Zeroing in on an American kestrel

Remember a few weeks ago when I urged readers to “check those blotches” carefully. Here’s the column for those who missed it. Basically, the column said that if something looks out of the ordinary in the distance, it should be checked out. It may be a plastic bag or mylar balloon stuck in a tree; or it may be a hawk, owl or something else of note in the tree.

I took my own advice the other day and checked out a small clump on one of the old windmills that grace the property at Happy Landings, an open space in Brookfield, Connecticut. Turns out, it was an American kestrel, a small falcon that is somewhat Continue reading

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Red-shouldered hawk — again

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches in the wood in Brookfield, CT, March 2019.

As long as this red-shouldered hawk is going to take obvious perches when I drive by a certain spot, I’m going to take photos of it. Red-shouldered hawk, take 20.

Bald eagle sightings on the rise

Photo by Chris Bosak
A bald eagle perches in a tree overhanging Lake Lillinonah in Brookfield, CT, March 2019.

It’s not quite on par with the great osprey rebound, but the recovery of the bald eagle has been fascinating and fun to watch.

Ospreys, once nearly extirpated from New England, have greatly increased their population over the last few decades. They are now common sightings along New England coastlines. Inland bodies of water are also seeing more ospreys but the increase is not as dramatic as along the coast.

Bald eagles are also becoming a more common sighting. I took a canoe ride on an inland lake in Connecticut yesterday and saw two bald eagles — one immature and one adult. (It takes four or five years for an eagle to get its trademark white head and tail.) Later in the day I drove past Danbury Fair, the state’s second-largest shopping mall, and saw an immature bald eagle perched in a snag in a nearby marsh.

I can’t remember the last time I saw three bald eagles in one day. Now that the weather is getting warmer (kind of) and days longer, eagles will be heading north soon. Many eagles, however, will remain in New England to return to nest sites or start new ones. In recent memory, there were no bald eagle nests where I am in southern Connecticut. Now there are several.

Here’s what All About Birds, a website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says about the bald eagle population: “The Bald Eagle’s recovery is a spectacular conservation success story, and numbers have increased between 1966 and 2015, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 250,000, with 88 percent spending some part of the year in the U.S., 31 percent in Canada, and 8 percent in Mexico. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score and are not on the 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List, but are a U.S.-Canada Stewardship Species. Once abundant in North America, the species became rare in the mid-to-late 1900s—the victim of trapping, shooting, and poisoning as well as pesticide-caused reproductive failures. In 1978 the bird was listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Since 1980, gentler treatment by humans along with the banning of DDT (the bird’s main pesticide threat) have led to a dramatic resurgence. By the late 1990s, breeding populations of Bald Eagles could be found throughout most of North America. In June 2007, the bird’s recovery prompted its removal from the Endangered Species list.”

It’s always good to hear those types of stories.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young bald eagle perches on a dead tree near Danbury Fair mall in Danbury, CT, March 2019.

For the Birds: Joining the owl party

I’ve written about my barred owl sightings before, but here is the official column version …

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.

Two weeks ago I wrote a column about the Winter of the Barred Owl. A photo sent in by a reader from Westmoreland showing a barred owl perched on a feeder pole in his backyard accompanied the column.

A day or two after the column was published, I received two more photos of barred owls perched on feeder poles in the Monadnock Region. Yes, these handsome, large owls have been quite prolific throughout New England this winter.

At the time of that writing, however, I hadn’t yet seen any barred owls myself this winter. That all changed with a visit to my brother, who lives in Hoosick Falls, N.Y., a small town just over the border from Bennington, Vt.

My son Andrew and I had a day of skiing planned at Mount Snow, and figured Continue reading

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.

Joining the barred owl party

Photo by Chris Bosak A barred owl perches on a wire in Berlin, N.Y., February 2019.

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.

Then I took a trip on Wednesday to visit my brother in upstate New York near the Vermont border and joined the barred owl party. I was driving up Route 22 through Berlin, N.Y., when I noticed an owl perched on a wire going over the road.

I turned the car around to get another look, but the owl was no longer there, even though I had seen it about one minute before. I drove past the spot and turned onto the next side road to get turned around again. It looked as if the road would lead to a few farms. The largest flock of turkeys I’ve ever seen was gathered in a field alongside the road. The turkeys, about 40-50 of them, seemed fairly wary so I didn’t linger long.

I got back onto Route 22 and headed back toward my brother’s. The owl hadn’t returned to its spot on the wire over the road, but I did spot it on a wire that ran along the road. I pulled over onto the shoulder and grabbed a few shots. This wire was an even better spot as it was lower and made for a better photographic angle. The owl mostly focused on a field under the wire, but did take the occasional look over its shoulder. Again, I didn’t linger long but did get some good close-ups of this handsome bird.

I’ll post Part II of the story tomorrow. Berlin is border town with New England, near the point at which northwest Massachusetts meets southwest Vermont. Part II will bring us even closer to the New England border.

Photo by Chris Bosak A barred owl perches on a wire in Berlin, N.Y., 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.