For the Birds: The siskins come at last

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine siskins visit a feeder in Danbury, Connecticut, fall 2018.

A wise man once said: “The nature of a winter finch irruption, however, could mean a sizable flock of pine siskins can show up and empty out my Nyjer seed feeder at any moment.”

Just kidding. That was me writing two weeks ago about the hot start to the winter finch season. The wise man part is up for debate.

At the time of that writing, a female purple finch had been my only out-of-the-ordinary sighting at my feeding station. A week later a few fox sparrows showed up. I know fox sparrows are not finches, but they can fit loosely into the category of winter finches because of their sporadic visits to New England backyards.

Then last week, true to the sentence at the top of this column, the pine siskins showed up. It started out with two siskins sharing the tube feeder with a group of goldfinches. The next day, I counted three siskins. The third day, about 20 siskins showed up and occupied every perch on the tube feeder and a nearby hopper feeder. The spillover Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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.

New bird pays a visit to my feeder

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.

I suspected one or more might show up this fall/winter and, well, one did show up over the weekend. I had seen reports of Red-breasted Nuthatches showing up throughout New England. I’ve had these small birds at previous feeders, but not yet at my home on Merganser Lake in Connecticut. Until now …

For more information on this bird, visit my previous post by clicking here.

Birding signs of winter

Photo by Chris Bosak A junco perches on a dried up plant at Weead Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A junco perches on a dried up plant at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., in Jan. 2015.

Sorry for that headline. I’m sure some of you out there are looking forward to winter, but for many it’s a dreaded time of year. Personally, I love winter because of all the different birds that show up just for that season. Plus, winter can be full of surprises (just like any season in New England.)

One sure sign of winter in the birding world is the arrival of Dark-eyed Juncos around feeding stations. Well, today was the day I saw my first one. A beautiful pitch-black and pure-white male hopped along my deck looking for seeds.

Winter’s coming and I’m not bummed at all.