For the Birds: High stakes garden perches

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

Photo by Chris Bosak  A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a stick being used as a garden stake in New England, summer 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A ruby-throated hummingbird perches on a stick being used as a garden stake in New England, summer 2018.

One of the nice things about living in the woods is that you are never at a loss for garden stakes.

Does that tomato plant need support? Take a little walk in the backyard, find a thin but sturdy stick on the ground, and you’ve got yourself a garden stake. Sure, it’s not apt to be perfectly straight, and it might not sport a perfectly pointed end for jabbing into the soil, but that’s nothing a whittle or two with a jackknife can’t fix.

A bonus to using these natural garden stakes, I’ve noticed, is that if they are placed near a birdfeeder, they make for good perches, too. This is especially true if the sticks have smaller branches at the top.

My property is predominantly shaded, but there is a sunny enough area on the deck and a small portion of the yard near the deck. I do a lot of container planting on the deck, so these garden stake/bird perches are high off the ground.

I set up a desk and computer in a room that looks directly at the feeders for those days when I work from home. (Of course, I did. Why would I not do something like that?)

The other day I looked out at the feeder for a good amount of time and noticed these stakes were quite busy at their side job. The variety of birds using the sticks surprised me, especially since it is the middle of summer.

The most exciting sighting was a male ruby-throated hummingbird. It was one of about three regular perches he used to keep an eye on “his” feeder.

It was also fun to watch when the American goldfinches made their rounds in the yard. Three or four of these small, but colorful and lively birds would utilize the sticks at once.

The stakes are not particularly sturdy, so the larger birds tend not to use them. My guess is that they tried to use them at a time when I wasn’t watching and found them to be too flimsy. Not that I would mind the cardinals and blue jays using the perches, but they are relegated to thicker branches still attached to trees.

Sometimes being cheap, I mean resourceful, pays off. Not only are my tomatoes, beans and peppers standing upright, my birds are happier, too.

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Another indigo bunting shot

Photo by Chris Bosak  A male indigo bunting eats seeds from a platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., in May 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A male indigo bunting eats seeds from a platform feeder in Danbury, Conn., in May 2018.in

Here’s another shot of that male indigo bunting, just because …

Latest For the Birds column: Another backyard first

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

Photo by Chris Bosak An indigo bunting visits a feeder in New England, spring 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An indigo bunting visits a feeder in New England, spring 2018.

No matter how long you’ve been at it, birdwatching always presents firsts.

Wait, I used that sentence to start my column a few weeks ago. Oh well, another birding first happened this week, so I’m going with it again.

This time, it was a new bird to my feeding station. I’ve been feeding birds for a long time, and I’ve seen some great birds eating seeds or suet in my backyard.

Every year I’m thrilled when the rose-breasted grosbeaks show up. This year, a male and female have paid periodic visits for the last couple days.

It took years for me to attract hummingbirds, but now — knock on wood — it seems they are annual visitors.

A few Octobers ago, a small group of pine warblers discovered my suet feeder and stuck around the yard for about three days.

The other day, a new arrival. Settling into my lounge chair on the deck, I noticed a bright blue blotch among the leaves on the branch used by “my” Continue reading

Good backyard visitors so far this spring

Photo by Chris Bosak A male rose-breasted grosbeak visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak A male rose-breasted grosbeak visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2018.

We still have a few weeks left of peak spring migration, so this list is not inclusive (I hope not anyway), but the feeder has been active recently with the following birds: rose-breasted grosbeak (male and female); chipping sparrow; goldfinch; gray catbird; blue jay; cardinal (male and female); indigo bunting (first spring male); red-bellied woodpecker; white-breasted nuthatch; tufted titmouse; black-capped chickadee; downy woodpecker; hairy woodpecker; mourning dove; house finch; ruby-throated hummingbird (male and female); wild turkey; and probably one or two more that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. I bought a new oriole feeder, but no luck yet with that one. What’s been visiting your feeders? Feel free to comment with your list.

Photo by Chris Bosak  A female rose-breasted grosbeak visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A female rose-breasted grosbeak visits a feeder in Danbury, Conn., during the spring of 2018.

Latest For the Birds column: Little birds make up “The Big Three”

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

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

I call them the Big Three.

In order to make it easier to keep track of the number of bird species I see in my backyard, I lump together black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches and tufted titmice. They count, of course, as three different species, but it’s just easier to group them.

On any given day I can count on seeing those three birds. Cardinals, downy woodpeckers, juncos, white-throated sparrows and mourning doves are nearly as reliable in the winter, but The Big Three just seem to logically belong together.

Continue reading

Latest For the Birds column: Notes from New England readers

Photo by Chris Bosak American Robin in Selleck's Woods in fall 2013.

Photo by Chris Bosak
American Robin in Selleck’s Woods in fall 2013.

 

Here’s the latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, Conn.), The Keene (NH) Sentinel and several Connecticut weekly newspapers.

………………

Catching up on some news from For the Birds readers.

Carol wrote in to share a story about a backyard spectacle she witnessed at her new home.

Her new place overlooks a pond surrounded by trees and from her living room window she peers down on two dogwood trees and an adjacent white pine. In early fall, the dogwoods were “both laden with berries,” she wrote.

One day she noticed movement between the pine and dogwoods and inspected the situation. She saw close to a dozen American Robins moving from tree to Continue reading

Side-by side-comparison of New England’s two nuthatches

A Red-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

A White-breasted Nuthatch perches near a birdfeeding station in Danbury, Conn., Oct. 2016.

Here’s a side-by-side (well, really top-to-bottom) comparison of the two nuthatches in New England. The White-breasted is more common throughout much of the region. It is also larger than its cousin. The Red-breasted is more common in the northern parts of New England and visits the southern region in the winter in numbers that vary greatly from year to year.