For the Birds column: Project FeedWatch underway

Here’s my latest For the Birds column, which ran last Thursday in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Monday in The Keene (N.H.) Sentinel.

Photo by Chris Bosak White-breasted Nuthatches are a common feeder bird in New England.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-breasted Nuthatches are a common feeder bird in New England.

Project FeederWatch gets under way

What will $18 get you these days?

About four cups of coffee from Starbucks. (Served in plain red cups void of evil, offensive snowflake images.)

About eight gallons of gasoline. Way better than the five gallons it used to get you.

Three bundles of the firewood stacked at the entrance of every grocery store, convenience store and hardware store these days. The bundles are each good for about 10 minutes in a firepit.

Two and a half craft beers at just about any bar or restaurant. Oops, forgot about the tip. Make that two beers.

Or, $18 covers your entrance fee to participate in Project FeederWatch, a citizen science project of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada. It entails keeping track of the birds you see at your backyard feeding stations and submitting your results online. The data collected helps scientists track bird populations in the winter — similar to the Christmas Bird Count and Great Backyard Bird Count.

The fee also gets you a bird ID poster, birdwatching calendar, instruction sheet and newsletter. No guarantee here that the materials will not have images of snowflakes. Try not to be offended if they do.

Project FeederWatch officially started this past Saturday and runs through early April. Don’t worry if you missed the opening day, you can join in whenever. Participants can count the birds as much or as little as they’d like — 24/7 monitoring is not necessary. Being an expert birdwatcher is not required either.

All skill levels welcome. Why not get the entire family involved? Old and young.

I’ve never participated in the Project before, mostly because I’ve never lived in a place where my feeders have been terribly active. Now that I live at a place with very active feeders I’m looking forward to participating this year. (Active feeders, however, are not a prerequisite for participation. Anybody can do it as long as they have a feeder up.)

The feeders at my new place are always bustling with the common visitors White-breasted Nuthatches, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and Downy Woodpeckers. I also see Carolina Wrens, Blue Jays, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and American Goldfinches. Lately I’ve noticed a few Dark-eyed Juncos under the feeders. The White-throated Sparrows are not far behind, I’m sure. Will my Pine Warblers I had earlier this fall return to the suet cake? Probably not, but I’ll be watching. Who knows what else will show up?

To join the Project or to get more information, visit The website is full of information and tips on identifying birds (including tricky IDs), feeding birds tips, trend maps, and historical data.

So why participate other than it “helps scientists?” Many bird species are in decline, some seriously so. Tracking the winter abundance and distribution of birds with long-term data offers valuable insight into their lives. It helps scientists track gradual population shifts of bird species. WE know the Carolina Wren and Red-bellied Woodpecker are trending northward. This data quantifies the movement.

That’s more of a positive population shift. What about the negative one? What about the species that are declining year after year?

The data helps scientists recognize the decline and figure out solutions more quickly.

Let me know if join and what birds you see at your feeders.


For the Birds runs Thursdays in The Hour. Chris Bosak may be reached at Visit his website at

Project FeederWatch starts Saturday

Here’s an email I received recently from The Cornell Lab or Ornithology. With my new home buzzing with bird activity, I’m going to join this important citizen science project this year. Here are the details should you be thinking about it, too, or learning of the project for the first time here:


Dear Friend of the Cornell Lab,

The FeederWatch season begins on Saturday, November 14, so now is the time to sign up! This is the last reminder that we will send to you before the season starts, and we hope you decide to join the fun this year.

What is Project FeederWatch?

Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders. Participants periodically identify and count the birds at their feeders from November-April. Using our easy online data entry, you can immediately see all of your own counts and view colorful tables, graphs, and summaries.

With Project FeederWatch, you become the biologist of your own backyard.

Anyone interested in birds can participate; you don’t have to be an expert. All you need is a bird feeder, a comfortable chair, a window, and an interest in the birds in your neighborhood.

New participants will receive:

  • FeederWatch Handbook & Instructions
  • Full-color poster of common feeder birds
  • Bird-Watching Days Calendar
  • Our annual report, Winter Bird Highlights
  • Subscription to the Cornell Lab newsletter

Why should I participate?

FeederWatch data help scientists track broad movements and long term trends in abundance of winter feeder-bird populations. Explore the millions of FeederWatch sightings on our website. You can help contribute to a nearly 30-year dataset that helps us understand bird biology while learning about the feathered friends in your own backyard. Join online today.

Sign up for $18 ($15 for Lab members) today so that we can get your research kit in the mail.  Although it takes several weeks for kits to arrive, you can begin counting birds Saturday following our online instructions. Your participation fee helps keep the project running; without it, Project FeederWatch wouldn’t be possible.

We hope you will tell us about the birds at your feeders!


Emma Greig
Project Leader
Project FeederWatch

For the Birds column: Get the lead out for loons

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims on a lake in northern New Hampshire with two young loons.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims on a lake in northern New Hampshire with two young loons.

Here’s my latest For the Birds column from The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and Keene (NH) Sentinel.


Bad news trickled down from up north this week as the Loon Preservation Committee announced that necropsy results confirmed the first-of-the-year Common Loon death due to lead poisoning.

The loon was found on the shores and Lake Winnipesaukee in central New Hampshire. Loons face a slew of challenges in their northern breeding grounds. The biggest challenge, of course, is habitat loss. What else is new? But other factors such as collisions with boats (especially young loon), heavy rain washing away nests, and lead sinkers take a toll as well.

Then there are the predators, such as raccoons and foxes, that prey upon the eggs. Now I hear of another potential predator of loons. Of course, the comeback of the Bald Eagle is to be celebrated, but

Click here for the rest of the column.

Beachgoers asked to: ‘Fish, swim and play from 50 yards away’

Photo by Chris Bosak An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An American Oystercatcher walks along the beach at Coastal Center at Milford Point this spring.

An important press release from American Bird Conservancy

Washington, D.C. — As millions of vacationing Americans head to their nearest beach destination for surf and sun this summer, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is urging beachgoers to be mindful of the many beach-nesting birds that will be tending to their nests and newly hatched young.


“Young birds have a tough go of things during their early days, so they really need our help. They face being trampled by unaware beachgoers, run over by motorized vehicles, or killed by predators. Even people simply getting too close can cause nest abandonment,” said Kacy Ray, Gulf Conservation Program Manager for ABC’s Gulf Beach-Nesting Bird Conservation Program.


“The best thing for beachgoers to do is to avoid getting close to areas where larger congregations of birds are gathered, and to always respect areas that are roped off or marked with signs designating an area that is used by nesting birds,” said Ray. “The habitat for these birds is diminishing every year Continue reading

Release: Great Backyard Bird Count sets new species record


Here’s a press release from the Great Backyard Bird Count folks: All text and photos below the dotted line are directly from the release.

I love the charts they compile following this count. Great photos included, too.

Here’s my post directly following the GBBC.


New York, NY, Ithaca, NY, and Port Rowan, ON–Participants from more than 100 countries submitted a record 147, 265 bird checklists for the annual Great Backyard Bird Count and broke the previous count record for the number of species identified. The 5,090 species reported represents nearly half the possible bird species in the world. The four-day count was held February 13-16, the 18th year for the event which is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada.

The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers helps track the health of bird populations at a scale made possible by using the eBird online checklist program. A sampling of species found by intrepid counters include Ibisbill in India, Bornean Bistlehead in Malaysia, and  Continue reading

Project SNOWstorm seeks to unravel mysteries of the Snowy Owl

Photo by Chris Bosak Don Crockett of Project SNOWStorm talks about Snowy Owls at a presenation at Milford City Hall on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Don Crockett of Project SNOWStorm talks about Snowy Owls at a presentation at Milford City Hall on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015.


(Here’s a little something I wrote up about a presentation on Snowy Owls I attended on Sunday. The event “The Hidden Lives of Snowy Owls” was presented by Don Crockett and sponsored by Connecticut Audubon.)

Last winter Snowy Owls enthralled the U.S. Even casual birdwatchers couldn’t help but be caught up in the historic irruption of the beautiful, yet powerful Arctic bird of prey.

The birds made their way down from their Arctic breeding grounds in record numbers during the winter of 2013-14. Birdwatchers flocked to beaches to try to find the owls. Unlike most winters, the birdwatchers were often successful in catching a glimpse of an owl.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

While Snowy Owls can remain in one spot for hours on end, they do move around quite a bit, during the day and night. So where do the owls go when they aren’t under the watchful eye of birdwatchers? What do they do at night when even the best spotting scope can’t keep track of their whereabouts?

Information about what Snowy Owls do when they come down to the United States is valuable because it gives us a better understanding of these mysterious birds. As Arctic breeders, the more we know about them the better as we continue to grapple with the effects of climate change. They may offer clues as to the extent to which climate change is impacting our world.

To help gather more information on these owls, a group of volunteers started Project SNOWstorm last year. The project involves trapping Snowy Owls with a net and attaching a transmitter to each owl’s back using a harness. The transmitter is lightweight (about 40 grams) and the harness is designed to not effect an owl’s flight. The transmitters are solar-powered, which reduces the weight as no batteries are required, and use the cellular phone network as opposed to satellites. Using the Continue reading

Great Backyard Bird Count set for Feb. 13-16 (press release)

Photo by Chris Bosak

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Black-capped Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker share the suet feeder, Nov. 16, 2014.

Here’s a press release about the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, a citizen science project for birders of all ages and levels. My next For the Birds column will focus on the Count.

NEW YORK (Jan. 21, 2015) —Give Mother Nature a valentine this year and show how much you care about birds by counting them for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 18th annual count is taking place February 13 through 16.

Anyone anywhere in the world can count birds for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count and enter their sightings at The information gathered by tens of thousands of Continue reading