The bird version of an old drinking game

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, March 2019.

This post may be stretching it a bit, but what the heck …

During my college years, one of the drinking games we used to play was “One up, one down.” Those who knew the secret would always get the right answer and not have to drink. Those who guessed wrong had to drink. I’ll give away the secret and spoil the game because I doubt a lot of college students are regularly checking in with BirdsofNewEngland.com. Anyway, one player raises both hands, one hand or neither hand. (It’s actually a bit more complicated, but you get the idea.) Another player has to say “one up,” “two up,” or “zero up.” The game only works, obviously, when new people are at the party; otherwise, everyone would always get the right answer.

Well, the reason for that stroll down Memory Lane was that I was reminded of that game while watching pine siskins at my feeder during yesterday’s snowfall. Check out the photos and you’ll see why.

See, I told you it was a stretch.

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, March 2019.
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More snow photos: Blue jays are still hard to resist

Photo by Chris Bosak A blue jay perches in a tree in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

There was a time when blue jays were my favorite bird. It’s not that I don’t like blue jays anymore, but I was a youngster then and only knew a handful of birds. Their size, color and boldness intrigued me. I’ve since discovered 100s of other birds and, while blue jays remain a valued sighting, other birds have replaced them at the top of my list. That doesn’t mean I can resist grabbing a shot of one when it poses for me during a snowfall. So here you go …

Snow photos: Here come the cardinals

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern cardinal grabs a seed from a feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

More snow photos from the other day. Here’s a female cardinal sharing a platform feeder with a chickadee and a male looking sharp in his red plumage.

Quick facts: Did you know that fewer than 40 percent of cardinal nests actually fledge young? That’s according to the folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Lab’s NestWatch team studied cardinals and came up with some interesting results. For instance, despite that low success rate, cardinals are a successful species overall. A long breeding season and occupying a variety of habitats are part of the reason.

The article on the NestWatch website also looks at why male cardinals are so darn colorful. Hint: Yes, it has to do with impressing female cardinals. Here’s a link to the insightful story.

Photo by Chris Bosak A cardinal and chickadeee share a platform feeder following a snowfall in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

Birds in snow: Red-bellied woodpecker and mourning dove

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-bellied woodpecker and mourning dove share a platform feeder in March 2019 in Danbury, Connecticut.

As promised, another snowy bird photo taken during this three-day stretch of overnight snow. “There will be more, lots more.” (An obscure line from my favorite movie, The Jerk.)

More snow means more snowy bird photos

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pine siskin perches on the top of an evergreen in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

For the third consecutive day, southern New England was hit by an overnight snowfall. None of the “storms” amounted to much in terms of accumulation but they did create some good bird photography opportunities.

Here are a few to get started. Many more to come …

Photo by Chris Bosak A pine siskin perches on the top of an evergreen in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

For the Birds: The Winter of the Barred Owl

Photo by Bob Sullivan
This barred owl perched on a bird feeding pole and took several dives at a vole under the snow in Westmoreland, N.H.

In recent memory we’ve had the winter of the junco, the winter of the snowy owl, and the winter of the robin.

This seems to be the winter of the barred owl. Throughout New England, barred owls are being seen in greater-than-usual numbers.

I received an email and terrific photos from Bob of Westmoreland. On Super Bowl Sunday, he noticed a barred owl perched on the bird feeder pole in his yard. But the thrills didn’t stop there. Bob watched as the owl took a few attempts at snagging a vole in the snow beneath the feeder. Alas, the owl never got its prey.

“I kept pausing the Super Bowl every so often to check,” he wrote. “I have plenty of barred owls in the neighborhood, but this was the first time I ever saw one hunting at the feeder.”

Bob noted that smaller birds such as chickadees kept right on using the feeders and the owl paid them no mind.

People think of owls as nocturnal, but they can be active during the day. This is especially true of barred owls, which often call their eerie “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” hoots during the day.

The spike in sightings has been so pronounced that The Connecticut Audubon Society called on several bird experts to try to explain the phenomenon. Continue reading

Great Backyard Bird Count personal results

Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped birdfeeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.
Photo by Chris Bosak A white-breasted nuthatch sits on a bird-shaped birdfeeder during the winter of 2016-17 in Danbury, Conn.

As promised, here are the results of my Great Backyard Bird Count experience this morning. It wasn’t overly successful in terms of finding birds, but it wasn’t too bad either. At any rate, all checklists are valuable, so my 2019 GBBC list is in. Not that participants are limited to one checklist, and I may just do another one tomorrow as the Count runs through Monday.

My species list included: black-capped chickadee, tufted titmouse, white-breasted nuthatch, downy woodpecker, red-bellied woodpecker, dark-eyed junco, pine siskin, American goldfinch, hooded merganser, and ring-necked duck. The waterfowl, of course, I spotted at the pond at the end of the trail behind my house. The pond is 85 percent frozen, but open just enough to hold a small flock of ring-necks.

Feel free to share your highlights by commenting on this site or BirdsofNewEngland.com Facebook.

Since my species list wasn’t so great, here are photos of each bird I saw today. (Note: The photos were not taken today, but these are “file photos.”) Continue reading