Cooper’s Hawk eating squirrel

Photo by Chris Bosak A young Cooper's Hawk eats a squirrel in southern New England in Feb. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A young Cooper’s Hawk eats a squirrel in southern New England in Feb. 2015.

The other day I pulled into my driveway and noticed a clump of brown in my neighbor’s yard. Birders are trained to notice anything out of the ordinary in a scene because it just might be a bird. Often these days it ends up being a plastic bag stuck in a tree, but sure enough, sometimes it is a bird.

Such was the case the other day. That brown clump was a bird, a young Cooper’s Hawk to be exact. Not only that, but the bird was eating (a Gray Squirrel as it turns out.) Cooper’s Hawks eat mainly birds, but small mammals can also fall prey to these quick and agile birds.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. (Warning: If you don’t like the bloody side of nature, don’t click “continue reading.” Fair warning.)

Continue reading

Red-tailed hawk in the wind

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

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

Here’s the first of a two-part post about a Red-tailed Hawk I found at Weed Beach in Darien, Conn., last week.  These photos will show the hawk with gusts of wind blowing its plumage.

I was focused on a tree near the beach that had a White-breasted Nuthatch and a Downy Woodpecker in it. I thought I was getting good shots of the nuthatch, but when I checked the screen on my camera, the results were always subpar. I wasn’t sure what I was doing wrong, but I just wasn’t nailing it. Then I looked in an adjacent tree and spotted a much larger subject. Since I had been in that spot for several minutes, the hawk clearly did not mind that I was there. I gave up on the nuthatch and turned my attention toward the Red-tailed hawk.

I took several photos of the hawk in the tree and it eventually flew to a nearby structure where I was able to get a few more shots as the hawk seemingly watched a foursome play paddle tennis. The wind was whipping pretty good that day, making for some interesting shots of the hawk. The next posting (coming in the next day or two) will show the hawk under calmer conditions.

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

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

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

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

Eastern Towhee under feeder, nice start to 2015

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee searches a garden for food in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee searches a garden for food in Jan. 2015.

This weekend I was looking at the regular visitors to my birdfeeders, which in my case include Tufted Titmice, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker and White-throated Sparrow (at least this time of year). Then I noticed another bird on the ground under the feeder: a male Eastern Towhee. Towhees are not typical feeder birds and this bird wasn’t necessarily around the feeder looking for sunflower seeds. It scratched under leaves and sticks in the garden for other seeds and any insects that may still be around. Towhees also eat berries during the winter.

Most towhees have flown south by now, but a few are still around trying to stick out the New England winter. I remember seeing several last winter, too.

I’ve been seeing more and more towhees over the last few years. Hopefully that means they are doing well overall as a species.

An Eastern Towhee in the garden in January: Not a bad way to start 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak An Eastern Towhee searches a garden for food in Jan. 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
An Eastern Towhee searches a garden for food in Jan. 2015.

Clearing out my 2014 photos, Take 3: Mourning Dove close up

Photo by Chris Bosak A Mourning Dove looks for seeds under a feeder during a snowy day in Jan. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Mourning Dove looks for seeds under a feeder during a snowy day in Jan. 2014.

Here’s my next photo in the series of 2014 photos that I never got around to looking at and posting. Here’s a Mourning Dove looking for food under my birdfeeder during a snowy day last winter. The photo was taken in January 2014. Check out the subtle colors in this beautiful bird.

Good day for Christmas Bird Count (lots of photos)

 

Photo by Chris Bosak Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Peregrine Falcon at Veterans Park in Norwalk, Conn., seen during the 115th Christmas Bird Count.

The weather was actually quite nice (cold, but calm) and the birds were plentiful. A story about the Christmas Bird Count (Westport Circle) is posted on http://www.theour.com.

I personally had a good day, too, in terms of finding birds. Below are more photos from the interesting birds I found during the count. Yes, I realize the photos aren’t of great quality, but it was very overcast and the photos were taken mostly to prove what was seen. Some of the photos aren’t too bad, though. Anyway …

The highlight was the three warblers I saw at Oystershell Park in Norwalk. Even one warbler species is pretty rare for a New England Christmas Bird Count, but I had three at one location. The warblers were an Orange-crowned Warbler, Continue reading

Christmas Bird Count time is here

CBC-logo-stacked

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is upon us. The local one that I participate in — the Westport Circle — takes place on Sunday. Many of the counts take place this weekend, but the range to do the count started on Dec. 14 and runs through Jan. 5. Participants spend all day “in the field” counting birds (individual species and total number) and send the data to the circle’s compiler, who turns it all into the National Audubon Society.

The Christmas Bird Count is the world’s largest citizen science program with data going back to 1900. The data helps scientists track bird populations and is valuable in determining what steps, if any, need to be taken to help certain species.

The data, of course, is valuable and is indeed the most important part of the CBC. But it’s also a fun day to look for birds all day. Sometimes the weather doesn’t cooperate — let me rephrase that, the weather hardly ever cooperates — but that only adds Continue reading

Not a turkey, but a nice Thanksgiving sighting

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound in Darien on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound in Darien on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 27), 2014.

I took my boys Andrew and Will on our annual Thanksgiving Duck Hunt (actually a watch) on Thursday. Time was short this year so we hit only a few of our regular spots and no true freshwater ponds, so the number of duck species we found was way down. Our goal each year is 10 different species. This we only got five: Hooded Merganser; American Wigeon; Black Duck; Mallard; and Bufflehead. It was our worst effort in the eight years we’ve been doing it, but again, time was short and the time spent together is the main goal. So mission accomplished in that regard.

We did get a nice surprise at Weed Beach in Darien when a Common Loon made an appearance much closer to shore than usual. Loons are much more drab in the winter than they are in summer, but it’s a thrill to see this iconic bird regardless of the season.

Here are a few shots of the loon — a big, powerful bird — taken on a very gray day.

Oh, by the way, we did see a flock of turkeys on someone’s front yard.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Common Loon swims in Long Island Sound on Thanksgiving Day, (Nov. 27), 2014.

 

Love this White-breasted Nuthatch photo

Photo by Chris Bosak White-breasted Nuthatch at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
White-breasted Nuthatch at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Sometimes when photographing birds (or anything for that matter) you never really know what you’ll get. You should always be mindful of the background, but sometimes it’s tough to determine exactly how the photo will look until you take it. Honestly I got kind of lucky with this shot with the jet black background, which really makes the White-breasted Nuthatch standout. I’m not even sure what in the background was so black. Oh well, I’ll take it.

This is the third in a series of photographs celebrating our common backyard feeder birds.

Who doesn’t love chickadees?

Photo by Chris Bosak Black-capped Chickadee at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Black-capped Chickadee at backyard feeder, Oct. 2014.

I highlight the Black-capped Chickadee as the second in a series of photos of our common backyard birds here in New England. This series of photos will focus on the birds we commonly see at our feeders. Can you ever see enough chickadee photos?

Kicking off a celebration of our common backyard birds

Photo by Chris Bosak A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A Tufted Titmouse perches on a branch of a fading sunflower before heading to a nearby birdfeeder.

This photo of a Tufted Titmouse is pulling double duty. It accompanied my latest column in The Hour (Norwalk, Ct) and The Keene Sentinel (Keene, NH), which may be found here.

It is also being used on this post to kick off a celebration of our common backyard feeder birds. This is a great time of year for feeding birds as the feeders are active with titmice, chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and other birds. Under the feeder, birds such as White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos have returned. So to celebrate that, I’ll post a series of photos highlighting some of our more common, but beloved, backyard birds.