For the Birds column: Preening away

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

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

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

I thought my cat was bad. The incessant licking to keep himself clean. He’s got to be the cleanest cat ever.

Then I watched a northern mockingbird preening itself. It went on for as long as I could watch and who knows how much longer after I walked away.

Feather maintenance is an important part of life for birds and it takes up a great amount of their time. Feathers play a role in a bird’s ability to fly, attract a mate, hide from predators and protect itself from the weather. Birds are the only living creatures with Continue reading

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Bird of prey indeed

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Sorry for the delay on this post … I ended the last post with this:

“I have a feeling this bird is digesting a recently eaten meal. Anybody know what makes me think that?”

Take a look at the bill and talons of the bird. Some small bird or animal found out why hawks are “birds of prey.”

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

 

Red-shouldered hawk, part II

Photo by Chris Bosak  A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Here are a few more photos of the red-shouldered hawk I spotted the other day in Brookfield, Conn.

Notice how far the head can turn around. Quite an impressive and useful adaptation for birds.

I have a feeling this bird is digesting a recently eaten meal. Anybody know what makes me think that?

Photo by Chris Bosak  A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak  A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Bird on a wire — this one a red-shouldered hawk

Photo by Chris Bosak  A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A red-shouldered hawk perches on a wire in Brookfield, Connecticut, Jan. 2018.

When I drove past this red-shouldered hawk near Brookfield (Conn.) High School, I doubted I would be able to find a place to safely pull off the road and snap a few photos. I had to try, however, so I pulled into parking lot a few dozen yards down the road and started to turn around. I noticed, however, that the parking lot afforded an even better view of the bird and just as close. I’ll take that luck any day. Notice the reddish chest and belly barring, as opposed to the more brownish markings of a broad-winged or red-tailed hawk.

Another banner Snowy Owl year

Norman Spicher of New Hampshire got this photo of a snowy own in the Keene, N.H., in January 2018.

Norman Spicher of New Hampshire got this photo of a snowy own in the Keene, N.H., in January 2018.

It looks like another good year to see snowy owls throughout New England.

The white, powerful Arctic visitors may not be as prolific as they were four winters ago, but it is another exceptionally strong year for sure.

A glimpse at Rare Bird Alerts throughout the region show they are being seen at both coastal and inland areas. They are more likely to be seen along the coast, but not exclusively. Keep your eyes open and you just may spot one of these magnificent creatures.

I have not spotted one this year yet. To be fair, I haven’t made much of an effort as work and family duties have kept me from visiting areas where they have been seen. Luckily, I heard from a reader of my bird column in New Hampshire who sent me a photo of a snowy owl that has been seen in the southwestern corner of that state.

That photo is above and also on the “reader submitted photos” page on this site.
It’s funny, that page also includes a photo of a snowy owl taken in southwestern New Hampshire a few years ago. As I said, snowy owls are most likely to be seen along the coast, but not always.

Good luck in your search. Let me know how you do.

Below are a few photos I took during the historic irruption of 2013, but first here are some links to interesting stories about these northern birds of prey.

From Audubon:

http://www.audubon.org/news/hold-your-bins-another-blizzard-snowy-owls-could-be-coming

How are the owls doing overall?

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-12-21/snowy-owl-migration-gives-scientists-chance-to-study-them

Well-done blog with maps:

https://bryanpfeiffer.com/snowy-owl-scoop/

Here’s where they are being seen:

http://ebird.org/ebird/alert/summary?sid=SN40647&sortBy=obsDt

Now here are some photo I took a few years ago.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl flies across the beach at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Snowy Owl sits on a sign at The Coastal Center at Milford Point in early March 2014.

Kicking off Vulture Week

Photo by Chris Bosak  A turkey vulture sits on a hill in Danbury, Conn., fall 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A turkey vulture sits on a hill in Danbury, Conn., fall 2017.

It’s Vulture Week — a totally made-up celebration concocted by http://www.BirdsofNewEngland.com — so this week I’ll post photos of New England’s vultures and include some facts and/or stories about these birds.

There are two kinds of vultures in New England: turkey vulture and black vulture. Turkey vultures are one of New England’s largest birds with a wingspan of 67 inches (about 5 and a half feet). Black vultures, which are becoming more common in New England, are slightly smaller with a wing span of 60 inches. (Other wing spans: bald eagle, 80 inches; great blue heron, 72 inches; red-tailed hawk, 49 inches, American robin 17 inches; black-capped chickadee, 8 inches.)

More tomorrow …

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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