Snow photos: Here come the cardinals

Photo by Chris Bosak A northern cardinal grabs a seed from a feeder in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

More snow photos from the other day. Here’s a female cardinal sharing a platform feeder with a chickadee and a male looking sharp in his red plumage.

Quick facts: Did you know that fewer than 40 percent of cardinal nests actually fledge young? That’s according to the folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The Lab’s NestWatch team studied cardinals and came up with some interesting results. For instance, despite that low success rate, cardinals are a successful species overall. A long breeding season and occupying a variety of habitats are part of the reason.

The article on the NestWatch website also looks at why male cardinals are so darn colorful. Hint: Yes, it has to do with impressing female cardinals. Here’s a link to the insightful story.

Photo by Chris Bosak A cardinal and chickadeee share a platform feeder following a snowfall in Danbury, CT, March 2019.
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Joining the barred owl party, Part II

Photo by Chris Bosak
A barred owl perches on a Welcome to New York sign on the border of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennignton, Vermont, in February 2019.

As promised, here’s Part II of my “joining the barred owl party” story.

Last week I wrote a column about the Winter of the Barred Owl and followed up with a post showing a few photos sent in by readers of barred owls perched on feeder poles. But, at the time of those postings, I hadn’t yet seen a barred owl myself this winter.

Yesterday, I posted a story and photos of my first encounter with a barred owl this winter. That happened on Wednesday. Here’s what happened on Thursday.

I woke up my teenage son Andrew early (relatively) for a day of skiing at Mt. Snow. My brother lives in a New York town that borders Vermont. As we cruised along the “Bennington Bypass” on this gray, misty morning I pointed out the “Welcome to Vermont” sign to my son. I glanced back quickly at the “Welcome to New York” sign that was now in my rearview mirror. I noticed the huge sign had a lump on the top of it.

Could it be another owl, I thought. Probably just a hawk (not that hawks are uninteresting, but they are rather common along highways) I figured, but I wheeled the car around anyway. Sure enough, it became apparent as we closed the distance that the lump in question was another barred owl. Winter of the Barred Owl, indeed.

I parked in a pull-off spot conveniently located in front of the sign and grabbed a few photos before heading to the mountain.

The first owl on Wednesday was photographed in a New York town that borders New England. The second owl was even closer to the New England border and it may be argued it was half in Vermont. Either way, it was nice to join the barred owl party.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A barred owl perches on a Welcome to New York sign on the border of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., and Bennignton, Vermont, in February 2019.

Barred owls abound

After my latest bird column published in The Keene Sentinel this week, I received a few additional photos of barred owls from readers in SW New Hampshire. Funny how they are showing up on feeding poles so often.

Here is the column explaining the Year of the Barred Owl.

First (below) is the original photo I received and then two additional ones.

Photo by Bob Sullivan
This barred owl perched on a bird feeding pole and took several dives at a vole under the snow in Westmoreland, N.H.
Photo by Dale Woodward This barred owl was spotted on a feeder pole in February 2019 in Walpole Village, N.H.
Photo by Rick Allen This barred owl perched on a feeder pole in Swanzey, N.H., during February 2019.

More shots of the red-shouldered hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Here are a few more shots of the red-shouldered hawk I photographed last weekend in Brookfield, Connecticut. Here’s the original story, in case you missed it.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.
Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on the top of an evergreen, Brookfield, Connecticut, January 2019.

Red-shouldered hawk in tree

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk sits in a tree in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

My son Will and I came across this red-shouldered hawk while we were driving through a neighborhood in Brookfield, Connecticut, the other day. It’s times like this that I usually don’t have my camera with me, but this time I happened to be prepared.

The red-shouldered hawk is one of New England’s most common hawks, along with red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. There are other hawks in the region, of course, but these are the ones seen most often. I typically see red-tailed hawks most often, but I’ve been seeing more and more red-shouldered hawks of late.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk sits in a tree in Brookfield, Connecticut, fall 2018.

Bald Eagle visits pond

Photo by Chris Bosak A Bald Eaglea fies over Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Bald Eagle flies over Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

I live on Merganser Lake (real name Lake Waubeeka). A short walk away, down a trail that starts at my backyard, is Little Merganser Lake (really the Beaver Pond.) I like Little Merganser Lake because it is completely undeveloped and isolated. A wide variety of wildlife, mostly birds, can be seen at the lake and pond, but the pond is more productive because of its relative remoteness.

I’ve seen some pretty good ducks and herons down there, but today I saw a Bald Eagle there for the first time. I heard it calling and then it soared overhead. It was impossible to miss. Bald Eagles are becoming more and more popular and nest on nearby lakes such as Candlewood and Lillinonah. So to see one here is not overly surprising, but as I said, it was first time seeing one, so of course I have to post about it.

The photos, admittedly, are not the best because of the gray, drizzly conditions, but you get the picture …

Photo by Chris Bosak A Bald Eagle flies over Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Bald Eagle flies over Little Merganser Lake in Danbury, Conn., Sept. 2016.

Latest For the Birds column: Gearing up for National Bird Feeding Month

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Timouse perches near a feeding station in New England, fall 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Timouse perches near a feeding station in New England, fall 2015.

February may be a few weeks away, but there’s no harm in being prepared for what’s in store.

February is a big month in the birdwatching world. It’s a cold month in the middle of winter, but a little birding and bird feeding will help make the cold more tolerable.

First of all, February is National Bird Feeding Month. I don’t normally get too excited about national this month or that, but I’ll celebrate anything that gives me an excuse to do more birdwatching. National Bird Feeding Month was first proclaimed in 1994.

Also, February is always the month of the Great Backyard Bird Count. I’ll write more about this citizen science project in a later column, but just so you can mark your calendars, this year it will be held the weekend of Feb. 12-15.

For now, in honor of National Bird Feeding Month, here are a few tips on how to attract birds to your yard in the typically cold month of February.

Suet is a must. Whether you use pre-packaged suet cakes or make your own out of beef fat (the store-bought cakes are much, much easier), suet should be an offering in the winter. I can count on one hand the number of minutes a bird is not at my suet feeder. Usually it’s a Downy Woodpecker, but also seen are Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Woodpeckers, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Carolina Wrens. Occasionally, chickadees and titmice visit the suet as well.

Who knows? You may even get lucky and have a Pileated Woodpecker come visit. I had one at my suet feeder about 10 years

Click here for the rest …