For the Birds: Gray jay is out; Canada jay is in

Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.
Photo by Chris Bosak A gray jay perches on the roof of a car in Pittsburg, N.H., November 2018.

Well, I did it again. Apparently I’ve been using the wrong name for a bird for the past year or so.

Recall a few weeks ago when I wrote about the common gallinule that had been seen near the Dillant-Hopkins Airport. Many people, myself included, initially referred to the bird as a common moorhen, the name previously used for the bird. In 2011, the American Ornithologists’ Union changed the name to common gallinule after splitting the species from a similar bird in Europe and Asia.

I’m not as far behind on this latest name change. In May 2018, just about a year ago, the union changed the name of the gray jay to the Canada jay. The handsome, bold bird of the north was historically called the Canada jay anyway, so it was really a change back to an old name.

I wrote a column back in November about a trip to Pittsburg, during Continue reading

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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.

And just a few more photos from Pittsburg, N.H.

Photo by Chris Bosak Black-throated green warbler in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Black-throated green warbler in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

This post will put a lid on my recent trip to Pittsburg, N.H.

Photo by Chris Bosak White-tailed deer in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-tailed deer in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Family of Canada Geese in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Family of Canada Geese in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

More photos from Pittsburg, N.H., trip

Photo by Chris Bosak Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Beaver in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Here are some more photos from my recent trip up north to Pittsburg, N.H. Admitted some shots aren’t great, but I didn’t have as much time to photograph wildlife as I would have liked — remember from the last bird column, I had two 14-year-old boys to keep an eye on, too.

The moose shot is particularly bad, but the moose population is having a tough time of it in New England, so I didn’t want to do anything to chase it off and potentially put it in danger.

Here are the shots. Always fun to visit the Great North Woods.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Immature Gray Jay in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak Lady's slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Lady’s slipper flower in Pittsburg, N.H., summer 2017.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

Moose in Pittsburg, N.H.

For the Birds column: A return to Pittsburg

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

Photo by Chris Bosak Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Tiger Swallowtails gather at the edge of the pond at Deer Mountain Campground in Pittsburg, N.H., in summer 2017.

 

My trips, or as I like to call them pilgrimages, to the Great North Woods have changed over the years.

Back when I was making the trips alone, I would have a hard time sleeping the night before so I would eventually just get out of bed and hit the road around 2 or 3 in the morning. That would get me to my destination, usually Pittsburg, N.H., shortly after sunrise.

On one of those overnight drives I saw the most spectacular sunrise while driving through the White Mountains.

Lately, however, I have been making the trip with one or both of my sons. They are excited to get up there, but do not share my neuroses about it and can sleep through the night. Even so, I usually toss and turn most of the night wishing we could just get on the road already. I typically allow them to sleep until 5:30 or 6 before I start rallying the troops.

Such was the case a few weeks ago, when I made my first trip of the year up north. My older son, Andrew, now 14, Continue reading

I’m not a chaser, but a Great Gray Owl? Come on

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

As the headline says, I don’t typically chase rare birds around the region. It’s not that I don’t want to see the birds, but either family or work obligations usually prohibit me from taking long drives to see a bird.

But a Great Gray Owl within 3 1/2 hours? I gotta make that effort. I still had work but couldn’t risk waiting until the weekend should the bird decide to take off and not be found again. So I pulled a maneuver I used to do fairly often before I had kids: I basically pulled an all-nighter. I slept restlessly from midnight to 2:15 a.m. and drove three hours to Keene, N.H., to pick up my old friend Steve Hooper. Then we drove another 40 minutes to Newport, N.H., where this awesome bird had been seen in the same field each day for about a week straight. (I knew that thanks to the ABA rare bird alert.)

Hoop and I followed the directions and arrived at the scene at about 6:20 a.m. A rare bird alert message posted at 6:15 a.m. confirmed that the bird was indeed there. I was minutes away from seeing my first Great Gray Owl.

We walked a short distance down a trail, saw a handful of people and joined the small crowd. Sure enough, there was the owl, sitting in a bare deciduous tree surveying the field and ignoring his fans.

At one point it flew to another nearby deciduous tree and then eventually flew another short distance to a pine tree. The wind was strong and snow squalls came and went, but otherwise it was a rather pleasant day for the owl and his human visitors — especially for New Hampshire in early March.

I was hoping to see one more flight, but time was short. I had to drop off Hoop and drive the 3 1/2 hours back to Connecticut to get to work in the a.m. So by 10:30 a.m. I had driven to New Hampshire and back, and saw my first-ever Great Gray Owl. Just the old days.

Here are a few photos with more to come in the days ahead. Also coming soon is more information on the Great Gray Owl as a species.

No promises on how long it will stick around, of course, but here’s a link to a news story about the owl with directions on where to find it. 

And here’s the link to the ABA’s Rare Bird Alert with updates on the owl (and other sightings).

 

Photo by Chris Bosak A Great Gray Owl perches in a pine tree in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a pine tree in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.


Photo by Chris Bosak
A Great Gray Owl perches in a tree overlooking a field in Newport, N.H., in March 2017.

What’s on your bird wish list for 2015?

 

Photo by Chris Bosak An Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, Conn., during Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, Conn., during Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 2014.

During the Christmas Bird Count last week I found an Orange-crowned Warbler on my last stop of the day. It was a good bird for the Count and, for me, the first time I had seen one. It was a good way to end 2014, gaining a “life” bird. I’m not big on lists and do not even have an official “life list,” but I do know in my head what I’ve seen and what I haven’t seen. And I know I hadn’t seen an Orange-crowned Warbler before.

So what will 2015 bring in terms of new birds? I guess we will have to wait and see. The bird I’d like to see in 2015 is a Spruce Grouse. It’s a boreal bird so the only chance I have to see one is during a camping trip to northern New England or Canada. I hope to get in at least two camping trips up north in 2015, so we’ll see. I have, however, been looking for them on my camping trips for years and years and have never found one. Maybe this will be my year.

So what’s on your bird wish list for 2015? Leave a comment here, Facebook comment or email me your top bird(s) that you want to add to your life list in 2015.

Oh, and good luck getting it.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, Conn., during Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Orange-crowned Warbler seen at Oyster Shell Park in Norwalk, Conn., during Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 2014.