For the Birds: Readers share what they’ve been seeing

Rosalie Boucher captured this photo of an American Woodcock in her yard in Norwalk, Conn., in March 2014.

Woodcock are being seen and heard at dusk, phoebes are showing up slowly but steadily, mixed flocks of blackbirds are headed north, and the weather is sunny and warm one day and freezing and wet the next. It must be March in New England.

As we get ready for migration to pick up steam, here’s what readers have been reporting over the last few weeks. Bill from Keene wrote to say he’s hearing spring songs from the woods, which is always a good sign and pleasing chorus. Spring peepers, wood frogs and some birds are starting to call. I’ve heard cardinals almost daily now, which is a most welcomed, cheerful song.

Jeannie from Marlow wrote to say she has had upwards of four red-breasted nuthatches visiting her feeders at once. I thought my two-at-a-time visits were good. Jeannie also sent along a terrific photo of a barred owl having its feathers blown around by a strong wind. The photo may be found at www.birdsofnewengland.com under the “Reader Submitted Photos” category.

Jane from Marlborough wrote, questioning whether a small bird of prey she saw take a chickadee could be a merlin. Merlins are small falcons that breed mostly north of New Hampshire, but some do breed in the state and many pass through during fall and spring migrations. So it is very possible that her bird in question was a merlin.

Here’s what the N.H. Fish and Game website says about the merlin’s range: “Expanding range southward in NH. Currently breeds in the north and at scattered locations in central and western parts of the state. Occurs statewide during migration which peaks during September and early October; occasionally winters along the seacoast or in southern suburban areas.”

Thanks to the Keene Lions Club for having me as a guest speaker via Zoom last week at its meeting. I enjoyed meeting everyone virtually and appreciated the many thoughtful questions at the end. A question was posed that I didn’t have the answer for at the moment. I had referenced early in the presentation the 2019 study that shows there has been a decline of 2.9 billion birds in the U.S. and Canada over the last 50 years. The question came up as to what percentage that number represented. I thought it was a great question as numbers are sometimes presented to show a point, but proper context is missing.

I looked back at the study and found out that the 2.9 billion missing birds represent a 28 percent decline — roughly down from 10 billion adult breeding birds to 7 billion. That is a substantial number no matter how you look at it, but when you consider birds of certain habitats have declined by more than 50, the number becomes even more stark. Grassland birds, for instance, have declined by 53 percent since 1970, according to the study. That is fewer than half of the meadowlarks, bobolinks and more of our favorite grassland birds remaining.

On the bright side, which I was reminded of when I looked back on the study, numbers of waterfowl, raptors and woodpeckers have increased in the last 50 years.

The study, by the way, is entitled “Decline of the North American avifauna” and was conducted by researchers from several organizations such as Cornell Lab of Ornithology, American Bird Conservancy and National Audubon Society.

I hope everyone is ready for spring migration. Be sure to let me know what you’re seeing.

Winter baths and drinks for birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern mockingbird drinks from a birdbath in New England, January 2021.

We all know it’s important to offer water as well as food for our feathered friends. It can be discouraging, however, to watch a birdbath day after day and not see any birds using it. They typically aren’t as busy as birdfeeders with a constant stream of birds using it. Factor in the sub-zero temperatures Continue reading

A few more snowy bird photos

Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Carolina wrens visit a platform feeder in New England, December 2020.

Parts of New England got varying degrees of snow during this week’s storm. I got about a foot of the white stuff, but I’ve heard from friends throughout the region of much more and much less. At any rate, the birds came out to eat during and after the storm. Here’s proof.

Photo by Chris Bosak A dark-eyed junco eats a berry following a snowstorm in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee visits to a New England backyard, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A dark-eyed junco eats a berry following a snowstorm in New England, December 2020.
Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Carolina wrens visit a platform feeder in New England, December 2020.

Junco eats berry in the snow. More snow photos to come

Photo by Chris Bosak A dark-eyed junco eats a berry following a snowstorm in New England, December 2020.

Here’s just the start to the bird photos taken during the snowstorm that blanketed New England on Wednesday and Thursday.

Prepping for the storm

Photo by Chris Bosak A Carolina wren visits to a New England bird-feeding station, December 2020.

New England is bracing for a major snowstorm on Wednesday evening and into Thursday. In the meantime, we got a little preview on Monday with a coating of snow. Here are some shots from Monday with thoughts for better snow photos coming soon. Feel free to send your snowy bird photos to birdsofnewengland@gmail.com and I’ll include them on the Reader Submitted Photos page.

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-breasted nuthatch visits to a New England bird-feeding station, December 2020.

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Good winter for red-breasted nuthatches

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-breasted nuthatch visits to a New England bird-feeding station, December 2020.

Based on emails I have received and bird reports I have read, it has been a good fall/winter to see red-breasted nuthatches throughout the region. This one has been hanging around my house for the last several days. Have you had any luck seeing this small bird Continue reading

Hey there, stranger

Photo by Chris Bosak A downy woodpecker grabs a seed and looks at a coffee mug bearing a drawing of a white-breasted nuthatch in New England, fall 2020.

A fun bird photo to get you in the holiday spirit.

For the Birds: The way birds eat

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

I received an interesting email the other day from a reader who witnessed a fascinating behavior at her bird feeder recently.

Margaret from East Alstead wrote about her blue jays stuffing several sunflower seeds in their mouths and bills before flying off. “A jay landed and proceeded to pick up seeds at a great rate. He left in a bit, but he really had my attention. When he returned I started counting. He took in 25 before departing. Subsequent counting came up with a similar number.”

Blue jays, like many other birds, will cache seeds and nuts for future use. Blue jays have an expandable pouch, or crop, in their esophagus that allows them to hold great Continue reading

Siskin and others

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine siskin perches on a log in New England, November 2020.

I never did post this photo of a siskin that visited a few weeks ago. It showed up on the same day that the purple finch did. The finch stayed for only about an hour, while this siskin remained for a few days before disappearing. Here’s the story regarding those visits.

Here are a few more recent shots from this fall …

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-bellied woodpecker perches on a log in New England, November 2020.

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