo by Chris Bosak A female Downy Woodpecker eats from a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., fall 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female Downy Woodpecker eats from a homemade platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., fall 2016.

Some leftover photos from 2016

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

It’s officially 2017. Happy New Year to all Birds of New England readers! As I did last year, I’m going to use the first few days of the new year to publish a few photos left over from the previous year that never saw the light of day, for whatever reason. Enjoy and I wish you all a great year of birding in 2017.

The above photo is another shot of the Pied-billed Grebe I saw a month or so ago in Danbury, Conn., eating a fish. Below is the original shot I published back in November.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Pied-billed Grebe catches a fish in a pond in Danbury, Conn., November 2016.

A few hoodies to end the year

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hooded Merganser swims in a pond in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hooded Merganser swims in a pond in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Here’s a nice male Hooded Merganser I spotted at a pond in Danbury, Conn., on the second-to-last day of 2016. Goodbye 2016. Let’s see what 2017 brings us.

Happy New Year and thanks for supporting http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com in 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Hooded Merganser swims in a pond in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Hooded Merganser swims in a pond in Danbury, Conn., Dec. 2016.

Gardening: Bring in the birds this winter

Photo credit – Gardener’s Supply Company

Photo credit – Gardener’s Supply Company

By Melinda Myers

Brighten your winter days by inviting birds into your landscape. Their beauty and motion help enliven the garden and lighten your spirit. Not only do they provide entertainment, but also an opportunity for all ages to stay involved with nature year-round.

Increase the number of visitors to your yard by including all the essentials these winged visitors need; food, shelter and water.

Plants are the easiest way to bring birds into your landscape. These natural feeders provide seasonal food and shelter for the birds. Take a walk through your yard and look for trees, shrubs and perennials that provide food and evergreens that provide year-round shelter.  Plan on adding a few of their favorites that provide food and shelter and seasonal beauty you can enjoy. Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Another Christmas Bird Count in the books

Photo by Chris Bosak A large flock of Brant at Calf Pasture Beach, April 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Brant were once again numerous at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, Conn., during the 2016 Christmas Bird Count.

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

Buffleheads were everywhere. Not in great numbers, particularly, but they were everywhere we looked.

Norwalk Harbor, Norwalk River, Long Island Sound off Calf Pasture and Cedar Point Yacht Club, the small pond at Taylor Farm … it seemed the bufflehead was the duck of the day for the most recent Christmas Bird Count. As I have for the past 16 years or so, I participated in the Westport Circle count and covered East Norwalk with Frank Mantlik.

The Christmas Bird Count is the world’s largest citizen science program, with data going back to 1900. The data helps scientists track bird populations and is valuable in determining what steps, if any, need to be taken to help certain species.

Frank and I found a total of 53 species, which is about typical for us. The weather was wet and gray, so that may account for the slightly lower total. I can’t complain, though; Continue reading

Merry Christmas from BirdsofNewEngland.com

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

I know it’s not your traditional Christmas greeting photo with a Northern Cardinal sitting on an evergreen bough as snow covers the background. But whoever said I follow the rules all the time?

I got these photos the other day while driving through Brookfield, Conn., as the sun was rising for the day. The scene was awash in the golden light of the dawn and the Red-tailed Hawk stood out clear as day on the dark green evergreen.

Merry Christmas and happy holiday to those who view and enjoy http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com. Thanks for your support!

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.