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

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A nice spring bird walk (aren’t they all?)

Photo by Chris Bosak
A bobolink perches at the end of a branch in Brookfield, CT, May 2019.

I checked out Happy Landings, an open space of fields and shrubby areas in Brookfield, Connecticut, after dropping off my son Will at middle school the other day. With its huge fields, the protected space is a rare haven for bobolinks in New England. There should be more such field habitat. Anyway, I wanted to see if the bobolinks were back and sure enough, they were — along with plenty of other birds. Take a look …

Happy birding and let me know what you see out there this migration period.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler sings from a perch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A yellow warbler perches on a branch in Brookfield Conn., May 2019.

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More shots of the northern bobwhite

Photo by
Chris Bosak A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Here are some more photos of the northern bobwhite I spotted yesterday at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut. Click here for the original post.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
A nothern bobwhite seen at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Northern bobwhite highlights walk

Photo by Chris Bosak
A northern bobwhite calls at Happy Landing in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a northern bobwhite in the wild. There are several reasons for that; the biggest being that the bird’s population has declined sharply over the years. Another reason is that 99 percent of my birdwatching is done in New England and the bobwhite is more of a southern bird. 

Despite all that I did come across a male northern bobwhite during a walk at Happy Landings in Brookfield, Connecticut, this morning (Dec. 12, 2018). It was walking along the path near a shrubby area and sauntered off into the brush as I continued along the trail. I walked several yards past the point where the bird had ducked into cover and I took a seat on the trail to see if the bird would come back out. Patience is a birdwatcher’s best tool, I reminded myself as I sat there motionless on this cold and sunny morning. 

My patience was never tested as the bird did come back through the brush and onto the trail in a matter of minutes. It stopped and called a few notes (not its trademark “Bob-white” song, but its less distinctive call) as I watched from a short distance away. It sat there still and called a few more times. I didn’t hear any response calls, but there could have been another bobwhite around. 

It’s hard to tell if this was truly a wild bird or a captive-bred bird that escaped or was released. Bobwhite is a popular game and farm bird. I didn’t notice any leg bands, so I’m hoping it was a bona fide wild bird. Either way, it was a treat to see it in New England. 

The sighting became that much more meaningful after reading this northern bobwhite conservation update from The Audubon Society (audubon.org): “Has disappeared from much of the northern part of its range, and has declined seriously even in more southern areas. The causes for these declines are not well understood. At northern edge of range, many may be killed by unusually harsh winters, but this does not explain its widespread vanishing act.”

Photo by Chris Bosak A nothern bobwhite calls at Happy Landing in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Snowy November in the Great North Woods

Gray jay on snowy bough in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 2018.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that there is snow in November in the Great North Woods, the area of extreme northern Vermont and New Hampshire. We were surprised, however, to see snow when we arrived on Sunday only because it has been so warm this fall in southern New England. 

I hadn’t even given snow a thought yet, to be honest. Heck, wasn’t it in the 70s in Connecticut just last week? But, sure enough, a beautiful blanket of the white stuff covered Pittsburg, N.H. It was only an inch or two, just enough to make it beautiful and remind us that snow is coming soon enough for the rest of New England. (Update: Now it’s Tuesday and a steady rain has melted all the snow.)

With the moose population continuing to dwindle in northern New Hampshire, the wildlife highlight was a trio of gray jays we came across just south of Deer Mountain Campground, which itself is just south of the Canadian border.

I’ve seen gray jays before in Pittsburg, N.H, but never during the “winter.” They were extra bold and landed on our hands as we offered sunflower seeds. I’ve had black-capped chickadees land on my hands for sunflower seeds before, but I could tell the tiny birds were unsure of themselves as they landed quickly and flew off. These gray jays, however, were not shy at all and landed on our finger tips and dug through the seeds to find just the right one. 

About half an hour later we found a pair of gray jays, which also ate from our hands and showed little fear. At one point, an evening grosbeak flew in and landed in a nearby tree. I hadn’t seen an evening grosbeak in years and years, so the large yellow, black and white bird was a welcomed, if not fleeting, sighting.

Aside from gray jays, blue jays, ruffed grouse, chickadees, and red squirrels, the wildlife sightings have been rather scarce. But we’ll keep looking and I’ll let you know what we find. 

Photo by Chris Bosak  Feeding brave gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
Feeding brave gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak  Feeding gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak
Feeding gray jays in Pittsburg, N.H., on Nov. 5, 2018.

It’s nesting season all right

Photo by Chris Bosak A Baltimore Oriole nest in Stamford, Conn., May 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Baltimore Oriole nest in Stamford, Conn., May 2015.

I took a walk around a local park in Stamford, Conn., yesterday. I knew the warbler migration was winding down, but I figured I’d see a few late migrants and perhaps something else interesting. Something always happens when you make the effort to take a walk in the woods.

I was walking happily along looking up in the trees for movement. With the leaves out now, movement is the only way to spot most birds. I glanced down and suddenly found myself tip-toeing frantically to avoid bird droppings all over the trail. Not that it would have been a big deal if I stepped on one, but my brain recognize Continue reading