Resourceful blue jay maximizes visit to birdfeeder

Photo by Chris Bosak A blue jay grabs a third suet nugget from a platform feeder, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue jay grabs a third suet nugget from a platform feeder, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

This blue jay reminded me of myself when I return from a trip to the grocery store. Instead of taking two or three trips from the car to the kitchen — which would be exponentially easier and faster — I have to do it all in one trip. I position the handles of the bags all up and down my left arm until only one bag remains. I grab the last bag with my right hand and close the hatch with that hand, dangling whatever groceries happen to be inside.

I don’t distribute the weight of the bags because I’m going to need that right hand to open the front door, so I struggle with nine or 10 bags on my left arm. It gets real dicey when I bought lots of beverages — think gallons of milk and orange juice. But I manage to quick step my way to the door, open it with my relatively free right hand and run hunched over to the kitchen to release the bevy of bags into a mound on the floor. Yes, that gallon of milk is now on top of the hot dog buns. I look at my left arm to inspect the indentations and welts left from the bags and think: Next time I’ll take two trips. But I won’t.

Anyway, back to that blue jay. Instead of grabbing a suet nugget and flying off to eat it or store it, it stuck around to position the little rounds of goodness into its bill to fit in as many as it could. I think it got three, but it may have been four. Here’s a look at how it did it.

Photo by Chris Bosak A blue jay stands on a platform feeder, eyeing up some suet nuggets, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue jay stands on a platform feeder, eyeing up some suet nuggets, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak A blue jay grabs a suet nugget from a platform feeder, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A blue jay grabs a suet nugget from a platform feeder, Danbury, Conn., March 2018.

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A flurry of winter bird photos before spring begins

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-bellied woodpecker grabs a peanut from a feeder, March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-bellied woodpecker grabs a peanut from a feeder, March 2018.

Andrew, my 14-year-old going on 21, and I took a walk in the woods together this evening. These walks don’t happen as often as they used to or as much as I’d like, so I was more than happy when he said ‘yes,’ when I asked if he’d like to come along.

The trail behind my house is covered in snow, but it’s been walked on and packed down so it’s not much different than walking on dirt or on a sidewalk. But, as my walks with Andrew almost always go, we veered off the path to check out one thing or another. As we ventured away from the path, the snow at spots was still a foot or more deep. A foot or deeper on March 19, two days away from the official start of Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Chickadees, scarce or not?

Photo by Chris Bosak Ablack-capped chickadee grabs a sunflower seed from a Christmas decoration during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A black-capped chickadee grabs a sunflower seed from a Christmas decoration during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

Where are the chickadees?

That question has been on the minds of many concerned birders this winter. I’ve been lucky enough to see a few at my feeding stations, but not great numbers. Consistent numbers, but not big numbers.

Titmice? Those I’ve seen in consistently high numbers. Nuthatches and the downy woodpecker — also consistent and high. 

But chickadees have been harder to come by. As I said, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve at least seen a few. Many people have written to me to say they’ve not seen any.

“What has happened to these birds?” one reader asked.

Another reader noted a general drop in bird numbers, but: “The biggest absence seems to be chickadees. … In all previous winters I would be inundated with chickadees and nuthatches. This winter: zero nuthatches, and only one or two chickadees at the feeder. I used to have more of them than there was room to perch!”

Chickadees are a beloved bird in New England and Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Robins and spring

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Robin perches on a rock at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

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

Nor’easters and pending snowfalls aside, spring is knocking on the door.

The robins are back. That has to mean spring, right? Aren’t robins the traditional harbinger of spring?

Well, yes and no. Yes, they are the traditional harbinger of spring by manner of conventional wisdom, but, no, because some robins have remained in New England all winter.

A number of robins spend their winters in New England, Continue reading

A shot from the storm: Cardinal in snow

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern cardinal eats seeds from a feeder during a snow storm, March 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A northern cardinal eats seeds from a feeder during a snow storm, March 2018.

Here’s one shot from today’s nor’easter that hit parts of New England hard. Here in Danbury, Connecticut, we got socked with over a foot of heavy snow. The day started out calmly enough, but around 3 or 4 p.m., the heavy stuff started falling and accumulating FAST. I got this cardinal before things got out of hand. Hopefully, there will be more shots to follow.

 

No wonder the birds suddenly stopped coming to the feeder

Photo by Chris Bosak  A Cooper's hawk looks up after landing on a snowy branch during a moderate snowfall in Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Cooper’s hawk looks up after landing on a snowy branch during a moderate snowfall in Jan. 2018.

Watching birds at my feeders during a snowfall is one of my favorite things to do. This year I’m getting nothing out of the ordinary. Not that I’m complaining because I love seeing the titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers (downy, hairy and red-bellied), blue jays and juncos, but I haven’t seen a single siskin, redpoll, Carolina wren or even goldfinch or white-throated sparrow. A male cardinal makes a very rare appearance.

During a recent snowfall I saw nothing for a long stretch. I had been seeing lots of birds earlier in the day and suddenly, nothing. I looked behind the feeding station and noticed why. You guessed it, Cooper’s hawk. Along with sharp-shinned hawks, Copper’s hawks like to check out feeding stations periodically for an easy meal. And why not. The “feeder birds” are there for an easy meal; why begrudge birds of prey one?

A nice first bird of the year

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year's Day 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year’s Day 2018.

The weather app on the phone said the temperature was 0 degrees (yes, as in zero). It was New Year’s Day, though, so no excuses: I had to take that walk I promised myself I’d take.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year's Day 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker searches for food in a dead tree on New Year’s Day 2018.

As soon as I walked out the door I heard a loud knocking that I strongly suspected was a pileated woodpecker. A quick glance in the direction of the knocking and my suspicion was confirmed. A female pileated woodpecker banged away at a dead tree in the backyard (well, technically not my backyard, but open space that abuts my backyard.)

First bird of 2018 is a pileated woodpecker. Not bad at all.

I watched the crow-sized woodpecker for several minutes and snapped photos until my “shooting” hand froze. That didn’t take long.

I moved on to give the woodpecker some peace and quiet on this frigid day.

The rest of the walk was rather uneventful, but I did see three other types of Continue reading