For the Birds: Ticks taking down New England moose

Photo by Chris Bosak A cow moose and two calves eat aquatic vegetation from a pond in northern New Hampshire, July 2020.

I never met Bill Silliker Jr., but I am a fan of his work. He was a nature photographer who passed away in 2003. He was based in Maine, and his specialty was moose. His work graced calendars, magazines, books, you name it. The other day I pulled his book “Moose — Giant of the Northern Forest” off the shelf. He wrote it in 1998 and it is, of course, richly illustrated with his fantastic moose photos.

Again, I never met Mr. Silliker, but his writing comes across as down-to-earth, compassionate and deeply caring about the animals he photographed. The book’s chapters discuss various aspects of moose: history, behavior, rut, etc. At the end of the book, he discusses the many threats to moose. Among them are car and train accidents, predation by bear and wolves (Alaska and western U.S.), and humans by way of pollution and habitat destruction.

He also notes that brainworm “may be the most serious health hazard moose face in regions where their range overlaps with that of the parasite’s carrier, the white-tailed deer.” That concern is indeed playing out, particularly in southern New England, where brainworm is thought to be the chief enemy of the moose population, according to biologists in the region.

Mr. Siliker also writes that tick infestations “sometimes play a role in depleting the health and resistance of moose.” Fast forward 20 years from the book’s publishing and ticks have Continue reading

Birds to brighten your day: April 18

Photo by Chris Bosak
A tufted titmouse visits in a yard in Danbury, CT, April 2020. (Merganser Lake)

A Day on Lake Merganser X

Tufted titmice are a common occurrence in my backyard; perhaps the most common. I still appreciate the small birds, no matter how many of them I’ve seen. Titmice are not known for their vocal prowess, but I’ve heard a lot of different songs and calls come from them. They have quite a range of sounds. Yet another reason to like these little birds.

(Repeat text for context:  I’m running out of COVID-19 lockdown themes so from now until things get back to some semblance of normalcy, I will simply post my best photo from the previous day. You could say it fits because of its uncertainty and challenge. I’ll call the series “A Day on Merganser Lake,” even though that’s not the real name of the lake I live near in southwestern Connecticut, it’s just a nod to my favorite duck family.)

Bird babies already

Photo by Chris Bosak
Young Canada geese walk along a road in Danbury, CT, May 2019.

Songbirds are still passing through on their northward migration and new birds that will nest in the area are arriving every day. For instance, I saw my first-of-the-year house wren and eastern wood pewee last week. But some bird species get an earlier jump on the breeding season. Owls started months ago, many robins have nests with babies now and Continue reading

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

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.

Latest For the Birds column: Wood Ducks show a tame side

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

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.

The Mallards were scattered along the grass and I didn’t think twice about it. I’m used to Mallards being tame and not walking away, or even flinching, when someone draws near.

With many Mallards, even with babies in tow, they show little or no fear of humans. In fact, many even welcome the approach of humans as the ducks hope to get some food.

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

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

But in this particular flock of ducks, two females and their babies quickly retreated to the nearby pond. These ducks weren’t Mallards at all, but rather they were Wood Ducks. Two female Wood Ducks and their babies were “hanging out” with the Mallards in the grass near the pond before I pulled into the parking lot.

While the Mallards in the group, which consisted of most of the birds, did not even bother to wake up from their midday nap, the Wood Ducks’ instincts told them to retreat.

But the scene was still extremely surprising to me. First of all, you don’t always see Wood Ducks hanging out with Mallards. And, second of all, Continue reading

Looking back at a Barn Swallow nest

Photo by CHRIS BOSAK Young Barn Swallows look for food from their mother, which is returning to the nest with food.

Photo by CHRIS BOSAK
Young Barn Swallows look for food from their mother, which is returning to the nest with food.

Here’s a group of photos I took at a Barn Swallow nest, which was built on a light fixture in the covered portion of the parking lot where I work. The parents dive-bombed and swooped at all the people who parked nearby. They had only one brood before moving on. It’s a credit to the building owner that they let the nest remain throughout the entire process. This was a few summers ago, but I’ve never published all of these photos.

More photos below. Continue reading

Find a baby deer? Leave it alone, it’s just fine

Here’s a column I wrote about a year ago that ran in The Hour (Norwalk, Ct.) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H). It is about finding baby deer that are “abandoned” — but not really abandoned, of course. Since it is that time of year again when people may stumble across baby animals, I figured I’d put this column out there again.

Photo by Chris Bosak A fawn hides in the woods, June 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A fawn hides in the woods, June 2013.

What do old tennis balls, my boys’ penchant for baseball, and a nearby school have to do with this nature column?

Hang in there, you’ll find out soon enough.

First, let’s back up to winter. During snowless winter days I like to wander around the woods surrounding tennis courts and collect as many old tennis balls as I can. My boys used to love to join me in this endeavor. Now they kind of just tolerate the venture.

So why would I spend time and put up with the invariable scratches that come with such an outing? To have plenty of fodder for batting practice in the backyard. I live next to a school and the property is divided by a chain link fence about eight feet high. It makes for the perfect home run derby fence. I don’t have the bank account to fix all the broken windows that using a real baseball would cause, so we use old tennis balls.

The boys are getting bigger and stronger so lots of tennis balls go flying over the fence. Sometimes four or five pitches in a row are lost in the small p Continue reading