Back to back For the Birds columns

Here are the last two For the Birds columns, mostly focused on what readers have been seeing this spring.

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.

If the past season was the Winter of the barred owl, this is the spring of the indigo bunting.

I’ve heard from numerous readers and friends throughout New England and even Canada about this bright blue bird visiting their backyards. The cause for excitement is obvious as it is one of our more colorful birds, flashing a brilliant blue plumage. The brilliance of the blue plumage is dependent upon the light.

It is also nice to hear that so many of these birds are around and delighting backyard birders in large numbers. Rose-breasted grosbeaks are another popular bird this spring. I’ve had limited luck with indigo buntings this spring, but for me, it’s been a banner year for rose-breasted grosbeaks. I’ve seen as many as three males in a tree overhanging my feeders. A female visits the feeders often as well.

It’s also been a good spring for warblers and nearly every walk last week yielded yellow warblers, common yellowthroats, black-and-white warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, American redstarts and yellow-rumped warblers.

I’m not the only birdwatcher enjoying a productive spring. Here’s what Continue reading

A walk for the birds at Oak Hills

Some bird nerd with cool birdwatching peeps.

I’m a little late with this posting but better late than never. A few Saturdays ago I led a bird walk at Oak Hills Park in Norwalk. I was honored to be invited by the park’s Nature Advisory Committee to be the bird guide. Of course, I accepted because I love spreading the good word about birds and I have a soft spot for any volunteer organization that promotes nature appreciation and saves land.

As a bit of background, Oak Hills Park is mainly a golf course and the nature trails are on land that was once targeted to be cleared for a driving range. The Nature Advisory Committee now stewards that part of the property, which is valuable for birds and other animals — and plants for that matter. Case in point, during the walk we came across a box turtle in the woods. The box turtle is one of many animal species in decline because of loss of habitat.

The walk drew a large crowd and we saw many exciting birds. The highlight for many, myself included, was a very cooperative scarlet tanager, one of the most colorful and brightest birds we see in New England during migration. The red-bodied and black-winged bird flitted around and rested at eye level not far from the gathered crowd. I also pointed out over and over the sound of the Continue reading

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.

House Wren picks out his territory

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

The other day I heard the familiar sound of a House Wren returning from the south and claiming his territory. He check out a few of the bird houses on my property and then perched in nearby trees to sings its song. They are loud and charismatic birds.

I watched one check out at least two houses on my property. To my knowledge, he didn’t pick either one. He didn’t even pick one to start a “dummy nest,” whereby to fool predators that may be watching the put a few sticks in house.

Oh well, there’s still time. Not every House Wren has picked its spot yet.

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

A House Wren sings in a tree during the nesting season 2016.

Bluebirds in a New England winter — not that uncommon

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Bluebird perches near a lake in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Bluebird perches near a lake in Danbury, Conn., Feb. 2016.

Eastern Bluebirds, similar to American Robins, are thought of as mostly a spring and summer bird in New England. I love finding an active bluebird box in April or May and watching the parents go back and forth feeding the youngsters hidden inside the box.

But Eastern Bluebirds are also commonly found in New England during the winter. I love seeing them after a snowfall; how their bright blue and orange seem even brighter against the white backdrop. Bluebird Continue reading

Interesting habitat story about New England by the AP

Photo by Chris Bosak Common Loon

Photo by Chris Bosak
Common Loon

Here’s an interesting story from the Associated Press. I hope the proposal goes through and comes to fruition.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to establish the “Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge,” areas of New England and New York to preserve more shrubland and young forests for numerous species, such as the New England cottontail.

The agency has identified areas in New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The goal is to gain up to 15,000 acres.

The agency says many areas across the Northeast have been cleared for development or have grown into mature forests. Private landowners and conservation groups have worked with state wildlife agencies to restore and protect land for 65 songbirds, mammals, reptiles and other wildlife, but more land is needed.

The Service is accepting comments on the proposal through March 4.

Here’s the rest of the story from AP. 

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!

Sincerely,


Emma Greig
Project Leader
Project FeederWatch

For the Birds column: Milkweed and Monarchs

Photo by Chris Bosak Milkweed flowers bud in a meadow in Stamford, July 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Milkweed flowers bud in a meadow in Stamford, July 2015.

Here’s my latest For the Birds column, which runs weekly in The Hour (Norwalk, CT) and The Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire.

Why do so many people consider milkweed a useless weed?

Perhaps because it is so prevalent (or at least used to be). Perhaps because it grows in vacant parking lots and in cracks in sidewalks. Perhaps because that’s what we’ve been told and trained to think all these years. Or it could be because is has the word ‘weed’ right in its name.

Whatever the reason it’s time to change the way we think about milkweed. Here are some quick facts about the beautiful and valuable plant:

Click here for the rest of the column.

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.

When is nesting season over?

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mourning Dove sits on a nest in early July at Sellecks/Dunlap Woods in Darien.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mourning Dove sits on a nest in early July at Sellecks/Dunlap Woods in Darien.

Procrastinators rejoice. I’m going to give you an excuse to put off a few chores for another month or so.

Do you have trees on your property that need to come down? Bushes that need to be pruned? Perhaps a field or meadow that needs to be mowed?

Well, I’m not only giving you permission (not that you need that anyway) to hold off for a while, but urging you to do so.

An interesting email came my way this week from a New Hampshire couple. They had purchased property about 25 years ago that at the time was an abandoned Christmas tree lot. Most of the trees are now dead or dying and need to come down. The couple, to their credit, wants to make sure the nesting season is over before they go forward with any of the work.

So, just when is it safe to take down trees or cut fields that may house nesting birds?

There’s no exact date, of course. In general, though,

Click here for the rest of the article …