Extra rose-breasted grosbeak shot

Photo by Chris Bosak  A rose-breasted grosbeak perches in a tree at Merganser Lake in Connecticut, spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A rose-breasted grosbeak perches in a tree at Merganser Lake in Connecticut, spring 2017.

Here’s an extra shot of the male rose-breasted grosbeak I saw at the feeder last month. This was the perch he took before flying over to the feeder to join a female rose-breasted grosbeak that was already on the feeder.

I’ve been meaning to get this photo up on this site for a few weeks. Who’s going to complain about extra rose-breasted grosbeak photos?

For the Birds: Odd call, brilliant color

A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

A male scarlet tanager perches in a maple tree during spring migration 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

I heard the uniquely odd call from the nearby woods.

“Chick burr. Chick burr.” The “chick” is higher and louder than the “burr.”

I rushed for my stepladder, set it up on my back deck and climbed onto the roof — camera in hand. It was something I did on a few occasions last year, which is how I learned that call so well. 

It is one call of a scarlet tanager. It has a longer, more melodic song, but this particular call is a quick and unmistakable “chick burr.” It is distinctive; I know of no other bird noise like it.

As I walked along the roof, I was eye level with the tops of the smaller trees and about the middle of the giant oaks that tower over my house. Yes, those same oaks that have literally covered my deck and clogged my gutters with their catkins and pollen this spring. Yes, those same oaks that form a multi-layer ground covering with their leaves in late fall.

But also those oaks that are so good at attracting birds with the plentiful worms and other insects among their leaves and branches. The larger dead branches also serve as homes for cavity-nesting birds. So, I will take the pollen and leaves in exchange for their bird friendliness. It’s a fair trade as far as I’m concerned.

The oaks seem to be a favorite of the scarlet tanagers that pass through in the spring and early summer. It is always a thrill when I hear that strange call because I know one of New England’s most brilliantly plumaged bird is nearby.

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The noisy, but welcomed, great-crested flycatcher

Photo by Chris Bosak  A great-crested flycatcher perches on a branch at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A great-crested flycatcher perches on a branch at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., spring 2017.

At times, nature’s noises are dominated by this average-sized bird: the great-crested flycatcher. While it is easy to hear this bird and its “CREEEEP” call, it is not always easy to spot it. It is larger than sparrows and warblers, but still tough to find as it tends to hang out high in trees among the leaves. It is a beautiful bird, but doesn’t have flashy colors like the red of a scarlet tanager that makes it pop. But when you do find it, preferably through binoculars for a good look, you see it’s a handsome bird with soft browns and yellows.

Their habit of hanging out among the leaves makes them difficult to photograph as well. I was lucky in that two were flying back and forth, perhaps building a nest, and using this one dead branch as a lookout area before continuing on. So, of course, I climbed onto the roof to get a little closer to the branch and waited. It didn’t take long before one landed there, let out a big “CREEEEP” and took off. They have other songs and calls, but that’s the one I typically hear. I grabbed a few shots of that bird and when it took off, I left the roof, too. If they were indeed building a nest, I certainly didn’t want to stand in their way.

Good spring for rose-breasted grosbeaks

Photo by Chris Bosak A female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

I didn’t see my first one until May 17, but since then I’ve seen a good number of rose-breasted grosbeaks — always a welcomed sighting in the spring. The male is the flashy bird with black-and-white plumage and signature upside-down bright red triangle on his chest. The female is more muted in color, but still a handsome bird to see at the feeder. They both have large bills (they aren’t called grosbeaks for nothing) and easily crack the sunflower seeds offered at feeders.

I’ve also seen them at suet feeders, so those of us who feed birds into the summer (or year-round) can attract them with a variety of foods. Many people stop feeding birds in the spring. I don’t blame those who have bears to worry about, but those who stop feeding birds once the winter ends miss out on birds such as rose-breasted grosbeaks.

Above is a shot of the female at the feeder. Check out the sizable bill on her. Below is the male and female. Not a great shot, I know, but interesting to see them together. Another female was at the feeder seconds before this shot, but the female shown chased her away.

Photo by Chris Bosak A male and female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male and female rose-breasted grosbeak eat seeds at a platform feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in spring 2017.

Chickadee checks out birdhouse

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a birdhouse in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A black-capped chickadee checks out a birdhouse in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

One of the biggest thrills in spring is seeing what birds are choosing your yard to raise a family. I have mourning dove and robin nests this spring, and this chickadee is checking out one of my four birdhouses. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it since, so it likely found another home.

I did notice great-crested flycatchers flying into a large oak tree with nesting material in its bill. Hopefully that’s a good sign. I’ll certainly keep an eye out to see how that develops. I also have male and female hummingbirds coming to the feeders, so if hummingbirds nested in the yard somewhere, that would be cool.

As spring progresses, I’ll keep an eye out for what else might be nesting nearby. Drop me a line and let me know what’s nesting in your yard.

Nice to see this guy back

Photo by Chris Bosak A male ruby-throated humminacgbird visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak A male ruby-throated hummingbird visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2017.

Not sure if it’s the same male ruby-throated hummingbird I had last fall, but at any rate, it was good to see him return to the feeder a few days ago. He’s been their daily, several times a day. The female is still hanging around, too. Hopefully there’s a love connection there and they’ll build a nest somewhere on my property. I’ll keep my eyes open.

 

Another shot of the ‘pileated’ woodpecker

Photo by Chris Bosak  A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pileated woodpecker looks for insects at the base of a tree at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., April 2017.

Here’s another photo of the pileated woodpecker I saw the other day.

Hearing the name of this remarkable bird begs the question: What does pileated mean? According to dictionary.com, it simply means “crested,” an apt name for this woodpecker. There’s also this, more descriptive, definition from thefreedictionary.com: “Etymologically means “capped,” like a mushroom, but now refers to a bird with a crest on the top of the head from the bill to the nape.”

So there you have it …

 

Look who’s back

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbirds hovers near a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbirds hovers near a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

This female ruby-throated hummingbird arrived today (Sunday, April 30, 2017) at the feeder. I put the feeder out about two weeks ago in anticipation of the hummingbirds’ return. Is it the same female hummingbird that has visited my feeder over the last few seasons? I’m not sure, but I’m glad to welcome them back, either way. Hopefully she will find a suitable nesting site on my property. If she heads farther north, well, that’s fine, too.

Photo by Chris Bosak A ruby-throated hummingbirds perches on a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbirds perches on a feeder at Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., in April 2017.

Putting another homemade bird feeder to the test

Photo by Chris Bosak  A white-breasted nuthatch takes a sunflower seed from a homemade platform feeder in March 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A white-breasted nuthatch takes a sunflower seed from a homemade platform feeder in March 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

I know I’m not breaking any ground with the design of this homemade bird feeder, but figured I’d share it anyway. I’ve been wanting a platform feeder for a while now. The ones I made last year simply by cutting a thin section of a tree trunk with a chainsaw worked for a few months, but I didn’t treat them and they dried up, cracked warped and eventually fell apart.

On to plan B, which was to check out some offerings at stores. I saw one I liked but its design was so simple I couldn’t justify spending money on it. So I mulled it over and procrastinated for a long while before heading into the basement to sift through the scrap wood left by the previous owners of the house.

Almost right away I found an old, wooden cabinet door. The bottom (or inside) already had two thin pieces of wood running near the edges. All I had to do was add two more pieces to close the box and keep the seed contained and I would be done. Just as easily said than done.

The only tricky part was getting it to hang straight, or at least relatively straight. The small chain I used at first just wasn’t cutting it. It would hang low on one end so I’d adjust the links and only make it worse. So I dug out some old carabiner/keychain tchotchkes and linked the same number on each side of the feeder. It still didn’t hang perfectly straight, but that’s fine because I like it slightly angled toward the house anyway. Also, the angle will allow for drainage in heavy rains. (I love when I can justify flaws in my creations.)

As you can see, it’s also a fairly sizable feeder so I can offer a variety of foods at once. It’s working great already and I look forward to sharing photos of future visitors. It’s got rose-breasted grosbeak written all over it. Time will tell.

Photo by Chris Bosak  A white-breasted nuthatch takes a sunflower seed from a homemade platform feeder in March 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A white-breasted nuthatch takes a sunflower seed from a homemade platform feeder in March 2017, in Danbury, Conn.

 

Leftover snow photo 4: just another junco

Photo by Chris Bosak  A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Dark-eyed Junco perches on an evergreen during a snowstorm in Feb. 2017 in Danbury, Conn.

Tomorrow we’ll think warmer thoughts on this site (stay tuned) but for now here’s another photo from that snowstorm last week. Remember, juncos were the most prolific bird in my yard that day, so naturally I have plenty of junco photos.