For the Birds: Hawkwatching season in New England

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed hawk at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., January 2015.

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

The seasons are changing, and there’s a lot going on in the birding world.

Warblers and other songbirds are migrating south. Shorebirds — many species of which have long migrated already — continue to move through New England. Other small winged creatures — monarch butterflies — are also seen more often now as they prepare for their generational migration.

On the ponds, the waterfowl migration hasn’t started with verve yet, but wood ducks, which spend much of the summer hiding out, are more often seen and heard in the fall. At the same time, herons and egrets are still with us in large numbers, and feeder birds continue to keep us company in our backyards. 

Yes, a lot is going on in early fall as we birdwatchers start to shift from a summer frame of mind to a winter one.

With all that’s going on, one type of bird still manages to take center stage in September and October: hawks.

Hawkwatches are the primary destination for birdwatchers this time of year as birds of prey by the thousands ride the wind south. Pick the right day with the ideal weather conditions, and a birdwatcher may see hundreds of hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures soaring overhead.

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Merry Christmas from BirdsofNewEngland.com

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

I know it’s not your traditional Christmas greeting photo with a Northern Cardinal sitting on an evergreen bough as snow covers the background. But whoever said I follow the rules all the time?

I got these photos the other day while driving through Brookfield, Conn., as the sun was rising for the day. The scene was awash in the golden light of the dawn and the Red-tailed Hawk stood out clear as day on the dark green evergreen.

Merry Christmas and happy holiday to those who view and enjoy http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com. Thanks for your support!

Photo by Chris Bosak A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Red-tailed Hawk perches in an evergreen in Brookfield, Conn., winter 2016.

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: Hawkwatching primer

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey soars over the Norwalk River on Monday, Sept. 1, 2014.

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.

A September would not be complete without a bird column on the fall hawk migration. For many, the hawk migration is the highlight of the fall season, despite there being many other birding options this time of year.
It’s hard to blame those people who feel that way. You can’t complain about spending a sunny, crisp fall day on the top of a mountain or other open area looking for hawks coming down from the north. Pick the right day and you may see hundreds of hawks making their way to their winter grounds.
The trick for many people, including myself, is figuring out which hawk is which from such a distance in the sky. I have gotten better over the years but certainly not to the level of the experts at the popular hawkwatching sites throughout New England. The experts, who are trained in this sort of thing, know the identification of the bird long before I can even see it out in the horizon.

The other trick to hawkwatching is picking the right day. Weather plays a big role in the fall hawk migration. Pick a day with a steady southerly wind and you’ll likely see very few hawks. Which hawk wants to battle a stiff headwind to start a thousand-mile (or more) journey.

But, pick a sunny day following a cold Continue reading

Osprey continue to thrive in Connecticut

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey sits in a nest at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey sits in a nest at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., spring 2016.

You know a bird species is doing well in an area when you take a short break from work to get a nice photo of the bird and return to work a handful of minutes later with good results. The Osprey in coastal Connecticut is one such bird and area. Southern Connecticut, of course, is not the only place where “fish hawks” are thriving. They are doing well up and down the East Coast and many parts inland, too. They nest along salt, br Continue reading

Barred Owls hunt by day and night

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Barred Owl clings to a branch in the woods in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Barred Owl clings to a branch in the woods in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

I was taking a walk in the woods the other day when I heard an unfamiliar screeching sound from up above. It was loud and very unmelodic. It sounded like an animal in distress.

I looked up to try to pinpoint the source of the screeching. I didn’t have much hope in finding the source because I had heard birdsong during the entire walk up to that point and hadn’t been able find a single bird with the woods and leaves so thick.

But the source, as it turned out, was very easy to find. It was a Barred Owl family high in a tree. Two youngsters and an adult in one tree and another adult in an adjacent tree. Even through the thick leaves, the size of the owls gave away their whereabouts.

Knowing that owls are easily disturbed I didn’t venture off the trail. I didn’t have to as they were perched in a tree right near the trail. I snapped a few photos in the tricky lighting and moved along. I was happy to have seen the owls. I typically have poor luck finding owls, but the screeching led me right to them. The source was one of the youngsters calling for a parent. Later in the walk I heard in the distance the more familiar “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you aaaallll?” song of the adult.

Barred Owls can be active during day and night. They are not strictly nocturnal like many owls. 

It was a nice surprise and certainly the highlight of the pleasant walk.

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Barred Owl rests on a branch in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Barred Owl rests on a branch in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.


Photo by Chris Bosak A Barred Owl looks down from a dead tree in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Barred Owl looks down from a dead tree in Danbury, Conn., spring 2016.

Young Cooper’s Hawk after meal

Photo by Chris Bosak An immature Cooper's Hawk rests in a tree after eating a songbird in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An immature Cooper’s Hawk rests in a tree after eating a songbird in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

I love when these types of calls come in.

“Hey Chris. It’s Alex. There’s a hawk in the parking lot. Come down.”

I jumped in the elevator, went down and met Alex (one of the photographers here at The Hour) in the parking lot. Sure enough, there was an immature Cooper’s Hawk sitting in a tree right above some cars. I grabbed a few shots, shot the breeze a bit with Alex and went back to work. Not all good bird photographs happen that easily, trust me.

Before I arrived, the young hawk had been eating a smaller bird, perhaps a catbird or titmouse, it was tough to tell from the scraps I could see on the ground. Alex captured a few shots of the hawk eating. He tweeted one, which may be seen here:

 

Yet more Osprey shots

Photo by Chris Bosak A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

I had mentioned in the previous post that I was photographing a young Osprey on the top of a sailboat mast when I spotted another Osprey overhead carrying a fish in its talons. Naturally I was more excited about the Osprey carrying a fish so I posted that photo first.

So with that photo out of the way, here are some more Osprey photos that I have taken in the last week — yes, including a few of that young Osprey on the sailboat mast.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey flies with a fish in its talons over the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey flies with a fish in its talons over the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey sits near its nest on Fish's Island off the coast of Darien, Conn.,  in summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey sits near its nest on Fish’s Island off the coast of Darien, Conn., in summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A first-year Osprey sits on the top of a sailboat mast along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak An adult Osprey sits on a piling (left) as a first-year Osprey sits in a nest off the coast of Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An adult Osprey sits on a piling (left) as a first-year Osprey sits in a nest off the coast of Norwalk, Conn., summer 2015.

 

 

Osprey with fish. Can you name the fish?

Photo by Chris Bosak An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Osprey carries a fish along the Norwalk River in Norwalk, CT, summer 2015.

I’m pretty good with my birds, but only very average with my fish. I got this photo of an Osprey carrying a fish along the Norwalk River on Friday, Aug. 28, 2015. I was photographing a young Osprey on a sailboat mast when this older Osprey flew by with its prey. The younger Osprey looked up and gave a look as if to say: “I wish I could do that.” The youngster will learn soon enough.

It looks like a fairly good-sized fish, but honestly my fish ID skills are not up to par. Who knows what it is? Thanks for your input.

Good news about Connecticut Audubon Society’s ‘Osprey Nation’

Photo by Chrisi Bosak An Osprey flies over Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., April 29, 2015.

Photo by Chrisi Bosak
An Osprey flies over Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., April 29, 2015.

Press release from Connecticut Audubon Society: 

Osprey Nation, the Connecticut Audubon Society’s citizen science program, has grown significantly in its second year, with more volunteer stewards documenting, mapping and monitoring considerably more nests than last year.

Statewide, 134 Connecticut residents are volunteering this nesting season to collect bi-weekly and monthly data on the state’s rapidly increasing Osprey population – 31 more volunteers than last year.

These Osprey Nation volunteers have found 492 nests in 2015, 78 more than last year’s 414 nests. They are monitoring 296 of those nests, 122 more than last year’s 174.

And although it can be difficult to observe the inside of distant nests on raised platforms, data submitted so far indicate that 94 pairs of Osprey Continue reading